Mr Speaker, my parliamentary colleagues, and my former parliamentary colleagues, first I wish to greet you all in some of the languages of the people I have represented over the last 9 years: kia ora, assalam o alaikum, shalom, namaste, sat sri akaal, ayubowan, ni hao, and good afternoon, and to my Pasifika colleagues I say talofa lava, and malo.
I acknowledge the presence of members of my family, and the many members of the diplomatic corps, tangata whenua, community leaders, friends, and supporters, who have come from various parts of New Zealand to join me on this occasion. Many of these individuals and community representatives, too numerous to mention here, have provided me with guidance, encouragement, and support in fulfilling my role as an MP for the Labour Party, and in the implementation of its policies over 9 years.
Every member of this House realises the value of the work and support of their life partner. I wish to thank my wife, Samina, who has been the foundation of family support over my three terms as an MP, which resulted in me being away from home over long periods while undertaking a large amount of travel around Aotearoa New Zealand. Samina kept the family stability and gave loving care to our daughter Mehreen and her husband Shahid, my elder son Anwar and his wife Rabia, and our younger son Atif. Through this unending love and encouragement, our children have achieved high standards academically and vocationally, and have become positive contributors to society. Their ongoing success has fulfilled my dreams.
My political journey actually started some 40 years ago during my student life at university, as the journeys of many in this House probably have done. I joined a progressive political party in my first homeland of Pakistan, and took part in my first election as an activist. On election day, for my safety, and to avoid his own embarrassment, my father locked me up in my room because I was going to vote against his party. So that was the end of my very short political career in Pakistan, and I left that country soon thereafter. From then on, as I would journey through life, I decided to help open closed doors for others in the fields of education, community development, and politics.
My waka to Aotearoa New Zealand first landed in 1976. As an Asian, on my arrival I felt prejudice as conveyed by the often-used words such as “curry-munchers”, “wogs”, and “niggers”. Once I understood the meanings of these words, I started working across different communities to change such prevailing racism. In conveying my beliefs of fairness, justice, and equality, I aligned with the core principles of the Labour Party. As a grassroots worker I undertook to assist ethnic communities to understand Aotearoa New Zealand democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, and human rights, and to provide leadership quietly and peacefully for us to ingest ourselves with positive, law-abiding qualities as contributors to the Crown and tangata whenua, the two co-signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi. It was my long history of involvement in the Muslim and ethnic communities that, under MMP, eventually led me to become the first member of South Asian extraction and the first Muslim member of the New Zealand Parliament, in 2002.
Often there is a stigma attached to list MPs, as members have probably heard many times—that they have no electorate or constituency of their own. In my case, I believe that this has been far from the truth. I have had the largest constituency, spread across the cities and towns of New Zealand, for all these years. As an MP I was able to promote and support ethnic diversity in New Zealand, as well as offer my expertise as an agricultural and environmental scientist. As such, I represented all people, irrespective of their ethnicity, creed, or religion. I took upon myself additional roles to continue to educate the migrant and ethnic communities about democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, and the New Zealand way of life. Many migrants have come from countries and regions where democracy is either non-existent or not practised as we know it in New Zealand. I have facilitated our ethnic communities becoming involved in decision making at all levels, and I have quietly worked to break down barriers, including providing access to MPs, and visiting within the confines of this building—strange to many new migrants to this country.
The Asian population in New Zealand is projected to have the largest relative growth, averaging 3.4 percent a year. Their share of the population is likely to equal the Māori population within the next few years. These demographic changes need to be catered for. All the political parties need to uptake their responsibilities. It is not good enough to just use ethnic MPs and their communities as a kind of ATM machine. Ethnic communities seek respect and long-term relationships with political parties, not just lip-service and a few minutes of attendance at their annual festivals before people leave them as if they might catch bird flu.
Education is a key to understanding our differences, through the common goals of peace, security, and opportunity for our families and communities. I have undertaken this through encouraging numerous community leaders to undertake interfaith dialogue, ethnic workshops, and the strengthening and inter-participation of ethnic communities. The growth of non-Christian faiths, as reflected in the last New Zealand census, provides the platform for continued diversity through knowledge, understanding, sharing, and peace in Aotearoa New Zealand. Associated with this endeavour, in my first term I initiated the hosting of faith and cultural festivals within Parliament for community representatives, starting the Diwali festival for the Hindu community and the Eid festival for the Muslim community.
The Labour Government set up the Māori Television channel, which I regularly watch. This has been a great success in reaching out to the Māori community and celebrating their contribution. The time has come where we need to do something similar for the ethnic communities of New Zealand. Last year I promoted my member’s bill on establishing an ethnic broadcasting commission of inquiry. Because of our diverse society, I envisaged this as a way to promote a choice of more multicultural and multilingual television services that inform, educate, and provide entertainment accessible to all New Zealanders. Unfortunately, this bill has not been drawn out of the ballot for debate so far. I trust that future Governments on both sides of the House will take serious note of this urgent need for the ethnic communities.
I have been a keen member of the Primary Production Committee continuously for 9 years, and the Education and Science Committee during my first two terms in Parliament. This was a choice I made and it was granted. I also chaired the Education and Science Committee in 2008. I believe that members on both sides of the House have appreciated my contribution as an agricultural scientist on these committees. I will certainly miss colleagues on the Primary Production Committee; I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In these roles I confirmed my view that we need to continuously innovate in our agricultural sector. Knowledge, science, and research and development, as the skills of our primary industry, are our competitive advantage in the world. High-value exports rely on innovation. Innovation requires investment in education, research through universities and the private sector, and development through business interrelationships. This is required for our future economic growth in order to meet the overseas demand for premium products and services that are currently required in the high economic growth countries.
With rising GDP and the economic influence of Asia in the world, our small country down under needs to seriously reassess our association with Asia. It is my sad observation that for too long our relationship with Asia has remained transactional in nature, whether in the field of business, education and training, or tourism. From what I have learnt through my interactions, we politicians and the New Zealand public need to broaden our thinking and outlook and more deeply engage with our tangata whenua, immigrants, and particularly Asian people, to earn their trust and respect.
These matters have also often come up during discussions when I have been interacting with, or hosting, many overseas diplomats, particularly from the Asian and Middle Eastern regions. I believe my close working relationships with members of the diplomatic community from the wider Asian region and Middle Eastern countries, as evidenced by the presence in the gallery of many of them today, have brought significant benefits to Aotearoa New Zealand in the growth of education, trade and political relationships, and a better understanding of the diversity and significant value to New Zealand.
Yesterday we heard the sad news of the death of our SAS solider Leon Smith in Afghanistan. I wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and his loved ones. As the Hon Phil Goff said yesterday, I know this is not the time to talk about the rights and wrongs of the presence of our troops in Afghanistan. However, we must reflect on these issues urgently, as we cannot continue to fight other people’s immoral and unending wars of retribution and vengeance. We cannot stand tall among independent nations unless we follow our own home-grown policies. These policies need to be based on fairness, justice, and equity, and human rights for all.
When entering Parliament I was particularly fortunate to work with the previous Prime Minister, Helen Clark. Her leadership skills are unparalleled in her long service to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, coupled with the visionary support of her deputy, the Hon Michael Cullen. These leaders have been aptly replaced by the Hon Phil Goff and Annette King, who have professionally continued the leadership, the direction, and the vision of the Labour Party. They are backed by colleagues full of the vibrancy, intellect and skill to bring Aotearoa New Zealand to the economic, social, and skill levels needed to become fully competitive within our wider world. These skilled members of Parliament and members of the caucus provide a supportive environment and I have always enjoyed their company. To that end, I acknowledge my former colleague from Palmerston North, the Hon Steve Maharey, for being my mentor during the first 6 years of my career as an MP. I also wish to thank my colleagues George Hawkins, Su’a William Sio, and Ross Robertson, who included me in the “Southside Caucus” of our caucus. I thank them for their support and wisdom.
On joining Parliament, I established the Ethnic Sector Council within the Labour Party, which drew a lot of ethnic people to join the Labour Party over the years. At the beginning of this term, when Raymond Huo and Rajen Prasad joined me in Parliament, we established the ethnic caucus within the Labour Party. I thank them both for their support and collegiality.
To all those who worked with me in Parliament, my current and former executive assistants, Rebecca Papprill, Sandra Wilson, Helen Toner, and Gunda Tente, and to my out-of-Parliament issues assistant in Auckland, Mr Alamgir Afridi, I say thank you for your high-quality work. I say a thank you also to the tireless work of Parliament’s receptionists, messengers, Hansard reporters, select committee staff, security guards, and Copperfield’s and Bellamy’s staff.
Finally, many ethnic community leaders and opinion leaders texted me when they heard the news of my stepping down from Parliament as a Labour MP. I thought I should quote just three of them. Brijesh said: “It’s a big loss to Labour as I’m not sure who will be the voice of the Indian people after you resign. Thank you for all your support and assistance when we needed it.” Mr Zaker said: “Dear Sir, your entrance into politics not only lifted our morale, but paved the way for ethnic migrants to actively join politics and to become bees of the beehive. You are an icon and I hope that many will have benefited from your political wisdom.” Then, from Ilango: “Dear Dr, I am shocked. We Indians were always proud to be represented in Parliament by you.” He says: “In my eyes, you were never just a politician; you are honest, simple, humble and approachable. I am looking forward to working with you in the future. I am always with you.”
So these words give me confidence that I have been able to open closed doors for the ethnic people of New Zealand, and that my 9 years in Parliament have been a positive platform from which others can launch their waka and take up the challenge to continue in the development of a land not only of milk, sheep and honey but also a diverse, progressive society of equality, understanding, and peace.
Before I finally finish, I have a postscript. Last night I received a great, but very pleasant, surprise in my life. At a moving ceremony I was given this gift of pounamu. I was honoured by Mr Jack Wood, on behalf of a number of iwi leaders, to wear this at this occasion. This generosity reflected the mana of our people. I say publicly that my family and I will not forget this gesture. I thank you, Jack and Pushpa Wood, for this. Finally, Mr Speaker, can I also say thank you for your many, many invitations to meet with the visiting guests at Parliament and for the opportunity that I had to travel with you to Viet Nam and to Japan at one time. Thank you very much and God bless all of you.
My introduction to politics came at the tender age of 20 in 1984. They were exciting political times. Sir Robert Muldoon had called a snap election, and Sir Robert Jones had launched a new party, the New Zealand Party. For the first time I had a flicker of interest in what was going on in the political arena, and Sir Robert Jones’ youngest candidate wanted my vote. I liked his politics—the freedom and prosperity message appealed—but I liked him even more. He got my vote that year—albeit a special vote because I had not enrolled—and I got him. A vote is a precious thing, as is a husband, and I think it was a fair trade.
A total of 12.5 percent of the population thought that a free and prosperous nation was something worth supporting in that 1984 election. Under MMP that would have been around 16 seats for a party that believes in freedom of market, of mind, and of body. I still believe fervently in those ideals.
My next political encounter was many years later in 1996—that first MMP election—when ACT was established as a political party. In 1999 I was persuaded to stand. I thought I was flying the flag. Sir Roger Douglas and others decided I should be making a serious tilt at Parliament and gave me an electable list position. Luckily, with five small children I did not get in at that election, but politics, as we all know, gets in the blood, so I stuck with it and was elected in 2002.
My early parliamentary life seemed destined for a time to be marred by the curse of mistaken identity. When Deborah Coddington and I came to Parliament in 2002, then Speaker Jonathan Hunt—and it is a pleasure to see him in the Chamber today—had difficulties telling us apart. Deborah, who is tall, dark, and statuesque, and I, who am none of those things, just seemed to confuse him every time we stood up to ask a question or to speak. It probably did not help when we turned up at Parliament one day wearing men’s suits, in response to his comments that the women in the House were dressing too scruffily. So sometimes I was myself, sometimes I was called to speak as Deborah Coddington, and even once, I think, as “Deborah Roy”. We eventually got our identities sorted out with the Speaker over a bottle of his very nice red wine.
Then there was the case of the swapped Bellamy’s bills. Eric Roy, who had not returned to Parliament when I arrived in 2002, was receiving my bills in Invercargill, and I was receiving his much smaller bills. I recognised the problem when I was charged for the baking of a whole trout that I had apparently caught myself and supplied to the Bellamy’s kitchen. Much to my father’s dismay—he is here with us today—I am no trout fisherwoman. I rang Eric, who complained about the amount I had been spending and that he had been asked to pay. We agreed to swap bills when I was next in the south. We duly did so, and a Southland Times photographer kindly immortalised the moment for us. Just for the record, despite constant speculation, Eric and I are not related. We are not brother and sister, we are not father and daughter, we are not second cousins twice removed, and I am not, as Eric once jokingly said to a reporter, his love child. We are, however, friends.
I ran it past him first.
Finally, an ongoing but pleasant mix-up usually begins with the comment: “You’re from the south, aren’t you.” I am originally, as it happens, but I know as soon as I am asked that question that the person thinks I am former National MP Katherine Rich. Clearly, it is the healthy but pale southern complexion we share that causes the confusion, or perhaps it is that we share similar views on many issues.
So once my identity crises had been dealt with I was able to get down to work. Most of my first term was under the watchful leadership of Richard Prebble. His aim, he said, was to get us to ministerial level by the end of our first term. That meant being thrown in the deep end, which is undoubtedly the best way to learn—like an apprenticeship of sorts, I guess. There was no namby-pamby breathing through your nose for ACT MPs.
During Richard Prebble’s time in Parliament he left many legacies to the country. Those I have personally benefited from most are his “Prebble-isms”—words of wisdom best adhered to or taken notice of if you know what is good for you. I frequently pass these gems on to others. Amongst his best are: “If you can’t say it in 2 minutes, it’s not worth saying.” This is true, I have discovered, of every conceivable topic. Another one was: “Don’t be scared of making mistakes. MPs who don’t make mistakes aren’t doing their job.” This was given either as advice to take some risks or sometimes as an unspoken reassurance that although you had stuffed up completely, it probably was not going to cause the sky to fall in.
“In politics the highs are so high and the lows are so low.” The highs include successes like the voluntary student membership bill, which is now an Act; demotion from my ministerial portfolios rates amongst the lows. Richard claims that the highs always make up for the lows, and in this he is absolutely right—“no ifs, no buts, no regrets”. There is nothing like a solid political win.
“Keep in touch with the friends you have before politics, because you cannot tell whether the ones you make in politics are real friends, until you leave.” I think I have made many friends in my time here and established many respectful relationships with those from across the political spectrum. I am hopeful that most will stand the test of time.
The apprenticeship served me well for my time as an MP. There is nothing like coming up against a good Minister—and I am looking directly over at Labour—while in Opposition to teach you the ropes. Several Labour Ministers taught me valuable lessons about how to handle issues, although their aim of course was generally to tell me nothing at all. Parliamentary questions become your friend, as do the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman.
ACT battled for 12 years in Parliament before we formally became part of the Government. I look back at the many talented and hard-working ACT MPs before me who would have been great Ministers. Ken Shirley and Stephen Franks taught me by example that principles are important, and sticking to them results in consistent policy gains. Had they had the opportunity to become ACT Ministers, both would have made a real difference to the lives of Kiwis. But in politics timing is everything, and I found myself in the right place at the right time to be appointed to a ministerial post after the 2008 election.
Turning ACT policies into reality has been our big win. School choice is on the agenda. Aspire Scholarships for those from low-income homes and a review into special education were big projects I was proud of leading. Among my defence highlights was participating in the defence review. I continue to believe a strong reserve force will give the New Zealand Defence Force greater flexibility and capability, and I hope there will be a real focus on this for the future. My companion studies on New Zealand’s defence industry and voluntary national service raised interesting proposals for “New Zealand Inc.”, and I would be very sorry if this work was not useful as a base for future thinking. Alongside Rodney Hide’s Regulatory Standards Bill, the Spending Cap (People’s Veto) Bill, and local government changes, I think ACT supporters and voters can be satisfied that our policy wins were significant.
Like my fellow retiring colleagues—those from ACT and from other parties—I have been honoured to have been elected to this House to speak on behalf of the many Kiwis who have entrusted their vote to the ACT Party and sometimes to have my personal views on conscience issues heard. There is nothing like being a Minister and getting things done. Serving one’s country in this way is a rare and special thing, and I thank those who over three elections have given me the opportunity to do so on their behalf.
Politics is the contest of ideas. Situations change, people’s attitudes change, and the relevance of policies changes. In order to keep up and for parties to remain relevant to voters, it is imperative that new ideas are encouraged, examined, researched, and pursued according to their merit. I would like to think we have a Parliament that welcomes the contest, but I have been disappointed by the lack of courage to tackle entrenched problems with innovative solutions and a refusal often to even engage in reasoned debate. Frequently these issues see the light of day only as members’ bills.
On the very slim chance that a space would open up on the members’ Order Paper in the past year, I drafted a bill to allow nuclear-propelled ships to once again visit New Zealand waters. Our current policy is a relic of a bygone era, with no relevance to modern life and it is holding our country back in so many ways. I was pleased to see Sir Paul Callaghan make similar comments recently. People will happily expose their bodies to nuclear material such as X-rays, but will not even contemplate having a vessel propelled by nuclear power in a New Zealand harbour. ACT has been the only party in my time here to want to engage in a debate that is not dominated by hysteria and deliberate confusion. The same is true regarding the youth minimum wage, education funding following the child, and so many other issues.
Sir Roger Douglas personifies the contest of ideas. He is a reformer, and our Parliament has too few of his ilk who think outside the square and tackle issues from a solid, principled base. His endless optimistic pursuit of solutions to the really thorny problems our country faces is truly inspiring. He is a numbers man, and the numbers are usually explained on a serviette or in detail on a whiteboard. Sir Roger says politics is all about numbers, although now of course he is talking about different numbers—those that win a policy battle with a majority. He is right, but politics is also about people, and I have appreciated hugely his mentoring, his friendship, and his unwavering support over many years, especially the past 3 years.
There are a few things that I believe would make our Parliament work better, and I hope the Constitutional Advisory Panel, set up to conduct a wide-ranging review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, will give serious consideration to a 4-year parliamentary term and have a discussion on the appropriate size of Parliament and the executive, especially given the strong suggestion by Kiwis in 1999 to have fewer MPs. I believe we need a mechanism to hold our executive and Parliament more accountable. In other countries this is achieved with an Upper House. A position I have reached after being involved personally in a number of conscience votes is that referenda on conscience issues are worthy of serious consideration. I am not convinced that 120 MPs, or 122 currently, are any better placed to make decisions on issues of conscience than the adult population.
There are always a huge number of thankyous to make. Most of these I will do personally, but I would like to acknowledge and thank those who work tirelessly to make Parliament tick and to make life easier for MPs: the Clerk’s Office, the Parliamentary Service and Ministerial Services, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, the library staff, the messengers, and especially the security staff, who always ask how my Territorials training is going.
I would like to give a collective vote of thanks to the hard-working and loyal party members: my Aoraki team from 1996 to 2000, and my Wellington-based teams in Ōhariu and Wellington Central more recently. To the ACT parliamentary team past and present, heartfelt thanks for a job well done. Our successes are your successes because of your commitment to our shared cause. I also want to thank my loyal and supportive ministerial team.
Finally, my family. To Duncan, Johnny, Barbara, Penny, Finn, and Jack, thank you for your love and support, putting up with the constant phone calls and my frequent absences. I hope that my being around a lot more is not going to cramp your style, but I for one am looking forward to that enormously. And when my mother calls for a chat she will no longer have to end the conversation with: “Well, just don’t work too hard.” I have a good friend who reminds me that there are plenty of beaches to walk on and wine to drink—wise advice I intend to take. There will still be a few boundaries to push, I suspect, but perhaps at a more sedate pace.
In my maiden speech I noted that I was the 80th woman to have been elected to this Parliament. I asked the Parliamentary Library to calculate for me how many had left before me. It turns out that I am also the 80th woman to leave this Parliament. I have taken from this that the time is right for me to move on to other things—not a moment too soon, not a moment too late. Timing in politics is everything.
As I look around these four walls of this Chamber for the last time, I will take particular note of the battlements—the 12 carved circular wreaths around the balcony at the top and the 18 carved plaques on the wall panels, representatives of battles and places where New Zealand troops have fought and served, below them. They remind me of the reason I came to this place—to continue the fight for our freedoms that our forebears began for a prosperous nation, one where we all have the same opportunities. Our freedoms are hard won, with many New Zealanders having paid the price with their lives. Freedoms hard won are not so easily eroded. I have been honoured to serve my country in this House and I hope that the 50th Parliament and beyond will also be reminded of their responsibility to uphold our freedoms.
I wonder, Mr Speaker, if I could make a last request before I leave this Chamber. There are some battlements missing from our walls. The first Gulf War, Afghanistan, and our recent peacekeeping missions are not represented, despite the fact that our Defence Force personnel have participated with the same courage, commitment, and distinction as those who served before them. They too have suffered injury, and, in some tragic cases, loss of life in their quest for freedom around the world on our behalf. I know that my fellow soldiers would be touched by such a gesture and I think it would be entirely fitting. Lest we forget.
These are very special times, but time is also moving on. Could I now call on the Hon Sir Roger Douglas to make his valedictory statement.
I was first elected to this House in 1969. I had the privilege to serve in this Parliament during a period when Parliament was dominated by members such as Keith Holyoake, Robert Muldoon, Norman Kirk, and David Lange—more about that later. The year 1969 was to all intents and purposes the end of the Holyoake era. They were different times: new members shared an office; new members shared a secretary—four members to one secretary—Parliament did not sit until June, 7 months after the general election; if Prime Minister Holyoake found you in the billiard room, he would hang around and chat to you for 10 or 15 minutes. We had two popular bars then—the members and the messengers—they were full every night. Lobbyists, journalists, MPs, messengers, private secretaries—no one seemed to worry about any leaking in those days.
Estimates were always dealt with under urgency. If you got home at 1 o’clock, you counted yourself extremely lucky—2 or 3 or 4 o’clock was the norm, especially if you had a Leader of the Opposition like Norman Kirk. I can remember sitting in the third row one night at 3 o’clock, and Norman Kirk took eight calls in a row—four on State Insurance, and four on Government Life Insurance Corporation. In those days, the bills were put into a bill binder, and he had a monstrous fist. At 3.30 he was pounding the damned bill binder and it was jumping up, and here I was, trying to sleep.
The library was pretty important in those days, because parties did not have a research unit. It was actually one of the staff in the library, Keitha Booth, whom I pinched when I became the Minister of Broadcasting in 1972.
By the end of January 1973 I had a paper ready to go to Cabinet. That Cabinet meeting in many ways indicated, I think, the character of Norman Kirk. I think the paper was something of a surprise to most Cabinet Ministers—there was no Treasury report and, when all is said and done, I did not have any help in preparing it within Parliament. The discussions went on for about an hour, and Norman Kirk had not said anything, so I did not know, really, how it was going. Then he looked at me and said “Can you implement this?”. And what could I say but yes? He went on to say “It’s nice to be implementing our policy, not someone else’s.”—meaning the Civil Service, of course—“Show Martyn Finlay your press release before it goes out.”, and that was it. It was often said about Norman Kirk that he was a man in a hurry because of his illness. In my view, he was just built in that way. I liked it. He was impatient, and sometimes he was impatient in an unrealistic way, but it definitely showed that he cared. Clashes in the House between Kirk and Muldoon were something to behold; they were the things that legends were made of.
Kirk’s passion had always been in housing, and after his death I inherited the housing portfolio. Housing at the time was Labour’s Achilles heel: too much demand, too few resources, prices out of control; what to do? Well, you know what you do: you get the caucus committee together, you get the housing committee, and you prepare a paper. So that is what I did. I prepared a paper that was 61 pages long. It was really a great paper. I thought it pretty good until Treasury’s paper came along, and that was 75 pages long, and it said no to every recommendation. So we went to Cabinet, and I remember that the discussion went on for a couple of hours. At one stage I thought Bob Tizard had gone to sleep. I was not opposed to that, and at one or two points I thought I should give up. But Joe Walding was saying “Keep going, Rog, keep going.” Then all of a sudden they passed the lot. You can imagine: a whole paper passed.
I waited for the Cabinet paper, and I thought “That’s fine.” Then on Sunday I was playing cricket with my son, Grant, in Simla Crescent, and up the drive walked Henry Lang: “Minister, could I see you for a moment?”. “Yes, Henry, come in. Would you like a cup of tea, Henry?”. “Yes, I’ll have a cup of tea.” We sat down, and he said “Minister, we can’t really have this, you know.” And so we had a good debate, and the fact was that I knew he was right, so I gave about 90 percent, or slightly more, away.
There were a lot of great civil servants I have served with over the time; Bernie Galvin was another one. Bernie went on to be head of the Prime Minister’s department, and head of Treasury. I can always remember Bernie, in 1974 or 1975, coming to a Cabinet committee and telling Hugh Watt that a roading project that he was recommending did not meet the 10 percent rate of return. Hugh looked at him in puzzlement and said “Young man, I’ve got to tell you, it’ll never be cheaper.” Joe Walding and I, we enjoyed that so much that we postponed it for 1 week. Obviously, Hugh won in the end.
After Kirk’s death, Parliament and the political scene were dominated, of course, by Muldoon. After 1971 Muldoon would come in here at 2 o’clock, create absolute havoc, and then leave, either because he wanted to leave or because the Speaker had decided that he should. But the fact was that he was particularly formidable. I remember my first encounter with Muldoon. I was a young backbencher. I got up to make a speech on the estimates and I made the speech, and he was sitting in the chair and he got up. One thing that I liked about Parliament then was that Ministers actually replied a lot more than they seem to do now. I know that the time-limited debates have changed that, but it was certainly something. Anyway, Muldoon got up and said “Oh, the member for Manukau. He made a couple of points. Well, when he has been here a little longer, he will understand.”, and then he sat down. I thought “Blow that, I will have another go.” I had another go, and he got up and said “There he goes again. He’s new. You probably have to forgive him. Oh look, I’ll tell you what. If he comes and sees me later, I will tell him. I will explain it to him.” I thought “Blow that, I will ring you up.”, so I rang up Muldoon’s office and explained. I heard nothing, so I thought “Blow that, I will ring again.” In due course he made the appointment, and he sat me down. We did not go anywhere, but it was a good story.
He was always one for one-liners, Muldoon. He always had them ready. I remember there was a vote on liquor here. I am not sure what the actual vote was about; it might have been about wine in supermarkets. Anyway, only 12 of us went into the Ayes lobby and about 80-odd members went into the Noes lobby. We were standing there, and one of the 12 was Muldoon, so Ruth Richardson and I were really ribbing him, asking: “What are you doing here?”. He looked at us and finally said “Oh, I was going to vote on that side, but I saw Geoffrey Palmer go into the lobby.”
It was not until Lange came along that Labour had a match for Muldoon in a political sense. In some ways Lange was particularly quick, maybe even quicker than Muldoon. One famous night I remember that Lange was at full throttle. Muldoon was sitting there—he had had a couple of gins, I might add—and he was chipping Lange. Lange was ignoring Muldoon, and Muldoon finally leant over and said “You’ve got a big, fat gut.” Lange, quick as a flash, said “Yes, but mine’s much higher off the ground than yours.”
You know, he could be incredible in many ways, Lange. I had to deal with the New Zealand Steel expansion, which was part of the previous Government’s Think Big. It was actually a financial disaster. John Ingram, who was managing director of New Zealand Steel, came to see David Lange and me. When John came into the room, David said “Hello, John. If I didn’t know you better, I would be thinking your financial adviser was Bernie Cornfield.” For the benefit of those who do not know who Bernie Cornfield is, he was a noted London fraudster in the early 1970s. It was very hard for John Ingram to make any progress after that. I have flown down from Auckland with David, and he has had the crossword done before the plane took off.
Much has been written, and even books have been written, about the differences between Lange and me. I will not go into that tonight, other than to say that probably the biggest difference was our approach to things. David sometimes got threatened if policy suggestions got outside his comfort zone, whereas I just liked the debate anyway. I liked to win, but if I lost—well, there you are. It reminds me that luck plays quite a big part in politics. I remember people like Jim McLay, who may well have been a great Prime Minister, but he was up against Lange, and he was just never going to win. That is just one of those stories.
I will not go into one or two other things, such as how I nearly left Parliament in 1981. I can probably thank, in part, David Lange and my committee. I told the Labour Party caucus in 1981 that I was going to leave, and I was persuaded to do otherwise. What that shows you is that events can, in fact, change your life. I always remember that I was pretty uncomfortable with the way we were promising every group everything. I think I had been sacked from the front row here, and I was in No. 14 position and Palmer was sitting up behind me. Now, Geoffrey is a very efficient operator, and he was sitting there. I was reading the Evening Post and there were promises on education and something else, and I turned round to Geoffrey and I said “Geoffrey, do you know what’s wrong with the Labour Party?”. “No”, said Geoffrey, very seriously. I said “You are. If you weren’t so dammed efficient, Geoffrey, we wouldn’t have all this policy.”
I need to wind up and thank a number of people. I have been well served in my parliamentary career. I had the luck to have both Richard Prebble and David Caygill as Associate Ministers, and if I did accomplish anything, I certainly accomplished it with their help. They were different characters. I can remember, and it is maybe just one small case, the first time I met Roger Kerr at any length. He was coming to tell us why we should reduce tariffs, which I wanted to do anyway. David Caygill was a bit more cautious, because he had to deal with the manufacturers in any case. The meeting went on, and, of course, Preb’s attitude was, why do we have tariffs at all? But Preb had the habit that he would like to turn the train round that was going at 200 miles in one direction and point it in the other direction. The only problem was that sometimes you wondered whether he was doing it just for the sheer hell of it, whereas with David Caygill you would be in Cabinet and would have a paper from him that was 800 pages long on a health regulation, and he would tell you there was a word spelt wrongly on page 262. But they were great.
There was Trevor de Cleene, of course, and I have to tell one story about Trevor, although I should not.
I have to; I am sorry if I go over my time. Trevor was a character, and you never knew whether—well, he was on your side. But Trevor was one of those guys. You went to a meeting with 100 people there and if two did not leave, he was pretty upset. In any case, a new company listed on the stock exchange and I did the opening, but Trevor was the after-match speaker. I heard him this night, and he told the story about how we had lowered taxes. He said “We’ve lowered taxes from 66c to 33c, and I’ve got to tell you, Roger and I were on the 6th floor and the money’s pouring in. The money’s pouring in; we’re drowning in it.” Then he whispered to them “The only problem is, we send it down to the 5th floor and Ann Hercus flushes some of it down the toilet.” I can tell you, Ann was not very keen on that, and I got roasted.
I want to thank some of my staff during the 1984-87 period. I had some great staff. Geoff Swier—I always remember taking Geoff to Palmerston North to a farmers’ meeting. I never understood why farmers were angry with me, but anyway they seemed to be. After the meeting I walked out and looked around for Geoff. You could see him anywhere: at 6 feet 6 inches, for heaven’s sake, you could see him anywhere. I got out to the car and I said “Geoff, where did you get to?”. “Ah”, he said, “I didn’t mind them thinking I was your bodyguard, but sure as hell I didn’t want them to know I was your economic adviser.” Murdo Beattie came to me from Treasury. I had dinner with Murdo 2 nights ago, and he reminded me of when we met up with Keating in Paris. I explained to Keating that we were having a bit of trouble with the affluent oldies: I had put a surcharge on them, and they did not like it very much. Keating commented to me “Well, look, if you get into that situation, you might as well hit them for six.”
People like Geoff Swier, Murdo Beattie, Bevan Burgess, Loraine Hawkins, Ian Dickson, Pattrick Smellie—I had a great team, and I am very grateful to all of them. They were not afraid to come and tell me off if they wanted to. I always remember going on strike with journalists for 2 days, and Pattrick, who used to look after my day-to-day stuff—Bevan used to do the long-term stuff—came to see me, stood in front of me, and said “Minister, get over it!”. So I said “Out!”. About 30 seconds later I said “Pattrick, you know I think we ought to be doing A, B, C, and D.”
Pauline Elmes, who has served me in my electorate and in a private capacity, is here today. She spent 30 years with me. Margaret Cosgrove, whom many of you will remember, was my secretary here for 15 to 20 years. I owe them a debt of gratitude.
It would be remiss of me if I did not mention Graham Scott, who was head of Treasury when I was the Minister of Finance. Graham worked day and night and is an enormously dedicated civil servant. People used to say to me “You don’t seem to get worried.” I said “Why would I worry when I’ve got Graham Scott?”. The only time I got Graham worried was when I suggested that the goods and services tax should be called the “Graham Scott Tax”. He was not very keen on that, for some reason.
Finally, if I could, I want to thank my family. Glen is here tonight. Glen took most of the load in raising our children. I think Glen would have preferred that I never went into politics, but, on the other hand, when I needed her assistance or guidance, she was always there for me. To my children Grant and Megan, I am grateful for them and what they have done to help. One always worries—I think most of us worry—about how our children will make out, because politics is not easy, and it is sometimes not easy on the children. Grant went to Auckland Grammar School, and it is probably 90 percent National there. I think the fact that he was in the first XV for a couple of years and the cricket XI for 4 years helped, whereas Megan just gets on the front foot and nothing will worry her anyway.
So with that, I am sorry if I went overboard. I have enjoyed my time. I have enjoyed my time here with members on all sides of the House. That is another thing I did not mention: I think in the early period, 1969 to 1970-odd, members mixed a lot more than they probably do today, and I think that is probably a good thing. But thank you to all of you.
Colleagues, with time moving on I request your indulgence. We move now to the valedictory statement of the Hon George Hawkins.
I pay my respects to the family, friends, and comrades in the SAS of Lance Corporal Leon Smith on their sad loss.
Today is a remarkable day for me. Today I have listened to the valedictory speech of one of my constituents, Ashraf Choudhary. I have also listened to the person who held the seat of Manurewa immediately before me, some 21 years ago, the Hon Sir Roger Douglas. That we both give our valedictories on the same day is quite remarkable. But that is not all; there is more. My wife, Jan, is having her 65th birthday today. Happy birthday, Jan! But that is not all. My dear old mum had her 65th birthday on the day I was selected for the seat of Manurewa, on 12 February 1990. That makes her one of my oldest supporters.
I am also pleased that my two brothers, Donald and David, and their wives are present. David was involved in politics, having been on the Auckland Regional Council, and he followed me as the Mayor of Papakura. Maybe Donald had the most sense—he kept out of it. As a youngster I was politically active. When I was 7 or 8, I put fresh dog droppings in the letterbox of our local National MP—perhaps great training for this place.
Leaving Parliament, I look forward to my retirement. However, before I get into that, I should go back and say that I came from a very political family. My father, another George, was an expert in politics. He told us that every politician is a mug. That is perhaps the reason that my two brothers, David and Donald, and I all vote for three different parties. I have had 12 electoral victories, the first as a councillor on the Papakura City Council. Then I had three terms as mayor. I have been elected to this Parliament seven times, and—I am fairly stupid—I put my name forward and got elected to the Manurewa Local Board. There is no stopping some of us.
I am a baby boomer. I was born exactly 9 months after the end of World War II—my parents knew how to celebrate victory. When I went to Mt Albert Grammar School there was military training. We had an armoury full of World War I .303 rifles and a shooting range. Little wonder that I protested against the Viet Nam War and was involved in the antinuclear protests.
After leaving school I worked for the Auckland Star as a photographer, and I acknowledge Fred Freeman and Harold Paton for the help and guidance they gave me. I also went to teachers college. They were great days, and that is where I met Jan. There were no electronic meeting places, and no Facebook or twittering, although there was plenty of that good old-fashioned romance. Jan and I taught at various schools in Auckland and Hawke’s Bay.
The first time I stood for Papakura City Council was way back in 1974. I stood with Geoff Braybrooke. Geoff is not very well at the moment; many people here will know Geoff. He wanted to be here. I hope you get to feel a bit better, mate. We both failed. In fact, we got a real thrashing. I tried again in 1977, with another equally dismal result. I also tried a third time in a by-election. Once again I lost. By the time of the 1980 council election, I managed to scrape in as the lowest-polling successful candidate. It was a great learning experience.
In the 1983 election I became Mayor of Papakura with all of my team elected to council. My wife, Jan, was a marvellous mayoress and very popular. My deputy mayor, Nancy Hawks, was very loyal and served on the council for many years. She was award the QSM and I think she thoroughly deserved it. Graham Tagg, the town clerk, was a clever and wise adviser.
Tragedy hit my family in 1989 when our youngest son, Cameron, died. Our lives were ripped to pieces. It was difficult to carry on our public roles. However, with the strong support of friends and the people of South Auckland, we managed. Our oldest son, George, was also a great help to us. Young George is married to Olga, and has a wonderful and caring family. Jan and I are very proud of him.
I had a stroke in 1991 followed by deep-vein thrombosis. More recently I survived bowel cancer, and I must say how glad I am that doctors and surgeons did not take too much interest in politics.
When I first came to Parliament in 1990 I was elected under the first-past-the-post scheme. It appeared to me to be an admirable scheme. Then in 1996 along came MMP. It took ages for a Government to be formed. There was a bit of the tail wagging the dog. But there is a feature about MMP I strongly dislike. It is simply this: a candidate can stand for election in a constituency, lose the vote—could even finish third or fourth—and still be elected to Parliament on the party list. The each way bet in an election should go.
It is at the moment unfair to voters. They have rejected some candidates only to see their vote diluted and that the party has more say. The individual party bosses have more say than the individual voter. They place someone high on the list because he or she has the ability to get large donations or can help the numbers of a particular faction. In some cases, these defeated candidates enter Parliament on the list and then open an office at the taxpayers’ expense in the electorate in which they were defeated. It is no wonder some politicians are not held in high regard.
People should think very carefully about this at this year’s referendum. Candidates should be allowed to stand for a constituency or as a list candidate but not both. I acknowledge that there are people in this House who are beneficiaries of the present MMP system, and they will strongly disagree, but I believe that the views of the public should be paramount.
Another area I feel Parliament—perhaps I should say successive Governments—has failed to properly address is the way new babies and their mothers are treated. I know of cases where mother and baby are booted out of the hospital within 2 hours of the birth and sent to make their own way to a birthing centre for 1 or 2 days. Most are sent home before the mother’s milk has come in. I think we are all really failing the mothers and the next generation. Hopefully, future Governments will address the way hospital services treat mothers and their babies.
I want to say that the Parliament that I entered in 1990 was very different from the Parliament I leave. There were only 29 Labour MPs and we had to work together, even talk to each other, although not everyone listened to each other. Mike Moore was our leader. He was very tough; he was a slave-driver. He gave people an outstanding role model. He is a very caring and compassionate New Zealander. I was very pleased when he became head of the World Trade Organization, and I was also delighted that the National Government appointed Mike as the New Zealand Ambassador to the United States. He is a real and genuine friend.
Back in the time I was first in Parliament there were people like David Lange, Rob Muldoon, and Richard Prebble. I must say how delighted I was to hear stories about them, and members will be delighted that I will not give them more publicity. Debates in Parliament then were often very heated. The reading of speeches was not allowed, and speeches were a great deal longer than they are now. The Grand Hall was quite different then. It held six snooker tables and comfortable leather armchairs. There was plenty of blue smoke and a number of equally blue jokes. It was, in fact, a gentlemen’s club. How things have changed. We have had women Prime Ministers, women Governors-General, and a woman Chief Justice. Gone are the days of the typewriter; Parliament is filled with computers, laptops, cellphones, iPhones, and iPads. Some MPs read their speeches off them directly.
Jonathan Hunt—and I am glad he is here today—was the chief Opposition whip when I entered Parliament, and there was no problem for an MP that he had not seen before, and none that a chat and a quick G and T or a little wine would not cure. He fully deserved the title of father of the House.
I was lucky to serve in two of Helen Clark’s Cabinets. I place on record my sincere thanks to her. She was a great Labour leader. I also take the time to mention my gratitude to Michael Cullen for his guidance. I enjoyed my time in Cabinet—well, most of it. I had a number of interesting portfolios: internal affairs, ethnic affairs, veterans affairs, police, and civil defence. I really enjoyed being New Zealand’s first Minister for Ethnic Affairs and the work that I did in that area, especially the Government’s apology to the Chinese for the way it had treated them many years ago. I got a huge amount pleasure out of that work.
Having taken the 2002 Civil Defence Emergency Management Act through the House, it gives me a degree of personal satisfaction to see it in action in Christchurch. Those dark days in Canterbury will never be forgotten, and I hope it never becomes a political slanging match. The introduction of the police highway patrol and the drop in road deaths have been important. Working with the voluntary sector, especially the volunteer firefighters, was a privilege and most enjoyable. I also loved working in my electorate, especially the schools.
I now come to the stage when I want to thank people who have helped me on my political journey. To my wife and my wider family, thank you. Thanks to Vicki, Bill, Murray, Daniel, and Ian for running New Zealand’s busiest electorate office. To Terry, who has just come back from having a hip replacement, it is good to see you here today, and to the late Beryl Booth, I extend my gratitude for the work they did for me and the people of Manurewa and for running my parliamentary office. Teresa McMahon and Melissa Turner were towers of strength as senior private secretaries in my ministerial office. Selwyn Manning had the unenviable task of looking after my media. The office had real smart people like Daniel Newman, who has gone on to represent some of New Zealand’s largest commercial property owners and is speaking a great deal of common sense in Auckland government. I hope he arrives at this place some time soon. Mark Oldershaw went on from my office to become general manager of the National Party.
A person I really admire is Gerry Cunneen; many people will know him. He worked as my police adviser. He is a wonderful, wonderful person. Thanks, Gerry. I was also very lucky to work with Jacki Couchman. She always gave me good advice and is a person of the highest integrity. Jacki is one of the country’s outstanding career civil servants. I thank Bruce Kohn, who helped me and many people in this building—Ministers and members—for over 40 years.
I also thank the people of Manurewa for giving me such an honour of being their elected member of Parliament for the last 21 years. In particular, I thank those people who worked for me locally—especially Faye, Trevor, Tom, June, Raj, and the Thandi family—and all the other people who gave up their time so freely. I should also make mention of the late Fred Anderson, who was a very loyal friend.
My thanks to everyone who has helped me over the years: the staff of Parliament, especially the messengers, security, the staff of the library, various Speakers and their staff, and the staff of the Clerk’s Office and Bellamy’s. I also made a promise to my opponent from the North Shore who stood against me, Cam Calder. I promised I would give him a plug in my valedictory speech, and here it is! You can come and get it after.
I wish all those making valedictories all the best for their lives outside Parliament. To those who wake up on 27 November and wish they had made a valedictory speech, I say good luck anyway.
I want to say farewell to a person who is leaving this place without a valedictory: Rodney Hide. Rodney, you were very courageous in reorganising Auckland, and it actually worked from day one—a legacy that Don Brash cannot take away from you. I was going to say something about grass, Don, but I see you sitting over there. This is a smoke-free area, so I will not go into that.
I also wish Phil Goff, Annette King, and the Labour team they lead all the best for the general election and the years ahead. I wish Clayton Cosgrove, Shane Jones, and my South Auckland colleagues Ross Robertson, Ashraf Choudhary, and William Sio well. Louisa Wall: look after the people of Manurewa, Louisa, and they will look after you. Good luck and thank you. Goodbye.