Steven Joyce delivered his valedictory speech yesterday evening.
I’ve heard him make many speeches which show his compassion, intelligence and wit.
He left his best for last.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): I must say, preparing this valedictory statement is one of the hardest things I’ve done in this Parliament. It’s very hard to sum up the experiences of the last nearly a decade in one 20 minute speech. So what I’ve decided to do instead is table the 1,521 press releases I made as a Minister over that time. So, at the end of this speech, I thought I’d just do them one by one during the dinner break. Although perhaps the one that I really should table would be my academic record, given that we’ve had so much good discussion about it over the years.
I nearly didn’t actually end up being in this Parliament. Let me tell you a story. After the excitement that was the 2005 election campaign, which was my first as campaign chair, I decided that was me in politics—I can’t think possibly why—and that I’d go off and do something else. And it was.
Then, John Key—Sir John—became the leader of the National Party, and he rang me up and said, “Do you want to do a bit of sort of advisory work for me?”, and I said, “Yes, absolutely; that would be great. No trouble at all—I can fit that in.” Then he rang me up and said, “Would you like to run the 2008 campaign for me.”, and I said, “Gosh, I’ve got a few things on, but I’ll see if I can shift it around and sort of get three months to run the campaign.” Then, at the beginning of 2008, I got a call from him. He says, “Well, look, why don’t you come in and do some real work?”
I thought about it, and I thought, “Gosh, here I am: newly married, young daughter just born, lifestyle block, few directorships—the ultimate in perfect work-life balance. Do I really want to do this?”
Then Judy Kirk rang. Many of us on this side of the House know what it means to be “Judy-ed”. She fixes you with a stare and says, “Your country needs you to do this, Steven.” And I’d had that before, so I knew about that. So I nearly didn’t do it. I rang Judy back and said, “No; I can’t do it.” Then she rang again, and I said, “No; I can’t do it.”
Then my wife noticed that two weeks had passed and I hadn’t rung John. She said, “Well, that tells me that, actually, you probably do want to do this, because you haven’t actually rung the person that asked you and said no.” So she said, “You’d better go and do it.”, and so I did. I came into this House in the 2008 election.
Straight away, I was so privileged—and not many of us have had this privilege—to become a Minister immediately—before I became a parliamentarian, in fact, officially. I was named in the Ministry. I was given my office in the Beehive. And then somebody said to me, “Oh, there’s a space called ‘Parliament’ you have to go to as well”—where they ask you annoying questions and you have to be able to answer them. I said, “Gosh; that seems a bit inconvenient.”—but nevertheless.
So I got my office, and I went into my office on the fifth floor of the Beehive. Remember, I’d come from the private sector, and there was a sort of magnificently large office on the fifth floor of the Beehive. I was thinking to myself, “This looks extravagant.” I thought, “This smells a bit like the public service.” There were these chairs and these couches and this massive boardroom table, and I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. There is absolutely no way one Minister—lowly ranked—needs all this stuff.” Then I had my first officials meeting.
They all came in the door—processed in the door. They all came in, and they sat down around the table, others sat in the chairs, and they stood along the walls, and I realised that I’d entered a particularly different world.
What I did learn quite quickly, though, is that officials have a meeting after the meeting when they go outside and discuss what they think the Minister meant. The good thing about learning that is, until they recognise you, you can sneak out through your senior private secretary’s door and contribute to that discussion: “I think he meant this.”—and people would say, “No, no, no, no.”
I was lucky enough to participate in a huge range of portfolios as a Minister. Building roads was something I enjoyed immensely as Minister of Transport. I know the Greens probably thought that I enjoyed the smell of fresh asphalt in the morning—it’s not completely true. But we did build some wonderful roads linking regional New Zealand with the main centres.
I think of one in particular, which was Waterview, which we inherited. I don’t know whether many people know this; that tunnel was only going to be two lanes in each direction. I looked at that and thought, “Well, I’m no transport engineer, but that feels like it’s going to be out of date pretty quickly.”, and it’s very hard to widen a tunnel. So I said to the officials, “Could you do it three lanes in each direction.”, and they said, “Well, anything’s possible, Minister.” I said, “It also looks too expensive, so is it possible that you could possibly reduce the price of it in the same process”—because three lanes in each direction was $3 billion; two lanes was $2.4 billion. They said, “Well, what do you want, Minister.” I said, “I want about $1 billion off it and I want it a lane wider in each direction.” They reminded me at the opening that that’s exactly what they gave us: $1.4 billion, three lanes in each direction. It was one of my proudest moments as a Minister.
But it was the big projects with the small projects. We did a wonderful one called Matahōrua Gorge, which is on the road between Napier and Gisborne. It’s 214-kilometres long, that road. This was 4.5 kilometres in the middle of it. It was a goat track that was dangerous. We were asked to widen it and completely rearrange the road. I went along to the sod-turning for it and also to the opening. It was one of the most wonderful experiences, because everybody who knew anything about that road had come out: the people that owned the land by the road, the iwi, and the council. They knew all the stories of all the problems that occurred with it, and they were so thrilled that we fixed that road. All we need is another 10 like that between Napier and Gisborne and we’ll be making real progress. So think about that, matua Shane, with your Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund.
So I’ve done countless pōwhiri, sod-turnings, and ribbon cuttings. I got a reputation as somebody who prioritised road investment over rail, which my Cabinet colleagues were always amused about, because we spent more on rail than any other Government in the last 50 years. They were critical, because they thought, well, obviously, I wasn’t selling that sufficiently. But, as I used to say at transport conferences, it’s clear that I love rail. I’m so pro-rail that I called by son “Thomas”.
The other big thing I was involved in initially was the ultrafast broadband network. There have been many favourable comparisons between the New Zealand experience and the Australian experience, including from the current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who shadowed Stephen Conroy during the setting up of that under the then Labour Government. Not many people know, though, that it was actually Australia that helped us most in our broadband network. They started a year before us, so soon after I got the job I thought, “Well, I’d better head over to the Australia and see what’s going on.” So I went over and met Stephen Conroy in Melbourne as the Minister in charge of their broadband network. I realised quite quickly that he had two problems: he was up against a deadline which he’d set way too early on and he’d, basically, made it that only Telstra could do it. As a result, Telstra just sat there waiting for Stephen Conroy to turn up with a big enough cheque.
So I came back from Australia absolutely determined that ours would be a contest where there are at least two players and we would not have any artificial deadlines. That upset both Bill and the Prime Minister who wanted to say when this thing was going to be started, and I couldn’t tell them, deliberately. But I tell you what: that one trip across the Tasman saved us billions and billions of dollars as a country. I’m absolutely confident about that. And now we have an ultrafast broadband network, fibre to the home to places like Mōkau, Kaitangata, and Naseby. Nobody else in the world has done that—nobody else. Yes; they’ve had fibre to the home, but nobody’s tried to get it to the Nasebys of the world. It’s fantastic.
I’m proud of all the portfolios I’ve been involved with. I’m proud of the science and the tech sector. It’s been one of the biggest thrills of my time in this place: to go around and see some of those amazing tech companies. They’re everywhere. We have hundreds of them, exploiting narrow, deep niches around the world—ADInstruments from Dunedin and Furnware from Hawke’s Bay, who make an ergonomically designed chair for school children which is scientifically proven to stop them fidgeting while they learn. They sell that all over the world. But, of course, the guy who has redefined what is able to be done with technology from a New Zealand base is Peter Beck—it’s great to see Peter here this evening—with Rocket Lab. That is truly amazing, and I know just enough about physics to know how difficult it is to do what Rocket Lab is doing—to actually get projector like that into space.
I remember meeting Peter for the first time, and I wasn’t 100 percent convinced that he would get there. As politicians, we all know that you meet a lot of people with a lot of big plans, and here’s this guy wandering in the door, and he’s going to build rockets and send them into space. I actually think we used to joke about a parliamentarian here who wanted to set up a space industry in New Zealand, and I think possibly John Key replaced him in his electorate. Yet here we were, and I became convinced very quickly that Peter knew what he was doing. Actually, it’s an amazing story, and we haven’t got time to tell tonight, except that Peter came to see me and said, “Look, we’re nearly finished, Minister. Now we just need a regulatory system, and I need it in about six months.” I thought, “Oh, OK, what’s involved there?” He said, “Well, you’ve got to join two or three space treaties, probably pass a law, do a deal with the Americans,” and I thought, “Well, hell, we’d better get on with it.” I want to pay tribute to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials, who actually took that thing and absolutely ran with it. We didn’t quite meet Peter’s deadline, but then, neither did he! But we now have a fit for purpose space regulatory system. Again harking back to the Australians, I understand now they’re trying to work out how New Zealand did it in such a short space of time.
I’m looking forward to going finally to Māhia again. I actually was invited to open the rocket launching site in Māhia. It’s about 100 kilometres off the highway. You get about halfway down and you think you’ve gone in the wrong direction. But anyway, I got there. There were hundreds of people there that had come from all over the place to be at the launch, and I was asked to open it. The Māori trust that owned the land had a whole lot of people there, and there were a number of kuia sitting across the front. I wandered over to see them before we started, and I asked one of them, “Well, look, how do you feel about all this happening on your land?” She said, “Well, we’ve been thinking about diversifying out of beef and lamb for a while, but I must admit we hadn’t really thought of rockets.”
I’ve also been involved a lot in regional development, which is the new black, as Shane Jones knows. I will tell you this: most of the regions actually don’t want a huge amount from Wellington. They actually also don’t want to be told too often that they’re struggling by people who never go there. There are a couple that always do it tough, and actually the Far North is one of them. There’s some tough kids up there. One of the programmes we set up was a thing called Growing Regional Opportunities through Work (GROW) Kaikohe. Ben Dalton from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), who I understand is working for Shane now, went up there to run our regional development programme, and he set up GROW Kaikohe. He came back and told us about the great things that were being done with GROW Kaikohe. It’s basically a collection of about a hundred kids from the hardest parts of society—trying to get them into work, and, most importantly, keep them in work, which is actually the hardest part.
So I went to the graduation with Anne Tolley, but not before Ben had told me about this person called Jo who was running the show. Jo was going around and if necessary pulling these kids out of bed, kicking their bums, doing whatever it took to keep them in work through the year that they were involved in this programme. So I got to go and see this in action at the graduation. I met some of the kids, and there are some tough stories there about families that have been on drugs for a long time, families that were tied up in all the gangs, young mums of 16 and 17 with a couple of kids. I mean, these are the hardest edges of society. And I met the employers, who thought they were actually going to take on some people to work, but then realised quite early on that this was actually a community service that they were doing. They had to adjust their expectations, because they actually had to help these kids for six months or more before they actually got them into a situation where they could contribute to the company that they were working with.
And I met Jo, and she is the coolest person. She actually goes around and does exactly that. She’s effectively the wrangler, the mentor, the navigator in these kids’ lives, and she fixes all that up. And I said, “Well, where do you work? Where do you come from?” She’s actually been in a number of organisations—the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), NGOs—but to me the most important thing was that she was Jo, and that she was prepared to do that. So actually we don’t need to come up with hundreds more programmes, or for each politician to rebrand what’s being done, whether it’s in the Far North or Gisborne. We just need to find a hundred Jos. And I don’t care where they work; just find a hundred Jos, and put them with the kids, and let them get on with it.
I was also involved a lot with the tertiary sector—seven years, in fact, as tertiary education Minister, the longest record ever, apparently—and I think we enjoyed each other. The tertiary sector did some amazing things in terms of performance, whether it was in the provider-based area or the work-based area, and the tertiary education system also is involved in a thing called international education, which is hugely important for New Zealand’s future. I’ve had the privilege of going around to various countries and going to alumni functions and meeting some of the kids that have had their New Zealand education—not so young, some of them—and those people are huge ambassadors and advocates for this country. The countries they come from are hugely important for our prosperity for the rest of this century, if not beyond—places like Korea, Japan, China, South-east Asia, Latin America, and continental Europe—and these are the kids that are going to lead that relationship from their end over the next 50 years. I met a guy in Malaysia who was a deputy chief Minister of one of their provinces who came to Lincoln University in the 1970s on the Colombo Plan, and he still prioritises relationships with New Zealand today. So think of this: international education is the Colombo Plan on steroids. It is hugely important for New Zealand.
Of course, there were some non-portfolio things that I did as well. Some that I was handed, like Novopay, I don’t propose to spend a huge amount of time on this evening, but I would encourage you to read the book—the ministerial inquiry into Novopay. Any Minister who’s involved with ICT projects need to go and read that book. It’s well worth reading, because it’s a lesson. And it’s not a political partisan thing, because it went back over two Governments, but it’s a lesson in what not to do in ICT projects in Government.
Every now and then, of course, I’d get asked to stand in for the Prime Minister when it wasn’t possible for him to be somewhere—or he’d made arrangements, perhaps, to be somewhere else. So it was at Waitangi in 2016. I was asked to lead our team. We had the Iwi Chairs Forum at the Copthorne Hotel. It was a beautiful, sunny, peaceful day, and afterwards I wandered out with the team for what was going to be very quiet and low-key interview. There was nobody around—a couple of police officers, a bit of security: not as much as you’d hope for, in the end—and I was chatting away happily when I felt something hit my face. Whatever it was, it then ricocheted on to the TVNZ reporter’s chest, and then ricocheted down to the ground. I still didn’t know what it was, so we all looked down like this together—journalists, Ministers, pretty much everybody, except for Josie Butler. And we looked at it, and I said, “Gosh.” I thought to myself, “Well, what do you say in these situations?” So I said, “Good-oh,” and then I looked at my colleagues and said, “Well, let’s head off, then.”
As we walked away I said to Nathan Guy, standing next to me, under my breath, “Well, do you think the cameras picked that up?” He said, “Yeah, I think so. Keep walking.” I have to say it’s telling that two of my closest colleagues in caucus, Nathan Guy and Louise Upston, both of whom I otherwise admire and enjoy the company of, were flanking me that day, and neither stepped in front of the senior Minister to, as they say, take the bullet. What was left to do except tweet to John Oliver, to get it over with, and then go and open the new Waitangi museum—which is very impressive, by the way, but it didn’t make the news.
Can I say I hugely enjoyed working with and for John Key and Bill English. Everybody knows John was the front man, but he also has a very powerful intellect. He had a great capacity to get to the numb of an issue quickly, and a great ability to make the right decision, and I believe history will judge him very well. Bill was the engine room guy to the last eight years. He’s the quintessential compassionate conservative. We worked together in finance for eight years. He got fond of the idea of him loading the bullets and me firing. He developed almost infinite patience with all his colleagues, including me. He blossomed as leader, and it is one of my greatest regrets that he didn’t get to serve at least a full term as our Prime Minister. He would have been a superb Prime Minister—well, he was. He would have been a superb Prime Minister for longer. They both placed great trust in me, and I hope I successfully repaid that trust.
When John left, I inherited finance. I got the Treasury officials in—we knew each other—and they asked what I wanted to do in the Budget. I said, “Look, very straightforward: big infrastructure package, big public services, and a family incomes package. We’ve got four months; let’s get on with it.” They went, “Aw, Minister,” and I said, “Well, let’s give it a go.” I actually got to know them all very, very well over that period, and I’m very proud of that Budget. My proudest moment as Minister of Finance was watching the coverage on Budget night, and watching the families on TV talk about what that Budget meant for them. I’m proud that this Government that’s in place now picked up most of that—tweaked it a bit to make it look a bit more like their own, but certainly picked up what we did.
My other job—my weekend job, if you will—was as National Party campaign chair. That happened a bit by accident, too. It started off in 2005, when they quite literally couldn’t find anybody else. So I was the campaign chair, and with Don Brash as leader we went from 22 to 39 percent. It was a massive rollercoaster—red-blue billboards, taxathon ads, the Exclusive Brethren, American bagmen, the first online tax calculator—and ultimately it was close but no cigar.
We tried an interesting technique in that campaign: running our own positive and negative campaign, so as not to give Labour a look-in. We would do all the positive side, and then we’d attack ourselves! I think of a particular example—because there were many, and I was trying to work out which one was safe to say. We were in Hawke’s Bay. Don was doing this very impressive piece about our economic story and what we were going to do, and it had been set up for months in advance. Meanwhile in Tauranga our candidate, subsequent MP Bob Clarkson, was having some difficulties with the media. So we sent Tony Ryall, experienced MP, back to Tauranga to sit with Bob and help Bob with his interview, which was good, until Bob decided he had to stand up and rearrange himself in front of the camera. He actually declared, “Oh, look, I’ve just got to rearrange myself a bit here.”, and then he went outside, and Tony Ryall put his head in his hands on nationwide television. The media, of course, went to Don for his comments on this, and Don, bless his heart, was a master of the six-second soundbite—just not the one you want. He said, “Eh, I don’t think any of my candidates should be adjusting their testicles on national television.”, and that was that day!
So, weirdly, since 2005 I’ve chaired four more national campaigns. We’ve had “Choosing a brighter future”, “Building a brighter future”, “Working for New Zealand”, and “Delivering for New Zealanders”. We’ve had stop-go signs, rowers, “Laboureens”, teapot tapes, the moment of truth—or strewth—show me the money, dirty politics, runners, a few soundtracks, and the H-fee. Still, we had a reasonable run. The last four party vote results were the highest four party vote percentages that any New Zealand party has had so far in MMP.
I’ve had an amazing campaign team around me for all five elections. I can’t name them all, but I want to name Jo de Joux—unflappable Jo, absolutely crucial in all of them—Wayne Eagleson and Mark Textor; Murray McCully, in the early years, before he became a full-time gin sucker; two presidents, Judy Kirk and then Peter Goodfellow; the party board; the tireless Greg Hamilton; the senior leadership team; the MPs, the candidates, and the volunteers—just an amazing machine. There was never a plan to chair five election campaigns; I just kept being asked back, and today I’m hoping that we fix that, finally. We have a good team, though. I want to acknowledge Simon and Paula. They’ve already hit the ground running. We have a lot of strong campaigners coming through, both in the party and here in the Parliament. I’m confident that this party will acquit itself incredibly well in 2020, and, in my view, you will need to, because your country will need you.
There are a lot more people I would like to thank. I’d like to thank my political advisors over the years—in particular, Sir Kenneth Clark, Andrew Falloon, Chris Bishop, and Jo de Joux—two of them now MPs. I want to thank my media staff: Simon, Charlotte, Serene, Rachel—and Anita, who memorably left me after 3 years, cheerfully telling me as she left that she wanted to get out before it all turned to crap—slightly early, Ferg.
I particularly want to single out Anna Lillis, who has doubled as both senior press secretary and political advisor for so long. Thanks, Anna, for your wise and steadying counsel. I want to thank my Senior Private Secretaries—in particular, Kathleen Lambert. Many people in this building will know Kathleen, who house-trained me over the first six years of my time as a Minister. Kathleen was and is an absolute machine. She is famous for her Tim Tam Tuesdays and her millions, literally millions, of post-it notes.
I could tell you a brief story: when I was offshore with Prime Minister John Key in China we were doing these big food and beverage dinners, which profiled New Zealand food and beverage to Chinese media, Chinese officials, Chinese businesses, and so on, and these were massive meals. I went along to the first one in Shanghai, and they had all this wonderful New Zealand produce. They started with salmon, as they often did, because we have wonderful New Zealand salmon. So we were all looking out and they were bringing out all the salmon, and I was thinking oh, this will be nice. This person came up to me and said, “Don’t worry about the salmon, Minister. You don’t have to eat it. It’s fine. We’ve got you something else.” I said, “Well, this is a bit weird. I quite like salmon. I don’t often get to eat it. I quite like the salmon.” “No, no, Minister you don’t have salmon.” So I said, “OK. Fine—I think.”
They brought me out a menu and a nice fresh green salad, and that was fine. I thought nothing more of it until we arrived at the next place on the tour and again it happened. And I said, “No, no, I really want the salmon.” I thought well, I’ll just give it a bit of a go, and they said, “No, no, Minister, you can’t have the salmon. Everybody else can have the salmon, but you can’t, because you don’t eat salmon.” But I’m saying no, I do. I really do. I eat salmon. I’m happy to eat salmon. Give me some salmon. No, Minister. I thought well, I’d better not make an international incident of it. I’ll just you know calmly—. Then we get to Beijing and it happened again, and it actually happened from then on. Whenever I went offshore and they were serving New Zealand salmon, for some reason I was always told I couldn’t have the salmon, and I didn’t know why.
I asked the officials and nobody knew, but obviously somebody had ticked the box at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and said, “This guy when he goes overseas—whatever you do don’t give him salmon.” So I was telling the story in my office one day—a little bit later, sitting in my office—and Kathleen Lambert pricked her ears up, and she said, “Oh, I know why that is.” I said, “Why’s that?” She said, “We were having dinner in your office one night and you asked me what the fish of the day was and I said the salmon and you screwed up your nose at it, so I made a note: doesn’t eat salmon.”, and told MFAT accordingly.
I want to acknowledge my bench mate, Gerry Brownlee. We’ve been together, big guy, for six years. He’s a marvellous politician and a marvellous individual, and I’ve enjoyed working with him immensely, including through Christchurch, where he did the most amazing things, and I think history will record that very positively. I want to acknowledge all the officials that I’ve worked with, and I want to acknowledge Mike Hosking and Annette King, my compatriots in radio. We had a wonderful nine years—longest radio show I’ve ever done; notwithstanding I owned the company at one point—not that one. I want to thank the public of New Zealand. I’ve been humbled to have countless people come up to me on the streets, since I’ve retired, in pubs and in shops around New Zealand in the last couple of weeks and thank me for my service. It’s been very humbling. You are the reason I’ve been here, and the reason it’s actually quite hard to leave.
I want to thank my family, my parents Peter and Lorna, who can’t be here because Mum’s just got out of hospital. I want to thank Diane, my brothers Kevin, Rodney, and Brendan, who hopefully will no longer have to put up with being mistaken for me at the pub by people who are determined to tell me what I should be doing now. I want to thank my wife Suzanne for her unfailing support and confidence in me coming here, in being here, and confidence in my decision to leave here, and her willingness to shoulder all the responsibility in our family for so long.
I have two children: Thomas and Amelia. Amelia’s here today. They have known nothing about me except that I’ve been a Minister for their entire lives, which is strange, because I see myself as quite short term in politics. They know me as leaving at 5.20 every Monday morning before they wake up and coming back Thursday night after they’ve gone to sleep, or on Friday or on Saturday. Then on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, they were used to me sequestering myself outside and reading papers for four or five hours each afternoon at the weekend.
I have to confess that I’ve often worried about the example that I’ve been setting them. Of course parents travel for work. It’s just the relentless nature of the ministerial job, day and day out for years on end, and in my case nine. Then there were the particularly arduous times. During one such time in 2011, my then four-year-old daughter—there were friends around at the house and she wandered up to the TV and I had a video of the Rena on, and she turned around to everybody and said, “That’s where my daddy lives.” Tommy doesn’t say anything, literally. He’s what they call non-verbally autistic. He is 8 years old, doesn’t have any vocabulary at all, but I know he likes having his dad around. He tells me with this laugh and with his eyes, and now he’s going to have dad around some more.
We adults know that kids can be great observes and great levellers. When Amelia was four or five the teachers at her school asked her to tell them what her daddy did. “My daddy works at the Beehive,” she said confidently. “Fair enough,” said the teacher “And what does daddy do at the Beehive?” Amelia thought about it for a minute and then said, He does drawings, he drinks water, and he goes to the toilet.”—which seems like a reasonable summary to me. But not anymore, sweetheart. Not anymore.
Thank you very much everybody for being great to work with. Cheers.