I move, That the House do now adjourn until Tuesday, 7 October 2008. For those on their first time through such a motion, this somewhat Gilbert and Sullivan motion is moved, even though, in fact, the House could not meet on Tuesday, 7 October, in order that the processes around the dissolution of Parliament can occur. The dissolution will occur at 3 p.m. on Friday of next week.
I want to begin, as is traditional in this case, by thanking the staff of Parliament, and, in particular, the Clerk and the Clerk’s Office; the security staff; the messengers; the ministerial and parliamentary staff, who do so much work for us; and the drivers for the Ministers. They all have contributed to the way in which this House runs.
I particularly pay tribute to retiring colleagues on both sides of the House. Minor party members do not seem to retire in the same way that major party members do. I begin with your good self, Madam Speaker. Your moving on from this place is a great loss, in my view, but a great regain for academia.
I pay tribute to Clem Simich. In the unlikely event that there was a change of Government, I would have looked forward with some pleasure to Mr Simich being the Speaker of this House. Unfortunately, apparently, his services were no longer required. He was seen as somewhat surplus to requirements, because of his age; the older I have got the more I have begun to think that, in fact, age brings some advantage around this place, as opposed to disadvantage.
Of course, I pay tribute to Marian Hobbs. This is the first time, I think, that Parliament has lost three of the four presiding officers in one go, due to their retirement. Marian has brought, in a short space of time, a quite extraordinary new style to presiding in the Chair. One understands now why she was such a good principal of Avonside Girls’ High School, in Christchurch.
I pay tribute to all of my other retiring colleagues in the House. On the other side of the House, I mention Mr Blumsky and, particularly, Katherine Rich, who as the daughter of an old friend of mine I have always been relatively light on, one may have noticed, compared with other members of the National Party caucus. But I pay tribute particularly to my own friends and colleagues on this side of the House. Steve Maharey has been an important part of the Labour caucus and Labour Cabinet over a long, long period of time, and Paul Swain is another long-term friend. I will not mention the rest of my colleagues; I am supposed to say a few other things in this speech, as well.
I think this Parliament has been a very interesting one in two particular respects. One is that we have begun to see reinforced in this Parliament an MMP tradition about how Parliament works. It works quite differently from the way that it worked under the first-past-the-post system. Much, much less time is spent trying to dig in on extremely long battles down to the wire, there is much more simply stating one’s position, and there is perhaps a little loss, if one likes, of debate, but actually a surprising amount of business is passed with minimal use of urgency overall compared with what used to be the case under the first-past-the-post system. If colleagues actually look back over the last 3 years, I suspect they will be quite surprised to see how much has been done, particularly given that we have not had a statutes revision bill this year; those bills always cheat by upping the body count in terms of Acts of Parliament that have been passed—everything this year has been of significant substance.
The second aspect is that, contrary to all expectations, what has been a multi-party arrangement has survived in Government not simply for a full term but for actually slightly longer than a full term—we have carried on for slightly more than 3 years in this Parliament. Again, I think we are beginning to learn how to work the MMP electoral system to provide stable Government—if occasionally exciting Government, in terms of some of the internal debates that occur between the parties that are part of the Government.I pay particular tribute and give thanks to the support parties, which despite occasional difficulties have provided for that stability and that continuity, which is important from a public perspective.
This Parliament has also seen some very major changes. One is the passage of the legislation for the emissions trading scheme. New Zealand is at last catching up with the great majority of the developed world in addressing the issues of climate change. I still get these extraordinary comments from business people about why we are leading the world, when, in fact, nearly all of Europe has nearly lapped us! That gives the impression that we are leading the world, but what we actually have to do is to sprint a long way to catch up with the rest of Europe. And, finally, Australia is catching up in that regard. We can expect the United States to do so as well, with the change in the presidency.
We have seen also, of course, the enormously successful introduction of KiwiSaver, certain fiscal consequences of which should become apparent on Monday week; the Kiwi Rail buy-back; the completion of the Working for Families programme; and the roll-out of 20 free hours’ early childhood education. We will see the introduction of fair tax cuts next week, which are biased towards those on lower incomes compared with those on higher incomes, as far as any progressive income tax scale is capable of actually doing that. And, of course, we have seen very significant growth in infrastructure spending.
But the story of this year, of course, has been particularly a story about the economy. We have seen international commodity price inflation. Price inflation in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US, and elsewhere in the world has been approaching 5 percent this year, though it is likely to come back quite quickly in the latter part of this year, as oil prices fall back again, and as the global credit crunch starts to bite into economic growth around the world. We have seen, obviously, this economy, as we now know—we have known it for months, really—being in recession, although, in fact, the second quarter figure is slightly better than nearly all market predictions of minus 0.2 percent. I think it would be a very foolish person who would want to take a bet that the figure for the third quarter, which we are now in, would be anything other than negative, as well.
But nearly all projections still say the economy is likely to start picking up from the fourth quarter of this financial year, and, certainly, by the beginning of the next financial year, subject to one very, very important caveat. If the United States is unable to address its internal financial crisis, if—which I think is extraordinarily unlikely—the US Congress is unable to agree on a rescue package, and I think it will agree on one in a matter of days, then there is a very serious risk that the international financial credit crisis will actually roll out into a broader economic crisis and a major slow-down in the world economy. We have seen only a relatively moderate slow-down so far in the world economy. Yes, a number of countries are in moderate recession, but nobody is talking about anything more than that at the present time. New Zealand simply is a cork on the ocean in that regard. We are unable to influence the play out of the financial credit crisis in the United States.
It is very important for us, because the restoration of confidence in the international financial markets is crucial for New Zealand business, as we move towards many businesses needing to refinance their offshore debt, and needing to do so at prices that they can afford. That means a steady hand moving forward within New Zealand, even through a period of great uncertainty. What we do know, and it will be revealed in detail on Monday week, is that the slow-down in the New Zealand economy has been deeper than was forecast at Budget time. The impact of the international credit crunch and some errors by Treasury in terms of forecasting mean that the deficits that we are forecasting for the next 4 years will be very much larger than they were at Budget time. That means whoever is sitting in my seat after the election—whether it is I or somebody else—will have to go through a significant period of fiscal restraint, and there is no room for substantial, major growth either in spending above what is forecast, or in cutting of revenue below what is forecast, over the next 3-year period. This is not going to be a period for fiscal adventurism moving forward.
So this election will be about trust versus the supposed desire for change. “Trust” because, of course, Helen Clark has demonstrated the ability to be a superb political manager, to deliver what she says she will, and not to deliver what she says she will not deliver, which is at least as important in politics—not to visit people with nasty surprises on made-up excuses. Against that, we have basically a promise not to change any policies, which is a very strange position for an Opposition party to take; the extraordinary series of flip-flops; the inability of Mr Key to stick to a question and an answer for more than 2 seconds at a time; and the re-run and re-run and re-run of Monday’s TV interview, which encapsulated within 10 seconds everything that we are learning, and that the public is starting to say more and more, about Mr Key. Was it $25,000 to $50,000, or was it $100,000? If only Fran Mold had said: “Are you sure it was only $100,000?”; I am sure we would have got a different story again at that point. You see, Crosby/Textor can take him only so far. Once he is out on his own and answering questions, he is on his own and he must be able to answer them honestly and truthfully himself.
Then we have the fresh new faces. Look at them! The fresh and new Mr English, Mr Williamson, Lockwood Smith, Murray McCully, and Allan Peachey, the rising young man of the National Party backbenchers! Goodness me! The party opposite says: “We present something new and fresh; the thing is we just can’t remember what it is, and we hope that nobody will ask us what it is before election day.”
Madam Speaker, I begin by thanking you for all you have done and wishing you the very best for your years outside of Parliament. I acknowledge Deputy Speaker Clem Simich and wish him the very best, and I acknowledge Assistant Speakers Ross Robertson and Marian Hobbs, to whom I wish the very best, as well. I also acknowledge the Clerk of the House, Mary Harris and her staff, the Hansard staff, the Parliamentary Library staff, Parliamentary Service, the security guards, the messengers, the VIP drivers, and everyone else who makes this place work. I acknowledge all the retiring MPs on both sides of the House, and I take one moment to acknowledge two members of Parliament who have passed away in this term, Rod Donald and Brian Donnelly.
Labour ended its term in the way that it started it: embroiled in scandal. It began with the pledge card, and it will end with the red card when Labour is sent to the Opposition benches for a very, very long time. This Government has forgotten why it is here. The Government is not focused on New Zealanders, and it is not focused on the things that matter. Its only agenda is “dirt over direction”. It does not care about where the country is going. It is no wonder that the polls are where they are. When Labour goes out there with its “dirt over direction” model it does not reflect what New Zealanders want.
This is a Government of failure. Michael Cullen is the Minister of Finance who has led this country into recession. He can laugh, but that is factually correct. That was not an adjournment speech from Michael Cullen; it was an apology. It was an apology for 81,000 New Zealanders leaving the country, it was an apology for a burgeoning bureaucracy, and it was an apology to the people who found out yesterday that they were losing their jobs. He is a fair-weather Minister of Finance, and he does not know what to do when things get tough. It is no wonder he said that it will be a bit difficult for the person who sits in that seat. This is a man who has not stuck to $1.75 billion as the new Budget spend. For 5 years he spent twice that amount.
This Government has failed, though its members may not want to hear that. New Zealanders do not need to hear this from me; they see it every day. They pick up the papers and see murders happening in South Auckland. They see patients going to Australia to get health care services. They see their youngsters coming home with reports they cannot understand, and with educational levels they do not approve of. They see Helen Clark reheating policies like Schools Plus, which she quietly cut from $160 million in January to $40 million today.She promised to do the same thing she had promised to do in 2002. For the past 3 years Labour has failed, and it has the audacity to go out there and ask New Zealanders to give Labour another 3 years. I do not think so!
Then, in amongst all of that, there is the state of the New Zealand health system. David Cunliffe has said: “I’m running the show.” Well, guess what? David Cunliffe is right. He is running the show—badly. So is Helen Clark, so is Michael Cullen. It is no wonder that people want a change of Government.
This is the time for a fresh start for New Zealand. This is a time for fresh leadership. This is a time for a team of people who are ready to take this country forward, a team of people who know that tax cuts are an economic policy, not a political policy. We will not wait 25 days to raise taxes and 9 years to cut them. We know that New Zealanders are hurting out there. We know that New Zealanders want to keep their own money. We know that New Zealanders will not put up with more bureaucracy.
The record gets worse. National will not have an emissions trading scheme that is based more on legacy than on legitimacy. We will have an emissions trading scheme that works and has New Zealand doing its bit for climate change. It is not about getting five gold stars from some organisation out there that no one cares about. We will solve the problems of law and order on our streets. We will not be in denial like the Labour Government is. When Helen Clark had to rush to announce the election date, she said law and order was improving. She must be the only New Zealander who believes that, and she must be the only New Zealander who does not acknowledge that there is a crime wave. We see the violent crime and drug abuse. This Government is more interested in building the bureaucracy than in putting police on the streets to help other New Zealanders. We say that is wrong.
Labour says it is a party that stands up for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but where has the opportunity been to look after New Zealanders in an education system that should work for those who come from the most disadvantaged backgrounds? We care about standards in education. We care about every kid getting a chance. We do not care about having to tackle the unions on this sort of stuff. We know what matters.
We will help to solve the problems in a health system that is not working. We know there is a crisis in the health workforce. We will have a voluntary bond system for doctors, nurses, and midwives so that people in rural and provincial New Zealand will know there is a doctor for them to see. Mr Cunliffe will not do it but Tony Ryall will. When it comes to the economy, Bill English will cut taxes, and he will do it well.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to interject on the member’s valedictory speech, but I want to know what point he was making about the health system—
Yes, Madam Speaker. Quite genuinely, I could not hear the point the member was making about the health system because of barracking from his own members.
It is very difficult to hear, but in this—[ Interruption] Members can talk amongst themselves, but not while I am on my feet and talking. There is a tradition that this debate is a kind of end-of-term, end-of-school hurrah. It is a rather loud last hurrah, I must say, and if members cannot hear each other, then I wonder at the purpose of it. I just remind members to at least keep the noise level down so that we can hear what is being said.
That contribution from David Cunliffe was the same as the contribution he has made to the health system—shocking!
About 2 years ago I said in the House that Labour was a “Walkman Government in an iPod world”. Well, the battery has gone flat on the walkman, the lights have gone out, and the music has stopped playing. New Zealanders look at Labour and they see the past. They look at National and they see the future. New Zealanders want hope, they want opportunity, and come 8 November they want an opportunity to choose a brighter future. They will not let that chance go past.
That certainly was early applause, or acclaim, afforded to me by the National Party! I begin by saying thank you to the Office of the Clerk, and to those people who have carried out their duties in respect of members of Parliament: security guards and their supervisors, messengers, and catering staff. They all deserve our gratitude.
In this House there are friendships that cut across party lines, and that is good, for if we get so committed to our own particular beliefs that we shut out the good ideas of our opponents, we are on the road to intolerance and bigotry. We must not close our minds; we must keep our eyes and ears open to take in the best of what happens around us. Politics, after all, is known as “The Great Game”—it is played hard, even brutally at times, but that is the nature of democracy. It is untidy, unlovely, and often unrewarding, but, as Churchill said, nobody has thought of a better way yet.
We have been working under MMP since 1996, and I believe that the public of this country accepts it. It is interesting to note that in 2002 the Labour Party rejected New Zealand First as a possible coalition partner, but that in 2005 we formed an agreement for confidence and supply, and that that agreement has worked to enrich the lives of New Zealanders. Amongst other things, it has restored the income of superannuitants and provided more fairness in respect of old people in old people’s homes, and in respect of the young. It has also revived dramatically the racing industry of this country. We have improved our relations with traditional and newer allies in foreign fields, and we are on the way to a free-trade agreement with the United States.
I want to place on record our thanks to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and to those Ministers and MPs we have worked with, to make this country a better place in the last 3 years. We did not always agree, but we all worked with a common aim—to secure a better future. If there is one matter of concern we have had for the past 3 years, it is that members of the second-largest party in Parliament did not attempt, at any time, to join in this country’s governance. Where were their ideas, their pieces of private legislation, their hunger to bring about the Utopia they insist is waiting for us all out there, should their party get to take over? Their problem was that they were waiting for the Government to collapse—all through the last 3 years. And that was never going to happen.
Despite what we know, there are good members in all the opposing parties, and, as some will not be back after the election, we tell them they go with our best wishes. We trust they will find a life after politics.
The last few weeks and months have been tumultuous for New Zealand First, and for me, personally. We are grateful for the support we have received from many, many thousands of New Zealanders, who have pledged their support, and who will be lining up to work for us in the next few weeks. There are forces out there working day and night against us, but let me say this: “Bring it on!”. We will be ready, and we certainly are match-fit.
I thought I might bring to the attention of the House a certain trust document that has come into my hands. It is designed to get money and to get behind a political party, and it is dated 30 June 2005, so it is pretty much where it has to be, to be in the ballpark nowadays in New Zealand politics. I will read from the Weekend Herald,at page 26, from an article by one Stephen Cook. It is about Rodney Hide, who said: “I try to put as much distance as I can between myself and donations made to the party.” Yeah, right! In my inquiries I found a trust, plus its bank account—and I have 70 copies of the document for members, if they want to take them. I found out what was going on, but those people up there in the press gallery have always darned well known, because the man behind this is known to me. He recently spoke at the Newmarket Rotary Club, where he went on record as saying that Winston Peters had done nothing wrong, that nothing New Zealand First had done was illegal, and that any arrangements of the type that New Zealand First had were totally above board. Meanwhile, his party leader, Rodney Hide, and the media have daily hurled abuse and hypocritical tirades in an attempt to bring down New Zealand First, the third biggest political party in this country. The man behind this, of course, and the man at the Newmarket Rotary Club, was one John Boscawen. Members have heard his name; he is the one ranting and raving about the Electoral Finance Act. Meanwhile, Rodney Hide knows all about that trust, having been taken by the Electoral Commission all the way to the Court of Appeal for failing to disclose the evidence of millions of dollars of funding behind the Cargill Trust and the ACT party.
What is important about this story is that it will not be on page 1 of the New Zealand Herald tomorrow, in the Dominion Post,or in the Christchurch Press, and it will most certainly will not make the 6 o’clock news tonight, because the media have been involved in a cover-up whilst they sought to get rid of a party and its leader. My profound message to the media right now, before they get out there and start miswriting history, is that they should learn something, because New Zealand people have a sense of fairness, of justice, and of what is right, and they have watched for 3 months whilst crisis after crisis in this country, caused mainly by events happening abroad, could have been assisted in terms of resolution. But every day, whilst 29 companies went down, owing $3 billion to mainly older people, the media decided that that was not the issue. I have never ever in my period in politics seen such grossly irresponsible media as we have in New Zealand today, and I have always known, from day one, that behind this has been an orchestrated conspiracy to get rid of the Government—any way, any how. I know who is behind where the money is. When we see a man like Phil Kitchin from the Dominion Post saying: “I have been working on this case for 2 years.”, then we know full well how long Opposition members have programmed this outcome. But they are going to lose come 8 November, because out there, even as I speak, tens of thousands of Māori have changed their minds and are coming home—and rightfully so. And tens and tens of thousands of older people have had enough of this hypocrisy—
The member calls it rubbish. That may be those members’ specialty, but if they think that on election day 2008 they are going to romp home, then they are kidding themselves; they will be way short of numbers.
I will tell members something about politics: in this business one never, never, never says never. Only a fool would do that. So having disclosed what is going on in terms of hypocrisy in this country, I will close with the famous words of that hero of Tennyson’s called Ulysses:
I would like to start by remembering those who have come before us. I would like to remember Rod Donald. Rod Donald died on 6 November 2005. Rod was a patriot. He was a New Zealand patriot. He had a vision for this country and he had a deep love for this country, and I think we are all the poorer without him. I would like to thank Rod for all that he gave to New Zealand and for all that he gave to the Green Party and to this Parliament. I also thank Nicola for all of her support for me since I have taken over as co-leader. Rod was a man who looked forward and I hope that the Green Party has carried his vision forward. I would also like to remember Brian Donnelly. I did not know Brian Donnelly, but my Green Party colleagues thought very, very highly of him. I offer my condolences to New Zealand First and to Brian’s family.
I thank the people who made it possible for me to be here—Nandor Tanczos, Mike Ward, and Catherine Delahunty. They put the interests of the Green movement ahead of their own personal interests. It was important for the Greens to have our co-leaders in Parliament, in order to recover from the loss of Rod Donald, and that was possible only because those three people put the interests of the movement and the interests of New Zealand ahead of their own personal interests. I have tried hard to reward Nandor, Mike, and Catherine’s faith in me, and I hope that I have not disappointed them. People who see the world through their own self-interested frame will never understand that some people are capable of seeing the bigger picture and of doing what is right, and those three people did that.
I thank the staff, the messengers, the cleaners, the Speaker, the Clerk, and all of those people who make this place possible and make it work. We could not do what we are doing without them. I would also make a special mention of Helen Culver. Helen is Jeanette Fitzsimons’ secretary. She was in a bike accident this morning and is in hospital, but she is OK. I hope that Helen gets out of there fast, so that she can come back and help us in the campaign. I hope that she gets better soon. I would also say to the bus driver who cut off me and another cyclist this morning on Lambton Quay: “I will support you in your campaign to get decent wages, but you just respect me when I am on my bike.”
The Green Party takes a long-term view of the future. We act today to make the world a better place for today and tomorrow. We also understand that the world is finite. If there is perhaps one novel insight in the green movement, it is an understanding that the world is finite—that is the new insight that the green movement brings. Human ingenuity is infinite, human capacity for love and for hate is infinite, human capacity for greatness and for evil is infinite, but resources are not. Resources are finite. Human activities currently deplete the Earth’s life support system and its resources, but it does not have to be like that. We could actually make this a better place. We have to learn how to live well while protecting this beautiful planet we call home. We have to learn to live well while improving the life-support system of planet Earth. The very existence of the Green Party is proof that we have started that journey of learning how to live on this planet as if we mean to stay here, but we are only at the very, very beginning of that journey.
I will talk about climate change for a little bit and about methane hydrate. One of the most dangerous scenarios with climate change is that the methane frozen in the form of methane hydrate tied up under the oceans could be released as the oceans warm. In recent days there have been reports of plumes of methane being released in the Arctic Circle as the undersea permafrost melts and releases methane. Methane, of course, is 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide. To quote from the Independent: “In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through ‘methane chimneys’ rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a ‘lid’ to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age. They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.”
There are two reports now about methane being released in huge quantities in the Arctic region. One of those reports suggests the methane has been coming out for a long time—since the last ice age—and the other one suggests that this is actually new and that what we are facing now is the positive feedback that could result in rapid climate change. For those who actually understand climate science, this is almost certainly one of the most worrying things that the human race has ever seen in climate change. For those members who follow the news, the day that they read that article will be a day that they will all remember. It is still early, but if these reports are true, then we are seeing the beginning of the most dangerous positive feedback loop—the positive feedback loop that will release masses of methane and produce massively more global warming.
New Zealand, of course, is a major contributor per capita to greenhouse gas emissions. Our emissions have increased by about a quarter since 1990, and the taxpayer, under the Kyoto Protocol, is responsible for purchasing Kyoto credits to cover the increase. Between 1990 and 1999 our emissions increased by 11 percent, under a National-led Government; and under the current Government, emissions increased by about 13 percent to 2006. Since 2006 they have increased quite significantly. The dairy sector has increased its emissions of methane by about 77 percent since 1990, and emissions of nitrous oxide will have increased by a similar amount. Because we have to purchase the carbon credits to actually cover that increase in emissions, we are subsidising the dairy sector’s emissions by about $200 million a year. Every dairy conversion gets a bonus from the taxpayer of roughly $120 per cow. Each new cow costs the taxpayers roughly $120 per year to cover the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. It is a strange situation whereby we find ourselves subsidising our own demise. What kind of a system have we set up when the taxpayer subsidises our increase in greenhouse gas emissions? It seems to me that that is not really a user-pays system, and I think that both sides of this House need to change that.
In terms of public transport, we made a little bit of progress on that issue under this Government, and I acknowledge that. However, we are still spending six to seven times as much on roading as we do on public transport. We still have an enormously long way to go. I also acknowledge the billion dollars the Greens obtained for the green homes project, as part of our support for the emissions trading scheme. We made some progress there but we still have a long way to go. On the issue of oil prices we still have, sadly, a Government in denial. Oil prices will go up and down, but the long-term future can only be up. There is no choice. When it comes to food, I think one of the most extraordinary things is the bipartisan opposition to country-of-origin labelling of food because it is supposedly not a food safety issue. It seems incredible to me that anyone could argue now that having a label to tell us about the origin of food is not a food safety issue. That seems completely incredible.
Of course, one of the great concerns of everyone at the moment is the state of the economy. I would say that our economy is in danger. I would say it is in danger because of inaction to protect our environment. Our environmental performance will be one of the deciding factors in our economic performance now and into the future. Our primary production and tourism sectors are dependent on being clean and green. Being one of the worst greenhouse gas polluters per capita does not fit with being clean and green. Having most of our lowland rivers full of cow effluent does not fit with being clean and green, and having Crown research institutes producing genetically engineered llamas and goodness knows what else does not fit with being clean and green. Our markets will judge us on our environmental performance, and the only party that will protect the economic future of this country is the Green Party. We can live well and look after this beautiful planet we all share.
Tēna koe, Madam Speaker. Tēna tātou katoa. There is a whakatauakī that I want to share in our final kōrero of the forty-eighth Parliament: he mate tino tangata tēnā, e renga mai—when an important person dies, the place fills up. This Chamber is full to capacity with the presence of the lives of those who have touched us all. The forty-eighth Parliament opened with the tragic loss of Rod Donald and has ended with the sad news of the death of Brian Donnelly, a politician for whom I had huge regard, and we offer our sincere condolences to his whanau and to New Zealand First. Along the way the journey has been marked by many—too many to name—who have passed on, but they are always here in our hearts and thoughts. We think of Tumu Pūtaura and Boyd Mātene, and how our Parliament came together to mourn their passing. E ngā rangatira, e ngā hoa, haere atu rā ki ō awa tūpuna. Hoki wairua mai ki a mātou e whai atu ana i muri i a koutou.
[To the elite, to the colleagues, go forth to the landing places of your ancestors. Come back to us in spirit who are to follow you.]
The valedictory speeches that have been heard this week have enabled us all to appreciate the distinctive contributions of each of the retiring members. We in the Māori Party thank you for your dedicated commitment to doing good for this nation, and we wish you a much improved quality of life post 8 November.
From the stunning excitement of election night in 2005, right through the last 3 years, we four members of the Māori Party have loved the privilege of serving our constituency. From the elderly couple in Kawakawa who felt they were treated unfairly by Work and Income, to the families in run-down State houses in Porirua, we have had the honour of representing their issues, and we have endeavoured to do our best for them. For they are the reason that we are here: to defend Māori rights, to uphold Māori interests, and to do so because we know that it will benefit Aotearoa.
The Māori Party has been well served by time-honoured kaupapa, which have motivated our every move, watched over by the truly wise counsel of our president, Whataranga Winiata. These kaupapa have enabled us to support what I believe was one of the most positive initiatives that occurred through the life of this Parliament, and that was the introduction of a code of conduct, which was first recommended by Ross Robertson, an Assistant Speaker. Tēna koe, Ross. We enjoyed the opportunity to work collaboratively with members of the Greens, ACT, and United Future on that initiative, and also on the successful repealing of the archaic sedition legislation.
There have been many other opportunities for cross-parliamentary cooperation to be expressed. The commitment across party lines to “encourage courage” amongst our families and communities in treating our children as treasures was one of the most distinctive features of this Parliament. The legislation to outlaw the capacity of adults to use physical force against children established a bench mark that this Parliament should rightly be proud of, and I mihi to the Greens for that legislation. We acknowledge, however, that the devastating impact of violence in our communities has featured too frequently, too savagely, for one to sit nohopuku. We must be better in our progress as a nation to create and maintain violence-free homes and violence-free communities.
Parliament has endured many challenges over the last 3 years, but none as dramatic as what happened to a small rural community, Rūatoki, almost 1 year ago. The introduction of the Taser gun, the slaughter of police officers on the job, and unprecedented growth of the prison population are all areas that must continue to be monitored, if we value justice and the sense of a free and democratic society.
We noted with some irony yesterday that the most dramatic event in the last decade of political history, the theft—or was it the gifting—of the foreshore and seabed to the nation, was missing from members’ summaries of their proud achievements, perhaps out of shame. We must never forget that the world is watching. It watched our country vote against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It watched Hone speak out against the injustice in the Northern Territory. It is watching a Government that has voted against the Treaty of Waitangi in successive bills in this House.
But there have been some great moments in the life of the forty-eighth Parliament, and the Māori Party members were thrilled when our support of Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, and Hauraki meant that the Government was forced to back down over the Landcorp and Office of Treaty Settlements mismanagement of land. All parties have been enthusiastic at the sudden progress for iwi in concluding Treaty settlements, and we have been impressed at the new approach of rangatira to rangatira. I mihi first to Mark Burton for his outstanding contribution to Treaty settlements, and I want to say thank you to the Hon Dr Michael Cullen for his absolutely outstanding contribution to settling grievances. We are pleased that those iwi can move forward and progress.
We are proud that Te Ururoa Flavell was part of the team promoting simultaneous interpretation in the House, and that soon our official language will be truly practised as a living, breathing language of choice. We are pleased with the progress we have experienced through our contributions to the select committees. I can speak really highly of the leadership of Sue Kedgley, and we recognise the Health Committee for its support of the Treaty clause in the Public Health Bill. Te Ururoa Flavell’s pressure for an inquiry into Māori schooling resulted in an important set of recommendations for a future in which educational benefits can be enjoyed by all. Dr Pita Sharples has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Hon Dave Hereora and the other members of the Māori Affairs Committee. We all consider our work across Parliament to be a genuine source of satisfaction in a job well done. Of course there is still much to do. We must, as a nation, eliminate poverty. We must ensure every child and whānau has the opportunity to thrive.
The work that we do across this Parliament is so much easier because of the professional and unrelenting support of so many worker bees in the hive. From the dawn chorus of the security guards, the receptionists, the telephonists, the help desk team, the messengers, and the staff of Copperfields, through to the midnight toil in the Office of the Clerk, the Table Office, the librarians, the Hansard Office, the legal team, the cleaners, and all the other people who make this place hum, we are all extremely well served.
We are a united team in the Māori Party. Our devoted parliamentary staff, our loyal electorate kaimahi, and our ever-loving whānau enable us to get through every day. Ngā mihi aroha ki a koutou. Each and every one of the people who occupy our lives gives their all to enable us to be here, and we are humbled by the commitment that they have made to the Māori Party but also to Parliament.
We want to recognise the hard-working team in the press gallery above—the political journos, the oft-maligned watchdogs of the fourth estate. They constantly encourage us through their questioning, their commentary, blogs, and reports, to go either left or right. They have yet to realise that we are the Māori Party and we will go neither left nor right. We are a party that is determined to go forward in the best interests of our people, and that is the most important thing.
Once the microphones are switched off and the cameras are put away, we are all travellers on a journey that rarely has a day off, and we acknowledge the impact that that has on all of us.
Finally, the company we keep in this Chamber makes this place really special. We will never forget that every one of the representatives in this Parliament is worthy of our respect and our admiration for taking on the role of public office, and so we mihi to you all.
We have greatly appreciated the leadership of Madam Speaker and those who have also occupied her Chair: the Hon Marian Hobbs, the Hon Clem Simich, Ross Robertson, and Ann Hartley. You have presided over some intense debates, and you have always done so with integrity.
And just as Hone Harawira rose to let the first voice of the forty-eighth Parliament be that of te reo rangatira, let the last word be words that we all hope to live up to in every aspect of our lives: to have trust and openness and integrity. Nō reira, tēnā koutou.
I rise on behalf of United Future and in particular on behalf of the Hon Peter Dunne to speak in this adjournment debate. I begin by thanking all those who staff the precincts of Parliament for the wonderful support they give this House. The Hon Peter Dunne would like me to especially mention his ministerial staff from the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Health, Rachel Baxter, Margaret Denny, and Kevin Moar for the impressive support they have given him in fulfilling his roles here in Parliament.
In a small party, the staff we rely on are so incredibly invaluable that it is very hard to do credit to them, but I would like to mention their names because we are hugely grateful for 3 years’ support from them. I would like to mention Anne Small, Rob Eaddy, Ted Sheehan, Mary Binnie, Caron Hoare, Hayden Cox, and Luke Chappell, and our out-of-Parliament staff, Shirley Simcock, Sue Lock, Lori Fretwell, Joe Burton, Denise Krum, and Vicki Rogers for all the support they have given us with constituents. We are very grateful.
I also pay tribute to you, Madam Speaker, for the great leadership you have shown. It has been a great pleasure to be in this House for our first woman Speaker. I thank you for your friendship and for your guidance. I would also like to pay tribute to the Hon Clem Simich, the Hon Marian Hobbs, and those others who are retiring from Parliament at this time. I thank you for your friendship. It is also important that we pay our condolences to the family of Brian Donnelly—a person whom we hugely respected—and also give our condolences to our New Zealand First colleagues at this time.
This, for United Future, has been a successful parliamentary term, and we have delivered on all the policy gains negotiated in our confidence and supply agreement with the Labour-led Government. We have, for instance, lowered business tax—a $3.4 billion tax reform package that we hope will promote investment in New Zealand, create more jobs, and enhance New Zealand’s business competitiveness globally. I recognise the fact that this is the first business tax cut in nearly 20 years, and it is interesting to note that last time the business community got such a boost, the Minister of Revenue was at that time the Hon Peter Dunne.
Perhaps the issue I am the most proud of in terms of what we have gained in this parliamentary term is the huge boost we have been able to capture for charities. In the 2007 Budget we saw the removal of the cap on tax rebates for charitable donations. This has meant a huge boost to philanthropy in New Zealand, and it is something that I am hugely proud of. Also, I am very proud of the ongoing work that the Hon Peter Dunne has done around issues like payroll giving and the payment of honorariums to the staff of these wonderful community groups.
Better access to medicines is now available for New Zealand families, as a result of the National Medicines Strategy, which was part of the confidence and supply agreement with United Future. We have improved access to living allowances for tertiary students. We remain committed to a universal student living allowance, so we will continue, with others in this House, to chip away at that goal. But we are pleased to have delivered better outcomes for tertiary students in the short term.
We have also delivered a number of other small things that were not part of our confidence and supply agreement but have been quite delightful. In partnership with the Nelson City Council and Mark Holmes, it was United Future that was able to push forward and gain an extension to daylight saving by 3 weeks—something that we are all coming into and will enjoy at this time. I want to mention the Hon Peter Dunne for getting on to the Order Paper a bill to raise the driving age. We look forward to seeing that progressed. Even this week, as we complete this parliamentary term, United Future announced, as part of our confidence and supply agreement, the creation of a Wild Animal Control Advisory Committee and the ability to do better, both environmentally and recreationally, for the hunters and fishers in this country.
One of the other interesting things that has happened in this Parliament has been the progression and the evolving of MMP. I want to particularly honour others from MMP parties and thank them for the new collaboration that we have begun to experiment with. We have discovered that when we focus on what we agree on, there is much to be gained. We always accept our differences, and that is why we exist separately from each other, but the MMP parties have begun to discover and explore the new opportunities that MMP provides us with together, collectively. I think this is an area that is only going to grow over time, and we look forward to that ongoing relationship.
United Future is, we believe, a stable party in Government. We are under-rated, and possibly we will only ever be appreciated if we are not here. We believe that the people of New Zealand deserve the certainty of a permanent Government and regular elections. We are a dependable group of people and the public can trust that once we have signed the confidence and supply agreement with the Government we will stay true to our word, until the next election. We did it in 2002 and in 2005, and we will do it again in 2008.
Within United Future, we believe that where New Zealanders have voted, they have the right to expect that their votes are decisive and will last for the full term. It is not the case that we will work with any party. Our principle is that we will work with whatever party shares our goals and aspirations for New Zealand, and once we have agreed to work with a party, we do, and we do not back down or sidle away, even when it gets tough. That is hard work. We do not get attention for not being stroppy and shouting. We do knuckle down and work to make meaningful differences in the lives of everyday Kiwis, and everyday Kiwis can have confidence in the knowledge that, bit by bit, the job is being done. United Future makes that happen, and we are proud of the support that we have been able to offer this Government. It is not a glamorous job, but it is a good one. We look forward to this election period, and to making our case yet again to be a part of the make-up of this Parliament. We wish all our colleagues well.
On behalf of the ACT party I would like to join my parliamentary colleagues in thanking all those who work so hard to make our lives easier here at Parliament: the security staff, the messengers, the library, the Hansard staff, the Office of the Clerk, the select committee staff, the Parliamentary Service staff, and the travel office. Certainly our lives would not run nearly as smoothly without the contribution that they all make to Parliament.
Madam Speaker, I would also mention you and your team, and the contribution that you make to the smooth running of this House as well. Your job is not always easy, but you do it with respect to fellow MPs, with a great deal of tolerance, and usually with very good humour. I thank you for that. To those MPs who are retiring, we wish them the very best for their future.
On behalf of Rodney and myself, I also thank, with a great deal of sincerity, our own staff. To our parliamentary staff, Sandy, Sally, Chas, and Andrew, and also to our out-of-Parliament staff, Priscilla, Brian, Stuart, and Neil, we offer our very sincere thanks for the hard work and the support they have provided us with over the last 3 years.
The dissolving of Parliament means that we inevitably move into full-scale campaigning mode, and just in anticipation of that, I say it is my view that the election campaign should not be thought of as a sprint to the finish line. In reality, it is the beginning of a marathon, setting the pace for the long endurance event that is making our nation a much safer and a more prosperous place for all. A vision is obviously needed to achieve that, goals need to be established, and a plan needs to be put in place. I have stood on a lot of election stages already where candidate after candidate stands and says: “I cannot tell you what our policy is on this yet.” I am proud to belong to a party that has no shortage of policy, and we are happy to share that policy. Our policy is based on a vision of our country that can again foot it with the rest of world—and, in particular, with our neighbour and colleague Australia—by the year 2020.
The ACT party does not believe that anybody has a monopoly on good ideas. Good ideas should be put forward, they should be debated by all, and they should be shared around for the benefit of all our citizens. Here are the big issues as we see them for the election campaign.
Firstly, the economy is a big issue. In the face of what seems to be a global financial meltdown we will experience flow-on effects here in New Zealand, but given our large degree of self-determination, we should not use the global situation as an excuse to not make the tough decisions that need to be made in order to move our nation forward and to lay the groundwork for strong economic growth. The ACT party believes we should be striving for economic growth of 5 percent on top of what we currently have. We should be lifting our performance and growing the economic cake. We should be not constantly quibbling about how we will divide up the cake that currently exists but growing it, because that is what will make everyone better off, particularly those who are currently struggling. What is needed is an urgent focus on improving productivity, shrinking the size of government, and letting people keep more of what they earn.
Law and order too seems to be emerging as a huge election issue this campaign. The ACT party has always taken a strong stand on law and order, and our zero tolerance for crime policy—or the slogan at least—now seems to have been adopted by just about every party in this Parliament. We also want to see truth in sentencing, and our policy plank this election will be the three strikes and the maximum policy. These policies are ever more relevant today in a society that seems, sadly, to place much greater importance on the rights of criminals than on those of the victims.
Education is the greatest gift we can give to our children. Education empowers people and gives them the ability to move forward in life and to make the wise decisions that will help them strive and prosper, and we need to place a great deal of emphasis on this. School choice is the tool that will give parents the ability to give their children the greatest gift of all, the gift of education.
Climate change also seems to be a huge election issue. The world’s core temperature has always fluctuated and our scientists seem to have fallen into two camps. There seems to be no agreement on the impact that mankind is having. Although there is no doubt that we should all treat our plant with respect—it is our home, after all—we need to be realistic about the influence that New Zealand can have when we contribute just 0.02 percent of the total worldwide carbon emissions.
ACT is the only party that has opposed an emissions trading scheme from the time it was introduced into this Parliament and right through the process. It is costly, it is open to fraud and abuse—of which we have had any number of examples in Europe—and it will increase electricity and fuel costs for all. But, most important, it will increase costs for those people who are already struggling; those who are least able to afford those increased costs in their budgets now.
ACT believes in a carbon tax. We should have a carbon tax, if we are to do anything at all, because that would be a much fairer model as it provides the right incentives. It would see the polluters pay for the amount of pollution they produce, with the incentive inevitably being to reduce their carbon emissions so that they pay less tax. What we have now is a certain cost based on uncertain science.
As we enter into this election campaign and leave Parliament I would say just one thing to my parliamentary colleagues. I hope that as we get out and about on the hustings we can put aside personal grievances and things that have gone before us in this forty-eighth Parliament, that we will play the ball rather than the man, and that we will discuss the things that will inevitably move our country forward and we make the hard decisions that will do that. [Interruption] The ACT party—despite the jostling from the Government members over there, who will be on a different side of this Chamber after the election—will take that into account.
Just in finishing, I say that a party vote for National or the ACT party will bring about a change in Government after this election, but, more important, a constituency vote for a National Party candidate plus a party vote for the ACT party will bring about for New Zealanders and their children the change of Government that is so desperately needed. The ACT party looks forward to being back in Parliament—back in the 49th Parliament—after the election with increased numbers, so that we can move forward. Particularly we will bring in a taxpayer rights bill, to cap Government spending and limit the size of Government so that everybody can get about their business as they should be able to, and we will progress the Regulatory Responsibility Bill.
I wish my parliamentary colleagues the very best in the election campaign. We look forward to being back in the forty-ninth Parliament in ever increased numbers. I offer my thanks again to those who have helped us so willingly and have given their all in the past 3 years.
I too would like to begin by thanking various people, particularly my staff member, Rebekah Clement—I have just one staff member in Parliament—and also Bernie Ogilvie and Larry Baldock, who have worked tirelessly outside of Parliament as part of my very small team as an Independent MP. As an Independent MP I particularly want to give my thanks today as well to the Parliamentary Library. Believe me, when one is on his own, pretty much, that service is absolutely vital and it has been superb. Also I thank the Office of the Clerk, which on many occasions has given me advice and assistance as I have adjusted to life as an Independent MP.
I would like too to extend my very best wishes to the National and Labour MPs who are leaving Parliament today. I was not able to be here for all the valedictory speeches but I do wish those members all the very, very best as they leave here now to go on to whatever their future holds for them. I would also like to join others in marking, as I have privately, the death of Brian Donnelly—that was a real shock to all of us—and to convey my sincere condolences to his colleagues in the New Zealand First Party and, of course, to his family.
In particular I thank you, Madam Speaker, for the many, many ways you have assisted me, particularly since I have become an Independent MP. I also thank you for the way you have carried out so professionally, so well, and so impartially your great responsibility as the Speaker of this Parliament. As we have gone into this Parliament the level of noise has increased pretty steadily, and you have done a superb job in keeping us on track when we went down many blind alleys at various times. I also thank your supporting team of Clem Simich, Ross Robertson, and Marian Hobbs. I say thank you very much to them for all of that. I also wish you, Madam Speaker, the very, very best in your future.
Today, of course, marks the end of the forty-eighth Parliament, and I guess the official beginning of—we can go from de facto to “in facto”, as it were—election campaign 2008. History may well identify the passage of the Act criminalising good parents who correct their children as the beginning of the end for the Helen Clark - led Government. That bill was passed—that Act enforced—against the wishes of 80 percent of the people of New Zealand. Editorial after editorial has been written along those lines, saying that that was the critical point in the life of Helen Clark’s Government.
Indeed, I remind the House that directly after the 2005 election, the Prime Minister said: “We almost lost the election because of social engineering, and there will be no more in the next 3 years.” But when a member’s bill in the name of Sue Bradford came along, the Government could not help itself. She could not help putting aside electoral logic and every other thing and getting really involved in that. One has only to listen to talkback radio right through this country to find out how many people those actions have upset and how that will result in seeing a very, very different outcome in terms of Government following this year’s election. I have no doubt that we will see a change of Government.
Can members imagine the effort that was required to collect 390,000 signatures to force a referendum on this matter? MPs who have been involved from time to time in collecting signatures for a petition feel they have done well if they get 6,000 or 7,000 signatures. Even on issues like the abolition of the Privy Council, as I recall, after a huge, well-financed, and well-organised campaign, 70,000 signatures were collected on that issue. Members can just imagine the effort that has gone in by so many people to force a referendum on the anti-smacking legislation. It has been a tremendous effort. But because Parliament has chosen to criminalise good parents, New Zealanders have flocked to the tables from Whanagrei to Invercargill and from Greymouth to Gisborne in huge numbers.
They came from every strata of society, from Māori and from Pākehā, and from every ethnic community in this country. They are Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, and, of course in New Zealand today, many, many deeply committed secularists. But they are all very, very passionate about the fact that they wanted that bill to be overturned. They are schoolteachers—schoolteachers signed that petition in huge numbers. They are police officers, including those in uniforms. They are High Court judges. They were thousands and thousands of blue-collar workers. They were the elderly and the young. In fact, in my office I have a whole stack of petition forms that are signed by people under 18, which could not actually be presented to Parliament. Believe you me, people young and old in this country believe that we have made a very, very serious mistake indeed.
But first and foremost, all of the people who signed that petition are parents or intend to become parents. They are people who love their children deeply, and deeply resent the intrusion of the police and of Child, Youth and Family into their families and into that unique and wonderful bond between good parents and their children. They are upset that a relatively small group of New Zealanders have decided that they have the wisdom and the right to impose their views on this issue on the rest of New Zealanders.
Heartland New Zealand sees the law as a black mark against the Labour Government that will not go away. Members simply increase those people’s sense of alienation when they tell them to “get over it” and refuse to allow the referendum that they demand as part of this year’s elections. What a wimpish action! What an excuse for democracy it was! The Government knew that 80 percent of the people of this country do not agree with that law, yet it has simply been put off from the election date until a postal ballot next year.
I do not know what the thousands of New Zealanders say to members of the National Party on this issue, but I can tell members that in hundreds of conversations with me, people from all sections of society have asked me what National was thinking. It had Helen Clark on the ropes when it suddenly threw in the towel, sat down in the middle of the ring, and said that it is OK to criminalise good parents. National has not seen the end of this matter. I say to National members that parents do not buy it. If National becomes the Government, they will have to deal with this issue.
That is pretty much it from me, but I would like to wish everybody a good election campaign. Like others, I encourage members to put aside the spin. So often in this place, when one is surrounded by spin doctors and the members of the press gallery and so forth, it is very, very easy to lose contact with the voices of New Zealanders, what is actually real in their lives, what they are actually thinking, and what they are actually saying. If nothing else, the petition has given me a wonderful insight: I certainly spoke to more people in this country in the last 18 months than I did in the first 5 or more years of my parliamentary career. It is very, very good to listen to the wisdom of those people and the love that they have for this country. They are saying to us that we need to put aside all that spin, and we need to put aside the personal denigration and actually get real with the issues that confront and concern ordinary mums and dads, ordinary Kiwis, and ordinary young people in this nation. I believe it is time for us to begin to listen to them, and to take on board their wisdom rather than imposing on them what we think is right for them. Let us seek to give them a voice—a voice in this Parliament—for they certainly deserve no less.
I wish all members a good campaign. I tell them to enjoy it. Hopefully I will see them again later this year.
At about this time 3 years ago, after the 2005 election, Dr Cullen and Helen Clark were plotting how to break the tax cut promise they had made in the 2005 election. About 2 months after that election they started the slow, slippery process that they know so well of backing out of a promise to give New Zealanders back some of the massive surpluses the Government had accumulated. The reason why they set out to break that promise was the officials had told them that their spending promises were so large that they had to abandon their tax cuts in order to finance them.
We wind ahead to 2008. Like an alcoholic who cannot go into a bar without getting off his face, Dr Cullen has had to legislate against himself. He has had to pass legislation for tax cuts on 1 October, just in case he breaks that promise. Well, he still can, actually. The next round of Labour’s tax cuts is not due until 2010. I ask this question: if Labour broke its promise to deliver on tax cuts in 2006, when it had record surpluses, what will the self-styled fiscal conservative, Dr Cullen, do after the 2008 election, if he is re-elected, when he faces record deficits? He has started the slippery process already. If this election is about trust, then Labour cannot be trusted on tax cuts. In fact, one reason that New Zealanders have learnt they cannot trust Labour on tax cuts is that they have found out that they cannot trust Labour on anything.
I want to reflect on the forty-eighth Parliament, which is coming at last, and with great relief, to its bitter end. As my colleague John Key said, it started with the pledge card scandal. It started with Helen Clark telling the public that Labour had the right to steal $800,000 of public money for its own election campaign. It started with the Labour Party promising one of our public bodies that it would count that money as election expenses, but the day after the election Labour officials said that, no, they withdraw that undertaking.
Well, they have made undertakings now. Who believes them? Labour, of course, is going to break the law over this election, because it was the first party caught breaking its own electoral law, the Electoral Finance Act. As we know, all the parties that voted for that law have broken it, and three of them are under police investigation for breaking that law. But that is not unusual. No Prime Minister in New Zealand’s history has been interviewed by the police as often as Helen Elizabeth Clark has. But the pledge card—
Well, that is a fact—that is a fact.
We are talking about people who are meant to be the world’s most competent political managers. Let us read out the roll call of scandal, mismanagement, prevarication, obfuscation, and bullying. There was the pledge card scandal, and the Phillip Field scandal. Where has he ended up? He is in court on criminal charges. There was the Madeleine Setchell scandal. A chief executive and a Minister lost their jobs, as well as two well-intentioned civil servants, because the Prime Minister’s office had tried to take over the Ministry for the Environment and turn it into a propaganda arm of the Labour Party.
Then there was the whole scandal around the Electoral Finance Act, to which I have already referred. It was a blatant, partisan attempt to screw the scrum. It breached every convention of decency that this Parliament has followed, including the convention that the rules around elections should have broad support in Parliament. Labour sacrificed that convention for a highly partisan attempt to silence its critics and legalise its own illegal acts.
Then there was the Owen Glenn saga. We know the reason that Helen Clark did not sack Winston Peters over the donation from Owen Glenn: because the Labour Party had helped to arrange the donation, as part of its coalition negotiations. Helen Clark could not sack him for taking the money, because she had sanctioned his taking it. She could not sack him for keeping that secret, because she had known about it, and she had kept it secret. And she could not sack him for misleading the public, because she had misled the public. It has become quite clear that Labour does have a plan to win the election: Winston Peters. The plan is Winston Peters. Of course, the public are absolutely puzzled as to why Helen Clark cannot deal with Winston Peters, when John Key has made a principled and brave decision to say that the standards of his Government will not be so low that he can negotiate with someone who is under investigation by the police, who is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, and who has been censured by Parliament.
Of course, as members go through that roll call of scandals they should think about the common factor: Helen Clark misleading the public with her finely crafted, calculated mistruths, in every single case. And if Labour thinks it has such fantastic political managers, why did the pledge card scandal, the Phillip Field scandal, the Madeleine Setchell scandal, the Owen Glenn scandal, and the Electoral Finance Act scandal go on for months and months?
It is time to sweep the dry rot out of the Beehive. Why do I say “dry rot”? I have learnt something in the forty-eighth Parliament: one of the things that have kept up standards of decency and probity in New Zealand Government is a pretty basic instinct of every human being—that is, shame. Most of us, if we get caught not telling the full facts, if we make a mistake, have enough integrity to feel some regret. We have enough integrity to feel some regret. The Labour Party and Helen Clark do not. There is now nothing that this Government will not do to stay in power. There is no standard too low, no lie too bold, and no bullying too shameful that its members will not engage in, in order to stay in power. That is the ugly truth that the public now know—the ugly truth that they now know. The Labour Party has a dangerous—[Interruption] Labour members should listen to this; this is what they will hear on the doorsteps. The Labour Party has a dangerous and ferocious sense of entitlement to power and public money. Well, the public money is running out; there will not be much in the next 3 or 4 years, largely because of Dr Cullen’s mismanagement. And the power is running out, because New Zealanders think this country is bigger, greater, and more important than Helen Clark and the Labour Party.
We have things we want this country to be able to do, and so do 4 million New Zealanders. We do not get out of bed in the morning to make the Labour Party members feel as though they are in charge, and that is why the country will sweep the dry rot out of the Beehive.
As the 2008 parliamentary term comes to a close, we also, as members have noted, come to the end of the forty-eighth Parliament. In the traditional way I wish to formally pay tribute to all the people who contribute to the efficient functioning of this House.
First, I must acknowledge the support of my colleague and Deputy Speaker, Clem Simich, who, like myself, is retiring at the end of this term. He has given commendable service to this House. I also thank Assistant Speaker Ross Robertson for his considerable contribution. I also thank the Hon Marian Hobbs, who filled the role of Assistant Speaker earlier this year with her own refreshing style. I also acknowledge the tireless and frequently unacknowledged work of Parliament’s kaumātua and kuia, John and Rose; thank you.
Parliament could not function, of course, as many members have noted, without the tireless work of the Clerk’s Office, whose professionalism is a credit to the leadership of the Clerk, Mary Harris, and her senior team, who oversee servicing at the Table of the House, compiling Hansard records, processing legislation, questions and petitions, and serving on select committees. In this context it is important to acknowledge the work of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, David Noble, and his team, who deliver a high quality of service to this Parliament.
Although the Chamber is the focus of parliamentary activities, the activities of the House are also supported by the staff of the Parliamentary Service. It has been another year of much change for that service, and I want to record my thanks for the work of Geoff Thorn, the general manager, who leads the team in constantly striving to provide services to members in the House. The team is a large one from inside and outside Parliament, and it includes members’ support staff, including executive assistants; support staff of the various parliamentary parties; the staff of the Parliamentary Library—and I am pleased that some members have acknowledged their great contribution—research units; and the Chamber and gallery officers.
I give a special thank you to the interpreters. Soon, we hope, we will have simultaneous interpretation in the House. I also thank the security staff, buildings services staff, telephonists, travel office staff, and the reception and visitor services staff. I think special thanks must also go to Bellamy’s staff, who, often in difficult circumstances, work to ensure members and their staff are well fuelled for their jobs.
My thanks go to the Serjeant-at-Arms, Brent Smith, and all those who work with him to uphold the traditions and propriety of the Chamber and to welcome visitors to the parliamentary galleries. They are an essential part of the running of Parliament, and events such as the highly successful open day at Parliament in October are a testimony to that. Others who work hard to ensure guests and visitors to the parliamentary complex have an enjoyable time include Beverley Cathcart and Michelle Janse, and I give special thanks to them.
I also thank the Leader of the House, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, and the Opposition Leader of the House, Gerry Brownlee. Leaders of all the parties in the House, their deputies, and the party whips and their deputies have all contributed to the smooth operation of the business of Parliament. From this position I am well aware that the life of a whip is not an easy one, so I give extra special thanks to all who have taken on that responsibility. I also acknowledge the work of all members of Parliament who, despite enormous workloads, continue to serve this House well. I give a final and special personal thanks to my own staff: Roland, Pam, the two Roses, and Nina. It would be impossible to do the job without them.
Although people can now see how hard we all work through the televising of proceedings, I would like to reinforce that impression with a few statistics, which is also traditional. Here are the statistics for the 2005-08 session, as at 24 September. We have had 246 sitting days and 258 calendar days, and members can explain that difference to people who want to know. Sitting hours have totalled 1,486 hours and 51 minutes. Moving to bills passed, there have been 329 Government bills, three members’ bills, eight local bills, and eight private bills. There have been 52,324 written questions and 2,844 oral questions asked, excluding supplementary questions. There were 313 select committee meetings, 883 hours and 18 minutes of meetings—those figures exclude September—and 242 select committee reports were generated. I know, from the look of members, that it feels like it.
I know that members are all anxious to leave and commence the democratic cycle of electioneering, so I will not delay them any longer. As this is my last appearance in the role of Speaker, may I thank all who have supported me in what may be described as perhaps the most difficult refereeing role in the country. Kia ora.