National MP Anne Tolley delivered her valedictory speech last night:
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Deputy Speaker—National): I stand here as the 74th woman to be elected to the New Zealand House of Representatives, and I want to begin tonight by recalling when I stood to deliver my maiden speech and acknowledging, in particular, my granddaughter Madeleine. She was here then, just months old, and she turns 21 this October. So for her whole life, her grandma has been a member of Parliament.
She came with a busload from Napier, all pretty excited as it was about 50 years since Napier had had a National MP, and she’s here today, with my extremely supportive family. My son Heath and his wife, Cathy, and—I can’t see the little granddaughters; oh, yes—Cassandra and Alexis. My daughter Imogen—mother of Madeleine—and my grandson, Joshua. My husband, Allan, of course—and I’ll come back to him. My London-based daughter, Andrea, who’s watching and is with us in spirit—and goodness only knows how long it’s going to be before I can give her a hug. My mother, who is in a rest home in Havelock North—and I hope she’s got the channel right. My sisters, Kate and Bronwyn; my sister-in-law, Miranda; my cousin; and my niece and nephew. They’ve all put up with years of my political career: the good, the bad, and a little bit of the ugly.
In 2002, as a list MP, I lost my seat. I went out into the private sector, and Tony Ryall and Simon Power convinced me to try to win the East Coast electorate. I was selected as the candidate in late December 2007, and took off for a last Christmas holiday to Lake Waikaremoana with my family. Well, come Boxing Day, and Tony Ryall’s on the phone. He had started a campaign for me to save the eastern bay rescue helicopter, and poor old Robyn Watchorn—who worked for Tony before her 15 years for me—was in the office on Boxing Day, faxing petitions to all the local businesses, and for the younger members of Parliament, faxes are things that look like phones that print out at the end. It was a great introduction to the relentless work ethic expected of an MP, and that family will take second place.
I’ve been very lucky to have support from my husband, Allan. To win the East Coast seat, we had to move to Gisborne. We had to leave Napier, where Allan and I had both grown up, met, wed, and raised our family. All our friends were there, and all the contacts and influence that we’d built up over the years. What an enormous sacrifice that was that Allan was prepared to make for me, and I will always be so grateful.
After almost eight years, he’d just settled down, and I then moved him again as the electorate moved across into the Bay of Plenty. Thank you, Allan—you’ve been a great partner and supporter throughout my political career.
I want to thank also my electorate chairs, Pat Seymour and Wayne Marriott. They ran the local party machine, they kept me out and about, they paid the bills, they kept up the support base and the volunteers, and they play a huge role in the life and times of an electorate MP.
I’ve been fortunate to have incredible staff, both in my electorate and in the ministerial offices, and some of them are here with me tonight. Thank you, Robyn Watchorn. What an extraordinary woman she is. She was recently honoured for her outstanding community work over many years, she is a talented artist who made our commemorative camellia broaches that all the women wear so proudly, and, as I say, she’s worked in my Whakatāne office for 15 years. Caroline Taylor worked in the Gisborne office for over 10 years. Sharron Wilson was in both Te Puke and Gisborne, and Shirley Whitwell in the Kawerau office—I don’t know where they are; they’re in different places—Carolyn Meihana in Murupara; Amanda Hillary in Wellington; and Marie Rolls and Grace Hickson and Wendy Tozer. Thank you for all your help and dedication over the years. I really couldn’t have managed without any of you, and it’s great to have so many of you here tonight.
As a Minister, I was also blessed with great staff, and two in particular were with me almost entirely throughout my ministerial life: Michelle Morehu and Gillon Carruthers. Michelle came first as a receptionist, but took over as my senior private secretary within months and continued almost until the last, and, boy, she ran my life. She was outstanding, and I quickly forgave her for the fact that she had previously worked for Clayton Cosgrove.
Gillon managed my media team and, I guess, presented my life, and his advice kept me out of trouble on more than one occasion. Our greatest challenge was probably the riot and subsequent fire at Spring Hill prison—a corrections Minister’s worst nightmare. But with Gillon’s management, Ray Smith and I stood shoulder to shoulder and dealt with the media and the unions, recognising the enormous bravery of our staff, but never showing for a moment in public how dangerous the situation really was—so much so that many of my colleagues hardly even remembered there had been a riot.
There were several other staff in my office who spent some time in my office, and I was always pleased when they went on to successful careers and I hoped that I had been able to contribute in some small way to their successes. Gareth Richards, Monique Lepine, Stephen Jones, Maggie Beaumont, Antony Harvey, Ashley Murchison, Zach Castles, Cameron Olderfield, and Ashleigh Muir—thank you sincerely. To those who came from the State agencies to work with me, at times I made their jobs difficult, I accept. They were often caught between what a Minister wants and what the agency can or is willing to deliver. But, without exception, I valued their expertise and knowledge and I thank them for all their help.
I’ve had an amazing career as both junior and senior whip, as a Minister, and as a Deputy Speaker, and I want to acknowledge and thank my chief executives: Karen Sewell from the Ministry of Education, Graham Stoop from the Education Review Office, Peter Marshall and Mike Bush—who’s with us tonight—from the New Zealand Police, Ray Smith—who’s also here—from the Department of Corrections, Julie Reid in the Serious Fraud Office, Brendan Boyle from the Ministry of Social Development, and Grainne Moss from Oranga Tamariki. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked with you all such highly competent professionals, and I’m delighted that some of you have been able to come tonight. I think we accomplished much together.
Thank you to all the people that make Parliament work: the Parliamentary Service and staff—and I see Raf up the back there—the hard-working House staff, all the people in the Clerk’s Office—David, you and your team that support presiding officers—and especially thanks to the VIP Transport Service men and women, with whom I’ve probably spent more time than with my husband. They’ve all looked after me so well over the years.
But as I consider my life and my time in Parliament in its closing days, I am reminded of the meaning of the word “politics”. From the Greek “polis”, meaning “city”, comes the Greek word “politēs”, meaning “citizen”, and I’m sure that if Chris Finlayson was here tonight, he’d correct my pronunciation. But, in other words, it’s all about people. When I look back on my career, the moments and the highlights that defined my time are the people, and I thought I’d share with you tonight some of those people.
I remember well the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of parents who contacted me about national standards. They talked to me in airports, they talked to me on aeroplanes, they talked to me in cafes and restaurants, they emailed me, they faxed me, and they phoned me, and all with the same story: “If only we had known earlier, if only the school had told us, if only the teacher had said to us that our son or daughter was falling behind, couldn’t read properly, had no grasp of maths, or was really struggling to keep up with the basics, instead of telling us that they added value to the class, were delightful personalities, or were good participants.” They said, “If only we had known, we could have helped them and got them extra assistance. Instead, we only found out that our child was way behind when they started at high school, and then they told us, and then it was way too late.”
As education Minister, I negotiated the trades academies, which enabled young people to begin their trades qualifications while still at high school. Years later, my own grandson raved to me about his own experience with the trades academy. I knew that too many of these kids who learnt by making things—kinetic learners, they call them—were finding school irrelevant and, with the global financial crisis upon us, would struggle and drift into unemployment or, worse, into gang life. I remember taking PM John Key to the Whakatāne-based academy, where we met a large group of excited but very focused young people, and two stood out for John and me. They came from way up the coast. They left home at about 5 a.m. to ride—possibly a horse—down to catch the bus to Whakatāne, which was over three hours away. They told us they were still in school only because of that day, Friday, in the trades academy. Of course, that huge trip was repeated at the end of the day. I know one of those boys. He secured an apprenticeship at the end of that year and is working locally in Whakatāne to this day.
As corrections Minister, I took an enormous risk and OK’d the Rimutaka Prison taking part in Wellington on a Plate. Martin Bosley was the chef who sought that approval and over the years has been joined by a number of well-known chefs, and the prison event is one of the most popular. But I remember going out into the kitchen that first night and talking to a man who, with a real light in his eye, told me that in his whole life he had never been good at anything. But he had found that he could cook, and a famous chef had told him that he was talented and would help him find a job when he got out. Martin and many others did find jobs for some of these men who did have talents and have supported many of them on their release.
I also remember visiting a prison that had just started a puppy training programme where the prisoners took care of the initial training of the puppies. You know, they did the toilet training, the walking on a lead—basic things—before their intensive training started as assist dogs. I remember talking to this enormous man. He was huge. He was covered in tattoos. He was a real fierce-looking dude. He wouldn’t meet my eye, because many of them wouldn’t, of course. But I did ask him had he had dogs previously, and he nodded. I said to him, “Were they fighting dogs?” And he nodded. Then this great big fierce man bent down and picked up this little puppy, this golden Labrador ball of fluff, and with this gooey look on his face tucked it into his neck and told me that Daisy had scratched at the door to go out to the toilet for the first time the night before. That programme was about teaching empathy to people whose past crimes showed little evidence of it, and I saw that in his face that day, and I knew that the programme had made a difference.
Of course, I loved being Minister of Police. We are so lucky in New Zealand with our police because they’re so professional, and they’re not only law enforcers but they’re social workers and mental health workers all at the same time. I was so proud to be their Minister. The work my colleague Amy Adams and I began with the whole-of-Government response to family violence was led by a passionate policewoman, Tusha Penny. I well remember her recounting the story of a woman whose history of abuse was only really uncovered by agencies when they finally sat down together and began sharing her information, especially ACC—because this woman was extremely accident prone. She’d managed to shut her own fingers in car doors on several occasions. She’d had a car engine drop on her feet, breaking toes, twice. She’d spilled boiling water over herself, had fallen down stairs, and walked into doors numerous times. She’d come to the attention of the police and then the family harm group as a low to medium risk of harm. But with the full knowledge of her past injuries and violent experiences, she was immediately moved to extreme risk, with huge support and assistance provided for the first time ever. This woman I remember I never met, I never knew her name, but I know we saved her life.
I want to mention two young people from Child, Youth and Family, which is now Oranga Tamariki, and everyone who knows me understands my lifelong determination to make sure that these, the most vulnerable children in our communities, are safe and are able to thrive if they have to be in State care to keep them safe from harm. I finally grabbed the opportunity to address the system that was failing them so badly, despite the very best of intentions. You can only do that by talking to the people who live under that system and experience it. So I set up an advisory group of young people who had either been in State care or who were still in State care.
The first young man’s story didn’t actually have a happy ending. He was just 14 going on 15 when he came into my office. He was sullen. He was cynical of the process, and he was a little over-awed, and all of those three at once. Next thing, he’d run away from his foster home. But he turned up to see me at the Gisborne A & P show. I think he’d been with cousins up the coast. With encouragement, he returned to Wellington and he came alive around the table when we started discussing youth justice services, because he knew about them. He’d had a lot of experience of them. His contribution was invaluable and insightful, and I was so grateful to the officials that listened to him and made changes accordingly. Sadly, I know that this wasn’t enough to make up for everything else that had damaged him.
But one of that group, a bright, intelligent, and determined young woman, took every opportunity to contribute to the redesign process. She came along to Parliament and she sat up here and she watched the lawmaking process when she could, because she was at university studying to be a social worker. I ran into her a year ago at a local school. She had a very successful career. She was highly respected. As we hugged, I knew her eyes were on not only her future but the future of the people she was bringing up behind her. I wish her all the best.
Finally, it’s been a huge honour to represent the East Coast electorate for 15 years—so many wonderful people; such a rich and diverse cultural and social electorate. Many people have crossed my path in that time. I’ve been lucky to work with some great mayors, and we’ve dealt, through the office, with some characters, with some tragedies, but, mainly, with some wonderful, hard-working, innovative, and generous locals.
But my best memory is of Bruce, whose kidneys were slowly dying. He came to me in great distress, not for himself but for his wife. He was still able to have his dialysis at home, but his wife’s health was deteriorating, and the strain on her was overwhelming. In those days, in Gisborne, when it was no longer possible for home-based dialysis, people had to move away. They had to move to Hawke’s Bay or to the Waikato. Bruce was really worried that his wife would have to leave her home, all her family and friends, and all the support and be alone over in Waikato looking after him. So, with the help of a generous Minister of Health, the Hon Tony Ryall, we built a dialysis unit in Gisborne Hospital, and I visited Bruce there several times. In fact, he had a picture of him and I on his coffin. He was always happy to see me, he always had a big smile on his face, and he always thanked me that his wife was able to be well-supported in her home as his health slowly deteriorated. He was a lovely, lovely man and a loving husband, right to the end.
Over these past three years, I’ve met many people from across the world, focusing particularly on increasing the number of women in decision-making roles, especially in the Pacific. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me these opportunities. I also chaired an amazing committee on your behalf developing a code of conduct for the entire New Zealand Parliament, and I met and talked with staff, unions, officials, media, and MPs over the past almost 12 months. Anybody who works here or out in our electorate and community offices has the right to feel safe and respected. It’s a tough environment—we all understand that—but that’s no excuse for some of the behaviour that we know takes place. I spoke with staff who were genuinely frightened to come to work at times. I spoke with MPs who were bullied by colleagues and tolerated sexual harassment as part of the job. None of them had any expectations that something could be done about such behaviour. Well, that is simply unacceptable.
We didn’t manage to negotiate a full code of conduct with consequences—unfortunately, the COVID lockdown impacted on our time. But we did report back to you, Mr Speaker, seven statements of expectations of behaviour. They’re very simple. Let me go through them: to show that bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, are unacceptable; to act respectfully and professionally; to foster an environment where people feel safe and valued; to behave fairly and genuinely, treating others the way we would like to be treated; to use our position of power or influence to help others and avoid harm; and to speak up if we observe unacceptable behaviour. I sincerely hope everyone in the next Parliament commits to these expectations, because—I tell you what—the public expects nothing less.
As I leave this wonderful place, my heart is full of all these people that I’ve had the great privilege to work for and with. I’m confident I, along with all the people I’ve mentioned tonight, have touched the lives of many and made a difference for the better, and that’s what politics is all about.
This is the hard part, because tonight I only have one regret. My father attended my maiden speech after the 1999 election. We sat together every election night, watching and analysing the results, and he came to Wellington every time I was sworn in as a Minister. But he’s not here at the finish, and that’s a big gap in my life. I knew I’d cry, but I couldn’t leave him out, because he’s been such a big part of my political life.
So I say thank you to the National Party and to my caucus colleagues for your friendship and support over the years. As Deputy Speaker—sorry, I can’t read.
SPEAKER: You’re not meant to read anyway!
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As Deputy Speaker, I’ve got to know and respect MPs right across the House—[Deputy Clerk hands over tissues]—thank you, Suze—and I thank you for the collegiality that breaks out every now and then, and I wish you all the best of luck in the September elections—some more than others, perhaps.
Thank you to my wonderful family for all their support and love, and I know that they are looking forward to not having a mother or a grandmother or a mother-in-law or a cousin or an aunt in politics. Allan, the good news is that I’ve dusted off the bucket list, but the bad news is that I’ve also found a to-do list. Kia ora tātou, everyone.