I move, That this House do now adjourn until 25 October 2011. For the benefit of members, I will just explain the date in the motion. The dissolution of the Parliament will occur at 11 a.m. on 20 October, so this motion incorporates the notional date of 25 October, making it clear that the House will not meet again prior to the election. An adjournment motion cannot bring a session of Parliament to an end; a session can be terminated only by the Governor-General, and this will be done by proclamation on 20 October.
Mr Speaker, as we wind towards the end of the year, on behalf of National, I acknowledge you, and your valiant attempt to make this a place of facts, with more facts and less politics. I guess that history will judge as to how sustainable that has to be, knowing your persistence and focus; you are one of the few people who could have sustained it as long as you have.
I take this opportunity also to acknowledge the parliamentary staff and Beehive staff. The incident in the House yesterday highlighted that there are a lot of people around here who do not look as if they are needed, until they are needed. Then they are really needed. I thank them, particularly the security staff. I thank the parliamentary staff for the way they handled that incident. Also I acknowledge, at the end of this parliamentary term, their professionalism and helpfulness in the transition to a new Government. It is a huge job, and our ability to get up and running as a Government was in no small part due to the staff of Parliament and the Beehive, and their neutrality and commitment to ensuring that whoever is the Government is offered as much support as possible.
I also take the opportunity to thank our own staff of the National Party caucus and Cabinet. I hope they have enjoyed, as much as I have, the opportunity to work in a very well-led, high-functioning team of people with a strong, common sense of purpose and impressive unity through some reasonably testing times. In that context, on behalf of my caucus I acknowledge colleagues of ours who have departed and are departing. I refer to Pansy Wong and Richard Worth, who both left during the term, and also to Sandra Goudie for her passionate advocacy. She showed that one can disagree with someone strongly but in good humour. I thank Georgina te Heuheu for her calm and deep wisdom, particularly in the late 1990s when she first came into Parliament and played a critical role for the then National - New Zealand First coalition. To Wayne Mapp, in many respects he is very much underestimated. He started a revolution in our defence forces, without anyone really noticing. To my good friend and colleague Simon Power, it is a pleasure to see you once again striding across the parliamentary carpet. You have proven yourself to be an outstanding legislator and probably the best in a long time. I thank you for your personal encouragement. I think in this year we should acknowledge also Allan Peachey, who announced yesterday his departure from the Parliament. It is not the best of circumstances in which to do that. He is a man from whom one learns the value of strong and unerring conviction. I think the mention of these colleagues indicates there is no one who comes into this Parliament or to a caucus from whom we cannot learn, in the early stage of our career or later on.
There is another group of New Zealanders whom I think we must acknowledge today, and they are the people of Christchurch. They have had to put up with the most dreadful of circumstances. On any given day, of course, what is going on in Christchurch now is not spectacular, except the days when there are large shakes, but day after day after day they have to put up with the grinding discomforts and uncertainties of a city whose way of life has been fundamentally affected by the earthquake. The uncertainties are in terms of not knowing what will happen for their families, for their workplaces, and for their homes. We acknowledge the resilience that they have shown.
I also want to take the opportunity to acknowledge those parts of the Public Service that have been involved with the earthquake. I mean the Public Service in the broadest of definitions—not only the emergency services, which have been involved in the major events, but also the policy and technical people. We have seen a willingness, a professionalism, and a work ethic from those public servants that has enabled the Government to deal with very complex issues that we have not had to deal with before. Some of those people, I know, have worked extremely hard all of this year, day after day, through weekends, month after month. In that context I acknowledge the person who has shown them the leadership to do that, and that is our colleague the Hon Gerry Brownlee. I think it was quite telling that despite the inevitable criticism of someone who takes the assertive approach that Gerry takes at times, the people of Christchurch believe that the Government has done a pretty good job of managing a difficult situation, and certainly there is no doubt when working with Gerry that the common good of that community is what drives the relentless energy that he has focused on these difficult problems.
That resilience that we have seen from the Christchurch people and those who have gathered around the recovery of Christchurch I think is simply a more intense version of the resilience we have seen from New Zealanders. It is reflected in the wider community. I acknowledge today, on behalf of the Government, the way that our families, our businesses, and our organisations have adapted to a difficult set of economic circumstances with a resolute will, a healthy pragmatism, and a positive view of the future. That is not to say they found things easy, but I think that those who have been around politics for a while might want to reflect on the fact that we have had less complaining from New Zealanders in these circumstances than I can recall at almost any time, and certainly less than in any previous recession.
In some ways we are reaping the benefits of having been an open economy for 25 years. People are less inclined now to wait for the Government to solve their problems and more inclined to roll up their sleeves. That is in no small part due to the leadership provided by John Key as Prime Minister of New Zealand in tough times. He is the most relentlessly positive person whom I have ever worked with. He sometimes needs that positivity calmed down a bit, but the people of New Zealand have responded very well to a leadership for the times. He has made pragmatic and balanced judgments in economic and social policy that have been reflected in the Government’s policy through this term. He has a willingness to get on and make the decisions that need to be made. I think the progress the Government has made in social policy areas has been less remarked on but will turn out to be as important as its economic policy.
As we head into one of the more peculiar election periods we have had, because of the Rugby World Cup, we wish the All Blacks well. We know they will show the same resilience in the face of adversity as the rest of New Zealand has. The election period will be a contest between looking forward and looking back—I do not think there is much doubt about that. It will be between a National Government that is looking ahead to a better New Zealand, a brighter future driven by the aspiration that New Zealanders have shown, and a Labour Party still looking back with nostalgia to its time in Government. Its billboards are a bit unusual; they cannot even say “Vote Labour”. They cannot even say “Vote Labour”. They cannot put their leader on them. It will be a contest between a National Party with not just a belief in itself but a belief in New Zealand, and a Labour Party that has lost any self-belief, and, in my view, for very good reason.
Today I am taking the Leader of the Opposition’s traditional call in this debate because he has joined the Prime Minister at the funeral of Lance Corporal Leon Smith. I know that people in this House will be feeling for his family today.
Too often as members of Parliament we get to this time of the year and we have a lot to say. We often leave the thankyous to last and we try to cram them in with a minute to go, and we forget a lot of people. So I will start with the people we want to thank: our staff and the staff in this building. I start with a thankyou to you, Mr Speaker, and to your staff, particularly Beryl and Roland. I think you have served us well in the last 3 years. But I have not always agreed with you, Mr Speaker, and, funnily enough, you have not always agreed with me. But I have figured out who has won the argument over the last 3 years. I wish you and Alexandra well over the months ahead.
I thank the Clerk’s Office, the Hansard reporters, the library staff, and especially our wonderful messengers—you are always cheerful, you are helpful, you are friendly, and you even play along with the little game I play every day when I ask for a drop of gin to be put into my glass. I do not drink and that is yet to happen, so, Mr Speaker, do not worry.
I also thank the Bellamy’s staff. I particularly thank the education officers in this Parliament, who are so wonderful at giving young people who come here an amazing experience, learning about how this place works and the history of it. Today I remember Pat Siemonek, one of the education officers, who passed away in the last few weeks. I also acknowledge our security staff. They serve us well, and they are very well-liked. Today I also remember Peter Stevenson, who passed away just a few weeks ago, who served in this House for over 17 years.
I acknowledge the brave security officer who yesterday helped to prevent what could have been a tragedy. He was not only injured himself but he stopped the person who was attempting to jump from being injured and probably saved several of my colleagues from injury, who were unaware of what was happening above them. I visited him last night at the emergency department—and I will have a chat to Tony Ryall a little later about how it is working! But I have to say that he was still as cheerful as ever.
I thank our research unit, our policy unit, our media unit in the leader’s office, and particularly my own staff, Emma and Lloyd. Finally, I thank the cleaners, who come in here at midnight to clean up after us, earning about $13 an hour.
It seemed to me that that was a really good place to start in summing up the 3 years of a National Government—to give it a score card on how it has done over the last 3 years, to see if it has met its national standards. I have measured it by three main measures: are we better off; are there more jobs; and does it have a plan to manage the economy? [Interruption] Excellent—oh, I am so pleased those members opposite are excited by this report card! I will take them back just 3 years to what was promised to New Zealand at that time. We were told there would be a brighter future. We are still told there will be an even brighter future—it is on the never-never. We were told they were going to do everything and give everything that Labour did and more, but, wait, particularly for the people in “Struggle Street”. You know, the people who were in McGehan Close, where the Prime Minister—then the Leader of the Opposition—went down, took the hand of little Aroha, went in front of the television cameras, and said: “These are the people who are going to be better off when we become the Government.”
Well, I have to tell members opposite, who got a bit excited, that they have not achieved the national standard on this. I can tell them why: the minimum wage this year went up by 25c an hour, while the Prime Minister gained himself $1,000 a week more. In fact, the median wage in this past year has had the smallest increase in 11 years—well behind an inflation rate of 5.3 percent. But Mr Key said we cannot increase the minimum wage because we will lose jobs. Well I have to say that there is absolutely no evidence for that, and that he is totally out of touch with what is happening out there. He is hurting the very people he said that he would help. He said: “I can’t interfere in the cleaners’ wages, but I can interfere on what time Coronation Street will be on television.” He is a big man for Coronation Street, but not for cleaners’ wages.
I have to say to Bill English, whom I have listened to week after week say that everybody is better off, that the people of New Zealand do not believe that. It does not matter how much he says it; it does not make it true. Prices are outstripping wages, people are working harder than ever, and they are not getting ahead. We need only to look at the Otago University study that recently said that it cost an Auckland family, mum and dad and two teenage kids, about $300 a week for their basic food bill. The median wage for them is $529 a week. That does not leave much, does it? It does not leave much for rent, power, clothes, petrol, and so on.
What about the tax cuts that were going to make it all better? We were all going to feel better off. Well, those who were given tax cuts already had the most. In 3 years of a National Government we have seen the widening of the gap between those who are rich and those who are poor. The 150 wealthiest New Zealanders have $7 billion in their wealth, although the minimum wage has been reduced in real terms by $16.80 a week. What has that led to? Members should go and visit the food banks and the Salvation Army. They should go around New Zealand and talk to real people, and they will see what has happened to many of them.
Do we have more jobs? Let us go over that. In 2010 we were promised 170,000 more jobs. We were promised 170,000 more jobs in 2010, and that was after the global financial crisis was over—but we got fewer jobs. Then we were promised 170,000 new jobs in 2011, and that was after the global financial crisis was over—and we got fewer jobs than we had before. In 1 month—the last month—we have lost 800 jobs from places like the Department of Conservation, Tangiwai Mill, Canterbury Leather, Housing New Zealand Corporation, The Warehouse, the wood-processing industry, and Alliance Group meatworks. It reminded me of a headline I saw in the New Zealand Herald in January 1993, which said: “Welcome to benefitville, coming to your town soon.” I have to tell members, it is happening again. There are marginalised communities, industries in retreat, lost jobs, and lost wages. All the while, the number of people on the main benefits has gone up by 21.8 percent in the 3 years under this National Government. This is the brighter future that was promised.
What about the economy and the plan? I would leave it up to the rating agencies to give the Government the rating on that. There have been two downgrades, the first in 13 years. I think Bill English was there the last time. That is how much they think of him. We were told it was very important that we did not have a downgrade. We were told that in 2009, and in 2011 National said it would be disastrous, but now that it has happened it does not really matter and we are going to muddle our way through. National members have blamed it on everything and everybody—the global financial crisis, the weather, the earthquakes, the bureaucrats, and the beneficiaries. They never look at themselves in the mirror. I say to National that every one of the statistics we have now is under its watch. It is time it took some responsibility for what is happening out there and for what are the results of the policies that National put in place.
This Government has borrowed $37 billion, for no growth. We have 56,000 more unemployed, and National is too timid to tackle the real policies this country needs. National is too timid to put in place what we need in this country. I can tell members that this Labour Party is not timid. We will be out there at this election, giving people a forward plan that is a plan and not some sort of made-up, pulled together, mishmash of policies that are taking this country nowhere.
I rise to speak on behalf of the Green Party. I started 2011 by saying that I was looking forward to this election year as an opportunity to put the Green Party’s positive vision for Aotearoa before the nation. Throughout 2011, in good times and in bad, the Green Party has sought to move beyond the blame game and to present positive solutions and alternatives to the difficult issues our country faces.
New Zealand is a great country. We in the Greens love it, and we want to make it even better. I want a fair future where care workers on night shifts get paid the legal minimum wage for doing the important work of looking after our disabled, sick, and elderly. I am glad this Parliament has resolved this issue this afternoon. I want a future where all our children can enjoy our country and swim in our rivers because they are clean and free of pollution. I want a future where we live in warm, insulated houses that use 100 percent renewable energy and are built by Kiwis who have ridden the wave of the clean, green economy. We will deliver this future by doing things differently and by making the transition to the clean, green, smart Green economy. This is what New Zealanders deserve, and that is what the Greens will deliver.
The recent double downgrade by Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings is actually a vote of no confidence in the Government’s management of the economy. In this term of Parliament the Government has unfortunately made some poor economic decisions, and the credit downgrade has been part of the result. The Minister of Finance has done a good job in many respects, but there are many decisions that we have not agreed with in terms of economic management.
More important, aside from dealing with the economic challenges of today, we believe that the Government has not delivered a plan that seizes the economic opportunities of tomorrow, particularly in the space of the smart Green economy. The Greens have produced such a plan, and we look forward to the election campaign and to debating it. Our pragmatic economic strategy would transition the New Zealand economy to maximise our biggest natural advantage: our clean, green reputation and expertise.
We will ramp up the Heat Smart home insulation programme, ensuring that it is rolled out to a further 200,000 homes over the next 3 years, employing 4,000 people. We will retain State ownership of our State-owned enterprises while creating the right incentives for them to partner with cleantech entrepreneurs in the private sector—that is the kind of partnership we want—and develop renewable energy solutions we can patent and export abroad.
Renewable energy is actually one of New Zealand’s most promising export potentials. With the right incentives in place, we can be a player in the global market in renewable energy solutions, creating thousands of good, green jobs and significant export income. Through a mix of Government procurement policies, tax incentives, start-up funding, and a billion-dollar boost to research and development, we will support small to medium sized enterprises to step up and drive new job creation in the cleantech sector. That is what we are looking forward to. This is a realistic and achievable plan, and it is about our country’s future.
Our rivers and lakes are part of what makes New Zealand such a great place to be. Healthy rivers are also essential to our economy, but our rivers and lakes are under threat and we have not really seriously started the process of cleaning them up. Half of our monitored lakes and rivers are unsafe for swimming in and about one-third of our lakes are unhealthy. Two-thirds of our freshwater fish are at risk of, or threatened with, extinction, which is a terrible legacy to pass on to our children. It is not something that the Green Party is willing to pass on to the next generation.
We will implement robust standards for clean water that set limits to the amount of water that can be taken from rivers and lakes and to the pollution going into them. This will include a minimum standard for intensive agricultural practice. Perhaps one of the most difficult problems our country faces, in terms of an environmental issue, is diffuse pollution. The Green Party is one of the few parties that has the courage to grasp that particular nettle. We will also use price signals to incentivise the efficient use of water by putting a fair price on its commercial use. That is another thing that this Parliament has not grasped. The revenue raised from such a price can be used to begin the clean-up project. This is a plan that is good for our economy and for our environment.
The first victims of an unequal society and an unfair economy are children: 270,000 children live in poverty in New Zealand—that is one in four Kiwi kids. International research puts the cost of not acting to address child poverty at around 3 percent of GDP per year, and that is something that we have not got on top of in this Parliament. Bringing kids out of poverty is a priority for the Greens, and it makes economic sense as well as humanitarian sense. We would make Working for Families work for every low-income family. We would incorporate what is now called the in-work tax credit into the family tax credit, and extend it to our poorest households—those who are on benefits. That would give an extra $60 a week to some of the poorest families in New Zealand. We would also provide better support to sole parents and beneficiaries. Instead of pushing away the ladder of opportunity, as we have seen in this term of Parliament, the Green Party would make sure that there is a ladder of opportunity so that people can get an education.
We would make sure our rental properties are warm and healthy for kids, because 375,000 kids live in cold, damp houses and that is not good enough. It makes them sick. We would create insulation standards for rental properties to ensure that there are warm, healthy homes for thousands of children, so they do not get sick from living in cold houses.
We would also raise the minimum wage. It is almost impossible to make ends meet on the minimum wage. It has been tragic that this term of Parliament has not seen a big increase in the minimum wage. It needs to go up to $15 an hour immediately, to help working parents provide the basics for their children. If we do not provide the basics for the next generation, we can hardly expect them to support us.
Everything I have talked about today will not happen, however, if MMP is not retained in the upcoming referendum. MMP has delivered genuine change and has made a real difference. One-third of our MPs are now women, there are more Māori in Parliament, and our democracy is now more representative of the people of New Zealand. MMP has delivered some good ideas, like Kiwibank, paid parental leave, and the home insulation scheme, which is on track to make 180,000 homes warm, dry, and healthy. In this election MMP is especially important. Smaller parties can act as an important constraint on unpopular policies, such as the sale of State assets. I am looking forward to voting to keep MMP.
I am proud of what the Greens have achieved this parliamentary term—working both with and against the Government. We have stopped the mining in national parks, working alongside the broader Green movement. We have pressured the Government to set up the office of Disability Rights Commissioner and the High Hazards Unit for mining. We took on the other political parties to make public MPs’ expenses and perks, and we won that battle.
We have also found some common ground with the Government this term and have worked with it on the formal memorandum of understanding between the Green Party and the National Government. Our biggest achievement together is the home insulation scheme. We have made more than 100,000 homes warm and dry through better insulation and more efficient heating, creating 2,000 jobs in the process. We have also secured funding to clean up the Tūī Mine and to trial pest control, and we have worked with the Government on the New Zealand Cycle Trail, which is a great initiative. We have also broken the 20-year deadlock on natural health products regulation and developed legislation that was passed unanimously at its first reading. We acknowledge working with the Government on those particular projects, which we think are great projects.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for your role in this parliamentary term. From the Green Party’s point of view, your intervention in question time has been great and we think it has made a real difference to improving our democracy. We thank all of the staff of Parliament. I will not go through and list everyone, but we could not do our jobs without all of the staff in Parliament. I also acknowledge the retiring Green MPs, Sue Kedgley and Keith Locke, who have made a huge contribution over a number of parliamentary terms.
For a decade now the Greens have shown that we can make change as an independent party in Parliament. The next Parliament, we hope, will be an opportunity for more Green change. Our vision is for a New Zealand that is richer in things that matter: strong communities, a beautiful environment, and a clean, green economy that works for everyone. I believe that New Zealand can be this country, and that we can lead the change to a better world. We are looking forward to making that happen.
It was a proud day in November 2008 when ACT not only returned to Parliament with an increased number of five MPs but also for the first time entered into a confidence and supply agreement with National. That agreement changed the Government, and if it had not been for the people of Epsom and those who gave their party vote to ACT, we may well still have a Labour Government.
Since then, ACT has played a vital role in supporting National in all of the policy initiatives that it campaigned on at the last election. However, we have held the Government to account when we have needed to. To see this, one only has to look at the events of the last week. The Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill and the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Bill have been passed in a significantly different form from the way they were initially promoted to the ACT Party. For these reasons alone the ACT Party not only deserves to be represented but also must be represented in Parliament in even greater numbers.
It was very pleasing, then, to see in the New Zealand Herald this morning the editorial that acknowledged the vital role that ACT has played in this Parliament. ACT, however, is perhaps better known as campaigning for a stronger economy and a more prosperous New Zealand. We believe that the income gap between New Zealand and Australia can be closed, and that there is much that this Government could do to achieve that. Sadly, National has lacked the courage to implement the recommendations of the 2025 Taskforce, chaired by the now ACT leader, Don Brash. The results of that are seen in the ever-growing public debt and the double credit downgrade we have experienced this week.
National has been good at misrepresenting ACT’s position as wanting to slash public spending, but the truth is that there was a massive blowout in public spending over the last 4 years of the Labour Government. If the expenditure had been held just to 2005 levels as a percentage of GDP, New Zealand would have had considerably less debt, our exporters would have been more competitive, our current account more balanced, and our incomes higher. Despite this, ACT has achieved much in Government. We forced labour market reform so that the 90-day trial period is now extended to all employers, so that young and high-risk entrants have even greater employment opportunities. It remains a scandal, however, that National was not prepared to reverse Labour’s abolition of youth rates, which it opposed so strongly in Opposition. Both National and Labour have directly contributed to the unemployment of many thousands of young New Zealanders, and we think that is a disgrace, particularly when there are MPs in this House who should know better. We have also negotiated with National to open the ACC workplace account to competition, and we have established the Productivity Commission. ACT’s Regulatory Standards Bill and the Spending Cap (People’s Veto) Bill are now at a select committee and will, if passed into law, revolutionise financial governance in New Zealand.
I pay tribute to Rodney Hide, who has served in this Parliament and served the people of New Zealand for 15 years. He is a formidable debater with a great political instinct and has an excellent knowledge of public policy. In winning Epsom in 2005, Rodney achieved one of the biggest political upsets in our generation, and he and his staff have continued to serve the people of Epsom unstintingly for the last 6 years. Over that time it has become folklore that National conceded that seat to ACT. Nothing could be further from the truth. ACT took that seat from National, and I was proudly one of over 200 volunteers who took part in that campaign. Rodney took David Garrett, me, and, later, Hilary Calvert under his wing when we first arrived in Parliament, in order to teach us parliamentary process and the art of a good question. That contribution continued right up until last week, when Rodney argued strongly in caucus that the video surveillance bill should be referred to a select committee. The benefits of that wisdom were obvious from the debate in Parliament this afternoon.
I also acknowledge my colleague Heather Roy, who has served in this Parliament for 9 years and who also played a vital role in ACT’s 2005 Epsom victory. Heather’s achievements have included her member’s bill opening up voluntary student membership, and the Aspire Scholarships that she achieved as Associate Minister of Education.
I also acknowledge my former colleague David Garrett, who was the driving force behind ACT’s three-strikes legislation, which has made our streets safer from serious repeat violent offenders. I have told David many times since he left Parliament that there will be people alive in years to come who otherwise would have been murdered or seriously maimed but for his legislation. David Garrett has everything to be proud of.
I thank Hilary Calvert, who came into Parliament at a difficult time and was thrown in the deep end, for her support and her wisdom. In particular, I acknowledge the time and effort she put in to listening to submissions on the Criminal Procedure Bill.
To Sir Roger Douglas I owe a great deal of gratitude. When Roger Douglas came knocking on my door early in 2008, asking me to stand for ACT, I rejected him. I was not prepared to make the sacrifice and pay the personal cost of standing for Parliament. He subsequently convinced me to stand. I am here today and I am very proud that I made that decision. Just under 2 weeks ago I announced that I would not be seeking re-election to Parliament on ACT’s party list. I will be standing in the electorate seat of Tāmaki; however, my sole objective will be to campaign for the ACT Party and the party vote. As a consequence, this is likely to be my final speech to this House as a parliamentarian. From the first time I arrived I have felt incredibly privileged to have been elected an MP. As I say, I am greatly indebted to Sir Roger Douglas for that. I have been very lucky to have experienced all that I have.
During my first 20 months I served as a backbencher on Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee and the Commerce Committee. I am particularly proud that I was able to force the Commerce Committee inquiry into finance company collapses. The way that some of those who have lost money have been treated by the legal system, given what would appear to be fraudulent actions on the part of some finance company directors, deeply concerns me. Just as Simon Power spoke yesterday of being deeply moved by his meeting with the Elliott family, I too have been moved in my meetings with some of those who have lost their homes and their savings. As a small consolation, it was great to assist in achieving the revised ANZ-ING settlement.
I have also served on special select committees overseeing Auckland’s governance, the super-city, the emissions trading review, and the electoral law, and I was pleased to be treated hospitably by Tau Henare during my term as a member of the Māori Affairs Committee when reviewing the marine and coastal bill.
In April 2009 I was proud to travel with Mr Speaker on the Speaker’s tour of Viet Nam and Japan and to meet with the President of Viet Nam and the then Prime Minister of Japan. In August 2010 I was elected deputy leader of ACT and appointed Minister of Consumer Affairs and Associate Minister of Commerce. I thank the Prime Minister for his confidence in me in appointing me to those positions at that particular time. I was able to continue the work of the Hon Heather Roy and the work she did on reviewing consumer law, and the Consumer Law Reform Bill now sits on Parliament’s Order Paper. In May of this year I was elected parliamentary leader of the ACT Party and resigned my portfolios, to allow myself more time to concentrate on ACT’s election campaign.
Like other members of this Parliament, I pay tribute to all of the staff who contribute to the smooth running of Parliament. Finally, to the present and past staff of my former school Ōtāhuhu College, I say kia tamatāne. Thank you.
E te Mana Kōrero, tēnā koe. Ka huri ki a rātou ngā rangatira kua ngaro ki aituā i tēnei tau, kāore au i te pīrangi kia mahue atu tētahi. Nō reira, ko tāku kē he tautoko i ngā poroporoaki ki ngā rangatira i hinga i tēnei tau. He tangi atu ki ngā iwi kua pāngia e aituā, e te hunga kua ngaro atu i tēnei tau, haere atu rā.
[Greetings to you, Mr Speaker. I turn now to them, the esteemed who passed away this year, and I do not want to leave anyone out. But I do so endorse the farewell tributes accorded to the revered who fell during the year. I mourn the tribes who were affected by death and say to those who died this year farewell.]
I start this adjournment debate speech by referring to the memories of our beloved leaders who have left our midst over the term of this Parliament. We are bereft of their existence but richer for the difference they made to our lives. We have always believed that the most important role for the Māori Party is to be the very best advocates we can. Our legitimacy comes from the voices of the people. Our influence is through the wisdom of their lived experience. As we come to the end of the 49th Parliament we pay tribute to all those people who have gifted us with their ideas, who gave feedback by Twitter or Facebook, who attended policy hui, who kept the ahi kā warm. They are the life and soul of our party, and every email, every phone call, and every letter is appreciated.
The relationship agreement we signed on 16 November 2008 has been upheld, and we are proud that every milestone has been achieved. We believe that the Māori Party offers Aotearoa a better way forward. The party continues to show the nation that there is a reasoned path down which we all can walk, and that Māori values will enhance and not detract from the aspirations we might hold as a nation. The poll results released just last Sunday provided a resounding confirmation of our decision to sit at the table of government, and our determination to do the very best for our people. Over half of the 1,000 people polled between 19 August and 20 September reported that the Māori Party has represented Māori well and accepted that compromise was worthwhile to ensure that they had a seat at the Cabinet table. This was a massive result, which reiterates our political stance that we seek influence with integrity. We seek to be potential-driven, to seize every opportunity to advance the aspirations of our people, and to consistently represent the independent voice of Māori in politics.
Our coalition agreement has brought with it a raft of significant policy gains that have brought resourcing directly into our communities. We achieved a historic reversal of the previous Government’s decision not to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we have been proud to advance Māori activism within the Government and at the Cabinet table.
The hallmark of our contribution to the nation over this last 3 years has, of course, been Whānau Ora. From the constitutional review and the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, our focus has always been to create policies that focus on who we are, where we are heading, and what we can do for ourselves, not what we can expect from others. Whānau Ora is the ultimate reflection of that commitment to invest in our people, and I am not talking just about the $164 million appropriated. We now have 25 provider collectives in place, involving 158 health and social service providers nationwide that have been working collaboratively to deliver the innovative approach to engage with families.
Most important of all, we have sensed a new faith and confidence in the capacity of our whānau to be self-determining, and that is incredibly rewarding. The constitutional review is a sign of a bold Government prepared to open itself up for debate about what constitutes our national identity. It will be revolutionary for this nation to really engage about what the promise of the Treaty holds for our generations and those to come. I am greatly looking forward to taking part in this debate in the next Parliament.
The third major milestone achievement is the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act. I place on record our appreciation to Chris Finlayson for a sterling effort in getting this legislation on the book. I believe that the full extent of this legislation is yet to be realised, but it is certainly hinted at in the preamble of that Act, which says: “This Act takes account of the intrinsic, inherited rights of iwi, hapū, and whānau, derived in accordance with tikanga and based on their connection with the foreshore and seabed and on the principle of manaakitanga.” We have seen that same respect for tikanga, for kaitiakitanga, and for kaupapa influence many other aspects of the legislative agenda. I think in particular of the establishment of the new Environmental Protection Authority, the work advanced across aquaculture, and the ground-breaking reform introduced by my colleague Dr Pita Sharples in Te Paepae Motuhake, the revitalisation of te reo.
Tariana Turia often uses a catchphrase, “culture counts”, and it has been pleasing to see that expressed in the initiative of Tataiako, cultural competencies for all teachers; the evolution of Whare Ōranga Ake in the corrections system; and the $20 million allocated for health innovations.
Of course, this term has not been without its challenges. I will never to the end of my days forget the dramatic chaos and crisis that we have endured over this last year in particular. The disaster of the Pike River tragedy will for ever shake my memories as MP for Te Tai Tonga. The ongoing and tumultuous upheaval associated with the Ōtautahi earthquakes threatened our sense of security. It literally threw our world asunder. But out of the liquefaction arose a remarkable sense of resilience—a courage and community spirit that has moved us all. I acknowledge my co-leaders for enabling me to have the honour of this last address, to bring with me the voices of the unsung heroes of Te Tai Tonga who have taught Aotearoa so much.
The shared Māori sector strategy coordinated by Ngāi Tahu has been inspirational in its breadth, and I place on record my admiration for the way in which iwi throughout the motu came together to support the people. In many respects, this is the whānau ora approach in action, when our collective passion is galvanised for the greater good. We have as a party tried to encourage that spirit of collaboration to focus on our strengths. It can be the blueprint of how we can treat others and still retain our cultural integrity.
We have applied that approach to the leadership Tariana Turia has demonstrated in tobacco reform, by increasing tobacco excise, banning tobacco displays, confronting the Third World diseases of poverty such as rheumatic fever, investing in bariatric surgery, and insulating over 6,000 homes in low-income areas. We have sought to put our best foot forward: to advance our economic development, to invest over $100 million in Māori education, and to showcase our talents on the Rugby World Cup stage.
But perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the Māori Party during the term of this Government has been to neutralise and buffer the Government against the ACT Party. At every Cabinet and ministerial meeting and at every caucus, the members of the Māori Party have provided the Government with the ability not to be held to ransom by an aggressive right-wing agenda. I am proud of the policy gains we have been able to achieve for Māori and for New Zealand and the issues we have placed on the table. My colleague Te Ururoa Flavell brought to the table the Public Works (Offer Back of and Compensation for Acquired Land) Amendment Bill, living by our commitment that “not one acre more” will be taken.
I am rapt that other parties have followed my lead in pioneering the call for GST to be removed from food and for a cross-party accord to eliminate child poverty and accelerate well-being. What we have not achieved now we will take up on our return.
Finally, I thank the amazing people who make our jobs here so easy, from you, Mr Speaker, to our fabulous, dedicated staff, the library team, the Hansard Office, the Office of the Clerk, the Table Office, the security team, the cleaning staff, Copperfields, the messengers, the telephonists, the people who keep the Beehive buzzing, and, of course, our Prime Minister. And, as all of us here know, we would be nothing without our families. The Māori Party’s reason for being is to advance every opportunity and aspiration of our whānau. We can do that only because of the endless sacrifice and commitment of our partners, our children, and our mokopuna. Our last word is to them. Ki ō mātou tāua, poua, tuākana, tuāhine, tamariki, mokopuna, ō mātou whānau, nei rā te mihi aroha, te mihi mahana ki a koutou mō te awhi, mō te tautoko i a mātou te Pāti Māori.
[To our elderly men and womenfolk, elder brothers and sisters, children, grandchildren, and families, our affectionate and warm acknowledgments for embracing and supporting us, the Māori Party.]
Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Huri rauna tēnā tātou katoa. E te Whare, hoi anō hai kōrero tuatahi, me mihi atu ki a rātou te hunga kua w’etūrangitia, hoi anō rātou ki a rātou, tātou anō ki a tātou e nohonoho nei. Me mihi atu ki a koe e te tuahine Georgina, e mutu ana koe i ō mahi i roto i a tātou i tēnei o ngā Whare. Hoki mahara atu ki te wā tuatahi i uru mai au ki roto i tēnei Pāremata, ko koe tētahi wā mātou tino hoa, hākoa kei tētahi pāti atu, kei reira koe. Nō reira, ngā mihi atu ki a koe e hoki anō ki tō kāinga, ki tērā o ngā māuiui i roto i tō whare. Nō reira, mihi atu ki a koe.
Ki a Mita anō hoki, e mutu ana i ōna mahi i roto i a mātou, e hoki tika ana ki tōna kāinga, e hāpai i ngā mahi i reira; huri rauna ki a tātou anō rā e ōku whanaunga, e ōku iti me te rahi, koe anō hoki Hēkia, tātou katoa e ngā Māori, tēnā koutou huri rauna, kia ora tātou katoa.
Me te mihi anōki ki te Rōpū Kākāriki he hāpai nei i ahau mai i taku tū motuhake, hei reo motuhake mō Te Tai Tokerau tae noa ki taku mahi hei rangatira mō te Rōpū o Mana, me mihi atu ki a koutou mō ēnā tino tautoko, tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou.
[Thank you, Mr Speaker. Greetings to us all throughout. To you, the House, the first thing is to pay a tribute to those who have passed away by stating: let them, the dead, remain there amongst themselves, and we seated about here remain here amongst ourselves. I pay a tribute to you, Georgina, sister colleague, as you end your work here amongst us in this one of the Houses of Parliament. I recall the first time I entered this Parliament you became a real mate to us. Even though you were of another party you were always there for us. So my tributes to you as you return home once more and to the sick ones in your household. I salute you.
Acknowledgments to you as well, Mita, finishing up his work amongst us here and heading directly to his home area to help out in the work there; to us as well, my kinfolk throughout, my meek and my mighty—to you as well, Hekia—to all of us Māori ones, salutations to you collectively throughout and to us all.
I acknowledge the Green Party as well for helping me along when I became an independent member for Te Tai Tokerau and also in my role as leader of Mana. I really appreciate you and that genuine support of yours. Thank you collectively and all of us. ]
As we bring this final sitting of Parliament to a close I want to leave us all with some pointers as to just who Mana really is and what sort of world it is that we seek for members’ mokopuna and for mine.
For Mana the defining issue for this election must be the elimination of poverty and the reclaiming of our ability to manage our own world. When the 1 percent at the top end of this country has more wealth than the 60 percent at the bottom end, then it is time for change, and not simply tweaking around the edges but real change.
When 1 percent of our country can hold the rest of the country to ransom by virtue of their economic power and wealth, then it is time the 90 percent-ers stood up and fought back. When 150 people can make $7 billion while 250,000 of our kids are living in poverty, then we need to say “Stop”—not just for a cup of tea break, not for a pause, but to turn round this bus before people start dying of starvation and our kids start rioting.
When the Government flogs off our assets just to pay for our crippling overseas debt of $300 million a week while cutting benefits to its own citizens who are in desperate need, then I think it is time to acknowledge that the Government has got its priorities all wrong.
To nobody’s great surprise, Mana will not be chasing votes from the wealthy or the corporates, for under the guidance of this National - Māori Party - ACT Government those sectors have done obscenely well and do not need the help of anybody else. Neither will we be chasing the votes from the rednecks that the bumbling, stumbling ACT Party seeks, because we seek a world where the Treaty of Waitangi enables all children of Aotearoa to grow and to flourish in a positive and inspiring world.
Mana is here because the Māori Party betrayed the people who put it into power and because Labour long ago abandoned its role as defender of the working class and champion of the poor. On behalf of Mana, I say that it is time to refocus our priorities, to take control of our economy, to put Papatūānuku before profits, to put the rights of New Zealanders ahead of the revenue streams of big business, to change our tax regime so that rich people pay their proper share, and to redistribute the wealth of the nation so that everybody enjoys the benefits of living in the best country in the world.
Mana will be Māori-led and Māori-focused. It recognises Te Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the constitutional basis of our country, and we will fight for genuine constitutional change to make that a reality, rather than have the limp constitutional review agreed to by the Māori Party.
Mana says that what is good for Māori will also be good for Aotearoa. Because of that, Mana will also stand for an Aotearoa where everyone—Māori, Pasifika, Pākehā, Asian, or anyone else—has the chance for a decent life. Mana will trial a lot of its policies in Māori communities, because we want to make sure that they can make them work. Then we will transfer the same opportunities to Pasifika and other communities to help them lift themselves to where they truly belong—together—in taking our country forward.
Mana says: “Feed the kids” is our first priority as a nation, and 250,000 children living below the poverty line is an indictment on our whole society. We call on voters to reject all those parties that will not make that simple issue a No. 1 priority. Mana would provide free meals in all decile 1 to 4 schools now, and for all schools next year.
Mana wants a special grant of $1,000 for everyone earning less than $30,000, to be paid out at Christmas whether or not they are in work or on a benefit. And why not? We give tax breaks to the rich, why not a meal break for the poor? Mana wants a minimum wage of $15 an hour by April next year, not in 2014 or in any other year. We have the money to pay for it. Those who deserve it should have it now—no excuses.
Mana wants free education for all, all the way up to tertiary level. Making our kids pay for their future means that the first thing they do when the ink dries on their diploma is check out the cheapest flights to Australia. Free education is important to our nation, because investing in our kids is an investment in our own future.
Mana would abolish GST altogether, not tweak it for fresh fruit and veggies, like Labour would, nor vote to increase it like the Māori Party, but abolish a tax on the poor that was introduced by Labour and increased by National.
Mana opposes National’s plan to increase unemployment and Labour’s refusal to fight for employment for all. Mana calls for a programme of full employment based on figures from the Council of Trade Unions, which tells us that if the Government took back the tax cuts it gave to the 1 percent last year, we could take everybody off the unemployment register today and give them a job tomorrow at 40 hours a week and $15 an hour. Poor people do not want to wait around for the kind of long-term sustainable employment that does not exist; they want jobs now.
The free-marketers have been in charge for the last 30 years, and all we got was an increase in long-term unemployment, an ever-growing underclass, the loss of much of the nation’s assets, and a skyrocketing national debt. No thanks. They have had their turn and all they have done is rob us blind. It is time for a national jobs programme; jobs for everyone who can work: in our schools, in our hospitals, and on our marae, creating work where everybody can add value to their communities.
Mana recognises that we have a massive shortage of housing for people in need. We know that families are living in cars, sheds, and garages right across this country. We condemn National’s recent decision to kick families out of State houses because if they are on the minimum wage, they are making too much money. We condemn Labour’s silence on the issue. Mana wants 20,000 new State houses built over the next 2 years to address this critical shortage and to help people get jobs right across the country in the housing sector.
Mana says let us be big enough to pay for what we promised: abolish GST and introduce the “Hone Heke tax” on all financial transactions. A levy of just 1 percent on current financial transactions would nearly double our current tax revenue, giving extra funding for health, education, and social welfare; money for research and development, and economic growth; and substantially more for Treaty settlements beyond the miserable 3 percent that both National and Labour have given us to date.
Mana wants a world where our kids are healthy, where going to school is something to look forward to, where there are jobs to aspire to, and where families are strong. Mana wants a world where workers have a real say in the economy that they are key players in, where communities control their own development, and where iwi can respond effectively to the needs of their people.
We want a world where all New Zealanders can speak Māori as well as they speak English, where our Pacific cousins are treated like the family they genuinely are and not the slave labour that we bring in to do the jobs nobody else will do, where our country is the jewel in the Pacific that we like to brag about, and where everyone feels that Aotearoa is a country to be genuinely proud of. We have the money to pay for it, we have the people to make it happen, and we have the best country in the world bar none. All we need is the courage to say: “Stop. Turn round. Go back and get the kids and start rebuilding our world from there.”
In closing, let me extend my best wishes to many people: to the All Blacks, of course, for all the scrutiny they have had to face and the expectation that they bear for all New Zealanders. Everyone in this House wishes them well in their quest. While I am on it, I extend my best wishes to Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu for challenging the racism that we all know is at the heart of the mean-spirited attitude of the International Rugby Board; and to Māori people throughout Aotearoa, may the next 6 weeks in the run-up to the election be a journey of hope and a drive for a new world. Kia ora tātou katoa.
We come to the end of the forty-ninth Parliament. Mr Speaker, I begin by paying tribute to your skills and capabilities in directing our proceedings over the past 3 years. This House is fortunate to have had you in the Chair. In this adjournment debate I offer some reflections on the nature of our institution. My comments are taken from those I advanced in the Standing Orders debate and also advanced by my colleague Sue Kedgley in her valedictory.
In the Standing Orders debate I said that the main problem we face is the poor regard the public has of us as members. Refining the procedural dimension of our institution through amendments to the Standing Orders is not, in itself, enough to solve this problem; something bigger is required. Let me expand on that. We as citizens are accustomed to hearing complaints about the shortcomings of our Parliament, and we as members are accustomed to offering explanation, if not exculpation, of the way things are done here. So even as MPs we are conflicted about the way the House functions. I am not the only one on these benches who cringes at the behaviour here, acutely aware of the public in the gallery watching in various states of horror and disbelief. I do not feel proud when our children look down upon us both literally and figuratively.
We buttress ourselves against public scorn with two beliefs. The first is that the Standing Orders can keep us adequately tamed. The second is that our behaviour is a necessary by-product of free debate. Both beliefs are half-wrong, so we continuously delude ourselves, addicted to our own belief systems. The procedural rules that govern our parliamentary interaction go some way to maintaining order, but they will not meet the true requirement of far-reaching change if there is no strong motivation. To date we have tinkered at the margins. We do that because of a fallacious understanding of the nature of democratic debate. We members of Parliament hold our various political views deeply, along with the values that underpin them. We are often passionate about what we believe, so the debating chamber should be a robust place for the free and vigorous exchange of ideas. But a robust debate must be a healthy one. A healthy one excludes personal attacks. It excludes insinuations of deception. It excludes offensive words. Clapping and cheering are counter-productive to the democratic process; they drown out what is being said. They banish any semblance of reasoned debate. They thwart clarity of thinking. They ignite passions that drive behaviour sufficiently unedifying as to turn the public away. If that is what we want in the name of democracy, so be it, but let us not delude ourselves that we know better than the public about the democratic process.
If we are serious about parliamentary reform we must proceed beyond the Standing Orders, and we must think out of the box. Let me identify three areas where fundamental reform might be considered. One is structure, the second is balance, and the third is accessibility. The structure of our Parliament itself needs to be reconsidered. There are several reasons why our debate often degenerates into near farce. Primarily, it is because of the nature of the adversarial system of political interaction that we celebrate in the West. As our means of checks and balances, and to deter tyranny, we divide into political parties and compete for power through the ballot. That naturally sets up multiple adversarial relationships. The adversarial character of our body politic can be exacerbated or it can be moderated. In the Westminster system we exacerbate it by means of our physical arrangements in the Chamber. This dignified Chamber is characterised by undignified contributions, and it still reflects a two-party system. Even today the leadership of the two main parties face off directly across from each other, separated theoretically by the width of two swords. The confrontational nature of the arena is palpable. It evokes gladiatorial combat of ancient times. The layout of the Chamber, physically, visually, and psychically, encourages the opposing front benches to trade salvoes, and the cross-bench parties to look on—largely observers—and to comment.
So the nature of debate in the House is twofold. The debate between the two main parties deteriorates into a deafening slanging match, then a third party intervenes and the tension and the decibel level diminish. The difference is qualitative. We saw this just yesterday in the general debate. The childish taunts over the future outcome of the forthcoming election were followed by a thoughtful intervention, on this occasion by the Māori Party. Whether it is the Māori Party, the ACT Party, or the Greens—all with different values and views—the nature and style of the debate change. The contention is made that the debate is robust and vigorous because members feel deeply about their convictions. This is wrong. All members cherish their principles, but the ACT Party, the Māori Party, and the Green Party advance their views in reasoned tones. The two main parties often do not. This is not a criticism of individuals or of parties; it is a criticism of the system we have devised. The structure is wrong.
When I worked in New York, I had occasion to visit many parliaments and congresses around the world. I must have visited 30 or 40. I came to sense the ambience that would characterise a National Assembly, giving rise to different dynamics in the political process. The best were those configured in a hemispherical layout, with the benches structured in a semicircle, all looking towards the centre. There at the centre was the Speaker, and there also would the member proceed down to look back at colleagues and address them. It is perhaps no surprise that the hemispherical, as opposed to the confrontational, layouts of Parliament tend to be non - Anglo-Saxon. Many, though not all, are recent democracies. My suggestion is that it is time we gave thought to the structure of our Parliament and the effect it has on the conduct of members.
The second issue is balance. Not only does New Zealand have a Westminster system but it is unicameral. So the adversarial nature of the single Chamber stands in starker relief than might otherwise be. An upper Chamber may have its own tensions, but it is usually less adversarial. One way of modifying this might be to use the Legislative Council Chamber more than is currently the case. That elegant Chamber is underutilised. Our parliamentary process would be enhanced if we used the Legislative Council Chamber for cross-party discussion that searches for consensus among parties rather than difference, and highlights the common ground rather than the divisions. We could easily identify issues that underpin legislation before the House and generate a dialogue, occasionally off the record, identifying in an informal setting the scope for flexibility that might not be present in the Chamber itself.
Accessibility is the third issue. The essence of democracy is the open and honest way in which members as representatives of the people are accessible to them. As a small country it is relatively easy in New Zealand to ensure openness and accessibility for the public. But we need to ensure that this does not deteriorate with the pressures of modern political life. The Greens are concerned about the possibility of paid lobbying intruding into the parliamentary process in New Zealand. We are assured that there is no such lobbying in this Parliament. Then we are told that certain individuals are afforded security clearance to gain access on the grounds of frequency of visits. So perhaps it is a matter of definition. Either way, the litmus test will be the level of transparency. We believe that open discussion on this matter is in itself a test of the integrity of the political process, and this is essential to the public interest.
These are our areas of concern. We do not believe that it is fruitful for them to be explored from within. No body—legal, medical, financial, legislative—can govern itself on an enduring basis through guardianship of its own rules. We need an independent review of Parliament, not one undertaken by members, of members, for members. The functioning of Parliament, and the integrity of the process, can be judged objectively and with insight only by the people whom the institution is designed to serve. The public must be given the opportunity of judging the nature and functioning of this New Zealand Parliament. I suggest that an independent review be undertaken sometime during the fiftieth Parliament on the nature and functioning of our Parliament. The soft cadence of democracy in this land deserves no less.
My colleagues, we come to the end of the forty-ninth Parliament. It has been a busy one. You have sat for 1,650 hours, approximately, which is 150 hours more than the forty-eighth Parliament. I must say, though, that a quarter of those hours were under urgency, and I hope that the proposals to amend our Standing Orders adopted by this House will facilitate less reliance on the use of urgency to advance the legislative programme in the future. Only two members’ bills received the Royal assent, and I again hope that the proposals in the Standing Orders amendments will just help the House see and consider a few more members’ bills than that. It was three in the forty-eighth Parliament, so the decline in those numbers is not recent. The busiest select committee of the House during this last term was the Finance and Expenditure Committee, closely followed by the Commerce Committee, in terms of reports presented to this House. But the big change from the forty-eighth to the forty-ninth Parliament in the statistics was in questions for written answer. They went up by 40 percent to 73,181, which is becoming quite a load on Ministers’ offices. I am sure the Opposition would say, however, that that means they are a very hard-working Opposition. Interestingly, despite 17 fewer sitting days, more oral questions were asked, reflecting, I think, positively on the practice of allowing question time to take place even during urgency. But enough of figures, my colleagues!
My thanks to you all for the kind comments that so many of you have made about those who support us here in this place—from the cleaners to the committee clerks, from our loyal Chamber and gallery officers to our librarians. I will not mention the entire list for fear of leaving some out, but I just want you to know how much we value you all; you all help to create the special character of this place, and we are very much indebted to you. I do, however, thank the security team, and, in particular, Dennis Laplanche. Our thanks go to Dennis for his speedy and courageous actions yesterday that saved what could have been an unthinkable outcome. Our best wishes go to Dennis for his speedy and full recovery.
My colleagues, this term our nation has had to cope with the twin tragedies of Pike River and the Canterbury earthquakes. I thank Geoff Thorn and the Parliamentary Service team, and our electorate agent staff who have been involved in all of that, for the support they have provided to our colleagues in this House, in helping them to continue serving their constituents through these tragic circumstances. I thank those involved in that big effort, because it was a huge effort.
This House is very fortunate to have as our Clerk, Mary Harris. The clear thinking of her incisive mind is something I have valued hugely. Mary, it has been a privilege to work with you, and your gem of an executive assistant Andie Lindsay.
I thank the members of the Standing Orders Committee, the Hon Simon Power, the Hon Trevor Mallard, the Hon Rick Barker, Chris Tremain, Dr Kennedy Graham, the Hon John Boscawen, Te Ururoa Flavell, the Hon Peter Dunne, the Hon Jim Anderton, and of course those who also served on the committee, Lindsay Tisch, my Deputy Speaker, and Chris Hipkins. I think you guys did a superb job, and I really do believe that the new Standing Orders should help this House progress legislation in the future more effectively and in a more measured way, and provide for improved public input and scrutiny of legislation that passes through this House.
Undoubtedly, the proposed changes to the Standing Orders will add some new responsibilities for the Business Committee, and I congratulate that committee too on the growing effectiveness that I believe it has exhibited this term. In particular, I thank the Acting Leader of the House, the Hon Simon Power, and the shadow Leader of the House, the Hon Trevor Mallard. I believe both of you have provided outstanding leadership to the Business Committee. But I also thank the other members of the Business Committee. It has been great working with you, and I think you have done a great job.
To my Deputy Speaker and my presiding officer team, Lindsay Tisch does an extraordinary job. I do not have to worry at all about the rosters, about the chairing of the House, at all. Lindsay just handles all of that in an absolutely efficient way. I have not lost one second’s sleep over it in my 3 years as Speaker, and at times I have observed that Lindsay himself has spent fairly significant hours in the Chair. To my Assistant Speakers, Eric Roy and H V Ross Robertson, they have done a great job too in maintaining the kind of style I wanted to see come to the Chair of the House. I am deeply indebted to my presiding officer team.
To my own office team, my thanks. To our kaumātua, Rose White-Tahupārae, she is an amazing kaumātua for us. She and her colleagues do a wonderful job in organising the protocol and ceremonial occasions that make us all feel so proud when people visit this Parliament. To my Serjeant-at-Arms, Brent Smith, thank you, Brent, and also to my own office staff, Roland here, Trish, and Beryl my Senior Private Secretary, who is now in her 26th year of continuously looking after me. I do not know, Beryl, what kind of perverse thing it is that keeps you doing that, but I am so indebted to Beryl for that. I must say that she is pretty efficient. I say to Ministers in the House that she has run the Speaker’s office this term on less than 50 percent of the cost of the Speaker’s office during the previous term. There is a challenge for Ministers in running Minister’s offices to see whether they can emulate that.
My colleagues, during this term we have had some memorable moments, such as saying goodbye to Sir Anand and Lady Susan Satyanand, and, of course, swearing in our new Governor-General, Lieutenant General The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Matepārae. We have had the first address to this House by a visiting Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. It was a very special occasion. We have had some significant legislation during the term: the Auckland super-city and the Canterbury earthquake legislation were very important legislation. If we count debating hours, there has also been something to do with the Royal Society that must have been important legislation given the hours that were put into debating it in this House.
We have also had, though, some wonderfully humorous moments. I will never forget the response of the Hon Gerry Brownlee to the attractive invitation from the Hon David Parker for Mr Brownlee to explore the natural delights of the South Island back country alone with Mr Parker. It was an exquisite response in this House, an exquisite repartee, and one of the moments that one never forgets. Probably the moment when I do not know why I lost control so much was when my colleague—I think he is still here—the Hon Tau Henare interjected something to do with someone called Linda Lovelace. You, my colleagues, seemed to understand what that meant; I had no idea what he was talking about! The Speaker could not possibly have had any idea of what the Hon Tau Henare was on about! But even to today’s consideration of the possible horrible fate of Happy Feet, they are all moments that bring a lighter touch to this House. To me it is important that among the important and serious business we conduct we do maintain at all times the best possible humour.
In recent days we have heard some wonderful valedictories. To those of you, my colleagues, retiring, my best wishes go with you as you reclaim your lives. To those of you heading out to face the voters, good luck to all of you. As Speaker I have kind of developed a fondness of all of you, and I wish you all the very best as you face the voters. My colleagues, you have treated me as Speaker with extraordinary courtesy these last 3 years, and I am humbled by that. It has been a special privilege to serve as your Speaker in this forty-ninth Parliament. Go well, I thank you all, and go the mighty All Blacks.