Firstly, I would like to congratulate my local MP, Lockwood Smith, on his election to the role of Speaker.
Could I start by saying a fond greeting to Jeremy Greenbrook-Held of Oriental Bay. In the letters to the editor in the Dominion Post on 24 November, under the heading “Just who is this man Joyce?”, Mr Greenbrook-Held lamented that I had made it into my role without giving a single interview. This will come as a surprise to a number of journalists who had interviewed me prior to that time, but I will nevertheless attempt to fill some gaps for Mr Greenbrook-Held today.
I live north of Auckland but I am a Naki boy—born and raised in New Plymouth. It is a wonderful part of the world, and I love to go back to visit the mountain, the parks and the wild west coast. However, I have to say I am a fan of pretty much all of this country; I am actually a bit of a greenie, just not the type who sits over on that side of the House.
As it is for all of us, my family came here from lands far away. My father’s family are Irish Catholics. My great-grandfather Eugene Joyce arrived as a young man on the Invercargill in 1879. He married Ellen and they settled in Taranaki, where they had seven children. One of them was my grandfather Len, a bee-keeper who lived with his wife, Eileen, in Eltham, which is where my father grew up.
On my mother’s side, my great-grandmother Granny Hooper was a Cockney. She migrated with her family in 1878, landing in Nelson after 4 months at sea. She must have liked it here because she lived to 101, and I can vaguely remember her 100th birthday party, held when I was about 5. My mother was born in Kaponga. Her father was a lawyer turned insurance salesman, and a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. Their family were staunch Anglicans, my father’s family were staunch Catholics, and that was a time when those differences did matter. It tested both families when my parents married in 1961, now nearly 50 years ago. I am thrilled they are both here together in the gallery today.
My parents scrimped and borrowed and bought a Four Square dairy in New Plymouth. They were not greatly educated—they both left school at 15—but they worked really hard to make a go of their business and their family. They ran a 7-day business and brought up five kids at the same time. From where I am sitting today, that seems pretty heroic. My family, then, is from a long line of small-business people. Apart from a few years managing a supermarket, my father and mother always owned their own businesses, including their own supermarket. So it is probably not a surprise that I did the same.
I had my first taste of radio when I was finishing my zoology degree at Massey University in 1983. A bunch of us worked at Radio Massey. In 1984, members may recall, there was an election, so we decided to run a series of current affairs shows in the style of the political television shows of the time, with intercut interviews. With seriously inferior equipment, a fearless group of us worked 24 hours at a time to bring to air the hugely important Radio Massey election specials on political issues of the day. We interviewed luminaries like the late Bruce Beetham and the late Trevor de Cleene, and put those shows to air for audiences of roughly 50 people each night, probably 48 of whom would have preferred to hear the latest Joy Division track.
So I could have been a journalist, maybe. I have a brother and a sister who are members of that truly esteemed profession. Instead, it was during those late-night sessions at Radio Massey that five of us decided to start a commercial radio station of our own. We each put in $100, and Energy Enterprises—which became RadioWorks—was born with $500 in the bank. Energy FM ran as a summer station in New Plymouth for 3 years, which was all we were allowed to do under the law at that time, each time making a bit of money to help pay for our full-time FM licence application. We chased down shareholders and a board of directors, went to a licence hearing with the Broadcasting Tribunal, then waited 15 long months for a decision to be released. During that time we lost three of our number—I think they got bored—and found one more. In mid-1987 Energy FM got a licence to start broadcasting across Taranaki, and on 30 November that year we went to air.
Running one’s own business is hard work. It is hard work a lot of the time, and fantastic fun some of the time. Running one’s own radio station is even more fun. The three of us poured all we had into that business. We continued to live like university students for years, on the grounds that if we did not become used to a more comfortable lifestyle, we would not miss it. We bought stations in Tauranga and Hamilton. We started The Edge, and Solid Gold FM, and built those two and The Rock into national, satellite-delivered networks. We added stations by growth and acquisition, until by 2000 we had offices in every major town and city in the country, and 650 staff across four networks and 18 local radio stations. It was an amazing ride. We all learnt a huge amount about growing and running companies, organisational cultures, and getting the best out of people. I met, and worked with, hundreds of fantastic people, many of whom I count as friends today. Throughout, we had mostly the same board: Norton Moller, Derek Lowe, and John Armstrong. They were my mentors commercially, and I am greatly indebted to them.
CanWest raided our share register on the stock exchange in 2000. Some of us held out for a while, but eventually we realised the dream was over, and I retired from my role as chief executive officer of RadioWorks on my 38th birthday.
It was time to take stock, and time to give something back. I joined the gym. I started running; unfortunately, I later stopped running. And I joined the National Party. I put my name forward, and nearly stood, in 2002, but as it turned out it would have been a purely academic exercise. Instead, I got my first National Party job after the election. I was asked to join the campaign review, and then the full strategic review of the organisation. It was an absolute honour to do both, and to be trusted by a set of people who had no history by which to trust me. The party in 2002 was hurting pretty badly, and I was conscious of the need to take real care.
The rebuilding of the National Party was a team effort, and I am very proud to have played my part. However, a lot of the credit must go to our party’s president. Judy Kirk is now coming up towards 7 years in the role. In 2002, when she took over as president, an opinion poll that week rated the National Party at 18 percent. For the first time in its history it was in danger of no longer leading the centre-right in the New Zealand Parliament. In the 2008 election—1 month ago—the National Party achieved 45 percent of the party vote, the highest vote by any political party under MMP, and the highest vote full stop since 1990. It is a fantastic turn-round, ably led from the front by our new Prime Minister, the Hon John Key, and, prior to him, our previous leaders, Don Brash and Bill English. However, any great leader needs an organisation to lead, and Judy Kirk rebuilt that organisation, without sacrificing either her decency or her principles. When all is said and done, I am confident her name will be up there as one of the National Party’s great presidents, alongside the name of her mentor, Sir George Chapman, and that will be no more than she deserves.
It is traditional to thank your electorate workers in your maiden speech for helping you get to Parliament. I am, of course, one of the lesser beasts—a list MP—and, worse still, one who did not stand in an electorate. But I did run a campaign of sorts. It was a little bit dire in places, according to some of my critics, but redeemed by a fine candidate who shone through despite the poor support he received from his national campaign chair! There are many people I can and do want to thank for that campaign, particularly those at campaign HQ in Wellington, and the thousands of volunteers around the country who put up with the rather dictatorial requirements of the Wellington crew. I will not mention names today. They all know who they are. Can I just say that I could not hope to work with a finer bunch of people.
So, via a stint running another marvellous, proud, smallish New Zealand company with another great team of people, Jasons Travel Media, I arrive here in this building, this hermetically sealed vortex, which is our Parliament. So what contribution can I make to this place? Who do I represent? Well, I think I can be a voice for the people who always pay their taxes and who want to see them go to a good home. Primarily because I have been in business for most of the last 21 years, I can bring an understanding of the thinking of business people—small and medium sized business people in particular, who organise most of the wealth creation that takes place in this country.
I understand the mentality of those who become frustrated at Government getting in the way of their doing their job, who chafe at needless regulation and the sight of wasted tax money, who become frustrated by poorly performing infrastructure. I understand the fear they have of Government organisations muscling in on their industries by spending public money to compete with them in their marketplace for no good reason.
I bring a real understanding of the value of a dollar. From the time I was a little tacker, sitting at my family dining table as my parents added up the week’s takings, I understood that there was no money around if you did not go out and earn it yourself. I understand those people who see Wellington as a “great sucking sound” that hoovers up more and more of the nation’s money so that politicians can look like heroes when they spend it—people who are happy to pay their share but are not happy to see it wasted. I also understand what drives people: the desire to better the lot of themselves and their families under their own steam, and to not have to rely on Government handouts.
I understand that as a country we have limitless calls on our resources, and limited resources. I know that the only way we are going to progress in the manner we all hope for and provide for those less fortunate is by spending wisely the money we have, and spending most of our time working out how to grow faster to pay for all the things we need. And I think I understand what is possible in organisations that think small and nimble, where the frontline is encouraged and well resourced and the back office is pared back, and that are tuned to what the customer is seeking.
One of the distinctive features of this country is that we are a small group of islands at the bottom of the world. There are only 4.25 million of us. Small can be tough. It means small home markets, not as many resources, and not as big a pool of talent as some bigger countries have. However, our smallness need not be a negative; it can be a strength, and it should be more often. Individuals with ambition and drive have shown throughout history that they can achieve a lot more here a lot more quickly than they can in bigger countries. One great running coach, one great rowing coach, can achieve amazing things. Our smallness means that a high proportion of us are interconnected. People used to talk a lot about the six degrees of separation; in New Zealand I am sure that half the time it is just two or three degrees.
Our smallness can translate to nimbleness: the ability to change course, move quickly, make things happen. Sadly, from a vantage point outside the Government and, now, from inside it, I can see that we get wrapped up in the fact that this new regulation or law, or entitlement, or initiative is world best-practice, that by doing it we are suddenly right up there with the EU, or the UK, or the US. Maybe a world-beating, all-singing, all-dancing, multilayered process is the correct approach for a large country. Maybe for us we can trim it down, shorten it, and, dare I say, spend less money doing it. Put it this way: if we cannot, how can we compete with much larger countries? I am all for fair and sensible rules of commerce and social interaction; we just need to scale them to our size and look for the simpler way.
I believe we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in this country, and a corresponding risk that goes with it. We can recapture our mojo and become the feisty, resourceful, exciting, No. 8 wire sort of place that enabled all our forebears to make a success of themselves way down here at the bottom of the world; or we can fade away and continue on the path of figuratively, and maybe one day even literally, being the smallest and poorest also-ran state of Australia.
I do not believe I bring any pretensions to this new role. I am honoured to be provided with the opportunity to serve, and I will work diligently to repay the confidence that has been shown in me by my party, by my leader, and by New Zealanders. When it comes to work I am a believer in doing the hard yards. In rugby terms, and I stress that my familiarity with the code has pretty much always been as a fan, I like to grind it out—nothing too flashy.
I also, these days, like to have a little balance. Members may ask what I am doing here! Apparently, it is a little bit tricky in this Parliament to have balance, but I find that it helps people to keep perspective—which also might be a bit tricky here. I have an inspiration, though: my wonderful wife, Suzanne; our daughter, Amelia; and Gemma the retrodoodle. I know they will insist on seeing me regularly, no more than I will insist on seeing them.
Mr Speaker, I will work diligently to help make this country a stronger, more successful, and proud place. That is why I am here—for no other reason. If I can help to do that, then I will be able to hold my head high when I report back to New Zealanders when my time here is done.
E te Mana Whakawā, tēnā koe. E ngā whanaunga, e ngā hoa, e te hunga kāinga i haramai i tēnei rā ki te tautoko i ahau, tēnei te mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa.
[Greetings to you, Mr Speaker. Also to relatives, friends, and to those from home who travelled here today to support me, this heartfelt acknowledgment to you collectively.]
I acknowledge my family and friends who have travelled here today to share this occasion.
Ko Hikurangi me Aorangi aku maunga, ko Waiapu me Waitaki aku awa, ko Ngāti Porou me Ngāi Tahu aku iwi. I identify through my cultural frame of reference my mountains, Hikurangi and Aorangi; my rivers, Waiapu and Waitaki; and my iwi, Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu.
Tēnei te mihi ki te mana whenua ki a Te Āti Awa me ngā waka katoa i tau mai nei ki Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara. I acknowledge the guardians of this land, Te Ātiawa, and all those waka that have come ashore here in Wellington.
Tēnā koe e te Pirimia John Key. Ka tīkina e ahau ngā kupu o tētahi waiata nā tōku tīpuna, nā Hānara Rire, i tito mō Tā Apirana Ngata e pā ana ki a koe i tēnei wā.
[My greetings to you, Prime Minister John Key. I reach back in time for the words of a song that my grandfather Arnold Reedy composed for Sir Apirana Ngata—words that I consider apply aptly to you at this point in time:]
I greet you, Prime Minister, and recall the words of a song originally composed by my grandfather Arnold Reedy for Sir Apirana Ngata:
“Te wa-ka o Aotearoa, he tini ngā kaihautū, ko koe rā e Hone kei te kei, e koro kia ū.”
[“The New Zealand canoe has many captains, but you John, are at the helm, hold fast.”]
“The waka of Aotearoa has many captains, but you, John, are at the helm.”
Kei te rangatira kei a Helen Clark, mō tō whakahaere i ngā tau kua pahure ake nei, tēnā koe. Tēnā koe e te whanaunga, Parekura. Talofa e te mema mō te rohe o Mana, a Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. Otirā, tēnā koutou katoa ngā kaihoe o tēnā waka, o tēnā waka o te Pāremata.
[To you, Helen Clark, former leader, I acknowledge your stewardship over these past years. Greetings to you, my kinsman Parekura, and to the member for Mana, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. Indeed, my acknowledgments to all oarspersons of each parliamentary canoe.]
To our former leader, for her stewardship over these past years, I salute you, Helen Clark. To my kinsman, Parekura Horomia, I greet you. To the member for Mana, I acknowledge you. To all the different waka that have berthed at Parliament, I greet you.
Mauriora! [Eternal life!]
Mr Speaker, I should like to congratulate you on your appointment. I also acknowledge the Governor-General, who commissioned the opening of the forty-ninth Parliament; my colleagues Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa Lee—fakafetai and ahn nyung ha se yo—my colleague the Hon Steven Joyce, who opened our paepae this afternoon; and those who will follow. Tēnā koutou katoa.
As I stand before you today, I am at once conscious of the weight of history and expectation that press upon me and the lightness of possibilities that beckon. I am familiar with this dichotomy; I have grown up in a culture that walks through the present with the constant companions of the past and the future. This practice prepares us particularly well for this parliamentary role, I think, as we weigh actions of today against those of the past and the implications of the future.
In 1885 my great-great-grandfather Tame Parata entered Parliament as the member for Southern Maori. He served a distinguished career of 26 years, dedicating his efforts to his people in their search for quality citizenship in their own lands. Later, in 1905, another tipuna of mine—ours—Sir Apirana Ngata, entered Parliament as the member for Eastern Māori, and committed his public service of 38 years to seeking opportunities for, and emphasising obligations to, citizenship.
They, along with many others, shared a profound appreciation of the birthright of this small, young nation and its potential. They also held in common an attitude that characterised those generations of the reciprocal responsibility to return in equal or greater measure that which had been given. I enter Parliament and I begin this phase of my public service journey proud to follow in the footsteps of these ancestors in the pursuit of quality citizenship for all. They provide a model that I am glad to emulate: unambiguously Ngāti Porou and Ngāi Tahu, unequivocally a New Zealander.
I come to Parliament by way of an extensive Public Service career, with detours into wealth-creating and whānau-employing business experiences, and punctuated by recalls to my home of Ruatōria, the capital of Ngāti Porou. I grew up in the central business district of Ruatōria when our area was famous for land innovation, dairy factories, cultural foreign policy, lawyers, educators, and public servants. It was a community where Ngāti Porou was the spoken language except in schools, and te reo Māori was for dealing with other distant tribes and their strange dialects and practices.
I grew up at the centre of a strong and dynamic web of kinship relationships, amongst orators, thinkers, debaters, and composers, where competence and whakapapa were the determinants of leadership—not gender. I grew up believing that everyone was Anglican, all worshipped Sir Apirana Ngata, Hikurangi was the highest mountain in the world, and the Waiapu swept majestically to the sea. I saw no need for reality to intrude upon this set of beliefs, because they performed the very useful function of securing identity.
I came from a community at a time when it was peopled by hard, hard workers, who eked out livings on infertile and soft country that, even as it was farmed, slipped away into the river and out to sea. These people suffered the boom and bust of officialdom, the capricious ideas of what next to invest in, how now we might be saved—always by well-meaning yet very distant bureaucrats and politicians, and all the time oblivious to the possibility that we might actually save ourselves.
I come from a community where whānau was the pivot round which life turned; where education was the magic bullet; where self-reliance and self-determination were practised, not talked about; and where humour, courage, hope, and gratitude were the hallmarks of citizenship—most nobly personified in the 28th Māori Battalion, literally the most costly in lifeblood.
In my lifetime I have seen the very kinds of communities of my upbringing succumb to the disease of dependency, where State intervention is the norm, not the exception; where caregivers, providers, facilitators, and sector workers replace aunts, uncles, neighbours, and friends; where State welfare rather than social welfare is the first resort and the basis of an intergenerational life sentence rather than a lifeline; where despair and alienation are masked by drugs, alcohol, and abuse; where displaced anger makes victims of children and their mothers; where low expectation in schools is predictably repaid with low achievement; and where fault and blame-laying have become the defence of failure.
Ruatōria, I now know, was always economically challenged. But its cultural wealth and social richness, its determined self-belief and hard work kept it viable. We must find ways to lay bare all the causes of these symptoms, so that we might, with purpose and compassion, find durable solutions. I feel called to Parliament to do something about this.
I have spent my professional career in the Public Service informing policy with these realities, striving to create opportunities for communities to drive their own development, advocating fiercely for meaningful resourcing and realistic time lines, resisting the bureaucratising of the original flair and ingenuity that attracted funding in the first place, promoting the value of different cultural approaches, and exposing the presumptuous bias of majority culture presented as the norm.
I was born and brought up in a family of eight by parents who instilled in us the importance of family, education, community service, education, hard work, education, high expectations, and an attitude of success. Our parents worked; we worked—often several jobs at once. None of this was unusual or peculiar to our family. All the families we grew up with, went to school with, and continue to be in touch with lived lives like this. These are the whānau I know and recognise. This is the model that informs my vision for the building blocks of modern Aotearoa New Zealand.
My parents’ very different backgrounds converged successfully in their children, I think, and gifted us with the very New Zealand legacy of mixed ancestry: Scottish, Irish, English, Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāti Porou. So I come to Parliament a fully committed bicultural citizen, a descendant of both Māori and Pākehā, and imbued with the spirit of Sir Apirana Ngata’s prescription for life: “Grow up and meet the needs of your generation, master the technologies of the modern world for your material well-being, cherish the treasures of your ancestors as a plume for your head, your soul given to God, author of all things.”
I come to Parliament equipped with our experience of starting our own businesses and managing them through all the highs and lows that attend such initiatives. We have faced the risks that small businesses up and down the country face. We have slogged through the mire of compliance regimes and related costs. We have encountered the impervious official at the point of export, indifferent to the effects of inexplicable bureaucracy and the costs incurred. We must liberate businesses to create employment and wealth, and bend our minds to that rather than to ever more clever ways to redistribute it.
I come to Parliament by way of my residence in the greater Porirua region—a microcosm of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is an area of great diversity, with a high proportion of very old people and very young people; with extremes in socio-economic status, with some of the highest average household incomes and some of the lowest; and balanced by a deep pool of potential and a crucible of cultural richness in the form of Māori, Pacific, Pākehā, Asian, and other ethnic minorities. It is a growing, creative community, well served by the internationally renowned Pātaka Museum and Art Gallery, which is to be complemented—when we can secure the resources—by a performing arts centre; and by the strong and innovative Whitireia Community Polytechnic, which with sufficient investment can and will design programmes that arise out of the cultural wealth of the region, creating new technologies we know to be essential to the productivity and growth and international competitiveness of our nation. And, cradling it all, there is an environment that is both beautiful and fragile, and while it looks after us, we in turn must care for it.
Mr Speaker and honourable members, I come to Parliament with high expectations of what is possible. I come shaped and moulded by the influences and experiences I have outlined. I come with an unshakeable belief in the potential of this country, its people, and this Parliament. My recipe has three simple ingredients from my own life story: family, identity, and education. We must restore whānau and families as the cornerstones of our communities, invest in the cultural diversity of this country—not because it is fashionable, but because it carries identity and the potential for innovation and new technologies—and join the crusade for literacy and numeracy and for a good-quality education for every New Zealand student. We must adopt an uncompromising attitude that failure is not an option. All our other aspirations for economic growth, raised standards of living, and national confidence and pride will flow from getting these basics right.
I come to Parliament determined to add to the legacy of those who have gone before—the pursuit of quality citizenship. As I go to my office in this historic building, I pass my own panel of scrutineers, their faces challenging and supporting me. I am grateful to walk alongside them.
In closing, I should like to acknowledge all the people who have touched my life. A small number have been able to join us here today; others watch Parliament TV at home on the Coast, down South, and around the country. I know that my mother, Hīria Te Kiekie Reedy, will be watching, and I pay tribute to her constant love and support, as I do to that of my brothers and sisters and their partners and families, who together form the kind of whānau that is so easy to have policy theories about but who everyday work hard at making it real.
Finally, I would like to especially acknowledge my husband, Wira Gardiner, whose pragmatic approach to what is possible, encapsulated by Maggie Thatcher’s instruction to her generals “Go to war with what you’ve got.”, has become part of the language of our home, and keeps me grounded when in pursuit of perfection. And to our two wonderful, gorgeous, smart, funny, demanding, fabulous daughters, Rākaitemānia and Mihimaraea, I say that you deserve the very best. Since having their bright lights shine into my life, there has been a heightened sense of urgency and a sharpened focus on the kind of society in which their aspirations and ambitions can be given loft and momentum, and through which they can walk with confidence and poise as Ngāti Porou citizens of the world, blessed—as we all are—to call this magnificent country, Aotearoa New Zealand, home.
Mr Speaker and honourable members, I come to Parliament with high expectations of what is possible. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
It is with a great deal of respect that I rise to present my maiden speech in this Chamber, and I offer my congratulations to you, sir, on your election. I stand before this House as the representative for the newly formed Canterbury seat of Selwyn, and I am conscious of the great debt that I owe to the people of my electorate for the faith they have shown in me. I would like to begin today by pledging to them my commitment to work in their interests and for their advancement for the time I am here.
I would also like to pay a personal tribute to the Prime Minister, the Hon John Key. Our Prime Minister is a man of great honour and real charisma, and a man with a heartfelt empathy for the people of New Zealand. He has been an inspiration to me, my electorate, and all New Zealand, and I am especially honoured to be serving in his Government.
We seem to raise strong politicians on the Canterbury plains. I come from the same part of the country as the great Sir John Hall, a farmer, and former Premier of New Zealand, who in the 1870s formed and maintained a Government in a period of great change and instability. Sir John is particularly to be remembered for one of his final acts of public life, which was to successfully shepherd the women’s suffrage bill into the House in 1890.
In the passage of time we seem to have lost sight of the enormous contribution Sir John made, and, as a woman now representing his home area, I take a moment to acknowledge his legacy. As a farmer, he and his brothers formed one of the first large-scale sheep runs in the South Island, which later became Terrace Station. As a politician for the original Selwyn seat, he was respected for his integrity and huge contribution to the developing nation’s landscape. Sir John was a staunch conservative who felt that women would bring more decorum and civilised behaviour to politics, and who would be least likely to countenance official extravagance. Women, he noted, “instinctively possess a far keener insight into character than men, and the result of giving them a vote would be that a candidate’s chance at election would depend more on his character, for trustworthiness, for ability and for straightforwardness than on mere professions made on the hustings.” He said: “A clever ready-tongued political adventurer may cajole a set of dull-witted men, but if he has to pose before a number of women they will see right through his real character. It will be of no use trying to get around them with blarney and humbug; they will soon discover whether he is the unselfish patriot he professes to be or a selfish hypocrite who wishes to make use of the people for his own benefit. Women’s intellect would be a surer guide in cases of this kind”, Sir John said, “than that of the majority of men.”
One hundred and fifteen years since that pivotal moment in our history, I am extremely proud to represent the new Selwyn electorate, and I wish to acknowledge the many notable members of this House from the area who have come before me, including two former Prime Ministers: the Rt Hon Sidney Holland and the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley. I come to this House as a commercial lawyer and a Canterbury sheep farmer and, based on that, just last week in Wellington someone called me a “typical Nat”. Well, I make no apology for that side of my background. I am extremely proud of what I have worked very hard to achieve. But for those who are looking to stereotype me, it is worth pointing out that I also grew up in a sole parent household, always short of money, with my mother putting herself through a degree with two preschoolers underfoot, to eventually become a psychologist bonded to the Education Department. Her job, working with some of the most unfortunate families, meant we grew up all over the place—Ngāruawāhia, Hamilton, Wellington, and eventually Auckland.
Compared with many Kiwi kids, though, I was fortunate, because I came from a family of self-starters who believed that anything was possible if one worked hard enough. One of my grandfathers was an engineer and an inventor, who started a factory in his Wellington garage that employed many people for decades. My other grandfather is a well-respected accountant in Motueka, who again built his business from the ground up—a business that has strong roots in the agricultural and farming communities in the Tasman region. For myself, it was while I was at Canterbury University and met my husband that I began my relationship with the farming and rural sectors.
Back in Sir John Hall’s day, New Zealand was a young country, building its fortunes on the sheep’s back—an agricultural economy with a bright future. Today agriculture is still the backbone of our export-based economy. It was our past, and it remains our future. It is the primary sector that will help us as a country find our way through these troubled financial times. However, the farming sector is under threat from all sides, and the threats that face the rural sector in New Zealand are serious, and will need commitment and innovation to find solutions. At this time, we need the rural sector more than ever. We need to treasure our rural communities, not trash them.
Something that worries me is how many New Zealanders have lost touch with the land. Most Kiwi kids do not visit farms any more. They do not see lambs in the spring, and they do not grow up knowing that farmers care about their land—its health and its future. It is not in farmers’ interests to pillage nature. Farmers farm for future generations, and they farm for the prosperity of all New Zealand. Environmentally, we must find a workable balance between the needs of the environment and those of the rural sector and other stakeholders. But when we talk about sustainability, as we must, let us not forget the need to also be economically sustainable in the international marketplace. Although the issues we face will be challenging, and at times contentious, I am confident that if all sides can approach the issues collaboratively, solutions can be found and implemented.
We must also remember that the plight of agriculture is not just about the success of our economy. The world has a massively expanding population, and UN predictions are that feeding those people will be one of the biggest challenges in years to come. We cannot afford to let our agriculture industry in New Zealand shrink, where we have the proven capability to produce some of the best, and most environmentally sound, foodstuffs in the world.
The management of water, and in particular the need for large-scale water storage facilities in Canterbury, is one of the most difficult but also most important issues facing my electorate. Water is life, and nowhere is that more true than on the farm. In rural homes throughout the country, the amount of rain that has fallen, and the forecasts from the rain radar, are not just small talk. They can make the difference each year between survival and foreclosure. To resolve the matter we must look for the optimal solution, and then ensure that the law enables it to be achieved. Decisions should not be driven by who got in first, or which option is most expedient under the Resource Management Act. Rather, a macro-analysis of long-term outcomes and community needs must be the central consideration. We as politicians must ensure that the law supports rather than hinders such an approach.
That brings me to infrastructure. For too long, politicians have dodged the issue of infrastructure development. Time and time again, infrastructure has been shunted into the too-hard basket. Infrastructure requires long-term thinking, long-term funding, and long-term commitment. I have no doubt that short-term thinking has already cost this country considerably. We have to start thinking as a nation and not just as individuals. It really is a case of doing it for the greater good. And it is not just the economic cost. Communities suffer when schools, roads, libraries, broadband services, and the like do not keep pace with population growth. The lack of community infrastructure is a major issue for many parts of Selwyn. I do not want our communities to be nothing more than a place where people go to sleep. For communities to support their people, we must first support our communities. For New Zealand to succeed, we cannot keep saying no to infrastructure projects because they involve change. The process should instead focus on fairly balancing all competing interests, including wider public needs. To build New Zealand’s productivity we need to get innovative, take risks, and do it fast.
Fifteen years as a commercial lawyer has taught me that there are already hugely innovative and talented people in our business communities, but we are making it very hard for them to succeed locally and on a world stage. All over the country, these business people are telling me that one of the biggest challenges is getting a straight answer from central and local government. People are generally happy to work within the rules. They just want to be told definitively what the rules are. Businesses need to have certainty, and to be able to plan ahead, confident that the playing field will not change every few years. Being told by central or local government that the system means that it will take many months or years and often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant and legal fees to work out whether something can be done is not OK. It is a huge drain on business, and it is pouring productivity down the plughole.
Making laws that effect people’s lives is a very grave responsibility. When the law does put restrictions on people, we owe it to them to make the rules clear and concise, and not open to subjective interpretation leading to wide inconsistencies of result. An example is that of a farmer in my electorate, who was building two sheds that were exactly the same, a few paddocks apart on the same farm. One council, two building applications, and two different council officers were involved. The approval for the first shed took just a few weeks, and did not require anything further. The second identical shed took months, and required the furnishing of considerable further information and reports, and, of course, extra costs. That is not right.
Of course, we must have regulations, but let us think very carefully about what any restriction on people’s freedoms actually gives to society. If the benefit is minimal, and the compliance or productivity cost is high, let us not do it. Business in this country has often been demonised in recent years as large, heartless corporations making money off Kiwis for their international owners. But in reality, the face of New Zealand business is a couple of guys working in a workshop out at the back of town fixing cars, or a mum selling kids’ products on the Internet from home, or builders, sparkies, cleaners, lawn-mowing contractors, and painters. The productivity of this country is in their hands. They form the bulk of New Zealand businesses, and they will be very exposed in the coming economic storm. They are the infantry of our economy, and they are fighting on the front lines right now.
So are we sending in reinforcements, or will we abandon them? And it is the same in the social sector. We need some long-term thinking, focused on early intervention initiatives that can make a real difference. We have serious social issues to confront as a nation. While there are outstanding programmes in place, we need more. We need major attitudinal change right across this country. I believe that the key is fostering a strong sense of individual responsibility. As a parent, I can say that there is only one way to teach responsibility, and that is for there to be clear and consistent consequences for one’s actions. If 3-year-olds can get it, I think other Kiwis can too. That means that to be part of the very special community that is New Zealand, we expect people to take responsibility for themselves and their families. The State is here to help, but it is not its role to run our lives, tell us what to do, or tell us how to do it. The role of Government is not to wrap us in cotton wool to save us from ourselves.
I can assure people that I will stick up for the right of Kiwi kids to play on swings, see-saws, skateboards, and cycles; and to climb trees, and build tree houses without the need for a building consent.
I want to take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge my husband and my two wonderful children who are here today for their unending love and support, and for making sure that my feet stay firmly on the ground. Don, Thomas, and Lucy, you are the reason for everything I do, and I love you deeply. Thanks must also go to my wider family, my parents, my sister Belinda, particularly, and to my new Selwyn electorate family for all their tireless work supporting me over the previous year. There are simply too many of you to name, but you know who you are. My thanks also go to the National Party, its president Judy Kirk, and our regional chairman, Roger Bridge, and my caucus colleagues for your unfailing support and guidance.
I conclude by saying that in my view for most of the past decade New Zealand has been heading down a no-exit street—economically, socially, and psychologically. We have been penalising hard-working families, struggling to keep their heads above water, with higher costs and higher taxes. We have been strangling business with red tape, making it harder for them to hire staff, and miring them in a field of regulatory uncertainty. We have been downgrading the education system, creating meaningless qualifications, giving kids poor work habits, and loading teachers with responsibilities that should rest with families. For too long we have had a culture where the State thinks it knows what is right for every family, and for every business; a culture where every social problem is renamed a condition that people should not be held accountable for; a culture where violent offenders seem to have greater rights than their victims. Well, that is not OK with me. I have higher aspirations for this country, and I have a strong belief that we can achieve them.
I would like to finish with the words of Sir John Hall back in 1890: “We cannot afford as a nation for [our politicians] to stand aside from the work of the nation: we need all their spirit of duty, their patience, and their energy in combating the sorrow, and sin, and want that is around us.” Mr Speaker, I look forward to serving the people of Selwyn and Aotearoa, for as long as they allow me the privilege of representing them. I thank you.
Mr Speaker, I begin my maiden speech today by offering congratulations on your election as Speaker of this great institution. I also congratulate my new colleagues, the Deputy Speaker, Lindsay Tisch, and Assistant Speakers Eric Roy and Rick Barker.
I pay tribute to our Prime Minister, John Key, in the way that he has led the country since the election on 8 November. Many, many people in my electorate of Rotorua have told me that this is the type of leadership they voted for, and the change they want. I also paint a glowing tribute to the National Party president, Judy Kirk. Judy is an exceptional person, and many of us were helped to be here today by her hard work and dedication.
I praise the central North Island chair of the National Party, Jo Stewart, and thank her for standing on the side of the road with me waving placards during our campaign. In the streets of London, as on the sports fields of Munster, New Zealand has a reputation for reward for hard work. I thank my campaign team for their hard work over the past year: my electoral chairman, Ian Patchell, who is here today; my campaign chairman, councillor Mike McVicker; my finance agent, Don McFarlane; Ian McLean for his great wisdom and guidance; and the many, many others who were responsible for our success in Rotorua this year. I also acknowledge the people who have travelled from Rotorua to be here today, and thank Neil for the unfettered access to his fridge during the campaign.
I make special mention of a very special person—my father-in-law, Ron Wattam. Ron and my mother-in-law, Margaret, live in Cromwell, and they came to stay with us in Rotorua for a week about 6 months ago, and they are still there. Ron worked from early in the morning until late in the evening, removing great moustaches from my hoardings. I say to the Prime Minister that the people of Whakarewarewa believe that I look better with a moustache than he does. I report that bakeries in other electorates should not bother entering the national pie contest next year, because I can vouch for the pies made in Maketū. I know this for a fact, because I consumed nearly 500 of them during my campaign this year.
I pay tribute to the Hon Steve Chadwick, across the House—a worthy opponent who dealt with the issues on the campaign trail, and fought a clean campaign. Mrs Chadwick has great affection for Rotorua; I am grateful that she has offered for us to work together over the next 3 years to advance the interests of the people of Rotorua, and I accept this offer.
If I had forgotten it, I was certainly reminded during this year’s campaign that my family is the most important thing to me in this world. My ambition as a member of Parliament, the things I want to do for my community, and the reason I want more violent criminals and drug dealers locked away for longer are all because I have an overwhelming desire to protect my family and offer my family opportunity. On issues of conscience in this House, I will be guided by what I want for my four small children, and by whether they will grow up to be proud of their father, based upon his decisions and how he voted.
My wife Nadene and I have been have been blessed with four outstanding children: Joshua, who is 10; Samuel, who is 8; Caelen, who is 6; and my daughter, the perfect one, Ana-Kiera, who is 4. Joshua, Sam, and Caelen attend Lynmore School in Rotorua, and have told me how excited they were to see their dad on TV today. I must for a moment speak of the great love and understanding of a truly exceptional and long-suffering woman—that is, my wife, Nadene. Nadene and I have been married for 14 years this year, and the last 14 years have been a joy—well, at least for me! And never could I have imagined that I might complement somebody so well. Without Nadene’s support, understanding, and perseverance as a wife and as a mother, my life would have been much more ordinary.
It is important to remember one’s origins. I am proud to say to this House that I was born in Rotorua, as was my mother before me, and I am the son of a school principal with a lifelong commitment to improving children’s lives. When I was born my parents lived in Reporoa, and my father drove a school bus each morning before teaching children how to read and write. The school bus in Reporoa is no longer driven by a teacher, and, sadly, early next year it may no longer be based in the district—and this is not right. I thank my parents, Roger and Dawn, for sharing this day with me. I had a great childhood and, against frequent demands for retribution from my siblings, do not ever remember my father raising his hand against me in anger. My two brothers, Tim and Steven, are extremely hard-working, successful New Zealanders. They are good fathers, and they are great brothers.
I grew up in Taupō and attended Tauhara College there, and Wesley College in Pukekohe. I am sure that the honourable Minister Paula Bennett would agree that my school in Taupō was better than her school in Taupō! In my younger years I had many jobs. I cleaned cars, I cut firewood in the bush, and I worked for Carter Holt in its sawmill. But, mainly, I was like many young New Zealanders: I loved fishing, I enjoyed hunting, and I played rugby with a passion. I had little interest in politics, and I am not sure that education was as important to me as it should have been.
My journey to this Chamber, as for many of us, was not without detours. I have spent much of my adult life outside of New Zealand. I have worked in one of the world’s largest bureaucracies, in and around the European institutions in Belgium. At that time few, if any, New Zealanders had worked in the European Parliament politically. As a result I am no fan of bureaucracy, and to quote a former President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors: “I firmly believe that governments should do less, but what they do, they must do better.”
I have owned a business where, on a daily basis, we balanced the demands of finding and keeping good staff with the need to remain competitive and productive. I have great sympathy for every New Zealander who will fight to survive in the coming months and years as the world’s economy struggles to change. I do not subscribe to the view that employers are bad people, yet I accept that employees must be afforded rights.
I have experience of diplomacy. In 2000 I travelled to Cotonou in Benin to attend the signing of a development and trade agreement between Europe and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. There I met the Foreign Minister of the Cook Islands and the Premier of Niue. Over months, these two countries decided to establish diplomatic representation to the European Union in Brussels. I was honoured to be asked to represent those two beautiful countries as their ambassador to Europe. I declare an interest: in 2005 I was awarded honorary Cook Islands nationality by the Government and people of the Cook Islands. I am proud to stand here today and say to the people of New Zealand that I am a Cook Islander, and I send greetings to my friends in Rarotonga: kia orana.
After many years in Europe, my wife and I were faced with an important decision—a decision that would decide the very people our children would grow to become. Our choice was between living a life different from that of our childhoods or embracing the very things that make New Zealanders unique. It was not a choice between a life in Brussels, where it always rains, and a life in Wellington, where it never does. During my campaign I met a man in Rotorua while I was door-knocking who wanted to talk to me about how to keep young people out of trouble, and I was impressed by this man. He had been a gang member for much of his life; he had served time in prison. He said that he had never voted because he just did not care, but when he last came out of prison he decided to change. He wanted to change because of love for his family, and he wanted a different life for his children. He left the gang, he got a job, and he now works with the community. His children will have a brighter future, and in future when I am faced with decisions that affect New Zealanders I will think of this man.
I want for a moment to reflect upon the country that we live in. Many years ago New Zealand society was based upon the structure of the family. Neighbours knew each other and they liked each other. Rural communities were strong and perhaps life was simpler. When a school needed a new swimming pool—and schools used to have swimming pools—or a small community needed a hall, funds were raised to buy timber and cement, and people came together to build these things. Today funds are raised for resource consent and for development levies, and many of our children no longer know how to catch a fish or climb a tree.
The Rotorua electorate is an exceptional place and it is reflective of much of New Zealand, from our beautiful lakes—and we have many in Rotorua—to Mount Tarawera and Ngongotahā, and to the trees of the central North Island. Indeed, Nick Smith and I were known to hug such trees during the early part of our campaign this year, on the foreshore of Lake Tikitapu. We have great beaches at Maketū and Pukehina, and some of the best saltwater and freshwater fishing in this country.
My electorate is truly a place of vast opportunity. We are rich in culture and Māoridom is strong in this region. I believe Māori culture to be my culture, because I was born in this country. Kawerau and Murupara are communities where the people are proud, and where they have achieved together. Kawerau is the smallest council district in New Zealand, and we should learn from its commitment and emulate its successes in other parts of this land.
I lay claim to the following claims on behalf of the people of the Rotorua electorate. Rotorua is the tourism capital of New Zealand. Next year the Bay of Plenty will celebrate the upgrading of the Rotorua airport to international standard. This airport will be a gateway to the Bay and will provide benefit to the many towns and cities in our region. Visitors come to Rotorua expecting the very best service. They want memorable and unique experiences, and they want to eat and drink, and go shopping. In parts of our country this is possible, but in Rotorua over Easter it is not. If we are serious about tourism in this country, if we are to embrace the benefits of increased visitor numbers, then we need to change. The message that we send from this tourism capital is “Don’t come to Rotorua over Easter; it is closed.” We need to change this message to fully embrace the future.
The Rotorua electorate is also the forestry capital of New Zealand. Engineering, trucking, and transport innovation all play a vital role in our local economy. I believe that forestry has importance to our future; the way to meet our international environmental commitment is to plant more trees and then to process those trees in this country—to add value to them here. We must send a clear signal to the forestry industry that as a Parliament we offer support. I am fully committed to working with the forestry sector and to all those whose livelihoods are dependent upon it for the future of my electorate.
Following boundary changes my electorate is also the kiwifruit capital of New Zealand. Our kiwifruit are impressive. They are large, they are sought after by international markets, and some of them are even shaved. The kiwifruit sector, like others, has suffered over recent years, but the development of infrastructure in the Bay of Plenty and an unrelenting focus on productivity will help the kiwifruit farmers of Te Matai Road. I will work closely with them to ensure that their industry is managed as they wish it to be.
During her maiden speech yesterday my colleague Melissa Lee spoke of the horrific death of little Nia Glassie in Rotorua. It would be easier to speak of only the good things about my home and to ignore the problems as if they had not happened, but that is not my way. It concerns me that the very people who should love and cherish our young the most—Nia’s parents and grandparents—treated her life so cheaply. The action of those found to be responsible for Nia’s death was evil, and I know of no other way to describe it. Justice for Nia Glassie will be done only when horrific child abuse in all parts of New Zealand stops. Today I challenge all communities of New Zealand to care more for our children. It is a privilege to be a parent; it is not a right. It will take more than reports and inquiries to stop this cycle of violence—child abusers do not read our reports—it will take consequence and personal responsibility. It will take each of us, as a community, to stand up and say that violence of any type is not acceptable.
Two weeks ago I met a small boy who attends Ōtamarākau School on the edge of my electorate in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. He asked me what my job was and I explained that the job of an MP was to represent, and to be a loud, clear voice on behalf of, the people of his electorate. I also said that more than anything I believe the job of a member of Parliament is to listen, not just to talk, and, quoting a Greek philosopher, said: “This should be easy, as I have two ears and only one mouth. I will be able to listen twice as much as I talk.” This small boy studied me. He looked at me and he said: “Sir, I think you will be a great MP. I can see two of your ears.”
To be a member of this House is a privilege, and I pledge to remember this each and every day I am here. It is an opportunity to work hard to help others, and to make New Zealand and my home, Rotorua, better. The day that I forget this privilege will be the day that it is time for me to leave this place. Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, and I thank the House.
’Tis the sneeze of life .]
I rise for the first time in this House, proud to be a Labour member of Parliament, inspired by the democratic tradition this House represents, and humbled by the great parliamentarians who have come before. I congratulate you, Mr Assistant Speaker, on your election, I acknowledge the Speech from the Throne, and I look forward to contributing to a robust Opposition that fulfils its constitutional duty for the next 3 years.
As I look around the walls of this debating chamber and reflect on the battles waged and lives lost by thousands of New Zealanders to help forge our young nation, I am moved by the simple but brilliant concept of this House. Like the countless, often nameless, people who have served and sacrificed for New Zealand in war, we too are servants of something bigger—something grander; something bolder. We come from varied backgrounds, but we all are united in a goal to collectively serve. At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not. Regardless, we all will have served our nation, and for that I greet every member of this House, regardless of whichever side of the aisle he or she sits, and I look forward to working with all members, and to disagreeing strenuously with some.
If there is one thing that unites us all in this House, I would hope it is the belief we can make New Zealand the best it can be. It seems a minor miracle that this little collection of islands at the bottom of the Pacific with a mere 4 million people can sustain a successful, modern nation State that boasts some of the best quality of life the world can offer. What an implausible but heroic project it is, bringing together the descendants of the first settlers who, 1,000 years ago, crossed the Pacific by waka to this, the last significant land mass in the world to be settled by humans, and also the 19th century Europeans who sailed to the other side of the planet to build a new life free from class exploitation, and the 20th century Boeing arrivals who fled poverty and oppression, or who were simply seeking a better life for their children. We are all united by a desire to create a better world, and the only difference between us is when our waka touched these shores.
This common bond created a whakapapa of pioneering social reform: the Parihaka prophets of Te Whiti and Tohu, who offered a strategy of non-violent action to resolve previously lethal disputes; Kate Sheppard and the suffragettes, securing the vote for women; Richard Seddon and the Liberals, bringing in ground-breaking social and industrial legislation; Michael Joseph Savage, creating one of the world’s most comprehensive social security systems in the 1930s; Peter Fraser, at the UN in 1945, helping to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Norm Kirk, in the 1970s, standing up for a nuclear-free Pacific; and the Treaty settlement process started by Kirk and Matiu Rata, a unique effort at post-colonial reconciliation over more than 3½ decades. There is much to be proud of, and to draw inspiration from.
Let us not forget our other nation builders: the entrepreneurs, the scientists, public servants, our artists, educators, sportspeople, the men and women who worked the land, the workers who built the roads, raised the kids, and fought the wars when we asked them to do so, and those who clean the offices, run the footy and netball teams, look after our older and frail New Zealanders, and work in the kitchens, shops, and factories.
In spite of our national tendency to self-doubt, we know we are capable of great things. I believe that to achieve great things there are a few things that we must do first. I believe we must unleash the talents of all of our citizens. This will take great health and education systems, and a shared belief that unemployment, incarceration, and ill health are above all a waste of human potential that we cannot afford. I believe we must recognise there are some things we do more efficiently and fairly together, rather than privately. Smart, strong Government can deliver the essentials: health care, cost-effective social insurance, education, and superannuation. These social supports mean we all get the best possible start in life, and after that it is up to each of us to apply our talent and hard work. This, to me, is modern socialism. This, to me, is what it means to be in a modern New Zealand Labour Party.
I reject the notion that Government is a burden. In a global market place, where billions of dollars can be moved across borders at the click of a mouse, it is easy for the big to get bigger, at the expense of the vulnerable. Rules are needed for fair competition and to make markets work. Government can have a role in owning strategically important enterprises. I believe we must constantly look for ways to help our firms to grow and create high-value jobs, and seize the opportunities in global markets. We have to invest more in research and development and science, based on our comparative advantages. We have to keep building the infrastructure for a 21st century economy, and we must meet head-on the challenge of sustainability. If we win, we can continue to do business in a post-carbon world, and enjoy a truly clean and green New Zealand. If we lose, it does not bear thinking about. Is there a New Zealander who does not want his or her children or grandchildren to once again be able to swim and fish at our beaches and rivers and lakes?
None of this will happen unless we strike a deal with each other, based on the common good: a deal that says if we work hard and play by the rules, we will have every opportunity to get ahead and enjoy the fruits of our labours, and that we pay our fair share of taxes because they are the price of a decent society and the only way to truly protect the Kiwi way of life: the fair go for all. They are the price of a decent New Zealand, where the local school provides a great education, where access to health care is not determined by the size of someone’s wallet, where people who are injured at work or play are looked after, and where no one needs to live in a gated community to feel safe. That is why I am proud to stand here today as a Labour member of Parliament.
One of the issues we need to talk about is the constitution. That conversation about our nation’s destiny must be framed by the republic, and not by the constitutional trappings of our colonial past. We have been far too shy of having this debate. But as our nation rapidly changes its make-up, its ties to England will become even more strained and irrelevant. As I look around this Chamber I see the most diverse House in the history of this institution, and the last thing that I think of is the Queen on the other side of the world. It is not a debate we should leave for the Australians to have first, then, by some kind of osmosis, follow in New Zealand. We must have this discussion on our own terms.
It is a journey that I hope to play a role in as a first generation New Zealander, the fourth child of Sam and Gillian Twyford, who arrived fresh off the plane at Whenuapai shortly before I was born in 1963, as part of the great post-war British diaspora. My mother, who will be watching this speech on television, more than anyone made me who I am. She brought love and hard work to the task of raising five children on her own. We were never what you would call poor, but to put jam on our bread she cleaned other people’s houses and worked the night shift at a local rest home. In mid-life a stroke left her disabled, but she recovered amazingly and has lived independently for the last 23 years, thanks to her grit and drive.
Although mother is the core of my being, I trace my political awakening to a couple of important moments. As a fifth former at Westlake Boys High School, I listened on a transistor radio at lunchtime to a news broadcast of the police and army evicting Ngāti Whātua from Bastion Point on the orders of then Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon. It struck me as shameful that a democratic nation could send in the might of the State to evict these people from their land. The second was the visit to my school by Michael Lapsley, a New Zealand Anglican priest who was part of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. A parcel bomb from the South African intelligence services blinded him and blew his hands off. I wagged a class to hear him speak to a group of older students, and the story of his courageous refusal to compromise his beliefs before the unyielding power of the State changed my life.
My moral and political compass took its bearings through the economic and social turbulence of the 1980s. Like thousands of other New Zealanders I marched against apartheid, blockaded our harbours against nuclear-armed ships, and door-knocked for the election of the fourth Labour Government. Its independent foreign policy, long overdue social and environmental reforms, and progress on the Treaty were cause for elation. But, as for many, the sweet taste of social progress turned to ashes in my mouth. An economic crisis became the pretext for an ideological blitzkrieg that tried to impose a commercial model on almost every facet of our nation’s life. Change was needed, but by God we paid the price in terms of poverty, inequality, loss of productive capacity in our firms, and damaged generations. We are still paying.
It is possible, I believe, to run an open economy that welcomes good foreign investment while also protecting what is good and valuable about our landscape, our institutions, and our way of life. It is possible to have a business-friendly environment while respecting the rights of workers and treating them with dignity. It is possible to celebrate success and wealth creation while also giving a hand up to those who need it. It is possible.
During the dark years of the Douglas-Richardson experiments, I refocused my energies on humanitarianism and development, first as the founding executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, then as the advocacy director of Oxfam International, based in Washington DC. We gave many thousands of New Zealanders the chance to help in a practical way to make our planet a fairer place. We smuggled medical supplies into Bougainville through a military blockade, so mothers who had fled the fighting by going into the bush would not die from preventable deaths in childbirth. We funded loans to Ethiopian farmers driven from the land by famine, so they could start businesses. We provided legal support for widows who lost their husbands and children in the Guatemalan civil war, so human rights abusers would be brought to justice.
I tell members these things to illustrate my view that we all need to stand up against what we see is wrong in our communities. Not to act makes us part of the problem. My latter years with Oxfam taught me that one cannot achieve lasting change without politicians who are prepared to be courageous and to take risks to do what is right. As I lobbied the UN Security Council against the invasion of Iraq, Helen Clark’s stand against the Bush-Blair-Howard war made me proud to be a New Zealander.
As a social democrat it is hard to underline enough how important Helen Clark and Michael Cullen and their generation in Labour politics have been to our hopes for this country. They rescued our party and rebuilt it. They brought our nation’s politics back to a better, more sensible place. They reconstructed a working model of social democracy anchored in Labour values. For that, I say thank you.
I want to conclude by thanking those who have travelled with me so far on this journey: my colleagues in journalism, my fellow members of the Service and Food Workers Union and the wider labour movement, my Oxfam mates both here and abroad, and numerous party colleagues. I want to single out my campaign manager, Barbara Ward, and the members of the North Shore Labour Electorate Committee who have campaigned alongside me for two elections, particularly Frances and Bill Bell. And most of all today, for my partner, Joanna, and our son, Harry, I say this: this land is our land, and nothing is too good for the future generations we will pass it on to.
Nō reira, e ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā rangatira maha kua rūpeke mai nei ki raro i te tuanui o tēnei o tō tātou Whare, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora mai anō tātou.
[So to the powers, languages, and the many leaders gathered beneath the roof of this House of ours, greetings to you, greetings to you, and greetings once again to all of us.]
Whakarongo mai, whakarongo mai. Whakarongo mai ki tēnei uri o Ngātokimatawhaorua e tū atu rā i te ākau o Ipīpiri. E tuwhera atu rā te awa o Taumārere-herehere-i-te-riri. Ka rere mā Ōtūihu, tae ki ngā rekereke o Tapukewharawhara. Raro i a Puketohunoa, ko Pūhangahau, takoto kau ngā kōiwi tūpuna, ara mai he tētēkura. Ka hiki te manawa i te kakara reka o Te Kāretu. Ngā kaitiaki o te ahikā ko Ngāti Manu. Tiheiwā mauri ora. Tēnā tātou katoa i whakarauikatia mai i raro i te tāhuhu o tō tātou nei Whare. Tēnā rā hoki koutou e tōku whānau whānui kua patu mai i ngā huarahi, mai i ngā pito tawhiti o te motu ki te tatū ki konei, hei tautoko i te kaupapa o te rā nei. Tēnā tātou ō tātou mate maha.
[Hearken, listen to my words. Take heed of this descendant of Ngātokimatawhaorua. I stand on the shore of Ipīpiri at the mouth of my river Taumārere-herehere-i-te-riri. It flows by Ōtūihu, and reaches the heels of Tapukewharawhara. There at the base of Puketohunoa is Pūhangahau, the final resting place of the ancestors. A new frond has arisen. My heart is imbued by the sweet scent of Te Kāretu. Ngāti Manu are guardians of the homelands. Sneeze, ’tis the breath of life. Greetings to us all assembled here under the ridgepole of our House. Greetings to you, my extended family who set out on the highways from distant points of the land to be here to support today’s event. And greetings to you, our many dead.]
Mr Assistant Speaker, I acknowledge and congratulate you on your election to your position. I also acknowledge the leaders of the Labour Party, the Hon Phil Goff and the Hon Annette King. I look forward to working with them both and with the Labour caucus, and to making a contribution to our team and nation. Also, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate the Rt Hon Helen Clark on her formidable leadership of the Labour Party and, indeed, on having been the Prime Minister of New Zealand for the last 9 years. I thank Helen for the way she honoured my people of Ngāti Manu earlier this year, when she visited our valley and marae and endorsed my candidacy.
With affection I acknowledge my family and friends—those who have been able to traverse the length of Te Ika-a-Māui to be here, especially my wife, Moira, and my father, Pānapa, as well as those who could not be here, including my children, Kelly, Billie, and Rēweti; my mother, Glenys; my brothers, Patrick and Greg; my sister, Sonya; my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law; my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Tom and Raewyn Hoddle; my numerous nephews and nieces, aunties and uncles, and cousins; and my whānau from Ngāti Manu. I also acknowledge my many tribal connections in the mid-north to Te Kapotai, Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi whanui, Ngāti Wai, and Ngāti Whātua. I acknowledge in the far north the iwi Ngāti Kurī, Te Aupōuri, Ngāi Takoto, Ngāti Kahu and Te Rarawa, and also those of my iwi further south—in particular Ngāi Tai, Ngāti Kahungunu, and Ngāti Raukawa.
I am honoured to have stood for Labour in the seat of Te Tai Tokerau, and although disappointed not to have won it I acknowledge my whanaunga Hone Harawira, who was successful—tēnā koe e Hone. I also congratulate and acknowledge all other Māori members of Parliament and hope that Māori will see the benefits of our presence here.
I hail from the valley of Kāretu. Across the road from our marae stands Puketohunoa, one of our ancestral maunga. On the summit of Puketohunoa once dwelt my tupuna, Whētoi Pōmare. From his whare named Tīhema he had sweeping panoramas of the valley and across to Ruapekapeka, the site of the last battle of the northern land wars. At the foot of our maunga, Puketohunoa, flows our Kāretu creek, which runs seaward and connects with our tupuna awa known as Taumārere-herehere-i-te-riri. One of our Ngāti Manu waiata connects these three features to one another in the lines: “Tū ana mātou ki runga o Puketohunoa, ka titiro atu ki Ruapekapeka, ka hoki mai ki te puna o ōku mātua e, e karekare nei e, ko Taumārere.”
[“We stand on Puketohunoa and look upon Ruapekapeka and back again to the rippling waters of our parents’ bathing pool, it is Taumārere.”]
If one was to drift in the current of, first, the Kāretu creek past the foot of Puketohunoa, then into the flow of Taumārere, one would eventually pass by the cradle of our nation, Waitangi, where as we all know in February 1840 a number of Māori chiefs, including my tupuna Whētoi Pōmare, drew their moko on to a piece of paper that is now known as the Treaty of Waitangi. I would like to believe that when my tupuna Pōmare etched the shape of his facial tattoo on to that piece of paper, he did it in the hope that his actions would ensure the future prosperity of his whānau, his hapū, and his iwi. The world has changed, 168 years later, beyond what my tupuna could have imagined. But what has not changed, at least in my whānau, is that in the six generations since, from generation to generation through to my grandparents, parents, and my brothers, sister, and myself, is the understanding that our actions today leave a legacy for generations to come and must contribute to the ongoing prosperity of whānau, hapū, and iwi.
The prosperity of all Māori is necessary if we are to fulfil the words of our great Tai Tokerau rangatira Sir James Hēnare, when he once said: “It is preposterous that any Maori should aspire to become a poor pakeha when their true destiny, prescribed by the Creator, is to become a great Maori.” What makes Māori great? I believe all Māori who achieve their potential or beyond and bolster the standing of their whānau and community achieve a measure of greatness. As a former principal it was immensely rewarding to witness the joy and satisfaction on the face of whānau when their children achieved. I was acutely aware, though, of how thin those ranks of achievement are in many of our schools. New Zealand history shows that Māori can succeed in the face of adversity. But this success needs to become the norm rather than the exception. The greatness of a nation is linked to the distinction of its people.
I come to the House seeking to make a contribution that enriches our nation through expanding the ranks of those Māori families who seek educational achievement. The lessons of the chalkface have value and ought to be borne in mind as we debate how to innovate, fund, and improve our system of education. Being a great achiever begins for our children when they enjoy aroha—that is, unconditional love from parents and caregivers who realise that raising children is not a right to do as one likes but an obligation to the next generation. Educational engagement and achievement is vital to Māori greatness and prosperity. We will achieve more with one full generation of highly educated Māori than we will from the last 168 years of grievance. We need Māori to be educated so that we become the people of influence and the decision makers.
I have spent 20 years at the chalkface in education. I enjoyed a 14-year career as a principal, and am especially proud of the achievements of the board of trustees, staff, and students of Kaitāia Intermediate School, which in 7 years saw a school turn from almost total academic failure to academic success. We proved at Kaitāia Intermediate School that Māori do not need to wait decades or generations to see improvements to Māori achievement and well-being at school. It can happen almost immediately. With the right approach by principals, teachers, bureaucrats, politicians, and others within the system, Māori can, and will, make immense and rapid gains in achievement. Those will lead on to gains in Māori health and life expectancy, financial well-being, leadership positions and influence, and being able to collectively and fully contribute to our country.
We must ensure our education system engages Māori from their first day of school right through until their last day at end of year 13, and on to a lifetime of striving for knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. For many Māori disengagement from the educational system is but the first step in disengagement from society in general. Māori will never achieve greatness or beyond our potential unless we are educationally successful. Therefore it is imperative, if Māori are to achieve great things, that we get the education system right for Māori.
Conversely, we, Māori, have to realise one of our greatest weaknesses is to blame the system. We know that history has conspired against us. We know a heck of a lot happened to our people that has set our progress and development back and has resulted in our struggle to prosper and achieve greatness. But as critical as I am of those who deny the effects of the damage the system has done to Māori over the last 168 years, I am equally critical of Māori who blame only the system for their own failings. Do we, as a people, have the courage to accept responsibility for our lives? It is time for us to collectively step up and, as we say, para te huarahi—blaze a trail. I have sat in hui where the talk has all been about the injustices, the grievances, and the excessive navel-gazing that stagnates the mind and saps the energy and the soul. It is time we stopped wallowing in self-pity and instead looked for solutions. It is time our hui were all forward thinking, positive, and solutions based.
Last Wednesday I attended a seminar where a group of Māori gathered to discuss information and communications technology. These people were educated, professional, and motivated. There was no self-pity, there was no talk of grievance, and there was no talk of injustice. There were problems and frustrations, but they searched for solutions. We need to replicate that sense of purpose and mission in our hui, our marae, and our homes. Blaming the system implies we are too weak as a people to help ourselves—that we are victims. Bad stuff has happened, but we must cease to be victims. Māori need to sort ourselves out. Education is the passport, but we need to put ourselves on the flight to the future. Obviously policy, process, and ideology are a part of the journey and it will happen with a collaboration of the spirit.
A kaumātua said to me earlier this year that the problem with our Māori youth is actually us, the adults. His words to me were: “We need to lay off our youth and sort ourselves out.” If we want our Māori youth to act in a certain way to achieve personal greatness, then they need Māori adults to be the role models and demonstrate how that is to be done. If we are serious about wanting to prosper and provide hope for our kids then Māori adults need to step up. We Māori men need to step up. It is said that being a male is a matter of birth, but being a man is a matter of choice. Likewise, being a Māori is a matter of birth, but being a Māori achiever is a matter of choice. We Māori men must have the courage to lead our whānau and hapū towards prosperity and greatness. We are renowned for our warrior spirit, but it is time that warrior spirit manifested itself in new ways. We need to replace anger, grievance, and self-pity with dignity, determination, resilience, and forgiveness.
I conclude by stating that I have hope for the future: the future of my children and the future for us as Māori. I believe that by lifting Māori educational achievement and by us as Māori having the courage to take control of our present we will as a people achieve prosperity and the future greatness that is our destiny. That road to greatness has been paved with trials and tribulations. But those trials and tribulations never stopped Sir James Hēnare, a boy from Mōtatau deep in the heart of Ngāti Hine, from standing as an example of how our destiny as Māori, prescribed by the Creator, is to achieve greatness. I look forward to the contributions I can make to this forty-ninth Parliament as an educator, a politician, and a Māori, for the benefit of the whole nation.
Nō reira tātou mā, huri noa i tō tātou Whare, rau rangatira mā, e te whānau, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
[So to all of us throughout our House, the many leaders and the family, greetings to you, greetings to you, and greetings to us all.]
May I add my congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on your election to your position. I look forward to your guidance and wisdom as my colleagues and I find our feet in this place. I am proud, honoured, and humbled to enter this House as the member for Palmerston North and a member of the Labour caucus. Unlike my esteemed predecessors Steve Maharey and Trevor de Cleene, I am not a native of Palmerston North, nor did I spend my formative years in the same State house on Savage Crescent where, coincidentally, that pair grew up.
Not together. My childhood was spent a world away on a beef farm near Waiuku, south of Auckland. For me, the decision to live in Palmerston North was a conscious one that was made without the weight of parochial loyalty that I now feel towards my home town—and Palmerston North is my home. I have lived there for close to 11 years, I met my wife there, and my children were born there. Over the last 10 years all of my immediate family have followed me to Palmerston North, and it is my desire that our family will have a close connection with the city for many, many years to come.
Like my relationship with Palmerston North, my relationship with the Labour Party is not one founded on generations of family loyalty. Exactly how a privately educated boy from a beef farm, who had Bill Birch as his local MP, grew up to become active in the student and Labour movements still has many people somewhat perplexed, not least my parents.
That is a story for another day, but the reason I joined the Labour Party is quite simple: its values match my own. I believe in communities. I believe in decent pay for good work. I believe in strong public services, and that the State is still relevant and necessary in a modern economy. I believe in freedom of choice and individual responsibility. I also believe that we each have a responsibility to work in one another’s best interests, and not just our own. Most of all, I believe in empowering people. That means investing in our communities and in each other. It certainly does not mean withdrawing support from those who are the most vulnerable and at the margins of our society.
These are values that were taught to me by my parents who, I am pleased to say, are watching us from the gallery today. Everything they did for their two growing sons was done out of a desire to give us the very best opportunities in life. It is fair to say that these days my family and I do not exactly see eye to eye politically. In fact, it seems it caused quite a dilemma for my parents when choosing between voting for their son or for the local National Party candidate. My parents are lateral thinkers and they came up with a novel, if not slightly drastic, solution. They moved out of the electorate. I am sure Simon Power will be relieved to know that he has two more loyal supporters. Nevertheless, I know that I would not be here today if it were not for the love and encouragement that pervaded my childhood, and for that I thank them both.
The city where my wife Clare and I have chosen to raise our own children is a bustling, vibrant regional centre. It has a robust economy, thanks to a mix of public and private sector industries and services. It excels in servicing the agricultural sector of the Manawatū and beyond. It excels in research, education, retail, manufacturing, and distribution. The city is full of innovative people and the work being done at Massey University, at the Fitzherbert Science Park, and in numerous small businesses in the city has the potential to put Palmerston North and New Zealand on the map as a leader in sustainable agrifood research. Such research and the teaching of the skills required to carry it out are at the heart of New Zealand’s ongoing and necessary economic transformation. The public sector must support the kind of blue-skies research required to make substantial scientific advances and it is right that Governments remain committed to funding such work, as well giving our scientists the freedom to explore avenues of potential benefit.
However, it is equally important that an environment is created in which New Zealand businesses are encouraged to invest in research and development. New Zealand’s private sector research and development investment is woeful by international standards. In fact, as a percentage of GDP it is one-third the OECD average. The countries ahead of us have been offering something called research and development tax credits for years. Currently 21 OECD countries are offering research and development tax credits; it is soon to be 20. Our research and development investment must improve, becauseNew Zealand needs a private sector that is committed to research and development. As my colleague the Hon Pete Hodgson told the House last night, businesses engaged in research and development are by their nature more likely to be high growth, economically sustainable, more likely to have a commitment to staff retention, and more likely be exporters. They need skilled labour, not cheap labour. They are what this country needs.
If we are to remain on the path towards a high-wage economy, we must stay focused on what makes New Zealand unique. Part of what makes New Zealand unique is that thing we call our clean, green image. When thinking of New Zealand, most international travellers tell us that they come here to experience our lush native bush, our pristine mountain ranges, our unblemished beaches, and our pollution-free rivers. The marketing is perfect: 100 percent pure New Zealand. Unfortunately, the reality does not quite match the hype. But it is not just the tourism industry that relies on clean, green New Zealand. The quality of our exports will increasingly be judged by the environmental impact of their production. Yes, we already do well by international standards, but given the distance to our markets and the misleading attention given to food miles, there is increasing pressure to be cleaner and greener than everybody else.
But the arguments in favour of environmental sustainability are about much, much more than the economic imperatives. I am immensely proud to be a member of the party that led the Government into finally facing up to the difficult challenge of taking just the first few steps towards reducing emissions. I am equally dismayed to be a member of a House of Representatives that plans to stall the progress of the emissions trading scheme. To me, the sustainability question can be boiled down to this: in what state will we leave our one and only planet for future generations? Will we hand them the legacy of blind greed, of an environment so devastated that there is no foundation for a sound economy? Or will we take action now so that our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren can enjoy the lifestyle we naively take for granted?
We should also ask ourselves what kind of society we would like our children and grandchildren to inherit. Palmerston North is a great place to raise a family. It is a safe, culturally diverse city blessed with tremendous schools, an effervescent arts culture, and outstanding sporting facilities. The opportunities to learn, work, and play seem boundless. It is a place where children thrive. Sadly, though, so many of our families are unable to create the environments in which children prosper. Some of the reasons are financial, and I ask members to take note of the advice I have received from the Palmerston North Salvation Army and Methodist Social Services, that their food banks are now increasingly being frequented by low-income working families that are struggling to make ends meet.
But money—or the lack of it—is not the root of all the challenges for our young families. When I listen to the principals of our primary schools, there is a clear theme in what they are telling me. When they see a child walk through the door at age 5, they can tell straight away how stable his or her home environment is and, by extension, the likelihood of that child’s academic and social success, and the likelihood that he or she will go on to be a productive and valuable member of the community. We can demand all we want from our schools: to teach our children how to read and write, the fundamentals of maths, science, history, and geography, how to use a computer, and how to access the Internet. We can expect our schools to provide opportunities for children to explore their artistic and sporting talents, and we can even ask them to teach civics and instil discipline. We can ask our schools to do all that, but if our children then go home to an environment where learning is not supported, where there is little or no adult supervision, where violence is a day-to-day occurrence, and where there is no food on the table, then all our demands on our schools are for naught.
I am not saying our nation is riddled with bad parents. I know that the overwhelming majority of parents want the very best for their children. Parents who are struggling want to give their children the opportunities they might not have had themselves. But often they just do not know how. What many of our parents desperately need is guidance and support. We need role models to help set our parents and our children on the path towards achieving their own goals. How can we help? What can we do? Is there a place for the Government to offer assistance or do we baulk at the idea of interfering bureaucrats moving into our homes and telling us how to raise our children? If that is what I was advocating, then I would expect an outright rejection, but it is not. There are already numerous organisations working within their own communities to assist the parents of young families. Te Aroha Noa Community Services is just one of several I could name in Palmerston North. Te Aroha Noa is based in Highbury, a suburb in our city that struggles to hit the news for the right reasons. Five years ago things hit rock-bottom in Highbury. Tensions between rival gangs flared and it culminated in the tragic end of a young life. The community could have chosen to turn a blind eye or to blame some outside force, but they chose instead to take ownership of the problem. They decided they needed to rebuild their community. They decided they wanted people to be proud to live in Highbury and there are now several organisations involved in achieving this splendid ambition, including the primary health provider Te Wakahuia, the Highbury Whanau Centre, and the people of Rangitāne.
I single out Te Aroha Noa because their focus is on children and their families. In particular, it delivers the Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters—HIPPY for short. This is a home-based programme that supports parents in becoming actively involved in their children’s learning. Parents and children work together for 15 minutes a day with story books, puzzles, and games and the goal is to help those children become successful learners. The tutors are parents themselves who have been through the programme with their own children. They visit people in their homes, so it creates an opportunity to build community relationships. Te Aroha Noa specifically works within the Highbury community and the neighbouring communities of Takaro and Cloverlea—they work in and with their own community. Some of the tutors are young mothers who have themselves struggled—indeed, they are still struggling—to build the life they want for their families.
Earlier this year I met three young women—very inspirational. They are all mothers and all are now giving something back as tutors. They spoke of their goals and ambitions, and more important, how they planned to achieve them. One woman spoke of making Highbury violence free. I wish we could all be so bold to articulate such aspiration. My deep desire is that every parent in New Zealand would have access to the Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters, or something like it. I appreciate that significant funding is already available through the Ministry of Education but there are still so many families that the providers cannot reach and my fear is that these are exactly the families whose need is greatest.
The Government can and should do more. It will be difficult to measure the outcomes of any spending. We are not likely to see the results for another 20 years maybe. But I say to members that proactive investment is far more cost-effective and far more valuable to our society than trying to fix the problems we are ultimately responsible for through our own inaction. We must also pay attention to the pressures placed on all families by the organisation of Western society in the 21st century.
Our societal focal point is unarguably the workplace. Family time, community activities, and volunteering all take second place and must be fitted in around the requirements of the workplace. I believe we need to shift that focal point towards the family home, or at least promote non - workplace-based activities on to an equal footing with the workplace. There is no doubt that children do better in an environment where there is at least one adult family member available to nurture them. We ask so much of our parents and we are quick to point the finger when things go wrong. I am certain no one in this House would disagree that parenting is the most important job there is and that parents shape the future of our civilisation. The previous Government certainly acknowledged this and made incredible progress in supporting families. But we have considerably more to do to make our words anything more than empty sentiment. I suppose what I am talking about can be summed up in that cliché phrase work-life balance, hardly something politicians are renowned for.
I am sure it is obvious just how important my own family is to me and I would briefly like to mention just how thankful I am that my wife agreed to join me on this journey. Unfortunately Clare and the kids could not be here tonight but—technology willing—they are watching us on the Internet from the other side of the world, which, by the way, I think is marvellous and I hope more of Parliament’s public activities will be available through that medium one day. I am thankful to all the wonderful people in Palmerston North who have supported me thus far. We ran a long campaign and we faced many hurdles. But I was never alone and it was the team that truly carried the day, ably led by our campaign manager, John Shennan. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the support and mentoring I have received from the Hon Steve Maharey. I know he will be missed in these halls and will be remembered as a dynamic man of action who achieved lasting change in his portfolios. I once heard him described as the “Minister of Everything That’s Important”, although I must say he showed his wisdom by never taking on the health portfolio. His return to Palmerston North as vice-chancellor of Massey University was warmly received by our community and I look forward to working with him in our new respective roles for as long as Palmerston North will have me.
I cannot count the times I have been told, since my selection as the Labour Party candidate for Palmerston North, that I have big shoes to fill. I hope this does not disappoint anyone back in my home town but I have no plans to do so. Steve Maharey may have been as well known for his fashion sense as anything else he achieved in here, but I want you all to know that I have my own shoes, they fit me very well, and I am comfortable in them. I do hope, however, that my footsteps will leave even a slight impression akin to that of my predecessor’s. That would be an achievement indeed. My focus is on the future, and I expect to be judged on the effect my time here has on future generations of all New Zealanders.
I seek the leave of the House to allow the next speaker his full allocated time for his maiden statement, which will mean he will encroach into the dinner hour.
Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is no objection.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. Mr Speaker, I greet you and my colleagues in the name of our common spirituality, humbled as we are in the sight of the divine, whatever we each perceive this to be. I acknowledge the mana whenua on whose land this House stands. I honour my late parents, Robert and Patricia Graham, whom I and my brothers continue to miss, 25 years on. I embrace my two sons, David and Christopher, and their families. And I acknowledge, with tender love and devotion, my wife, my friend, my partner-in-life, Marilyn Moir Graham. I acknowledge the two predecessors in my family in whose footsteps I am proud to follow: the Hon Robert Graham, who served this House with distinction a century-and-a-half ago, and whose hei tiki lies here before me; and the Rt Hon Sir Douglas, whose presence on the floor of this Chamber I acknowledge today, who left such a profound legacy of dignity and vision in his ministerial career of more recent times, with whom the fraternal bond remains forever unbreakable. May their contributions prove everlasting for the future of this nation.
I am proud to represent the Green Party, whose contribution to New Zealand is already considerable, with yet more to come. I acknowledge my colleagues in the party, whose collective endeavours laid the basis for our electoral success. I acknowledge, in particular, the peerless contribution to this country of Jeanette Fitzsimons. I pay tribute to the memory of Rod Donald.
I enter this House, imbued with respect for its history, fortified by its many achievements. Let us all ensure that this forty-ninth Parliament honours this House not only with the dignity that is its due but with a foresight that empowers it to meet the far-reaching demands of our time. For it is our duty to pass on to the next generation a planet whose physical integrity enables them to advance their own part of the human story.
To that end, it is my belief that this country, through a unified resolve and strength of purpose, should aspire to the attainment of two related goals: to become a sustainable country and to act as a responsible global citizen. Our human tenure on this Earth is still young. With some five millennia of political experience behind us, we stand on the shoulders of perhaps a hundred generations that have gone before, whose courage and sacrifice enable us to glimpse the future from the strategic heights where we stand today. Our generation looks back with gratitude, mindful of their accumulated trials and labour. Yet as we turn to the future, we glimpse the unprecedented challenges that lie ahead. For ours is the first generation to confront problems of a planetary scale—daunting in their complexity, seemingly intractable in nature.
As our human numbers increase, our Earth-share diminishes. As our materialistic lifestyle expands, our ecological footprint grows ever larger. Humankind today, casting precaution to the wind, is recording an ecological overshoot beyond the planet’s carrying capacity, anthropogenically inducing climate change of unprecedented magnitude and alarming danger. We are drawing down on Earth’s natural resources, borrowing forward on the human heritage, irretrievably encroaching on our children’s right to inherit the Earth in a natural and sustainable state. It is the uniquely dubious fate of our generation to have broken the eternal promise of intergenerational justice.
We in New Zealand are part of the problem, not yet of the solution. Our individual ecological footprints are three times higher than the global average, our carbon emissions almost five times higher. If we offer the world a national ecological surplus, it is not through prudent husbandry or modesty of habit on our part, but because we are simply few in number. A sustainable world, a sustainable country, requires a change in mindset. That requires a new world-view, a transformational change in individual lifestyle, a refashioned approach to governmental management. It is time we measured national success, not through mindless material growth but through genuine progress in human well-being. It is time we relinquished our feverish ranking within the OECD, and began contributing to the true advancement of the emerging global society.
Sustainability is the supreme political value of the 21st century. It is not a concept of passing political expediency—a clip-on word for post-economic environmental damage. It is now the categorical imperative of personal behaviour. Individual freedoms are no longer unlicensed, but henceforth subordinate to the twin principles of survival and sustainable living. The political rights we enjoy today are to be calibrated by the responsibility we carry for tomorrow.
With a sustainable economy, New Zealand can aspire to be a harmonious society. That is the day we rediscover our egalitarian roots, attaining true partnership between Pākehā and tangata whenua. That is the day we reach out to immigrant cultures, welcoming their children to these shores, where the future beckons in this still young land of ours. That is the day when Aotearoa comes of age. And with a harmonious society, this country may then aspire to responsible global citizenship—by honouring our international obligations and never collaborating with those that do not; by thinking of tomorrow’s children and meeting our Kyoto targets today; by showing a true commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world, not only through our national zone here at home but, more critically, in our voting pattern overseas and support for a nuclear weapons convention; by promoting fair trade and aid in the quantity and quality we once promised we would; and by respecting all civilisations and faiths around the world, in a spirit of respect and due humility.
Above all, it is time we abided strictly by the global constitution of our times, working within coalitions of the lawful rather than the unwilling. Sixty-three years ago, our forefathers created the United Nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war that, twice in their lifetime, had brought untold suffering to humankind. Under the UN Charter, “war” has been rendered unlawful. Today, armed force may no longer be used by member States, save in the common interest. By adopting the charter, each member State, including New Zealand, undertakes never to commit aggression. It is time to ensure that we live up to our binding international obligations. It is time that the State responsibility New Zealand has assumed not to commit aggression is implemented in domestic legislation.
Over the years we have translated international obligations into our own legislation—in 1946 to abide by economic sanctions of the Security Council, and in 1987 to forswear nuclear weapons. In 2002 we made it a criminal offence for any New Zealander to commit genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. Now is the time to take the next step: to make it a crime in domestic law for any New Zealander, including its leaders, to commit aggression, as defined by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1974. This simply requires the adoption by this House of legislation to that effect. If any New Zealand Government were, in the future, to commit aggression in violation of its obligations under the United Nations Charter, it would bring this country into global disrepute, incurring unacceptable political shame to this House. In such a situation the moral legitimacy that underpins the jurisdictional authority of that Government will have collapsed, with potentially far-reaching implications for its constitutional status.
We shall not take the critical step towards the future global society until we rise above the constraints of our national sovereignty, sharing our judgments, our beliefs, and our trust in one another as peoples of this world, united by our common human values, inspired by our common interests, and resolved to pursue our common dreams together. Only through a “new patriotism” shall we free ourselves from the bondage of enmities past, securing ourselves from the carnage of the kind that those enmities once inflicted upon us.
Generations gone before have sacrificed for our cherished freedoms—freedom of speech and association, freedom to practise our religions, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. The rights we proclaim—civil and political; economic, social, and cultural—are matched today by responsibilities that are comparable in scale and shaped for our times. It is the responsibility of each human, endowed with reason and conscience, compassion and concern, to act towards one another in a fraternal spirit in pursuit of the planetary interest with which all legitimate national interests today are compatible.
Mr Speaker, I never knew my uncle. He lies, to this day, beneath the shifting sands of the Egyptian desert. Lieutenant Colonel Alec Greville, 24th Battalion, gave his life for his country, that we might live in freedom and, it was to be hoped, secure in the promise of a better future. It is in his name, in the exercise of that freedom, that I advance these political beliefs, that all New Zealanders might find their true destiny in a global unity with a common strength of purpose across all of humankind. I so pledge myself, and all my future actions in this House, to that end.