I was going to talk about education in the Address in Reply debate, particularly when I heard Steve Maharey say that he wanted to be associated with excellence. Well, putting Steve Maharey in charge of excellence and education is like putting David Benson-Pope in charge of victim support. But, as my colleague says, he is—and it is actually just as likely. Steve Maharey’s record in education is one of wreckage, chaos, and mess. The Government feels so badly about what Steve Maharey did in tertiary education that it has put Dr Cullen in charge of that, and it has given him 3 years to fix it. He will need every day of the rest of the life of this Government to make any headway, at all.
As I said, I was going to talk about that, but the mess the Government has got itself into over its arrangement with New Zealand First and Winston Peters is so bad that it cannot go without comment after question time today. We have tried in this House to get the Government to establish the rules on which Winston Peters is operating. What role does he have, in being part of the Government as a Minister but outside the Government as the leader of the New Zealand First Party?
We have had to ask those questions in the House, because the Cabinet Manual is now no longer of any value. In fact the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has effectively suspended the . The that currently exists is not relevant; we have been told that by the Prime Minister herself. But there is no new manual. Even if the current one is meant to have some kind of currency, what action will the Prime Minister take against Phil Goff, who certainly breached the conventions of collective responsibility by undermining New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs overseas. That is the Minister who leaked to the media the fact that he was having backroom conversations with the Foreign Minister of another country about our Minister of Foreign Affairs. He did that to humiliate Mr Peters. So we have looked at the and decided that it has no currency; it is irrelevant.
We have asked questions in the House and have had no answers to them. I tell Helen Clark that that is holding the House in contempt. The main function of this House, apart from its representative capacity, is to hold the executive to account. We cannot hold that Prime Minister or her Government to account, because she cannot tell us what responsibilities the Government has.
The Prime Minister should come to the House and lay those responsibilities out, but she has not done that. Instead, she had a go at doing that at a press conference yesterday. She did not think it was worth telling Parliament; she thought she would tell the New Zealand Herald—no doubt, to curry favour with it after the protracted rows she has had with it over the years. Let us look at what she told the . She was asked how Mr Peters would handle issues such as defence and trade when he had different views from the Government—because he certainly has. She just said: “… you may find that he’s saying a good deal less on those issues …”. So that is the answer: Helen Clark has told Winston Peters to say nothing about the issues on which he disagrees with the Government.
He is going to meet the Defence Minister, but we will come to that. First, she said that Mr Peters would say a good deal less. Then she said that she did not believe there would be confusion in other countries about discrepancies between Mr Peters and the Government on defence or trade. There would be no confusion about the discrepancies, because in that situation he was bound by collective responsibility in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
What does that mean? We now have a new definition of what the Minister of Foreign Affairs does. The agreement with the Government does not say anything about Mr Peters being bound on trade and defence as part of his responsibility as Minister of Foreign Affairs. It actually says the opposite. The Prime Minister is saying to the press that he is bound by collective responsibility on defence and trade; the agreement she signed just a few weeks ago states exactly the opposite. It states that he is not bound on anything outside his responsibilities as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Well, members should listen to this explanation: “I don’t think we should try to make the situation more complex than it needs to be.”
Ms Clark. Of course she does not want to make it more complex than she, Winston Peters, and Phil Goff have made it. We can have all this political toing and froing in here—and we will, for as long as this Government lasts. It will be an issue, because Helen Clark cannot, and will not, resolve it. But I tell members that what really bothers me is how stupid we look to other countries, and how stupid we look to the Australians, who think that this Government is away with the fairies, anyway.
However, Winston Peters is over there representing all of us, because we treat foreign affairs largely as a bipartisan issue. On issues that matter, on serious issues of serious national interest such as whether we send more troops to Afghanistan, we take a bipartisan approach. So Winston Peters is representing not just New Zealand First—he certainly does not represent the Labour Party, because he does not want to—but he is representing the New Zealand Parliament and people.
But what happened when he went to Australia to represent us? Labour humiliated him. It humiliated New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at APEC. It has humiliated him again today. He is going off to have a meeting with a senior UK Minister, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, but Helen Clark came out this morning to set out the Government’s position on Afghanistan before Mr Peters arrives at the meeting, just to make sure that no matter what he says there no one will take any notice of it. So Winston Peters is someone who has gone into an agreement with the Government, and the Government has decided that the best way to treat him is to humiliate him.
Some of us would say that he deserves it—whether or not he loves it. Some would say he is behaving in a stupid manner himself. The photo from APEC of New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs trying to stand aside from the rest of the Asia-Pacific region—as if anyone noticed, for God’s sake!—was just ridiculous, and it brought shame on our country.
National members want Helen Clark to lay out the rules and, through Parliament, to express what responsibility Winston Peters has. We want her to tell Phil Goff to stop undermining the Minister of Foreign Affairs, because we believe that it is bad for New Zealand, and we believe that she should stop saying stupid and contradictory things to the press about what her Government is up to. The Prime Minister has been through all this before. Can members of Parliament remember when Jim Anderton was the leader of one party in the House and the leader of a different party outside the House? Do members remember how corrosive that was and how stupid it looked?
Helen Clark has decided that being Prime Minister is so important to her that she has to override all those conventions that make our constitution work. She has suspended the Cabinet Manual. There are now no rules for Cabinet Ministers. She cannot explain them herself in response to simple and intelligent questions from the media.
And she has now decided to downgrade our Minister of Foreign Affairs to the point where he receives no respect. The New Zealand Herald referred to him as a “postbox”. Well, at least that indicated some kind of specific role. Helen Clark has not described Mr Peters as an influential and senior Minister or as a spokesperson for the Government; she has described him as “a point of contact”. New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs is now a point of contact, and that is all. We know Mr Peters and we know him well, so I ask him whether he will take that humiliation.
Hoinō hei tīmatanga kōrero, me mihi au ki a koutou e te whānau kua haere tawhiti mai hei tautoko i te kaupapa o te rā nei. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.
[Indeed, as a preface to my address, I would like to acknowledge you collectively, the family who have come here from a distance to support today’s event. And so I greet and thank you all.]
The other day one of the kids from Te Rangiāniwaniwa asked what I could bring to Parliament. I come from the classic Māori extended whānau. I have a history and a passion for Māori education, Māori media, and the Treaty of Waitangi, a commitment to Māori rights, and a long and distinguished record in the courtrooms of this country. One of my kaumātua from Te Rarawa said he had voted for me because I had been singing the same waiata since the 1970s—a classic gold number about the Treaty of Waitangi.
I stand here as a member of the new Māori Party, but carrying the same hopes and aspirations of my predecessors: Fredrick Nene Russell, Hone Tāwhai, Paraire Paikea, Hone Heke Rankin, Matiu Rata, and even the recently refurbished Tau Henare.
So when a reporter asked me whether I thought the Māori Party was separatist, I said that if unity meant a continuation of the appalling health, education, housing, mortality, and prison statistics that Māori face, then, hell yes, I must be a separatist. I told him that if, after 150 years of our being governed in the manner that we have been, our customary rights and, in terms of the denial of judicial process, even our basic human rights can be denied, then, hell yes, I must be a separatist, for only a fool could allow such destruction to go unchallenged. I wish to extend my thanks to the UN special rapporteur for coming to Aotearoa to hear representations from Māori on the degradation of their human rights.
When we first talked of a hīkoi from Te Rerenga Wairua to Wellington to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, I had a sense of the anger felt by Māoridom at what the chairman of the Treaty Tribes Coalition called “the most grievous breach of our human rights in recent times”. But neither I nor anyone else could have foreseen the power, the unity, and the passion of the tens of thousands who poured on to the streets of the nation to demonstrate their opposition to the bill and the legislation that followed.
That legislation is what brought the condemnation of the United Nations upon us, and for all that the Prime Minister may seek to downplay the importance of the visit, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights is not an organisation to be taken lightly. By forcing the Māori nation down the path of no legal redress, she has guaranteed that our credibility as a country is now on the line, our status as a racially tolerant nation is at an end, and, with the likely ongoing dispute and turmoil, our ranking with the international finance agencies will also be on edge. Like Nero fiddling while Rome burnt, the Prime Minister frolicked with a sheep while the Māori nation was at her door, and the Māori Party will forever be here to remind her of the folly of her ways.
So why am I here? Why am I in Parliament? My tupuna Tamati Waka Nene encouraged Māori to sign the Treaty, because he said there were already many blue-eyed mokopuna, and because he believed that the Treaty would guarantee Māori rights and would not allow Māori to become slaves in their own land. I am here to defend Māori rights and to advance Māori interests. I want to retain the Māori seats in Parliament, to repeal the foreshore and seabed legislation, and to support legislation that will enable all citizens of Aotearoa to live a healthy and meaningful life.
But I am not here to validate a parliamentary process that denies my people the opportunities they deserve. We are being denied that opportunity by a Government that treats us like sheep to be herded from one place to another, that keeps us dependent on welfare, and that seeks even to determine our path to prosperity.
As chairman of my kura, I have seen this Government take away a contract in which we had overachieved, and give it to a college of education that had held the same contract for 12 months and had done absolutely nothing. As a founding member of the Tai Tokerau public health organisation, I have seen well-run and high-outcome health contracts taken away from Māori providers and given back to the poorly performing district health boards. As a taxpayer, I watch the dismantling of the Kaitāia Hospital and I have to ask: while we are saving our money, who is saving our lives? As a son of the Tai Tokerau, I see a million-dollar prison being built in my backyard, while the Department of Corrections freely admits that prisons do not work, and I see schools sell cakes and sausages to fund their operations. And as a Māori, I was forced to endure the National Party bashing Māori to get votes. I cringe at the thought that in the 21st century people could be so callous in their disregard for the rights of Māori that they would seek to betray our citizenship in order to get into power.
I want to help create the environment where Māori feel positive about taking risk, and where they feel encouraged to seek their own solutions. I want to work to increase funding that encourages positive Māori initiative, and to resource those who dedicate their lives to their communities, both Māori and non-Māori. I want us all to treasure the Treaty in the same way that we are proud to embrace the haka. I want to challenge Māori to challenge ourselves to be all that we can be, to refuse to accept the crime and poverty that infest our lives, and to lift ourselves to the status our tupuna dreamt of for us. And I want this House to take up the challenge of helping make that happen.
One of those challenges is te reo Māori. In 1987 Māori was finally honoured as an official language in this country. It is taught in preschools, in primary schools, in intermediate schools, in secondary schools, in tertiary institutions, and in homes and offices throughout the nation. Our kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa, whare wānanga, whare kura, iwi radio, and Māori television have been adopted all around the indigenous world as the model for language retention and revitalisation.
Yet when, in our first minute in the House, I rose to welcome us all with a short mihi in Māori, my reception was a stunned and stony silence. Then last week, when Nandor Tanczos returned to the House, and I spoke for less than a minute in Māori to welcome him back and to welcome the delegation that had travelled hundreds of miles to hear Pita Sharples speak, I got blasted for it by the Speaker. It seems that for all its official status the Māori language has yet to find a home in this House.
Then, when we got into question time, the House descended into the petty point-scoring, often nasty, and always noisy bedlam for which it is notorious, and I watched the Speaker sit quietly by as if that is how the House is supposed to act. And I know already how our behaviour can be improved. A tour of marae throughout any iwi in the country would teach us all the etiquette of whaikōrero and the right of the speaker to be heard without interjection. And, if I might add, without malice, a lesson in tikanga for the Speaker of a House that is becoming browner by the election would not go amiss, either.
When the time came to swear allegiance in this House, the Māori Party MPs also gave their oath of loyalty to the Treaty of Waitangi, because without the Treaty there can be no valid authority for the Crown in this country. We should all look to our past for guidance, and we should look to the Treaty to help us face our past, and build our future together. The Treaty is the founding document of our nation. It provides the basis for good relations between all citizens of Aotearoa, it sets out how resources can be managed for the betterment of all, and it provides the framework for an ethical and inclusive society. To deny its rightful place in our society is to deny our past and to limit our future.
Its betrayal is at the source of much of the ill-feeling between the races in this nation, and I say to all who would bother to listen that if there is one truth about the Treaty of Waitangi, it is this: there will be no true peace in Aotearoa until this House has the courage to do justice by the Treaty. A nation that is secure in its place in the world would not shy away from the possibility that the Treaty could be enshrined as our nation’s constitution, and that the Treaty might have a real place in guiding our legislative process. We have it within our power to ensure that historical grievances are settled justly, and that current and future governance reflects the partnership envisaged by the Treaty. I wonder, though, whether we have the courage to do it.
My wife urged me not to make the following remarks, or to speak them only in Māori in order to soften their impact, but I cannot change the hand that history has already dealt us, and I will not ignore the challenge that I must lay down here. I am saddened by the knowledge that all the Māori MPs of the Labour Party know that what I say about the Treaty is true, but because their future is decided by their loyalty to the party, they have allowed themselves to be silenced. I am saddened by the knowledge that they too were as angry as the rest of Māoridom over Labour’s decision to push through with the Foreshore and Seabed Act, but they chose their own futures over the needs of their people, and said nothing. I know too that, their having rolled over on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, Helen Clark knew that her Māori MPs would never oppose her when she started rolling back the gains of the last 20 years.
So when Labour announced a review of the Treaty in legislation, her Māori MPs said nothing. When Labour refused to entrench the Māori seats through which its Māori MPs had all come to power, again they said nothing. When Labour started bashing Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, again they were silent. I note the rewards that were given for that silence in the handout of Cabinet and associate ministerships after the election. And while I will never forget the sense of betrayal that Māori felt right throughout the country at the actions of Labour’s Māori MPs, I will never ever forgive the Labour Party for what it has done to cause the loss of mana to its own members of Parliament.
And yet still I have hope. I have hope because I refuse to accept defeat. I have hope because even by coming to this House I know I carry the hopes and expectations of Māoridom to achieve change, and I know they will be there when the call comes to act.
I have the greatest love for my kaumātua and kuia from all over Te Tai Tokerau who have given their all to support me into this House. Their days are short, but the Māori Party seems to have given them a new lease of life—a sense that what they have always hoped and dreamt for has, in one small part, already come to pass. I have hope for my mokopuna and Māori kids at kura throughout Aotearoa, for they have a joy and a passion for being Māori that simply did not exist when I was a kid. I have hope for the next generation when I hear our young people at Nga Manu Kōrero say: “If Hone Harawira can get there, then I can get there, too.” I have hope for our future because of the vigour and the enthusiasm, the fury and the romance, that our people have vested in the many songs and haka about the hīkoi and about the Māori Party. I have hope because I know that change is inevitable, and that the Māori Party will be part of that change.
I see the bright and fiery eyes of those who have come to this House for the first time from all parties, and I have hope for the reckless courage of the new members, who want to stamp their mark on this House, and help build a new pathway for this nation. I see my whanaunga Shane Jones, my good friend Parekura Horomia, my ratbag companion Tau Henare, my relation Pita Paraone, the ever-helpful Metiria Turei, and the dreadlocked Nandor Tanczos, and I dare to hope that whanaungatanga and friendship will create opportunities that party politics would normally disallow.
And I have hope too because of all those in the tino rangatiratanga movement who have nurtured me over the years, who have challenged me, who have abused me, who have carried me, and who have condemned me, but who have, at all times, reminded me that life is tough, but life without liberty ain’t worth living.
Aotearoa is a nation founded on a troubled past. Attempts to colonise Māori have failed, and we remain a country divided. It seems that now, more than ever, Māori need to have faith in themselves, to be confident in their ability to determine their own future, and to work alongside their Treaty partners in meeting their obligations. Aotearoa is a beautiful country, and, contrary to popular belief, Māori welcome Pākehā to these shores. But that relationship is dependent upon respect for the right of tangata whenua, and the respect for all others as well. But let me make this clear: Māori are here to stay, and so are Māori rights. I love my homeland, and I want my mokopuna to grow up in a country where he can walk down the street as a citizen of Aotearoa comfortable in his Māori identity; aware of his rights under the Treaty; confident, secure, and proactive in all aspects of his life; and respectful of all others in this society.
A Catholic priest arrested and jailed in Manila for opposing martial law once said to me: “Happy are those who dream dreams, and are prepared to pay the price to make those dreams come true.” And Ngā Tamatoa leaves us with this little reminder: “Tama tū, tama ora; tama noho, tama mate—Tamatoa.” Those who stand and fight shall live; those who sit and wait shall perish. E te iwi, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, huri atu, huri noa, tēnā tātou katoa.
My congratulations to the Hon Margaret Wilson on becoming the Speaker for a second term, to my colleague Clem Simich on his appointment as Deputy Speaker, and to you, Madam Assistant Speaker, and the honourable member Ross Robertson on your appointments as Assistant Speakers.
I acknowledge the previous member for Whanganui, Jill Pettis. Jill is a tough campaigner. She and I never see eye to eye, but the conflict is always engaging and every milestone is hard fought and hard won.
Tēnā koe te Rangatira Tariana. Ka pīrangi ahau. Ki te mahi ki tō taha mō ngā tangata o te rohe o Whanganui. Greetings, Tariana. We can work together for the benefit of the people of Whanganui.
The Whanganui electorate stretches from the Whangaehu River to the Kaupokonui Stream, and lies between the territorial borders of the South Taranaki District Council, the Wanganui District Council, and the coast. So the seat encompasses not only Wanganui City but also Kaponga, Manaia, Eltham, Hawēra, Pātea, Waverley, Fordell, and the Whanganui River settlements of Koriniti, Rānana, Ātene, Jerusalem, and Pipiriki.
Within its borders are many people with boundless energy, and various businesses and communities of interest. Bits of Wanganui design and manufacturing circle the globe as components on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space shuttle. Valueless animal gut is made into musical instrument and racquet strings, which sell for between $1.5 million and $6 million per tonne and are judged the best in the world. The biggest single-site dairy manufacturer in the world, which produces 2.5 percent of New Zealand’s export earnings, is in Hāwera. The Universal College of Learning’s fashion design school in Wanganui runs a degree course for which the fashion houses of Milan pay a premium. Fox and Disney recommend that their staff obtain qualifications from its graphic design school, and its fine arts course is world renowned. These are no less remarkable than the many volunteer organisations, Government service agencies, and conventional businesses. It is my privilege to represent these people and these ambitions, accomplishments, and successes.
I need to thank those who have set me on the path leading to Parliament today. Firstly, I thank my team, my campaign chairs from three campaigns: David Bennett, Viv Chapman, and Gerard Langford. They have led volunteers who door-knocked, pushed pamphlets, attended meetings, wrote letters, sold raffle tickets, and gave wise counsel. I thank our president, Judy Kirk, who rang in March last year to convince me to stand again, after I had taken the decision to concentrate on the law and flag away politics; and, of course, I thank those who lobbied her to make that call.
I want also to thank a very good friend and an understated bloke by the name of Neil Walker. Neil signed me up to the National Party. Neil is also the person I point to as the significant influence on my decision to stand for Parliament, and he is the person who has driven me both across and up and down the country to meetings and conferences, chewed the fat with me, planted germs of ideas and challenged others, and supported me in every way to put my head above the parapet. Neil knocked on my door, canvassing on behalf of the National Party, just after the election in 1987. I had been up all night chasing burglars—unsuccessfully—in a little town called Pātea, where I was the sole-charge cop. Normally, I would have told him where to go and shut the door and gone back to bed, but Neil knocked on my door about 2 weeks after I had made the decision to join the National Party.
That decision had come after about 30 years of preparation. My mum and dad, who are here today, raised a couple of kids to have a very strong sense of social justice. Dad has voted National twice in his life—in 1975 and 2005. Mum will not let on, but I think she saw the light a little earlier. They believed, as I believed for 30 years, that the social gospel of our Christian faith was best reflected politically in the policies of the Labour Party. I had always believed this without question.
My father got me a job on the wharf and slipway in Nelson with hard-working and hard-living men, some of them gang members—people vastly different from me. As a 16-year-old casual labourer, I learnt how to weld and spray paint; I climbed through bilges and tanks, because casual labourers were on the bottom rung. I am sure this was what my father was thinking: that there were lessons for me to learn there that I could not pick up anywhere else—and he was right. They were lessons about values, and they were valuable lessons. Many similar experiences through the years in the police, volunteer social work, community work, and youth work gave me plenty of opportunity for reflections on social justice.
My decision to join the National Party, though, was in response to the then Labour Government removing the Project Employment Programme (PEP)—the work-for-the-dole scheme of the late 1980s. The Minister of Labour decided to stop trying to provide work for the unemployed, because of the cost of administration. I saw this as an abdication of social responsibility. What happened was that on the first day after the withdrawal of PEP, with no reason to go to work and with time on their hands, the local Black Power in Pātea got drunk and had a scrap. There was only me to deal with it. I walked up to that scrap thinking: “Where the hell are you now, Prebble?”. I needed to do my bit to teach the Government a lesson. And then Neil knocked on my door.
In listening to the speeches of other new MPs, I find it interesting to see how similar starts in life have taken us to different places with divergent philosophies. I, like others who have spoken, have worked with people’s lives. The trouble with that is there is no visible, tangible result of our labours. One cannot hang a life up on a wall, and say: “When I started working with this person and that person their lives were a mess, but look at them now—achieving to their full potential and fully participating.” Unlike my late father-in-law, a carpenter, who could point to buildings as testament to his craft, or my farmer grandfather, who, starting in the Depression, took waste gumland in Northland and made clean and productive pasture, the results of my work seem to be intangible. But they are no less satisfying.
In 1976 I frequently worked in the cells under the Auckland Magistrate’s Court, with David Lange’s voice reverberating round the courtrooms while I was in the cells keeping an eye on his clients. Written on the walls of the cell block was a statement, reading: “Twas an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth—and the world was blind and toothless.” The inscription was not scratched on the walls by a remorseful offender but by another policeman, examining the futility of society’s response to crime and punishment as some would have us do it.
Then later, in 1989, I was working as a detective in South Taranaki. Family benefit was paid on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and some parents celebrated it by getting pissed—and their children got hurt. I vividly recall a visit on an ordinary day to an ordinary State house, and to the typical 6-feet-square fibrolite shed behind it, which was filled with rubbish bags because nobody had the energy to take them a few metres to the gate to be collected. I had been talking to the father of the household that day in prison. The father had been charged with raping his sister-in-law. He had attempted sex, she had resisted, and he had broken her jaw, then raped her. So dad was in jail and mum was a few metres away on the turps with her mates. Their 7-year-old son took himself off for a sneaky smoke in the shed. He tripped and fell and somehow a fire started in the rubbish. He was trapped and incinerated before any of the adults knew what had happened. He was exactly the same age as my son. I watched my son sleeping that night, and blubbed, and decided that it was time to get active.
A few strongly held beliefs do not save one life. Although the vast majority of people in similar circumstances did benefit, raised good kids, and went on to become independent and self-respecting, one size does not fit all. Everyone who ends up in custody will cost over $50,000 a year. Why would we not spend a fraction of that to avoid those outcomes? With 500,000 people between the ages of 5 and 20, and 5 percent of them being easily identifiable by early childhood or year-1 teachers as children at risk, why would we not do something to walk alongside those children to help them avoid the risks, dodge the bad influences, and reverse the negative expectations? Even from a purely financial perspective, it is worth it. But the social cost of human and spiritual capital is far, far more expensive. In New Zealand our homicide rate approaches 100 a year. For our population, this is about four times that of the United Kingdom, with all its threats of terrorism and all its racial tensions and organised crime. Why do we have such a culture of violence? That is a question too big to debate today, but it is a debate we must have.
Communities love to claim the achievers in sports and academia, the artists, and the good kids. But all the kids are ours—those who make us proud and those we would prefer to ignore. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing a young life—or, sometimes, a life not so young—that, in spite of all pedigree, predictions, trends, and analyses, beats the odds to achieve beyond his or her wildest dreams. They are people who refuse to be relegated to the third place as underachievers by those social labellers who neglect everyone’s right to achieve to his or her highest potential. They are the people who did not want an easy road, but had their buttons pushed by their will to win in their own right, who cut their own track, and who were able to stand in front of those who would lock them into low wages and low prospects and say: “No, damn it, don’t patronise me, and don’t pat me on the head and leave me in the corner. Let me have a crack at self-esteem. Give me a chance to break the mould.”
I want to live in a country that claims all children as its own and accepts the glory and the responsibility of that—the responsibility to create opportunities for them to stand straight with chin up and chest out, and not to slouch on extended welfare for their whole working lives, never to stand proudly unaided. I want to live in a country where all talents and abilities are rewarded; not just the flavour-of-the-month occupations but the brain surgeon and the drain digger, the social worker and the rocket scientist, the chippy and the chairman of the board. That, Madam Assistant Speaker, is why I joined the National Party and why I stand here today.
Many of us who come here have connections from outside politics. My wife’s former boss usually sits over there. My former lecturer, hard little snot that he is, sits down here—I got 51 percent—and he is also a newly found relative, as is the Hon Annette King. We share great-great-grandfathers. She may be happy that the relationship is not any closer.
In 1996 I attended a conference titled Beyond Dependency, and heard Parekura Horomia, then of Te Puni Kōkiri, speak and it was a fantastic and moving speech. On the way to the venue I passed Sue Bradford at the front of the demonstration. We had met before in similar circumstances, though she may not remember. But a couple of weeks ago Sue Bradford and I were sworn in together—the protester and the policeman. Tēnā koe.
The world is bigger than this House, but acknowledgment of that does not mean we should not try to work together. I am not so naive as to think that situations do not demand a fight, or that the scrap does not involve the loss of some skin or hair from time to time. Sometimes one just has to have the fight. All sides of the debate need airing; that is the nature of democracy.
People have asked me why I want to be here—because some people think we are all nuts. My quick response is that I am egotistical enough to believe that I can make a difference, and I am pleased to say that others do, too. But my inspiration comes from a passage from Scripture outlining the requirements of my chosen faith: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly before my God.
I have fought three successive campaigns to get here, and in the intervening years I have given up a career of 24 years, been to Victoria University and obtained a law degree—just, eh, Chris—worked for 2½ years as defence counsel, and spent 15 months campaigning full-time without wages. In all that time I have enjoyed the full support of my wife, Ella, my son Zac, and my daughters Abi and Katy. I doubt that any political aspirant has ever enjoyed the level of support they have shown me. It feels terrific to be in this House—in spite of the reputation of politicians—and credit for winning Whanganui and finally making it to this House belongs to that level of support. Thank you, Ella.
My final thanks go to the people of the Whanganui electorate, many of whom voted against their tradition of voting for the left and voted for the right. I acknowledge that my job now is to show them that their decision was a good decision. I take nothing and nobody for granted. I will work even harder in the interests of the Whanganui electorate, to stand up under the task asked of me and never to forget the special privilege of being an electorate member of Parliament.
I begin by congratulating the new member Chester Borrows, who has just resumed his seat. I think we hear the best from our members when they deliver their maiden speeches, and we have heard from Mr Borrows a very sincere presentation of his views and the things that have motivated him to come to the House. I congratulate you also, Madam Assistant Speaker, on your appointment, and I congratulate your fellow office holders in the House. I also congratulate Shane Jones and Sue Moroney on the moving and seconding of the Address in Reply. Those also, I think, were inspirational speeches and give us confidence about the new blood that has found its way into the Labour caucus.
I speak now on a somewhat sombre note and reflect on the House’s loss of Rod Donald, whom I did not get a chance to speak about in the House. Rod and I go back a long, long way. We both worked on the Residential Tenancies Bill in the early 1980s. We were at times allies and we were at times opponents, but we were never enemies. He was a person of passionate conviction for causes and beliefs, which drove him politically—his support for human rights, his support for social justice—and that, I think, makes his passing from the House a sad loss for all of us.
I remember also David Lange for his advocacy for the underdog. I worked closely with David from the late 1970s, and he was, I think, a person without peer in terms of his superb communication and his quick wit in the House. He was at times an inspirational leader, and I remember, in particular through the first 3 years of the fourth Labour Government, feeling that it was a huge privilege to work with him, from my perspective as the youngest and most junior member of Cabinet.
I would also like to remember Jack Luxton, who was the Deputy Speaker when I came into this House, and John Falloon. I think they were truly decent men in what I would regard as the old style of the National Party, and I encourage the National Party today to go back to some of that gentlemanly perspective on life that, I think, created real respect.
I have to say that after listening to the maiden speeches—those I have heard—it is hard to line up some of the speeches from the National Party with the appointment of a PC eradicator. I have heard a lot of “Kia oras” coming from the National Party side. I see my old friend Tau Henare across the House. Tau Henare once set up the Mauri Pacific party, and I have here a quote from him. He said that Māori language would become a compulsory subject in all schools up until form 2 to ensure the language’s survival. That is pretty PC! But it gets better. His party said it would adopt a gender balancing twinning policy. Well, that is more PC than I have ever dared to be from this side of the House. But then I look back at the maiden speech of the PC eradicator—whom I am searching for in the House at the moment. I have just been talking about how people spoke from the heart when they gave their maiden speeches. This is from Wayne Mapp, back at the time he gave his maiden speech in the House. I listened closely because Wayne Mapp had contested an election against me, not as a National Party candidate but for the Labour Party selection in 1981. When he finally got into this House in 1997, he said this: “The liberating experience of education led me to develop equity admission programmes at the University of Auckland for Maori and Polynesian students undertaking commerce degrees.”
How do we line up the double standards of the National members who one by one claim to be the most PC members in this House, then go out during an election and crusade against it? It is a little bit hard also, I have to say, to reconcile the National Party that tried to arouse race prejudice in this country by talking about the abolition of the Māori seats and the elimination of the Treaty of Waitangi from any legislation, with a letter signed by Don Brash and the leader of the Māori Party to try to form a coalition Government in this country. That, I think, reflects badly on both parties in terms of the hypocrisy that that represents. The National Party said it wanted to abolish the seats that saw the Māori Party elected, and the Māori Party was prepared to go into coalition with the National Party for whatever reason. I do not understand, because that was never the mandate given by the Māori voters who might have used their electorate vote to vote for the Māori Party but used their party vote to support the Labour Party.
The 2005 election was the fourth MMP election in New Zealand. MMP does create a new political environment, and it demands a different response from how traditionally we operated under first past the post. Those of us who remember that system feel a little nostalgic about it—the ability to form a clear-cut Government with a simple majority. But we have learnt something about MMP, and we learnt it from the National Party. The National Party was the first Government elected under MMP. It formed a coalition arrangement with the New Zealand First Party.
Doug Woolerton was a member and an official of the National Party at one stage, but quickly abandoned that. He will remember how that coalition collapsed within 2 years. Tau Henare will remember it, as well. What we saw, with the collapse of that National – New Zealand First coalition, were the so-called waka-jumpers who left their party, including I have to say Alamein Kopu, who was elected on a position totally at odds with the National Party, who then swung her vote to support the Jenny Shipley Cabinet. That was the one that I heard Tau Henare, in Te Atatū, swearing he would never sit with around the Cabinet table. I say to Tau Henare that there has been an amazing flexibility in his politics over time, but I welcome him back to the House anyway. The fact was that we learnt that that coalition broke down because of the inflexibility of the arrangements.
I have been much quoted about mothers-in-law. I have to put on record that I was intensely fond of my mother-in-law. She died 2 years ago. She was a lovely person, and I put that on record. She lived with us in our house for a while. It produced some strains. We built a granny flat and we each had our own space. That granny flat enabled us to coexist quite well, and that is exactly what the arrangement is with New Zealand First. That party is bound to collective responsibility in the portfolio areas exercised by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and it has the room to move in the other areas where New Zealand First and the Labour Party are different, and I say that quite emphatically. New Zealand First is different, but it has its own space. We will make this work, in the way that the National Party failed, twice, to make it work with Winston Peters. It threw him out of Cabinet twice.
This time we will make it work. And we will make work what the electorate delivered up to us. The electorate delivered up to us a situation where we did not have a clear majority, where this country needed the stability and the consistency that the last National Government failed to provide. We will deliver that to this country, and this country will be the better for it. I say, with great pride, that for 6 years a Labour-led Government has made the MMP system work, and a Labour-led Government has, without exception, delivered on every promise it made at the election. For 6 years after the National Party had let down the superannuitants—it had promised to abolish the surtax, “no ifs, no buts, no maybes”—that promise was broken. [Interruption] Lockwood Smith draws my attention. Lockwood Smith stood on the platform with me at universities around the country, saying National would abolish student fees. Of course, National did not abolish them, it doubled them. This Labour-led Government has been true to its word. This Labour-led Government has produced the greatest increase in people’s incomes, the best improvements in social services, and the best foreign policy that this country has ever seen.
In the very short period of time that I have left I want to acknowledge the tremendous work done on New Zealand’s behalf by the Special Air Services. I was at Whenuapai Airport at 4 o’clock this morning to welcome them back to this country. They are a body of men and women who have provided truly competent, courageous, and professional service to our country. I am proud, as Minister of Defence, to represent and to have those people represent New Zealand in the work they have done, both to constrain the influence of al-Qaeda and the Taliban remnants in Afghanistan and to provide for the people of that country, who have suffered for more than two decades the effects of war and civil war, the prospect of a better future—stability, development, and hopefully, prosperity. I refer to not only the SAS, but also the men and women who serve in our provincial reconstruction team in Bamian. We ought, as New Zealanders, to be proud of the work they have done. We ought to be proud of the fact that we acted within the multilateral context, under a UN mandate, to send our people to that country to provide security for the people of that country, and provide security for the international community.
Finally, I pay tribute to those people and what they have done on our behalf, and I as Minister of Defence will be working hard to provide them with the resources to continue the good work that they are doing in places around the world.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am mindful of the Standing Orders, which I am looking at. I see that Standing Order 107(2) does not allow tedious repetition. The points being made by the Minister have already been made by the Prime Minister earlier today.
The member is quite wrong. That is not a point of order. The member was making a speech. That is not the ruling on repetition.
Ti-hei mauri or-a!
Whāia te pae tawhiti kia tata,
Whāia te pae tata.
Whakamaua kia ū, kia tī-na!
[Behold the sneeze of life!
Draw the distant and not so distant horizon closer to you.
When that is achieved, grasp it firmly and permanently.]
This Māori proverb commands us to reach for the horizon, for the stars, to bring them close, and to hold them tight. To aim for mediocrity is to limit the dreams of all New Zealanders. I believe that the current leaders of this nation have set the bar too low. They have aimed at mediocrity, and that is what they have achieved. More than anything else, I wish to bring to this House the courage for the Government to aim for the stars.
Tēnā koutou katoa! Me mihi ki Te Runga Rawa!
[Greetings to you all! Greetings as well to the Creator above!]
Mr Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to stand here, in the Parliament of New Zealand, to speak to you in my maiden speech.
Ki te Whare Pāremata e tū nei, ki a Papatūānuku kei waho, tēnā kōrua!
[To Parliament House standing here and to Mother Earth outside, greetings to you two.]
I acknowledge this great House of Parliament.
Ngā mate o tēnā iwi, o tēnā iwi me mihia, me tangihia. He mihi ki a rātou. Ki a koe Rod Donald haere, haere, haere.
[I acknowledge the deaths of every iwi and mourn them. My condolences to them. And to you Rod Donald, take your leave, depart, farewell.]
It is important that I acknowledge all those who have gone before me—all those who have led New Zealand and who are no longer with us. They have each played a part in driving this country forward.
Ki ngā kaumātua tēnā koutou. E ngā rangatira tēnā koutou!
[Greetings to you the elders and chiefs, greetings!]
Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your appointment as Assistant Speaker. I say thank you to Don Brash for his achievement in leading the rejuvenation of the National Party. To Judy Kirk, Steven Joyce, and all the fantastic team at head office, I say thank you for their efforts. It has been a wonderful job.
Ki ngā tāngata o tēnei Pāremata, tēnā koutou katoa!
[To members of this Parliament, greetings to you all!]
To my new colleagues, I say I am looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. They are indeed a talented group of people, each of whom has had to work extremely hard to get into this Parliament. I believe that we are a team that can take this country out of mediocrity and to the stars. To Craig Foss, I say that we made a great partnership in Hawke’s Bay and I look forward to working together with him.
Ngā tāngata o Heretaunga, ngā whānau, ngā hoa, tēnā koutou katoa!
[Greetings also to the people, families and friends of Hawke’s Bay, greetings to you all!]
At this time I would like to pay tribute to my campaign team—I see Tom Johnson up there in the gallery—and to my electorate team. They had the courage to set a vision that many—if not most, I would say—said was impossible. To win the seat of Napier for National for the first time in 50 years was indeed a target somewhere on the horizon, if not in the stars. Nevertheless, we are now the 21st least marginal seat in the country. Without the team, we would never have achieved that feat, so I thank them.
To Michael Cullen, one of my constituents, who is not in the House today—
It is customary and the convention not to refer to the absence of members. All members, at one stage or another, have to leave the House.
I say to Michael Cullen that I look forward to representing him as his electorate MP. I will be in my Napier office on Mondays and Fridays, and I tell him that if he ever feels like making an appointment to discuss Napier issues, I will look forward to it.
I say thank you very much to the people of Napier for having the faith to elect me as their MP, and I thank my friends and family for their immense support. I will never let them down.
Ko Aotearoa te kāinga o taku whānau mō e rima ngā whakatipuranga. He nui taku aroha mō Aotearoa ki te whenua, ngā one, ngā maunga, ngā roto. New Zealand has been the home of my family for five generations. My forefathers, like all other Kiwis, were migrants to this country. New Zealand is my home—not England, Ireland, or some distant land that my ancestors departed from two centuries ago. My family and I have great respect and love for New Zealand and its beaches, plains, mountains, and lakes. I acknowledge the tangata whenua of Aotearoa, for I believe that I am tangata whenua—a person of this land. I may not have Māori blood in me, but the spirit—wairua—of New Zealand is in me. To me, that is the very essence of being tangata whenua. It is not the mere fact of citizenship. If people still pine for their place of birth and the spirit of that country still flows through their veins, then they have not crossed the bridge to this country.
I acknowledge Māori as the first tangata whenua. I acknowledge their beautiful language, te reo; their customs, ngā tikanga; and their treasures, ngā taonga. Although I am by no means fluent in te reo, I am learning Māori because I believe that it is the founding language of this country and that it should never be lost.
I also acknowledge Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of this nation. It is the document that allowed people from other nations to become tangata whenua. The treaty conveyed a number of rights on the existing property owners, and in many cases those rights were not honoured. Historical grievances arising from that document must be settled fully, fairly, and finally, and we must work to a deadline. We must resource the Waitangi Tribunal properly so that it can meet that deadline. We must move on. I see no work as being more important in this country than that of settling those grievances.
In saying that, I believe that we need to move this nation beyond the Treaty. For the sake of Māori and all other people in this land, we must move on. We need to look forward in order to set a pathway for the future. Continuing to look back over our shoulder will do nothing but drive a wedge between our people. As Hone Harawira said before: tama tū, tama ora; tama noho, tama mate!
[a lad on his feet is a survivor, an idle one is not!]
In the words of the great Ngāti Kahungunu proverb, it is time to stand and look forward, not to sit down and go backwards.
As a nation, we must reach for the horizon—for the stars. I believe that in the past we have set the bar too low. We breed a nation of winners—a nation that expects its athletes to be world champions, our artists to be globally recognised, and our academics to be equal to, if not better than, the best in the world. Yet we accept a Government that aims for mediocrity. When our athletes compete at the Olympic Games, we expect them to win. We, a nation of 4 million people, expect to go out against all odds and win gold medals against nations that are 10, 50, and 100 times our size. We set targets that other countries would only dream of, and on many occasions we deliver. In both our sporting and artistic endeavours, we reach for the stars, and more often than not, we make it.
I ask, then, why the Labour-led Government’s stated goal for this nation in terms of GDP per capita—for prosperity per citizen—is limited to getting us into the top half of the OECD countries. How can that be? Here we are, a nation of winners whose target is only to get into the top half. It is like Hawke’s Bay’s Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell aiming to make the repechage at the next world championships. It is like Greg Murphy aiming to drive to 20th place at Bathurst. Guess what? Although GDP mediocrity is our Government’s target, we are not even successful at reaching that. Currently as a nation we sit in the bottom half of the OECD countries—in 21st place out of 30 countries. Our GDP per capita sits at just US$23,200, well behind Australia’s at US$30,100 and even further behind the United States’ at US$37,600. Quite frankly, that is not good enough.
What is worse is that we in this country—and I, in particular—hate playing second fiddle to Australia. Yet we sit here and wonder why so many Kiwis—so many tangata whenua—are leaving this nation. In the year ended June 2005, net departures to Australia were 19,277. The Labour - New Zealand First solution is an advertising campaign and a flawed student loan scheme. Let me tell members that those initiatives will not work. People do not need an advertising campaign to convince them to come back here—they already love this country. They need better incomes and a better standard of living. Until we are prepared to set a path to take this country to the top of the OECD, we will continue to languish in terms of living standards and prosperity.
We need a culture shift in the Government. We need the courage to reach for the stars. I accept that those types of goals take years—even decades. I accept that they require solutions that will challenge many in this nation. But while we shoot for mediocrity, and while our stated goal is to get only into the top half of the OECD, can we guess at what we can expect to achieve? As Napier’s MP, I will work hard to engender a spirit that gives us the courage to set big goals and lofty targets for our country. Accepting mediocrity for New Zealand is just not an option.
Ko Heretaunga tōku whenua. Ko Ōtātara tōku maunga. Ko Tūtaekurī tōku awa. Nō Ōtātara ahau.
[Hawke’s Bay is my region. Ōtātara is my mountain. Tūtaekurī is my river. I am from Ōtātara.]
I am a Hawke’s Bay boy. I grew up under the Ōtātara hills and beside the Tūtaekurī River in the Napier suburb of Taradale. I am proud to call Napier home. It is important that my parliamentary colleagues understand from day one that Hawke’s Bay is undoubtedly the best province in New Zealand. My vision for Hawke’s Bay and for Napier is simple. It is not about mediocrity. It is about reaching for the stars and being the best we can possibly be in terms of lifestyle choices, active living, health, safety, and prosperity. Our councils are already doing a fantastic job of developing lifestyle choices and active living. Sport Hawke’s Bay is also well down the path to taking Hawke’s Bay towards being the most active province in New Zealand. However, I have three areas of particular concern. Our health statistics are currently below par, and we do not have enough police on the streets. We are also losing too many businesses to other parts of the nation and to overseas.
The closure of Napier Hospital has been the cause of past angst in my community. If we are to improve the health statistics across our community, we must put that behind us. We must support our regional hospital to carry out major surgery and to get high-priced capital equipment. However, it is important that we stand up to ensure that Napier is not gradually wiped off the public health services map by the abolition or merger of further services. The district health board has made a significant commitment to Napier through the Napier Health Centre on Wellesley Street. Whether the current centre is well placed or good value for money are still debatable points. That aside, it is critical that Napier retains its own health facility, with an improving level of community health services, not a diminishing one.
Throughout my campaign I stated the urgent need for additional front-line police. Suburbs such as Maraenui need to have full-time community policing, not a part-time commitment. I am heartened by the New Zealand First - Labour coalition agreement to put an additional 1,000 police into the community, and I will be working hard to ensure that Napier gets its proportional fair share.
Additional to that, the region needs to understand that new and existing businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy. We must develop a strategy that relentlessly attracts new businesses to the bay and retains them on a long-term basis. That involves a combination of town planning, the development of key infrastructure, and a focus on key business clusters. Building the depth of businesses will increase the robustness of our economy and grow the prosperity of our people. We must also fight for our existing industries, in particular our apple industry. The access to Australia issue is one that Craig Foss and I will continue to battle for.
Part of growing Napier and Hawke’s Bay is continued investment in regional infrastructure. I call on my parliamentary colleagues across the floor, Michael Cullen and Russell Fairbrother, to help to ensure that the long-overdue Meeanee Interchange proceeds immediately and that Government ownership in our regional airport is offered for sale to local authorities, so that our community can make decisions about the destiny of that most important asset. Hawke’s Bay is where my heart is. It is my home and I will do all that I can to take it forward.
Ko Kelvin Tremain tōku pāpā, he tangata rongonui, he All Black. Ko Pam Tremain tōku māmā. He tino kaha tōku whaea.
[Kelvin Tremain, a famous All Black, is my dad. My mum is Pam Tremain, a very courageous mother indeed.]
I wish only that my father, Kelvin Tremain, were able to see me here in Parliament today. He was a great man, he tangata rongonui, who died too early while still having much to offer. He taught me that every person is equal and deserving of a smile. To my mother, Pamela, who cannot be here today, I say she taught me the importance of values, of setting high standards, and of reaching for the sky. I love them both. I also acknowledge my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Trevor and Jeanette Jurgens, who are in the gallery today, and thank them for all their support.
Ko Angela tōku wahine, ko ia te kaitautoko tino kaha. Ko Samuel rātou ko William, ko Millie aku tamariki. Ko Simon rāua ko Mark aku taina. He nui taku aroha mō taku whānau.
[My wife is Angela, my strongest supporter. Samuel, William, and Millie are my children. Simon and Mark are my younger brothers. I have much love for my family.]
To Angela, my wife, I say she is my greatest supporter and I love her. She has taught me spirituality and that there is much else in the world other than the relentless pursuit of financial gain. To my children, Sam, Will, and Lily, to my brothers, Simon and Mark, and to their partners, Hettie and Jan, I say I am here for those guys, and I want them to know that I love them as well. There is nothing more important in life than family. For me, it is more important than the pursuit of lofty goals. It is more important than this House and its members, and I am afraid, as a nation, that we have lost sight of that.
We expect our sportspeople, our artists, and our academics to aim for the sky and to be the best they can be. We must expect our Government to set high targets and to have the courage to pursue them on behalf of the people of this country. Mediocrity has no place in New Zealand.
Aku mihi ki a koutou. Kia tau te rangimārie ki a tātou katoa. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
[My appreciation to you collectively. Let peace prevail over us all. Greetings, greetings, and greetings to us all.]
I begin by paying my respects to the Governor-General of New Zealand, Her Excellency the Hon Dame Silvia Cartwright. I congratulate Madam Speaker, the Hon Margaret Wilson, on her re-election unanimously to that post, the Hon Clem Simich, our Deputy Speaker, you, Mr Assistant Speaker, and Assistant Speaker Ann Hartley. I congratulate the new members of Parliament who have joined this House, and also the mover and the seconder of the Address in Reply debate, Shane Jones and Sue Moroney, on their speeches. I record my sympathies to the Green Party on the death of Rod Donald, whom I worked with in my role as a Government whip while he was the Green Party musterer. I also extend my congratulations to Prime Minister Helen Clark. As has been stated through this debate, Helen Clark has become the only leader in Labour Party history to be elected Prime Minister three times—a very significant achievement, particularly, I think, in an MMP Parliament where she has had to run minority Governments.
I thank the Otaki electorate for once again choosing me as its local representative.
Yes, but they still chose me. As the National Party is finding out at the moment, to its enormous discomfort, a win is a win, and I am pleased that the people of the Otaki electorate have sent me here for one more term. I know that that will continue for many years, because they appreciate hard work. It is a privilege to represent the local community of Horowhenua and Kapiti. I give it everything that I have, and I am looking forward to another term in the seat.
I have bad news for the National Party in that regard. [Interruption] I hear Mr John Key calling out. It is amazing the confidence one gets from receiving 5 percent in an opinion poll, after an election! It is extraordinary stuff. It is fantastic. It is a kind of “kiss of death” to get only 5 percent, to just cross the threshold in an opinion poll taken after an election, when it does not count, because it means that everybody else who sits around knows that in order to get to that job they will have to knife John Key. So John Key might have got five people out of 1,000 around the country to say he is all right, but in actual fact all his caucus—
In fairness, five out of a hundred, but I tell him that he will not get any support from the 48 who sit on the National side of the House.
The Speech from the Throne set out the Government’s priorities. Quite clearly they are about maintaining a strong economy, which over the last 6 years has delivered to this country record numbers of people in work, the creation of over a quarter of a million new jobs, real shifts in the minimum wage, which have delivered gains to working people throughout the community—all of which have been opposed by National at every step of the way—and a commitment in this term to try to raise productivity and skills training in order to keep the economy growing, so we can get economic growth and gains for people right across the community. In doing that we are trying to make sure that people in the cities and in the regions—
I am being interjected on by Don Brash. What is he saying? Is he talking about his age? [ Interruption] I know the member had a birthday recently, but if he is going to interject, he ought to make it pithy and to the point. I will give him another go.
We have not squandered a thing. We have had 6 years of a growing economy, and just last week unemployment fell not only to the lowest level in the world, once again, but to the lowest level on record in New Zealand—so only 3.4 percent of the workforce is now unemployed. We have more jobs and more working-age people off benefits, yet can we guess what that member, who believes in a natural rate of unemployment, comes in here and criticises the Labour Government for? He criticises us for creating jobs, and for putting more mums and dads into work. I would have thought the temporary leader of the National Party would support a stable labour market, so he could keep the job he has right now instead of criticising us.
I turn to another topic in the Speech from the Throne, which I think Dr Brash will be interested in: health care, particularly for older New Zealanders. The Government is proposing more operations for cataracts and in the area of orthopaedic surgery, such as hip and knee replacements, because those are areas in elective surgery where clearly we have to improve what we are able to do for ordinary New Zealanders in the public health system. I know that John Key is a strong supporter of the public health system, and when my electorate gets those gains from the MidCentral District Health Board and the Capital and Coast District Health Board, I know they will thank the Labour Government for it. Those people knew, when we won the party vote in that seat, that a tax cut would mean reduced health services. So they were keen to make sure we were able to boost our hospitals. I see the member for East Coast shaking her head. I ask her how many cataract operations she does not want out of the Crown revenue mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
So we have to spend more and tax less. That is voodoo economics.
In the area of education, we have brought in a very successful student loan policy. National has used exactly the same arguments in opposing the student loan policy as it used 6 years ago, and it was wrong about that, as well. National opposed the policy that when one is studying, one should not pay interest. So National Party members—a very hard-working team, working into the wee hours of the afternoon—got their research unit to find the exact Hansard back in 2000, and they trotted in here last week to oppose interest-free student loans for New Zealand - based graduates and students. I hope they continue to oppose that policy. I hope they continue to go all around New Zealand saying they are against it, because the previous speaker complained about Kiwis leaving New Zealand. A lot of young people go overseas to earn money, to earn pounds in Britain, to pay off their student loans, and the National Party, of course, says that is a crying shame. But then the National members came into Parliament and voted against a policy on student loans. I just hope they keep on doing that.
The other thing on our pledge card, of course, was around the apprenticeship scheme. We are pledging 5,000 more apprentices this term. All those policies have been opposed by National, which voted against the Modern Apprenticeships legislation.
That comes as a bit of a surprise to the finance spokesman, because he was not in Parliament then. The National members actually went out into the Noes lobby against that legislation. It was very good legislation that is lifting the skills training for young people and giving them a chance in New Zealand. It was opposed by the Brash-led National Party.
Then, in terms of police numbers, we have 1,000 extra police by way of our agreement on supply and confidence with New Zealand First. We have a rates rebate coming through for those on low incomes—particularly pensioners—to help them pay their bills. We are going to move on the over-80s drivers’ regime, which has been very unfair to constituents of mine, and I am very keen to see that test removed and replaced with a much fairer regime as soon as we are able. And, of course, I mentioned that we have a big focus on jobs in order to make sure that we keep on growing a strong economy, because what other point is there for a Labour Government than to make sure there are jobs, and well-paying jobs, for working people? To that extent we are going to try to move the minimum wage to $12 by the end of this term. That also will be opposed by the National Party, and I hope that it will make an effort on that.
On the transport front, the Government is trying very hard to address the infrastructure issues that our country faces. Throughout the 1990s, of course, there was very little infrastructure investment made, and this Government has come in and tried to invest more into that area. I am very hopeful that we will get a much-improved access from the Kapiti coast into Wellington. I am very keen that passenger transport is included as part of that package to make sure that we can, through electrification and more regular services, ensure that public transport is a real option, as well as major roading improvements. I personally would like to see Transmission Gully built, but our region has to work together to make sure we can have that.
We have an invitation from three National Party list MPs in the Wellington region, by way of page 3 of the Dominion Post—that is how they contacted us—to ask us to join their crusade. Well, of course we are going to keep on working with what we are already doing to get gains for the Wellington region in transport, and will not listen to those political opportunists. Mr Blumsky, who was the Mayor of Wellington at one stage—what more powerful position could he have held than Mayor of Wellington—opposed Transmission Gully. He did not say one thing in favour of Transmission Gully as Mayor of Wellington, and he comes in as a back-bench Opposition list MP and says “Please join my group.” Mr Guy joined the campaign for Transmission Gully about 4 weeks before the election, so bold was his stance on the issue. Of course, Chris Finlayson, who kind of had a regal coronation campaign in Mana, where he wandered around saying; “Hello, I’m from the Tory party; I’ll be in Parliament.”, has decided that despite saying nothing during the election at all, basically, he is now in favour of Transmission Gully. I think we will get on with it.
The other point I want to make about that party over there on the Opposition benches is that it went through the election campaigning as a sort of early 19th century party. It has been extraordinary to listen to the National Party MPs give maiden speeches full of te reo Māori, which I think is a fantastic use of that language in the House. But, of course, not one of them went around their electorates during the campaign talking like that. They talked about the “mainstream” and said that the Labour Party supporters were not part of that. Tau Henare’s cloth cap from his union days must be absolutely curling in the wardrobe, after Tau Henare listened to those National Party MPs talk about diversity, opportunity, and coming together in inclusion, when they ran a campaign as divided as one could get.
But I will tell the National Party members this. For all their boasting and cockiness in this Parliament in the last 2 weeks, they have missed one point: all the election did was to reorganise the Opposition. We saw the $7 billion tax bribe, and we saw them playing the race card, and getting their cult members from the Exclusive Brethren Church to run the campaign at half-time for them. All it did for the National Party was to reorganise the Opposition. It did nothing to take away votes from Labour. The election was a total disaster for National members. They first realised it when they came into the House for the swearing-in. They had been sitting in their caucus room congratulating one another on the size of the new caucus, but they walked in here on the first day and suddenly realised: “Hey, there’s still more of them than us, and look where we are sitting—in the Opposition, where we belong, and looking at the third term Helen Clark led-Labour Party. That has made that man someone who is soon to join the pension queue.
I will begin by offering my congratulations, through you, Mr Assistant Speaker, if I may, to Madam Speaker on her election, and on your being elected, and the election of the Deputy Speaker and the other Assistant Speaker. For my part I shall endeavour to be the least of your worries. I will ensure that my Celtic capacity for conflict and criticism comes to the fore only in the service of others, in search of the truth, in defence of good government, and to further the principles, priorities, and practices of the National Party that I am proud to be part of.
I, for one, harbour no illusions about the regard in which politicians, collectively, are held by the wider community—to profess altruistic motives and the desire to make the country a better place is to invite the response “Yeah, right!” from the great bulk of the population. Yet that is actually why I stood for Parliament—to help create a better place. I am sure it is the same for the great majority of members. Mind you, every now and again one gets a lift when one least expects it. Ten days ago I was down at the Christchurch A and P show helping to meet and greet the crowds of people who were flocking to the National Party marquee. The pressure of work was constant, but luckily we had drafted in a good number of MPs so we were able to take an occasional break. Forgetting I was wearing a huge National Party blue rosette, I strolled into the cattle exhibit shed, only to hear a small boy ask his mum: “Gosh, what did he get that prize for?”. I assured him it was for being a National Party politician.
My political interests as a National list MP are particularly focused on the West Coast and Tasman regions. A short biographical note is appropriate here. The name requires some explanation. Auchinvole is a three-syllable Scottish name of Gaelic origin from Kilsythe, between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I note the Standing Orders specify only English and Māori as permitted languages in the House, so, unlike my friend Māori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, I am not able to speak to members in the language of my ancestors, which would be Gaelic or Lallans, so I willna be daen that the noo the nacht. I have lost my strong Scottish accent, but not the Scottish characteristics of thrift. When I was advised by my parliamentary secretary—bless her, who also happens to be Scottish—that the Backbencher Pub and Cafe had kindly sent a bottle of beer as a welcoming gift, my immediate response was: “That’s nice. If you could put it in the fridge, we’ll keep it for when we have a crowd in.” I will apply the same qualities to examining Government expenditure as the chance occurs.
If my English pronunciation suggests to some of you lairds, castles, and a silver spoon in life, you could not be wronger. My father was an RAF squadron leader, who died soon after the close of the Second World War, essentially as a consequence of his participation in it. My mother found herself bringing up five children under 13 in post-war Glasgow. I have a sharp memory of being brought up on a benefit. It is not a nice state, and it is not, to my mind, for the State to suggest benefits are nice; life-providing and essential, yes. I will always remember my first Saturday morning job that I got paid for—paid for something I did. Like many Scots at the time, we moved to England when I was about 10, and our mother unfortunately contracted tuberculosis, which isolated her in a hospital for 3 years. We became wards of the State, and the RAF Benevolent Fund very kindly helped out, and gave me the same sort of chance that Shane Jones mentioned he had—paying for me to go to a boarding school. After my mother had returned to good health the RAF fund continued to pay the school fees to allow me to complete my education at the school. I went from there into the army, and was selected for Sandhurst, where we wore hat badges that carried the motto “Serve to Lead”.
On leaving that renowned moulder of men, I moved to New Zealand to reunite with two of my brothers who had emigrated to this country, and we went contract milking in Whangarei. I found New Zealand refreshingly egalitarian. My brothers purchased a farm in Hokianga, and I worked at Northland College in Kaikohe as assistant farm manager. Kaikohe was populated predominantly by Māori people, and I was provided with a total introduction into life and local society in Tai Tokerau. It was moving recently to receive tributes and congratulations from people in Kaikohe and Hokianga, even though I have not lived there for 30 years. I also met my wife in Kaikohe, where she was completing country service as a teacher from the West Coast of the South Island.
Once I was married, an agricultural career path led me into marketing with the Dairy Board in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland respectively. I had responsibility for the South Pacific operation, regularly visiting South Pacific countries. I revelled in the chance to export New Zealand primary products and the opportunity to work with so many people of different ethnic origins. In 1992 I started into primary product exporting on my own, mostly fish, fruit, and timber products. When our two children completed their education Elspeth and I asked permission to leave home. We moved down to Moana at Lake Brunner on the West Coast 9 years ago, an emigration not unrelated to the fact that my wife is a Coaster, who wished to complete her teaching career where it had begun—equipping Coast children with education.
Living and settling on the Coast took me right back to egalitarian Glasgow. There is a humour and a neighbourliness that is special to the region; an inclusiveness that sees one joining the fire brigade, working on community associations, taking an active part in church life, and enjoying a good yarn with one’s neighbours. In my mind it is as close as one can get to a classless society, and it is a great place to live. I stood as a trustee for the West Coast Development Trust after the Forest Accord was broken, and was given the second-highest vote in our region. I had concerns that the trust was an imposed solution and needed Coast ownership, not someone somewhere else telling us what was best for us. Māori members of this House will be aware of that discomforting and emasculating sentiment—but more of that later. Over the same period Ngāi Tahu have been demonstrating their ability to become an economic force in their own right. Although the initial granting of funds in both cases was the kicker, it was the will and the ability to take it up and run with it that has been the significant event.
Benjamin Disraeli, known as the father of conservatism, aptly said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.” That is why, I guess, I embrace the National Party philosophy enunciated by Don Brash in the campaign. It works. That is why I believe in less government, and find the move towards more regulation and more proposals for distribution of wealth by stealth stifling and counter-productive to a region’s well-being. I sometimes wonder whether those whose careers have essentially—and I hasten to add, quite properly—involved the distribution of wealth, rather than its creation, tend to take the latter process for granted. I am not an economist, and I do not pretend to be. I have no desire to be known as a smart alec or a smart anything else, but I unashamedly support the National Party philosophies and policies espoused and enunciated by John Key, and I look forward to continuing to do so. To grab tax at the front end, especially when one considers the carbon tax proposal, is not just revenue gathering, it is plunder. No Government can act as a robber baron, yet expect productive sectors to develop.
If we look at the West Coast, we see that the drivers are farming, mining, and tourism. I note that Landcorp has commenced selling some of the Coast’s Government-owned farms. It should sell more of them. The Government should also accelerate replacing the strategic Arahura Road-Rail Bridge. That would help farming a lot, if only to ease the anxiety currently surrounding that bridge. Modern mining is taking the Coast into a new era. Tourism is an industry that is going to grow. The local infrastructure, though, will not cope if left as it is, particularly with the added impetus of the Rugby World Cup. Eighty-seven percent of the region is enclosed in the Department of Conservation estate. We need more than a draft plan of conservation, and we need the Act to allow more discretion to the Minister in managing the estate.
In Tasman, the drivers are fruit, fishing, forestry, and Fonterra. With fruit, apple trees are being lifted out of the ground at the same time as orchardists are gathering in Wellington to seek Government action on access to the Australian market. Fishing boats are tied up—a combination of fuel costs, exchange rates, and quota are limiting the profitable opportunities. In forestry, poles and posts are moving OK because of the growth in vineyards, but logs and timber sales are suffering from unrestricted cheap imported timbers. Fonterra, with the unfortunate fire at Tākaka, has reduced its staff from 90 to somewhere around 30. Personal and business tax reductions in Tasman would be a boost to the local economy.
So, what as a National list MP am I going to do for West Coast - Tasman? I intend to concentrate on the associate roles I have been given of energy (mining) and tourism, and on working as a member of the National caucus primary production committee. As a start, I will later be seeking leave to table a member’s bill—the Conservation (Net Gain) Amendment Bill, in the name of Chris Auchinvole, will give the Minister and local conservation boards more flexibility in disposing of stewardship land in exchange for land of greater conservation value. It will be put in the ballot on 8 December.
I wish to pay tribute to all those who assisted me during the election campaign: electorate chair Margaret Moir, who won the seat for National in 1990, and who is present in the House today, plus key strategists and mentors Barry and Jane. I pay tribute to those who worked so tirelessly in the branches in Hokitika, Greymouth, Westport, Motueka, and Tākaka, particularly Bill and Violet, Dan and Diane, Bryan and Margaret, Hilda and Ivan, Colin, Mike, Elizabeth, and Jack, and—bless her—my wife, Elspeth. I am grateful for the help and encouragement from Nick Smith and team. To Neil Walker, from Hāwera, I say thanks. From the other side of the hill, help literally came to the party and I am indebted to deputy leader Gerry Brownlee for leading the Blackball debate as the campaign opener, and to all who came over to help. To Roger Bridge, the regional chair, to his regional council, to the list committee, to the team at HQ, and to Judy Kirk, party president, I say: awesome, gosh, thanks, next time!
For me the election was a continuum of the campaign, which has not stopped. I read a very perceptive article in a recent North and South magazine that I thought gave a carefully crafted analysis of the results. “A majority is always better than the best repartee”, as Disraeli said, but I think of the apt quote from the epitaph of Rob Roy McGregor that summarises a thousand years of Scottish history—best described as a thousand-year brawl—“Let them tak’ who have the pow’r, and let them keep it who can.” I think it is yet to be tested as to who holds the power and whether it will be kept. The Duke of Wellington said, after Waterloo: “ Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle won.” I do not think that National is in a heavy loss situation. National has doubled its troops in the House and, similarly, in electorates with staff and offices.
Policies continue to find increasing institutional and public support. It is great to be part of a skilled, fresh, and vibrant parliamentary team, with enough multi-level leadership transition potential for the next two decades. National is equipped to serve the country as never before, and I am deeply grateful for the chance to be part of it. Every day National grows stronger, and it is reflected in our voices, minds, and spirits every morning. Every day the other side grows weaker, and we see it, hear it, and sense it every morning. It was Churchill who said to practise magnanimity in victory and defiance in defeat. National is practising magnanimity, and the other side is being defiant.
The present Government avoided defeat at the hustings. There are others who benefited from the spoils of war, and others still who, it could be said. engaged in looting. That is a capital offence in battle, and could still prove to be so in politics. Others stood true to their colours, were ignored in the spoils completely, and must be starting to wonder what they fought so hard for. For me, and it is a personal view, the troops who had a notable victory were a small unit that arose from the ashes of previous disappointment and grief with the Labour Government, who came forward with hope as their main argument, and who had to go to battle in a taxi.
I wish to salute the address given by Pita Sharples, and his call for conciliation and a sharing of cultural values. I heard a speech from the heart when I listened to him but, then, Scots and Māoris both believe in oral tradition. It was as if he were singing a song from previous generations echoing through the centuries. It caused an echo in my Celtic heart too, for Scottish crofters also lost their lands in the Highland clearances. The Irish had to cope with famine. The Scots lost their language and their right to independence. Thank God we could come here, but—hello—it all happened again. Closer to home and to modern times, the people of the West Coast have had to tolerate decades of an imposed stereotype of welfare dependency, unemployment, and being undervalued as a region and as a people. Continued welfare did not change that any more than continued welfare will change the situation for Māori. Attitude, determination, opportunity, commodity prices, improved productivity, new people moving in, and improved education have changed that on the Coast. To me, the Māori renaissance is at a fascinating stage, and is full of complex choices for Māori people. How will they know when it has worked for young Māori? May I suggest it will be in the same way it worked in Scotland—which was when the young Scots believed they had succeeded because they were Scottish, not in spite of it. I welcome the day when that happens here.
In conclusion, I say that people—all people, all ethnicities—have to be included as any part of any solution, and not as the problem. I answer the song of Sharples with a prayer of my own, a Presbyterian prayer. My prayer is that those of us with like minds in this House can pick up the tattered banner of one nation with shared cultural values—pick it up with our hands whatever age, gender, and ethnicity each of our human bodies glories in. And, having picked it up, we can hold up the banner with our minds—arguing, bickering, and debating as we do so until we start agreeing. If we can do that, then the banner can be restitched, restored, and made resplendent by our spirits. If we can do that, the banner of one nation can be unfurled by the warm breath of our various gods, sent to caress our souls—and to God be the glory for aye and for aye, e faa vau e faa vau lava, atua uata, āke āke, for ever and ever, āmene.
Kia ora, talofa lava, and warm Pacific greetings. I offer my best wishes to our Governor-General and my congratulations to Madam Speaker, to the Deputy Speaker, to you Mr Assistant Speaker, and to the other Assistant Speaker on your appointments, and to all who have the privilege of serving New Zealand in this House. I thank the Mana electorate for electing me as its member of Parliament and I also thank New Zealand for ensuring that we continue to have a Labour-led Government.
I am very excited about my ministerial portfolios, because they link the social and economic development of New Zealand. As Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and Associate Minister for Economic Development, I have a role in strengthening the roles of the Government and the community in building social capital. As Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment, I have a particular role in supporting the New Zealand Pacific Business Council and similar organisations to build financial capital by encouraging two-way trade between New Zealand and the Pacific. As Associate Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, I have a role in strengthening opportunities for Pacific people to participate in the future of New Zealand. Each of my portfolios contributes to the social and economic development of New Zealand. One of my goals as the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector is to see that a higher priority is given to the contribution made by the community and voluntary sector to the quality of life for all New Zealanders. This Government has made economic development a priority and, in the Speech from the Throne and the contributions from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister for Economic Development, the details of how we plan to build the economy have been set out.
I will talk a little about how we strengthen social capital and the role of civil society in the development of our nation. The community and voluntary sector is a significant driver of social development. It is important because it builds social capital. The term “civil society” is often used to describe the community and voluntary sector. What do we mean by civil society? Civil society can be defined as a social sphere of formal and informal voluntary associations formed to protect and promote the interests of society. Civil society is separate from, and independent of, the State and the market. Civil society includes service clubs, sporting clubs, non-governmental organisations, neighbourhood groups, church and faith-based groups, and traditional and cultural communities. New Zealand has a rich tradition of civil society organisations. The Māori Women’s Welfare League, Pasifika the Pacific Women’s Organisation, the Country Women’s Institutes, the Women’s Refuge collective, and Rape Crisis centres have all made very important contributions to the development of the women of our nation.
Allan Wolfe, a Canadian social scientist, captures the diverse nature of civil society, contrasting it with the abstract and personal institutions of the State and the market. Civil society’s concern is with the social rather than the economic and political. Civil society points towards families, neighbourhoods, voluntary organisations, unions, and spontaneous grassroots movements. All of those units of social organisations are defined by the fact that they are surrounded by even bigger and more abstract institutions. The crucial characteristic of civil society is that it is manageable, available to ordinary people, and part of everyday life. To talk of civil society is to reverse the priorities of the political economy. It is to assert that human beings and their desires can alter otherwise determinant structures.
We look to business and the market to invest and develop financial capital, and the State has a role in regulating the economy. But social capital is built up within civil society—within our communities—where voluntary effort, freely given, enhances our quality of life and makes our communities, our towns, and our cities better places for us to live. The State, in the form of Government agencies dedicated to the community and voluntary sector, has an important role to play. Civil society sits alongside the State—the Government—and the market—the business community—as the three main building blocks of a society and a nation.
In her contribution to the debate, the Prime Minister said that we dedicate ourselves to building a strong and confident nation, proud of the cohesion in our society, proud of our achievers in every field, proud of our unique culture, heritage, and natural environment, and proud of the role our nation plays in world affairs. The State, the market, and civil society need, in my view, to work closely together, respecting each other’s distinct roles. A good example of how the State, the market, and civil society can work well together was seen when the New Zealand Rugby Union won the hosting rights for the Rugby World Cup. A sporting association—the New Zealand Rugby Union—with solid business links with sponsors and support from the Government, in the form of the Prime Minister, carried the day. We have learnt in the past that the market by itself does not build a good society, and the State cannot, either. We need the State, the market, and civil society working well together in order to build the economic and social development of our nation and to build a strong, inclusive nation.
Helen Clark said last week that we see it as our historic duty to bring New Zealanders together, not to drive them apart and split our society. We see it as our historic duty to ensure that every New Zealander has a fair go, opportunity, and security, and that as our country grows and develops, every one of us is able to share the fruits of that progress. We dedicate ourselves in this third term of Government to carrying on our work, to strengthening and transforming the economy, to raise living standards, and to provide quality public services.
I would like now to talk about the contribution of volunteers towards building social capital. On Saturday I spoke with the New Zealand network of regional volunteer centres, a great group of hard workers. Volunteering is an important and essential element of civil society. Our communities depend and rely on the efforts of our volunteers. The impact is quite simply huge. But, unfortunately, volunteers do not receive the recognition they deserve. I want to change that. I believe my role is to raise the bar and to promote volunteering as part of our Kiwi way of life. I will be seeking from my officials innovative ways in which we can support the voluntary sector. Trends in volunteering show that a higher proportion of females than males aged 15 and over engage in some form of voluntary work. From my long history of working in the community and voluntary sector, that has certainly been my experience.
So what is the Government doing so far? The Government policy on volunteering released in December 2002 recognised that volunteers make a vital contribution to social development, the economy, and the environment. The outcome sought from the policy is a society with a high level of volunteering, where the many contributions people make to the common good through volunteering and fulfilment of cultural obligations are actively supported and valued. Many of New Zealand’s essential emergency services, including civil defence, fire and ambulance, conservation, and teaching English as a second language, contribute in this way. Last year the Minister for Sport and Recreation recognised volunteers as the unsung heroes and lifeblood of sport, and he announced funding of $6.5 million to support their work over the next 4 years. I add that, with the voluntary sector, we have nine established regional volunteer centres, and we are very proud of their work. We are committed to supporting them in terms of networking, building their information technology capacity, and training.
On Sunday evening, as the MP for Mana, I attended the annual awards night of the Trust Porirua City Brass Band. This band makes a great contribution to the life of Porirua City. It turns out on Anzac Day and on other civic occasions. It also supported Michael Campbell on his return home after his historic US Open win. Trust Porirua City Brass is filled with amateurs who play like professionals. Through their voluntary effort, they make a great contribution to the quality of life of our city.
As Minister I will continue to support this sector and give them the support they need to build the social capital of our strong, inclusive nation.
It is a great pleasure to participate in the Address in Reply debate, although, as the junior Government whip pointed out, it feels like we have had three or four debates on different matters prior to coming to this particular debate. I also remind the junior Government whip that today is, of course, 42 years since the assassination of John F Kennedy, and that is worth thinking about as we plunge our way into this particular debate.
I congratulate Madam Speaker, Margaret Wilson, on her re-election as Speaker. In my time working with her as the senior Opposition whip I found her to have a very keen sense of humour, and I warmly welcome her back to the Speaker’s Chair. I also congratulate my good friend Clem Simich on obtaining the role of Deputy Speaker. I think the way that he conducts proceedings in the House is tantamount to the theory that the market will decide. He is quite able to let things ebb and flow and to play the advantage, as do you, Mr Assistant Speaker, with your soccer umpiring expertise. As I said when your nomination was put before the House, you are well regarded by all members of the House, and your knowledge of the Standing Orders is well recognised on all sides of the House. So I congratulate you on your reappointment. I also congratulate Ann Hartley on her reappointment.
I—strangely—acknowledge the person who spoke before me, Winnie Laban, and also Clayton Cosgrove, two of the 1999 intake of members of Parliament who have made it to Cabinet. Although I would prefer to be on that side of the House myself, I sincerely congratulate them and wish them well. We will do our best to make sure their lives are as difficult as possible, but before that starts, I wish them well in that area.
I am fortunate to have been given the job of Opposition spokesperson on law and order, which is a job that I am thoroughly enjoying, and I am finding the subject matter, shall we say, plentiful. In many ways I feel sorry for the new Minister of Police, Annette King, because she has been tasked with the job of picking up a shattered and demoralised police force. She has inherited a police force in which, as surveys show, the public’s confidence has slid over recent weeks and months—thanks to the fine work done in this area by my predecessor, the Hon Tony Ryall.
Annette King, in her first public statement as Minister of Police, said that she would restore the public’s confidence in the police. Well, what have we seen in the time that Annette King has been Minister of Police? We have seen 111 response times getting worse—even worse than they were under George Hawkins during his shambolic reign as Minister of Police. I can say only that on the occasions I have watched Mr Hawkins sit in his back-bench seat, I noticed that he looked relieved. He looks as though he has been put out of his misery and can just sit quietly and enjoy himself. Annette King has a tough job, and she has failed on the first count, because the 111 system and the response times under the 111 system have actually become worse.
We see in the media today that multiple numbers of police are being offered one job, all at the same time, and we see an extraordinary situation where the remedies available to those police officers who were offered that job will no doubt now be exercised in full, which will cause further concern for the Commissioner of Police and, no doubt, his replacement.
We also see, by way of written questions in recent weeks, that 30 percent of police high-speed pursuits of offenders are abandoned. So 30 percent of those offenders who are literally running—or driving—from the police are getting away. If those car chases are being abandoned for safety reasons, that is fair enough, but I have asked Annette King to assure Parliament and the public of New Zealand that those people are apprehended at a later date, and that they are not just getting away from those high-speed pursuits and any other offences or convictions that may be brought against them.
The other area in this job that I am fortunate to have an interest in is that of corrections. I have to say that Damien O’Connor has his work cut out for him. This is a shambles of a department. In recent weeks we have heard a number of stories of prisoners sleeping in and moving around in vans between court cells and prison, and heading off to rugby clubrooms to shower and exercise. We are seeing an environment where the department is throwing up its hands in the briefing to incoming Ministers and saying: “It’s all too hard for us.” I say to the Minister that our strategic options are completely limited because of the number of prisoners who are coming through the system. It is easy to talk tough about tightening the Sentencing Act, the Parole Act, and the Corrections Act, but at the other end of the scale that is simply going to mean there will be more prisoners in custody.
The Government has to do better than to say that it has planned until 2008, and that there will be enough beds until then. The big problem is not what happens between now and 2008, it is the post-2008 period that is the real problem—although if one believes some of the Ministry of Justice projections about prisoner numbers, there is a short-term problem, particularly when prisoners are held in vans and showering in rugby clubrooms.
Mr Hide rightly asks the question that we tried to put to Mr O’Connor today in question time—what happens then?
It is funny that Mr Hide should ask that, because Mr O’Connor issued a statement today saying that perhaps home detention could mop up some of that. That will not work when the Government, and Ministers from the Government, talk tough about crime and penalties, put people in prison, and then say: “Oh, perhaps home detention could mop up some of that problem.”
It could be worse. Prisoners could be sent to Ngāwhā prison, where, in the middle of the night, they could just leave their cells, help themselves to tea and coffee in the guards’ staffroom, and wander in and out of the control room of the prison. They would obviously want to avoid the red button that opens the gates, because why would they want to leave if they could get up in the middle of the night and wander around and have tea and coffee in the staffroom? Why would they want to press the red button and head back to a life where maybe they would have to pay for tea and coffee? In Ngāwhā prison prisoners can just get up in the middle of the night and wander around to their heart’s content. What did Damien O’Connor do when this scandal was revealed? He moved quickly and ordered a report into it, which said that the locks on the window, and the way they operated, were a minor technical hitch. Mr Cosgrove shakes his head, and he would be right to do that, because a minor technical hitch does not involve a new prison where prisoners can get up in the middle of the night, climb out of their windows, pop off for cups of tea and coffee in the guards’ staffroom, wander in and out of the control room, and could press the red button to make themselves free. But then, they would think: “Why would I go? This is too good. I’ll stay here. This is the way forward.” I worry about that, and I say to Mr O’Connor that we will watch those reports to see where we go.
I congratulate the new National MPs who have come to the House after this election. They are a fantastic group of people who make the Labour back bench look tired and old. At the risk of offending any of the new MPs, I want to congratulate just two new members of Parliament in particular, Chester Borrows and Nathan Guy, who are my neighbours in the lower North Island. Until only a very short time ago, our area was a complete sea of red. I was completely surrounded by red. We are lucky to have people in the Wellington area of the calibre of Chris Finlayson, who will make a fantastic contribution to this House. I have no doubt about that, at all. But I particularly want to congratulate Nathan Guy and Chester Borrows, and I am sure they will make an excellent contribution. I also want to congratulate Don Brash on the fantastic job he did during the campaign in lifting National’s party vote from 21 percent to 39 percent. That was an extraordinary feat for a man who has been in politics for less than 3 years, and he deserves to be congratulated on it. Lastly, I want to thank the people of Rangitikei for the faith that they have shown in me by electing me for a third term to be their member of Parliament. Electorate needs should always come first for members of Parliament, and everyone would do well to remember that.
We are going to be taking the fight to the Clark-Peters Government over the course of the next short while—and it will be a short while. I look forward to taking the debate to the responsible Ministers in the areas of law and order, police, corrections, and courts, and also to participating in a caucus that is strongly led by Don Brash and Gerry Brownlee in what will prove to be a very short time in Government for this tired, old Labour Party.
It is a pleasure to be speaking in this debate. I begin by congratulating the re-elected Speaker, the Hon Margaret Wilson. I am also very pleased to congratulate Clem Simich—I think all members of this House enjoy a good relationship with him as Deputy Speaker—and, of course, yourself, Mr Assistant Speaker, and Assistant Speaker Ann Hartley. I welcome all new members into this House.
This is my 10th year in the place and I have been here under MMP that entire time. I think we probably see some comings and goings that previous first-past-the-post Parliaments did not witness. I think that is healthy because it gives a new flavour and a new set of ideas to each Parliament as it forms.
It has been interesting to listen to the maiden speeches. I particularly want to congratulate my colleagues Shane Jones, Maryan Street, Darien Fenton, and Sue Moroney—people I have worked with for many, many years in various guises. They all bring different qualities to this House and I know they are going to make a wonderful contribution to this Government. It has also been interesting to listen to members on the Opposition benches who are making their maiden speeches. It is good to be able to hear their perspectives. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we do not.
I also want to congratulate the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark. I am sure most people want to congratulate her on the fact that she has been returned as Prime Minister for the third time. Up there with that achievement is the return of the Rugby World Cup to New Zealand, and I think it will be neck and neck as to which the New Zealand public think is the most important at the moment. It is the political achievement that I want to honour here today.
I also want to thank the electors of the Maungakiekie electorate, which I am very proud to represent here for my third term. I started as a list MP and I am very honoured to be returned again as the member of Parliament for the Maungakiekie electorate. It is a wonderful electorate to represent. I was at a school prize-giving in Ōtāhuhu not so long ago, not long after some fairly negative publicity about our area of South Auckland—I am quite happy to call it South Auckland because that is where I was born, that is what I have always called it, and that is what I recognise it as. It is a great place to live and an excellent place to represent, and I sometimes wish that I could pick up the local newspaper or some of the national media and read about the many positives about my community, such as I witnessed at that prize-giving.
I was very proud to hear that Timothy Funaki, Ōtāhuhu College’s first Youth MP, who represented the people of Maungakiekie in this House in the first Youth Parliament some years ago, was sworn in as a doctor last week and took his Hippocratic oath. It gives me great pleasure to mention that, because he is just one of the young people of South Auckland who are making their contribution to our society. Of Tongan and Māori descent, his family are real achievers in our community, but they are people who work for our community in many, many ways that go unnoticed by the media. The South Auckland community actually contributes enormously to this country. If members look at New Zealand sports teams, whatever code they might be—on the international stage, or at regional or local level—and at the people in those teams, they will find a significant number of South Aucklanders in their midst.
Our music industry is something that this Government has actually acknowledged and supported in a way that no other Government has, and the music industry has been led in many ways by the young people of South Auckland. I am enormously proud of them. They are selling records, CDs, whatever, not only in this country at record levels but on the international scene. Many of those people have brown faces, and I am very proud to say that our Pacific and Māori musicians and artists are contributing, as they did to our sports teams over the weekend. They do that in our music, in our universities, in our businesses, and in our communities. I just want to acknowledge that, because I was struck by the great annoyance of the principal of Ōtāhuhu College, and of many whom I spoke to at that prize-giving, about the lack of attention to the positives in our community. I want to place that on the record of the House.
I am very pleased also to acknowledge Penrose High School. We have wonderful schools throughout New Zealand. They should be celebrated. They provide some of the best education in the world that we could get for our children. Penrose High School has $15 million to rebuild a school that badly needs its infrastructure rebuilt to meet the challenges of the Auckland isthmus, as the population grows. They celebrated their 50th jubilee not so long ago, and I read a very good history of the school and the wonderful people who have come out of that school and contributed to New Zealand society. Let us celebrate those things. We acknowledge there are troubles at times, but we want to celebrate some of the wonderful things. I am pleased to be able do that in the House today.
Some very important issues were outlined in the Speech from the Throne. Aged care is one issue that all parties in the House have said needs to be addressed in many, many ways, such as funding, the way we build up the quality of the workforce through training, and improving the wages of the people who do that work. We are all going to get old. We are all possibly going to need more services from the Government, and the aged-care sector has to be supported. I am very pleased that that has been addressed in the Speech from the Throne by the Governor-General.
I also want to say let us not forget the disability sector. I come here today with a great deal of emotion about this, for obvious reasons with the situation that I have personally found myself in these last 3½ years. For some time now I have been advocating these matters to my colleagues, and I am very pleased that the Hon Pete Hodgson has got the job of Minister of Health, because he is grappling now with the issues of aged-care funding and disability funding. He is getting on with a job that has badly needed to be done.
I want to speak for some of those families that are never recognised; the ones who look after their disabled relatives, their elderly in their homes, and who are badly under-resourced. They have been badly under-resourced by Government after Government, so this is not a political criticism of anybody in particular. It is something we have to address as a nation. We have to acknowledge that some of these carers have to give up their jobs, give up their houses, give up their future careers, and a whole lot else, to stay home and look after a relative who has suddenly fallen ill. Our accident compensation scheme is the best in the world, but in terms of disability support we have a very long way to go to catch up. I attended a rehabilitation conference in Auckland late last week where those issues were outlined. We cannot afford to say that, for each person who suffers a disability that is acquired, a family has to put their lives on hold, perhaps for many, many years. In my case I have had to do that. I am still here to represent those people, because I think it is important that I put myself through a rigorous election campaign, such is my belief in having to have this matter addressed.
Quite frankly, when I picked up the newspaper, as all of us did last week, and read a Treasury briefing that stated: “Let’s cut taxes”, I wanted to know what world they live in, because it is not my world. I say that when all the families who are crying out for more help to look after their disabled relatives have their needs satisfied, I will agree with Treasury and with any member of Parliament that we can start looking at cutting taxes. When we have done that, I will agree. In the meantime I say no. There are too many people who need the help of the State—of fellow taxpayers—to get basic rehabilitation, to get basic care in the home when they need it, and in our aged-care facilities and in our private hospitals where people with disability and age-related illnesses end up. That is when we should be seriously considering advice from Treasury on this matter, but in the meantime I would say that it is absolutely and utterly wrong.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and it is a pleasure to be able to record my thanks to the people who elected me here. I will serve them with all my energy, as I have done over the last 9 years. Many things need to be done by all members of the House, and I look forward to working with them to pass good legislation and good Budgets, and to oversee the work of the public sector so that New Zealand is a better place in 3 years’ time as a result.
Firstly, as is traditional, I pay my respects to Her Excellency the Governor-General, to the Hon Margaret Wilson, who was re-elected as Speaker, and to yourself, Mr Assistant Speaker. I also join with other members in passing on my compliments to Clem Simich. I think it is universally known throughout the House that he is a chap who plays fair and who provides a high degree of dignity. Mr Assistant Speaker, you and Ann Hartley—unlike some members down there, who could learn from you—bring to the Chair a high degree of style and elegance as a team, and I am sure that you will both do well in this House.
As Mark Gosche conveyed to the House, I also am deeply honoured and humbled to be re-elected to a third term as the member of Parliament for Waimakariri, and I thank Simon Power for his kind and generous words on my, and others, election to Cabinet. I was asked on the night I was elected whether it was the greatest honour I had received in my life. I have to say I answered “No.”, because the greatest honour in my life was to have the people of my electorate elect me and re-elect me, because, in our system, without that mandate one does not have the ability to stand up, put one’s name forward, and ask one’s colleagues for their support to enter Cabinet.
Having said that, as a new Minister I realise the awesome responsibility I have when I walk into the Cabinet room. It is a realisation that this is an adult game, that this is real, and that this is, as my colleague Mr Gosche said, about people’s lives. There is a lot of banter across the House, and we do get into each other from time to time. Some of it is deserved—
I see that Judith Collins has perked up. Some of the banter is deserved and some is undeserved. That is the side of Parliament that people most often see, through the lens of the television camera. However, I think all of us—or most of us, anyway—believe that Parliament is about people’s lives and about our attempting to make a difference. We have different ways of walking down the path to try to achieve that, but, hopefully, that is the universal goal for us all.
I thank the people of Waimakariri for the honour and privilege they have given me by electing me to represent them as their constituent MP. I also acknowledge my opponent in the election, Kate Wilkinson, who will possibly be my opponent in the future also, for the race she ran. Waimakariri is a fantastic electorate, because it is a little slice of New Zealand. It is rural, it is urban, it has rich, it has poor—it has everything. That, in my view, is what makes it so interesting. Some electorates are totally rural and others are totally urban. Statistically, Waimakariri is the fastest-growing electorate in the country, and it is now the electorate with the biggest population. It is interesting, because the people there are straight shooters. They come and tell me when I do things wrong—and I am guilty of being wrong from time to time—and they tell me, now and again, when I do things right.
I am proud of the achievements in that electorate, and of this Government putting about $13 million into the Styx Bridge, which had been a major choke point in my electorate for many, many years. The former Minister of Transport in the last National Government abrogated his responsibility to put that money up. We were then told we would wait 20 years, but under this Government, after some negotiation and a couple of months, it has been finished. I am proud of the fact that this Government put money up through the district health boards to give elderly people hospital beds in Kaiapoi for the first time. I am also proud of the fact that this Government’s priority was not tax cuts but, in education for instance, to put $7.5 million into Rangiora High School for new buildings and about $1.1 million into Papanui High School for new buildings. I think I lost count at around the $50 million mark of the amount we have poured in since we have been in Government over and above operational—[Interruption]. Well, that member is like a rugby ball—over-inflated and covered in pigskin. I am proud of the fact that our Government saw education as its priority, and, as I said, I lost count in terms of the amount of money—it was about $50 million—that was put in, over and above operational funding, to bricks and mortar and school kids in the electorate. I am proud of that.
Mr Hide, who is trying to interject, might like to rise and tell us the secret of his success, given that he took a party from seven or eight members down to two. What an awesome achievement in only a number of months as leader! That is the man who celebrates defeat and tries to make it into success. I suppose it depends on how we define it, but we will leave it there. We are all hoping he will carry on as he left off. On that ratio, if he splits his party down from two seats he will be gone next time.
I am also proud of the fact that this Government, in terms of its achievements, has kept its promises. As Mr Gosche said, Labour is not a party fixated on tax cuts, and that is the ideological choice—
There is the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Brash—a political carcass with a coat and tie hanging from it. When Dr Brash made his awesome, lively, spirited speech in this Address in Reply debate, the person who looked most happy was John Key. John Key is now bouncing in as preferred leader at 5 percent. Now one can see the line in the sand, the smoke, and the nervousness of the Leader of the Opposition by the beads of sweat on his brow as he contemplates his future, which could be a near-death experience in coming days.
I am proud of the fact that we as a country have achieved the lowest rate of unemployment in the OECD, at 3.4 percent. We have achieved an average growth of 4 percent over 6 years, while the average rate of growth in OECD countries has been 2.5 percent. I celebrate that, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, whose biggest attribute in this House is to stand up every day and praise Australia or the United States, saying what wonderful countries they are, bagging New Zealand, running us down, and choosing not to stand or walk beside New Zealanders and celebrate their success, and not to put forward some policies. Rather, he stands there and bags Kiwi achievement.
I am proud of the fact that since we became the Government in 1999, 300,000 new jobs have become available, taking 100,000 people off welfare and putting them into work. What is the Opposition’s answer? It is to try to create some smoke and mirrors around the unemployment figures by talking about those who are sick and are invalids. That is right—pick on the most vulnerable, because they cannot fight back, of course! Those who are sick or are invalids cannot stand up in this House and rebut Dr Brash. I have the honour, as does Mr Gosche and others, of standing up and doing that job for them. On election night, and in the days following, those people made their choice.
Let us look at the Working for Families package. There is the difference in ideology between the National Party and the Labour Party. The National Party went to an election promising—and I know it hates having people reminded of this—$9 billion worth of tax cuts that would have resulted in most people getting very, very little. I believe that my opponent in the election tried to dispute John Key’s own words when John Key admitted that National would borrow to give a tax cut—$3.5 billion. Then Dr Brash went on television and said National was not borrowing for a tax cut but for other things. But if the tax cut was not given, there would be no need for borrowing. All those Kiwis who Dr Brash treated as fools are not fools. They thought again and worked out that it was voodoo economics by Dr Brash. It was a bribe.
Labour will back Kiwis with families so that almost all families with children who earn under $45,000 will benefit from substantial inputs and tax relief from this Government. Once the Working for Families package is fully implemented, child poverty will be slashed.
Judith Collins groans; she is not interested in slashing child poverty—not from her electorate. She is interested in a tax cut. That is all she is fixated on. If she is asked about child poverty, she yawns. Well, I say she should go and yawn to some of the kids in South Auckland and Christchurch, and their mums and dads, and talk about a tax cut for those at the bottom of the heap. She should go and yawn at them and see how much traction she gets politically.
So there are our achievements and our goals in health, education, and family assistance with our Working for Families package—and what do those members talk about? They talk about tax cuts. What a terrible week it has been for the National Party. It started with the carcass over there, swinging on the hook. Then, of course, the deputy leader, Gerry Brownlee, made history. I cannot remember any other time that a member stood up and attacked the head of State’s representative. He got stuck in, knowing, of course—as National members do, because they attack only those who cannot talk back and cannot respond—that our head of State’s representative could not respond. There is a word for that. I will not use it.
It is such a pleasure to follow the humble member for Waimakariri, who told us so many times how humble he was, then went on to prove how wrong that statement was. My goodness, Kate Wilkinson will certainly be taking that seat at the next election!
Can I start, Mr Assistant Speaker, by congratulating you on your election to your role. I also congratulate the Hon Margaret Wilson on her election as Speaker, my colleague the Hon Clem Simich on his appointment as Deputy Speaker, and Ann Hartley on becoming an Assistant Speaker. Mr Assistant Speaker, you have always been very fair, and I am sure I will not give you any more trouble this term than I normally do. I will do my best. I would also like to pay tribute to Don Brash and his leadership of the National Party. Don Brash brought us back with a new, invigorated team.
One of the most outstanding things in this debate has been to listen to the maiden speeches, particularly from the National Party and the Māori Party. I am one of those Pākehā members of Parliament who have no fear of the Māori Party, and I will tell members why. The Labour Party prefers Māori MPs to be tame. The National Party does not like anyone to be tame, and the Māori Party is not tame. It is made up of people who have challenged some of our ideas. Certainly, we do not agree on everything, but, by goodness, we do agree on welfare and on welfare reform!
At this stage, I would also like to thank the Clevedon electorate. In the 2002 election it gave me a majority of 3,127. In this election—and I am not going to have any false modesty about it—my majority went up to 12,871, and I thank those people so much. I am there for them. The people of Clevedon, including those in Papakura and in all other parts of the electorate, may not always agree with everything I say or with everything I do, but, by goodness they certainly know what I stand for. The Labour Government with Winston Peters certainly does not know what it stands for, but we know what Helen Clark and Winston Peters stand for: anything that gets them the baubles of office and enables them to keep them.
Doug Woolerton has just said: “That’s very harsh.”, with a smile.
As the MP for Clevedon, let me just digress for a moment. I would like to thank the Hon Harry Duynhoven for agreeing that the inquiry into the National Rescue Coordination Centre should be an independent inquiry. I thank Harry Duynhoven for that. Michael Erceg, who, as we all know, has died, was a very, very important member of the Papakura community and therefore of the Clevedon electorate. He was a very, very important person. On meeting Michael, one would never know who he was, because he was so totally without pretension. I met him only a few times, but he certainly made an impression. He had incredible drive, incredible personality, and incredible focus, and he was obviously incredibly intelligent. He made jobs for people who had no jobs. He did not sit here in Wellington, in Parliament, talking about the Government doing things; he did them himself, and he helped other people do them. I hope that when Minister Duynhoven looks at the inquiry he will also look at why the US embassy and the US Department of Defense offered to make available—and did make available—satellite photos of aircraft flights here in New Zealand, when they should have been available anyway. I do not think that people who are grieving, who are looking for loved ones, or even who are looking for wreckage should have to ask about this or try to find out about it for this themselves. They are not experts. These people are volunteers; they are not experts.
I hope also that Mr Duynhoven will be looking at why the Swedish Government was more willing to help than people thought the New Zealand Government was. I know there is an argument that says that rescue coordination people have to say “Stop” at some stage, and I utterly agree with that. But when people are willing to pay for extra help, why can they not have it? People have said to me that if we do that, then people who are rich will be searched for and the poor will not. I say that that is nonsense, because New Zealand Army personnel were put on to Peter Jackson’s movies as paid extras to help him. I think that people actually come before movies and that we should look at the whole wider area of who the army and the search people are there for. It has to be the people of New Zealand and their families.
Tomorrow Michael will have his funeral, and today is the anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination. Tomorrow is also the anniversary of my mother’s death, so it will be a very sad day. It will be very sad for the Erceg family. It is very important for us to always think that people should come first, no matter what.
I have the pleasure, again, to be the National Party’s spokeswoman on welfare, and I take on the role with gusto. I have seen the benefit figures. The Minister crowed yet again today about the unemployment figures, and I say to him: “Those are fantastic. Let’s have more of them. Good on you.”, except that I know that the jobs are not created by Governments. The jobs are created by people like Michael Erceg and his family. I do know that when the number of people on the sickness benefit and the invalids benefit continues to grow, we cannot turn round and blame people like me who happen to point it out. We must tackle the issue. When I consider the fact that about 40 percent of the people on the domestic purposes benefit are Māori, and that so many Māori children—about 90,000—are brought up in homes with no income other than a benefit, I cry for this country. We have to deal with this situation, and we will not deal with it by turning round and blaming people like me who give that message. Neither will we deal with it by constantly blaming Governments or Government departments. We will deal with it only by taking responsibility for our own actions.
If there is one thing that the Māori Party brings to this House, I hope it is that Māori must stand up for Māori and be there. The reason it is so important is that if we do not get this right, we will not be able to complain, like we do, about powhiri—because we will not have any powhiri. We will not be able to complain, as people sometimes do, when Māori stand in the public gallery and perform a waiata. I say good on them for doing it. [Interruption] I wish that member over there, Darren Hughes, the man with the smallest majority in Parliament, would just keep his voice a little smaller. When Labour Party members tell Māori to vote for them because someone else did, that is not good enough. The Labour Party has stood by and allowed this situation to happen.
When we look at Child, Youth and Family Services in South Auckland—and I do not go around just talking about South Auckland; I live there—we see we have a department that is absolutely dysfunctional and a Minister who comes to the select committee and tells us how wonderful it is. Every single day the newspapers report another story and another tragedy. So often the children involved are Māori, and so often those children are the children of full-time beneficiaries. So often this happens to our most vulnerable children. It is simply not good enough that we stand by and allow this to happen.
Mr Assistant Speaker, I join with my colleagues in congratulating you and your administrative colleagues on their election to Parliament, and to such an important presiding role. In particular, I congratulate the Speaker, Margaret Wilson. I must agree with the comments I have heard earlier about her colleague Clem Simich. Clem Simich enjoys unparalleled respect in this building and I am confident, as we all are, that he will perform those duties with distinction. I am delighted to see him in that role. Also, I congratulate you, Mr Robertson, and your colleague Ms Hartley. I also extend best wishes and congratulations to all my parliamentary colleagues. There are many challenges for us in this place, not the least of them being to debate issues rationally, and I welcome our new parliamentary colleagues and wish them every encouragement in that regard.
It is an honour, and indeed a privilege, to stand here as a member of a Government that has delivered so convincingly on its election pledges, both historically and already in this term. I would like to traverse some of those pledges and talk about the challenges for the future that were so appropriately canvassed in the Speech from the Throne. In doing so, I pay my respects also to the Governor-General and to our parliamentary constitutional arrangements.
In Government we have committed to 20 hours of quality, free early childhood education for all 3 to 4-year-olds at teacher-led, community-based early childhood centres by 2007. I will list a number of these initiatives because they are particularly relevant to the portfolio I am very pleased to hold, after my predecessor Mr Maharey, who I am delighted is with us in the Chamber this evening. He knows better than most, and our community is starting to learn, that we are also providing 3,040 additional teachers in our classrooms, over and above the number required for roll growth in our schools.
We have expanded the Family Start programme, which last year helped 4,000 vulnerable families, and further new services are planned over the next 2 years. Department of Child, Youth and Family Services baseline funding has increased by more than 50 percent, allowing more social workers to help in early intervention as well as to deal more quickly with current cases—one of the great challenges that we face as a community. We have expanded the Social Workers in Schools programme, which again enables early intervention in cases of potential child abuse.
Labour, to its credit and to the advantage of the whole community, has increased access to affordable primary health care, and 3.7 million New Zealanders are now entitled to be enrolled in primary health organisations, and in fact are enrolled. That means that by 2007 they will have cheaper doctors’ fees and prescription charges. We have delivered on our promise to double the number of hip and knee operations this year. We have also provided funding for up to 7,500 more cataract operations in the next 3 years. Significantly—and this was discussed in question time today of course— we have also invested $200 million to fight back against meningococcal B disease.
As most New Zealanders are only too aware, Labour reversed National’s cuts to superannuation, restoring to older couples the right to receive a guaranteed 65 percent of the average wage at 65 years. We know there were some commitments around the election about that level. We also removed asset testing by progressively phasing out asset testing for older people in rest homes and geriatric hospitals.
New Zealand has its lowest crime rate in over 20 years. No one who is listening to the House today or who has been watching question time recently can miss the irony of a Government that has had that achievement, and that has built $800 million worth of new prisons—or is in the process of doing so—being criticised for overcrowding in some of our penal institutions. We make no apologies for the increased focus on policing, and for responding appropriately to what the community has asked of us. It is a sad comment on the weakness of the Opposition that it has to try to play that game. It was Labour that implemented tougher sentencing, and tougher parole and bail laws. That means more serious offenders are spending longer in prison, which is why there is such a financial impost in relation to the construction of new prisons. And we have more police.
Please do not bring the Speaker into the debate.
I say to Mr Tisch that the further 265 staff announced in Budget 2005 will take total police numbers above 10,000 for the first time ever, and the total added by Labour to over 1,400.
One of the greatest challenges for the Opposition is to focus on facts. We saw that with regard to the extraordinary misinformation that one or two National members were trying to portray about other benefit issues earlier in the day. It is no less the case with regard to police issues. Sooner, not later, the community will become aware that it is not only Dr Brash who wears no clothes. The National Opposition is completely without policy in those matters.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The comment that the member made about Dr Brash is completely unparliamentary. I ask the member to withdraw and apologise for that remark.
I did not hear it, but if the member did make an unparliamentary remark I would caution him on the way in which he addresses the House in future.
I hardly thought it was unparliamentary to refer to the old Russian folk tale of the emperor with no clothes. But just like the leader, the National Party also has no clothes, because it has no policy.
National may make the most extraordinary claims about tax, but can we talk about forestry? And when we are talking about forestry, should we talk to Mr Connell, or to Dr Brash? If we talk about health we would not know whether to talk to Dr Hutchison or to Dr Brash, because the party had no cohesive policy into the election. That is why those people, including those most verbose and overexcited new people, are sitting again on the Opposition benches. In contrast, it is clear what Labour stands for. Would it not be nice if the public could say what the Opposition stands for? But it cannot.
We know that for 6 long years the Opposition members have sat there on the Opposition benches, looking a bit stunned. They have been here for their long lunches and their late nights, and they have contributed next to nothing. I guess the next issue of Trivial Pursuit will ask: “What do Opposition MPs do with their day?”. The correct answer to date has been: “Not much, by the look of things.” But that comes about because in Opposition those members have been useless, and they have been useless because they are lazy. They do not know their subjects, they do not like their leader, and in all that time in Opposition they never came up with any real policies. They might have bleated a lot but they never came up with any real policies, and when the scab came off they could not come up with any detail. It is no wonder, therefore, that those members will be on the Opposition benches for another 3 years. They will have been 9 years in Opposition and that is almost certain to drift on to 12 or 15 years, because they have already shown their unwillingness to do any hard work. Are we not watching with great interest the little internecine fights that are already developing within their caucus?
National went into the election with unaffordable tax cuts that would have delivered $10 a week to most Kiwis, but $92 a week to its millionaire supporters or MPs like Dr Brash, Mr Key, and a number of the others. It tried to buy the election with its tax cuts and its underhand campaigns, financed by strange sects and shady deals with industry, in return for favours that voters were never supposed to know about. That failed, National failed, and its members have turned up in this House ready to fail in Opposition for another 3 years. It is no surprise to anyone that the National members are sad as that realisation finally sinks in.
What a contrast one sees when one looks at the Labour-led Government, which is committed to growing our economy and investing in quality public services. New Zealand has averaged a growth rate of around 4 percent over the last 6 years, while the OECD average was 2.5 percent. We have received extraordinary international recognition. The International Monetary Fund recently described our economy as “strongly positive”. Our fiscal position is “very strong”. A recent OECD report about New Zealand stated: “The economy has continued on its strong upward course …”, and stated that living standards have continued to improve. [Interruption]
I just say to members that while the honourable member is making a speech some interjections can be expected, but not so many as to drown out the member.
We have implemented policies in Government that mean that we now pay less in debt servicing so that resources are freed up for spending on health, education, and defence—the sorts of things our communities are asking us to deliver on. Crown debt has been falling, relative to GDP, from 35.4 percent in 1999, to 25 percent last year, and to an estimated 22 percent this year. That is a remarkable achievement.
I am delighted to contribute to this very important debate, which will set the scene for the next 3 years. I begin by congratulating Madam Speaker on her election to the Chair. What I like about Madam Speaker is her calmness, her sense of humour, and her knowledge. I think she is like a fine red wine—she is maturing very nicely, indeed.
I also congratulate Clem Simich. He, I think, is Parliament’s gentleman. In fact, he is a National MP from a bygone era. He is courteous, considerate, and never rude, and he is prepared to listen. He was a Minister of Police, and he was incredibly helpful to me when I was in Opposition. I thank him for that. Why did the National Party kick him out? Why did it get rid of a good constituency MP and put him on the list when he was doing a good job here in Parliament? Nobody can understand that. Such are the mysteries of the National Party.
A moment like this is a good opportunity to thank one’s own organisation for the work it did in the election campaign. I thank my organisation for the fantastic job it did. It delivered a vote of almost 50 percent for Labour in the seat of Rongotai. It is a fantastic seat. I believe that it is the best seat in New Zealand. It has the wonderful coastline of the southern and eastern Wellington areas, and it has the Chatham Islands, those little gems out there in the sea. Many people love to visit the Chatham Islands. Members of Parliament flock there in their droves to have a little look, spend a little time there, and bring back a little fish. Rongotai is a tremendous electorate.
I pay a tribute tonight to my opponent, Nicola Young, who put up a very good fight. But she too was kicked by the National Party. She was promised a high position on the list. She did not get the Wellington Central nomination—that went to Mark Blumsky—but she was promised a high position on the list. What number did she get? She got No. 61. Fancy doing that to a person who comes from the aristocracy of the National Party! She is Bill Young’s daughter, her sister has been in Parliament, her other sister stood for Parliament, and her brother-in-law was a Cabinet Minister—and how did National treat Nicola Young? It treated her appallingly. I say to Nicola Young that she will have a good future in whatever she does, because she is a fine person.
One of the pleasures of this debate is that we get the opportunity to listen to the maiden speeches of the new members of Parliament. It also gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own speeches, which we made when we came into this place. I was fortunate to present an address in this debate in 1984, as was my good friend and colleague Jim Sutton. What have I learnt in 21 years?
Mr Key may well say that because he has not learnt very much in the short time he has been here. But I would like to tell members what I have learnt in my time. [ Interruption]
I am sorry to interrupt the member. I would like the members on the left to look at Speaker’s ruling 57/3. Running commentaries are out of order. If a member wants to make a speech, he or she can take the call next time.
I want to tell Mr Key, in particular—because this is very important for him—what I have learnt in the 21 years since I was elected to Parliament. I have learnt the value of real friendship. We do not make a lot of friends when we are in Parliament, and it is rare to hold on to our old friends, so we really value those friendships we make. I tell Mr Key that I have learnt the value of working in a team, where people support each other and look out for each other. I have learnt the value of really good leadership, where the leader allows people to grow their talents and skills, and does not promote them to the front bench when he or she is really going to stab them in the back, or put them right up the back when they ought to be at the front. At this point I say to Dr Hutchison that I really feel sorry for him. He is a fine man. He was a good Opposition spokesperson on health. You were dumped—
—for somebody who does not know where his big toe is, let alone know anything about health. I have learnt that it is a privilege to represent the people of my electorate. I have also learnt that people can make a difference if they are in a party that has principles and policies, and, more important—and this is the part that will hurt—if they get the opportunity to implement those policies.
I have spent 6 years in Opposition, and I am entering my 7th year in Government, and the reason why I have spent more time in Government than in Opposition is that the Labour Party learnt its lessons long ago. Dissension, division, self-interest, and superegos lead to long years in the wilderness. In fact, I tell Mr Key that they lead to 9 long years in the wilderness. That is where his party is going to be. The public cannot stand divided parties. They hate divided parties. They have no time for petty political backstabbing. They have no time for bad mouthing. The National Party, even though it has had 6 years in Opposition, has not learnt a darned thing. Its members are still backbiting, stabbing each other, and whingeing and moaning amongst themselves. They have not learnt anything.
The self-interest, double-dealing, and deceptiveness of some of those members, especially those who could be the leader, mean that they will not spend 9 long years in Opposition, but 12 years. In fact, the members of the brat pack have aged before my very eyes. I have watched them go from having brown hair to salt and pepper hair to grey hair in the time I have been here. The brat pack has become the rat pack, and it will become the geriatric pack in the next few years, having gone absolutely nowhere at all. I have never seen such naked ambition as I am seeing at this moment from those who would take Don Brash’s job. I tell National members to give Don Brash a fair go. [Interruption] I join in that clap for Dr Brash—he is getting the clap that he deserves at this moment. But I tell Dr Brash that as his members are clapping him, they are busy planning his downfall.
Let us take Bill English. He was a loser when he had the job of leader, but he has his eye on Dr Brash’s job. Bill English has set out to recruit most of Dr Brash’s new South Island members of Parliament. Whose loyalty has Mr English bought? He has bought theirs for his bid for Dr Brash’s job. Mr English boasts that he has most of the South Island MPs in his pocket, hand-picked by him and his wife, and he is determined to win back the leadership of the National Party. Then we have John Key. He is eager, he is keen, and he has a lot going for him. But I tell him to watch out for his detractors. They are out there already. The whispering campaign has started; they have their eye on him.
Then there is Gerry Brownlee. One cannot help but like Gerry Brownlee; he is a nice guy. But he is very ambitious and, of course, he is being undermined. What did Matthew Hooton—that well-known, well-connected National Party person—say about Gerry Brownlee? He said that Gerry Brownlee is an idiot and that the clock is ticking. [Interruption] That is a quote from Matthew Hooton, I say to Mr McCully. Mr McCully would also like the job if he could get it, but he knows he will never get it so he just plots and plans behind the scenes. Then there is Simon Power. Dr Brash needs to know this. Simon Power has already formed his thinktank. He has four people working for him so that he can be the leader to replace Dr Brash. He has already got the strategy written as to how this will happen and he is already set to go early so that he can get the job before John Key becomes too popular. It will be an interesting 3 years. We are going to see a lot of turmoil, we are going to see a lot of treachery, and we are going to see some changes in the National Party over the next 3 years.
I conclude my speech by saying that I heard some wonderful speeches from the new members of Parliament. I heard wonderful speeches from the Opposition and from our own side. I commend Shane Jones and Sue Moroney. I commend Maryan Street and Darien Fenton, and I commend my cousin in this House, Chris Finlayson. He gave an extremely good speech. I did not agree with anything he said in his speech—we are diametrically opposed—but he is a man of talent. The National Party is lucky to have him. He comes from wonderful stock, and I know that the Russ clan will be delighted that they have representatives on both sides of the House.
As a slight variation to convention, I would like to congratulate almost everyone who is part of this New Zealand Parliament: the elected members, those who work to support this institution, and especially the visitors and those listening to the radio tonight. I say to them that it is their attention and interest that keeps politicians honest.
This is a House of Representatives, so, by definition, no one becomes a member of Parliament without the support of a cast of thousands. So thanks to my whole family, particularly to my husband, Billy, and my boys, Jamie and Tia, and thanks also to my friends and neighbours and everyone in Christchurch Central who helped and supported me. What a team! But it is the National Party—70 years young—party president Judy Kirk, leader Don Brash, and regional chair Roger Bridge who made it happen for me and for so many others. Thank you very much. It is powerful stuff, being part of this party. I would also like to pay tribute to all my campaign colleagues who did not make it at this election. Keep in fighting trim, people; we will be needing you soon. Most importantly, thank you to everyone who gave National their party vote in 2005. It took a cast of thousands to get me here, and every one of them is a star.
Today I want to speak in support of a minority group that is almost invisible to this Government: a group of 300,000 New Zealanders who feel alienated and misunderstood, who are often overworked and underpaid, and who are always unappreciated. But I also want to talk about how we New Zealanders hit the jackpot the day we were born into this country. Without even buying a raffle ticket, we inherited a unique and rich natural environment, all the opportunity, energy, and hopes of a country of immigrants, and the personal freedom and responsibilities of living in a democracy. It is an elegant and potent cocktail.
I was born into a special family. Have you noticed that, like every mother who miraculously produces the most beautiful baby on earth, everyone’s family is special? It is a simple point, but it is a key indicator to a successful society. My special family were mum and dad and three kids who knew they were loved.My mum was a teacher, my dad was an engineer. Both my granddads were businessmen, and my grandmas read us stories and cooked us food. They came to our house on Sundays for a roast. They all had an opinion about our manners, about our school work, and how we should treat our mother. They are all dead, right now, but their spirits are still strong in my life and their voices clear in my head: “You only get out of life what you put in.”; “Pull your weight, Nicky.”; “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.”; “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”—God knows how that works in a place like this! “Work hard.”; “Make the most of everything.”; and the most powerful: “You can do it!”. That was from my mum, and it could have been a subversive feminist message, except it was coupled with a wail: “Why do you always have to beat all the boys at tennis?”. And always, although we read English literature at school, studied the history of Europe and knew that “A Fin—To the End” was the motto of our Scottish clan, we were always New Zealanders.
My parents took me, a babe in arms, on their OE. My dad worked for a construction company and my mum was eternally grateful to Mr Zelinski who never heard a sound through the thin boarding-house walls, even though I screamed all night. But they were not “brain drainers”. They had a look at the world and came home with the conviction that our family were New Zealanders by birth but also by choice. They loved the history and culture of the UK and Europe but felt compromised by the engrained class system and the cost of participation. They returned to New Zealand to continue their family, and for the opportunities that abounded in this young country. They came back for economic security and quality of life. In those days we were rated No. 3 in the OECD for economics and also No. 3 for health outcomes for infants. Would my mum and dad have made the same decision today, looking at our low-wage economy and our present infant mortality rate?
I have two brothers. They are both living and raising their families in Australia. I have two sons. They are both in the process of doing their OE. I hate the fact that over the last 40 years or so our standard of living and the opportunities for our young people have steadily eroded. Nowadays, a skilled worker is instantly and substantially better off financially simply by moving to Australia. And the weather is better! I hate the thought that New Zealand is the birthplace, the nurturer, and the educator of a whole generation who may return that investment to another country. Do members remember the anguish of the people of Hamelin after the Pied Piper had lured all their children away? We must not let that happen in New Zealand. I swell with pride when frequently overseas people tell me: “I have always wanted to go to New Zealand. It’s so beautiful, so clean, and so green.” I swell with pride, but it is nothing to do with me. Yes, New Zealand is beautiful and mostly clean and green but that is mainly because we have had so few people here in our country that we have not messed it up yet.
My own city of Christchurch has the best and purest water in the world—this stuff here is yuck in comparison—but do not think for one minute it is because Christchurch people have carefully protected and conserved their water. We got a lucky geographical break—a layer of silt that has kept the aquifers clean. I know that all Kiwis care about their environment. I know that Christchurch people love their clean water, and now that we can all plainly see that our environment is in real danger, all of us have to play a part in doing something about it.
I admire courage; all types of courage. Sometimes it takes real courage just to get up in the morning and get our kids off to school. But I particularly admire the courage of those who have a vision for the future and are prepared to go out and get it. I think of all the seafarers who set sail for this island, Aotearoa New Zealand, in search of a better future. How many canoes and how many ships were lost at sea? How many people perished on the way? I think of those who pioneered settlements here, and who died from starvation or exposure before they could create their homes or villages. Our ancestors made the country we have today. They built it with hard work—and I hope a bit of play—with blood and sweat, but also with love, often in loneliness and misery, but always with the belief that they were voyaging, adventuring, striving, and fighting for a better future for themselves and for their families, so we can sit comfortably in this House tonight.
And these are not lost values of the past. Just last week I was talking to an immigrant taxi-driver who had been a teacher in his home country. He drove a taxi because his family’s first financial duty was to the next generation, so that they would have more choices and they would not have to drive his taxi. And he has been successful. He proudly told me that his son had just graduated as a lawyer and his daughter had nearly finished a double degree in computer science. He hoped that they would remember him in his old age.
Everyone can, and should, take part in building a better New Zealand for themselves and for future generations. It is the very best kind of team sport, because every Kiwi has something valuable to offer, and we need every one of them to join the game. And, as my grandmother said: “You only get out of life what you put in.” There might be times when we find ourselves on the benches, but it is our job to get focused and fit and on to “Team New Zealand” again. None of us is off the hook. Well, perhaps some of us are. Some have already done their bit—people like my pop. My father-in-law, 88 years of age and frail, is the heart of our family and he is up in the balcony, right there. Pop, at 20, went off to World War II with the 36th Battalion, and he ended up at Guadalcanal. Many of his mates were killed there, and he was wounded twice. But like many of his generation he talks only of the lighter side of his experience, like the time he hitched a ride with a US soldier back to the Kiwi camp and was asked: “Is that anywhere near the K-one-W-one sign, with the picture of the fat-arsed duck?”. There are lots of Kiwis like my pop. They went out and battled for New Zealand when times were tough, but now they are old and a bit tired. And we who have never had to face a world war, we who have got soft, living beyond our means, need to remember them. I am ashamed when I see the chronic underfunding of elderly care by this Government.
But now back to that minority group—those 300,000 people who work enormously long hours, often in substandard conditions, and cannot claim overtime, redundancy, or maternity leave. Their jobs and their incomes are totally exposed to local and global economic shifts, and their risks and responsibilities continue, regardless of ill health or misfortune. This group includes men and women of all ages and all races. Many of these people are new immigrants, women with children, and people who have been made redundant. Many have low levels of education, and all worry from day to day about their future and the future of those who depend on them. These people are the self-employed and owner-operators of small businesses employing fewer than 20 workers. They make up 97 percent of all New Zealand businesses, and they want to send a message to this Government: “Leave us alone. Pick on someone your own size. The smaller we are, the tougher you are on us. It might cost the big boys $500 a year in compliance costs but we little fellows are paying over $2,800 a year. It’s too much. Give us a break. Many of us are earning only wages, and the only time we hear from you is when you make more rules, want an Accident Compensation Corporation payment, or slap on another tax. And what’s this about letting the big companies off paying carbon tax, but nailing us? We’re the ones who have created most of the productive jobs in the last few years, not the Government. We’re the ones who will pay the price as the economy contracts. In fact, many of us who export are already losing money, but hoping that the dollar will drop so that our businesses will survive. There is no incentive. It’s getting too hard, and this Government understands us so little that it has made a trade unionist our Minister. There seems to be only one good thing about being self-employed, and that is when times are tough you can’t be fired. You just keep on going to work to earn less and less.”
So, to conclude, New Zealand according to Nicky Wagner is a wonderfully endowed, beautiful country but we need to look after it much better. Strong families built this country, but we, the present generation, are free-riding on the efforts of those who have gone before. We are not looking after our elderly properly, and we run the risk of losing the next generation to the more productive, faster-growing economies overseas. We are too tough on those who are working hard to get ahead, especially the self-employed and the small-business owner-operators, and there is no incentive for New Zealanders to invest in a smarter future as long as we are overtaxed and under-appreciated. I believe that every New Zealander needs to take personal responsibility for his or her own future, and the future of this country, because no organisation, and certainly no Government, can be flexible enough to manage a world where change is the only constant, and the unexpected is the norm. But all is not lost. Just as our ancestors, each and every one of them, took up the challenge of building a better country for future generations, so can we. I am keen, so let us get cracking.
The speaker is actually David Parker, if Mr Brownlee does not know me.
First of all, I would like to pay my respects and welcome new members on all sides to the House. I hope that it is a rewarding experience for them and that they go about their duties wisely. It is certainly a privilege to be here. I congratulate the Speaker, Margaret Wilson, on her reappointment. I congratulate Clem Simich on his elevation to the role of Deputy Speaker, which I am sure he will fulfil very well, and also H V Ross Robertson and Ann Hartley on their appointments as Assistant Speakers.
Probably when that member speaks next. When Mr Muldoon left power in the mid-1980s, New Zealand’s economy was in tatters. Government debt totalled 70 percent of GDP, and one dollar in five of tax collected was spent on interest. Indeed, had it not been for the substantial restructuring of the Labour Government the following year, it is predicted that the amount would have ballooned in short order to one dollar in four. So when Mr Muldoon left this economy in tatters it was up to the Labour Government’s wise fiscal and economic policies to pull us out of the mire—and they have. This Government has reduced Government debt substantially to under 25 percent of GDP, and now, instead of one dollar in five of all tax revenue being spent on interest, it is one dollar in 20.
Against that background, I was very surprised that for the first time since Mr Muldoon left this economy in tatters a major New Zealand political party was promising unaffordable tax cuts that would have required, on its own figures, the Government to increase Government debt—
I say to members that I am not able to hear the member on my right, and I will not allow that.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I trust that that will not come out of my time. A major political party was promising such extreme, unaffordable tax cuts that it would have meant, even on National’s own numbers, that Government debt would have increased by billions of dollars and, perhaps more important, as a proportion of GDP.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have cut us off from interjecting on this member. I understand that he is new and needs protection, but I do feel—
The point I make is that although it is appropriate in a debate to introduce debating material and, therefore, to have considerable interjection when that material becomes a little bit difficult for people to take, I suggest that this member might help himself if he read the Treasury briefing papers that completely refute everything he has been saying for the last 3 minutes.
Thank you. I make the point that the Speaker will not allow a member to be drowned out.
In dealing with that not-a-point of order, we just heard Mr Brownlee’s denial of the truth that National’s unaffordable tax cuts would increase Government debt by billions of dollars. For his information, I will quote from an interview between Mr Key and Alistair Thompson on 24 August: “On the numbers we put out last week, we would borrow $3.3 billion more.” That would be over the first 3-year term. So I tell Mr Brownlee to go and check his numbers; he cannot even add up billions.
In any event, it does not hurt to pause and remind ourselves that we are one of the most privileged nations on earth. On virtually every OECD measurement, New Zealand is near the top. Be it for the quality of our health services, the educational attainment of our school leavers, the longevity of our people, the cleanliness of our environment, the sustainability of our superannuation arrangements, our high growth rate, or our low unemployment rate, we rank at just about the top of the developed world. Many people from other parts of the developed world look to us as an example—as a country with low and dropping crime rates, and with moderate rates of taxation, which is a topic I will return to.
That does not mean we should be complacent, but it does mean we should consider whether radical change is necessary. Members should make no mistake: what National was proposing at the last election was radical change. Whether through unaffordable tax cuts or a foreign policy blindly aligned with the United States’ on issues like Iraq or nuclear matters, Dr Brash’s agenda was to move New Zealand radically to the right, for the benefit of a few at the cost of the many.
But what did voters want? Voters asked themselves that question. Did they want tolerance or intolerance? How did those voters—[Interruption]
I would like members to look at Speakers’ ruling 57/3. I think it might help the debate to progress in an orderly manner.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you are going to bring out Speakers’ rulings, then you will also understand that when a member poses a question in his or her speech that is so patently stupid, there can only be an expectation that it will be refuted. This is the Minister who will preside over the lights going out in this country, and over industries probably having to close because he has his mind closed to the problems of his own ministry, yet he asks these dopey questions about whether the country would have been better off with a National Government. Everyone knows that it would have been.
Speakers’ ruling 45/7 relates to the matter of asking questions of members on the other side of the House who do not have the floor. So I just caution the member about the way he addresses the House.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the member is making allegations that are completely and blatantly wrong and misleading, you must expect that our members will want to bring a fair perspective to the truth and reality. That can be achieved only by interjections, and if you stifle interjections from this side, then it becomes blatantly unfair. If the member wants to bring some accuracy, fairness, and equity to the debate, then he wants to stick to the facts as opposed to making up things that become debatable issues. So I ask that you instruct the new member over there to get his facts right, otherwise there will be interjections from this side.
I again refer members to Speakers’ ruling 57/3: “Interjections … are out of order unless they are rare and reasonable;”, relevant and restrained.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you might want to check with the Minister about whether he actually does want to be heard in silence, because, as you will be aware, he is not giving interviews on any of his portfolios. He does not want to be heard at all by the media, and if he does not want to be heard by the media, I would be surprised at his wanting to be heard by the Opposition.
No, that is not a point of order, and the member knows it; he has been here long enough.
It had better be a fresh point of order, Mr Brownlee.
It will be very helpful to the House. I think that the National Opposition should hear this man in absolute silence, because we want the nation to hear what an incompetent he really is.
No. The member will be seated. The member has a senior position; he knows better.
Mr Speaker, I take it that this is not coming off my allocation of time? There has been more time spent on points of order—[ Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
National does not like it, but voters did have a choice. Did they want tolerance or intolerance? Many voters felt threatened by the foreshore and seabed legislation. Labour steered a course that preserved everyone’s right of access across the foreshore and seabed, and we avoided violent protest—some would say, just.
Given that recent controversy I would not have pushed race relations hard, yet National proposed to. That did not seem prudent to me. Dr Brash was willing to risk race relations by unilaterally abolishing the Māori seats, which have existed for over 100 years. What motivated that? Was it because Māori did not fit Dr Brash’s view of mainstream New Zealanders? Let us think about that. What did he mean by mainstream New Zealanders? Were they low-paid or middle-class workers? No, no. Were they widows relying on the domestic purposes benefit? I doubt it. Were they superannuitants just getting by on superannuation? I doubt that, too—the rich or the poor, the tolerant or the intolerant?
I think we can judge from the links between Dr Brash, the National Party, and the Exclusive Brethren—those links that Dr Brash was forced to admit he had told inconsistent things about, and was forced to apologise for. What was he hiding? What was he ashamed of?
Of course, the Exclusive Brethren is not a moderate church group. It has been fairly described in one of New Zealand’s leading newspapers as the Taliban of New Zealand’s religious sects. It is true. Its rules state that its members have to marry within the sect, that they must not watch television, and that women are not permitted to work outside the home. Its members are not allowed to go to university and they are not allowed even to read novels. That the National Party’s agenda suited the Exclusive Brethren rightly worried voters as much as it worried me.
Against that background, we really have to wonder how desperate National members were to try to buy their way on to the Treasury benches with unaffordable tax cut promises. They admitted that their tax cuts would cost $7 billion more than Labour’s would. In fact, Mr Key, in the interview I quoted from before, said the National Party admitted that, on its numbers, it would be forced to borrow $3.3 billion more over the first 3 years. What did the commentators say? Economist Brian Easton stated: “Labour’s tax cuts are not only smaller but they are probably within the acceptable fiscal parameters, … But if Labour’s cuts hover just out of the imprudence range, National’s are much larger. They admit they are going to have to borrow to finance them. … The fact of the matter is that National’s tax cuts will raise its borrowing faster than GDP growth.” It was not me or the Labour Party saying that—it was an independent economist.
The excuse National used is that it would borrow for capital expenditure. What a nonsense! Every Government has capital expenditure every year—for new hospitals, new classrooms, new hospital equipment, and new roads. The fact of the matter is that National’s budget did not balance and that it would have had to borrow more money than would otherwise have been required.
In contrast, Labour’s tax cuts are focused on families. They deliver more than $100—
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is reading from a document written by an independent economist to back up his speech, and I was wondering whether he could table the Labour Party pamphlet at the end of his speech.
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