When in Rome?

February 23, 2018

When in Rome it’s good manners to do what the Romans do, but what if you’re expected to do something that contravenes your religion or culture?

Labour MPs have taken offence at an Iranian agricultural delegation after they were told the Iranians wouldn’t shake the hand of their female counterpart.

Labour’s Jo Luxton is the deputy chair of the Primary Production select committee, which held a meeting with the Iranians today.

She says as a woman it made her uncomfortable, but she understands that in her role as an MP she’ll deal with situations of cultural difference.

Luxton says they were told at the start of the meeting it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to approach the visitors, to shake their hand. . . 

Before New Zealanders get too outraged about this, remember it’s only a couple of weeks ago that the Prime Minister was allowed to speak on the marae at Waitangi.

Allowed?

In New Zealand women are supposed to be equal everywhere and the role of Prime Minister should transcend gender but there are still places where old cultural practices take precedence.

 

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Will Marks be rolled?

February 22, 2018

There were no surprises when Winston Peters was re-elected leader of New Zealand First unopposed.

The man and the party are almost one and the same thing and there would be no question of dissension

But this morning’s Politik newsletter Richard Harman, who is usually well informed, suggests that Peters might be about to depose Ron Mark as deputy in favour of Fletcher Tabuteau.

The waka jumping legislation hasn’t been passed yet.

If Mark was sufficiently unhappy with show of no confidence in him he could leave the party and still stay in parliament.

That would mean he’d no longer be a minister though and he could well find that too high a price to pay no matter how upset he was.

 

 


Who’s paying for unprepared government?

February 22, 2018

Suspicions that Labour wasn’t prepared for government were right:

. . . But Labour — which she admitted was not prepared to be in Government . . 

The she in the above sentence is the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

This is yet another indictment on her party which spent almost nine years in-fighting, festering and frittering away the time it should have been developing policy and preparing to govern.

Because it wasn’t expecting to be in government it made some rash and uncosted promises in the hope of clawing back enough voter support to provide a foundation on which to build for the following election never thinking it would be in a position to deliver.

But a change of leader, MMP, and Winston Peters’ whim, put the party into government.

The price of this unprepared government is being paid in time wasted filibustering its own bills because it doesn’t have enough legislation ready for parliament.

It’s also being paid in promises broken which included one to patients suffering from rare diseases:

The New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders (NZORD) is stunned that the Government is not honouring its election promise to establish a separate fund which would allow rare disease patients to access vital, life-saving medicines.

Dr Collette Bromhead, NZORD Chief Executive said that the decision to take the promised fund “off the table” is devastating to the 377,000 New Zealand patients and their families who live with a rare and life-threatening disease.

“We have been told that the pledged $20m fund, to be spent over 4 years, will now not go ahead.

“And in a double blow, we have now been notified that the Government is also reviewing the contract which enables NZORD to provide the essential services and support for patients and families impacted by rare diseases.”

“The decision to cancel the fund for medicines is a complete u-turn by the Government and has been done without any consultation with the rare disease community. It leaves these vulnerable patients with no way to access the essential medicines that could extend their life and provide them with a better quality of living,” she said.

“During the 2017 election, the Labour Party announced that it would set up a separate fund to enable patients who suffer from rare diseases to access medicines. There are over 7,000 rare diseases and we are well aware of the challenges this creates for any funding model.

“The issue with the PHARMAC model is that it funds medicines based on the number of patients with a disease and while, collectively, over 8% of the population suffer from a rare disease, the number of patients for each disease is relatively small. 

“Rare diseases just don’t fit into this model and need to be evaluated differently. We need to start thinking about the value for the patient, not just the value for money. Many other countries, such as Scotland and Australia, have established programmes for life saving drugs which allow rare disease patients better access to medicines.

“It is disappointing that New Zealand is taking a backward step with regard to its rare disease patients and we are urging the Government to honour its election commitment. We are also strongly advocating to the Government that NZORD’s funding contract needs to needs to continue, so that NZORD can provide vital services to patients,” says Dr Bromhead.

At question time yesterday National’s deputy Paula Bennett did her best to get an answer about how many extra students had enrolled because of the fee-free policy for first years.

. . .So isn’t her policy just an expensive exercise—up to $2.8 billion—that, as the Secretary for Education told select committee last week, no cost-benefit analysis was done on, and, actually, there’s been no increase of students at all this year? 

That she didn’t get a straight answer leads to the very strong suspicion that the money being delivered on this election bribe has had little if any benefit.

People with rare diseases and the people who support them could think of much better use for that money and they too are paying the price for an unprepared government.

 


Who do members want

February 21, 2018

It amuses me to read  commentators stating that National Party members favour this candidate or that one for the leadership.

They write as if the membership is a single being with a single view.

I doubt that is true for any party and it certainly isn’t for National.

It’s a broad church party, the only one in New Zealand still able to measure its membership in 10s of thousands, and one which values individual rights, including the right to different points of view.

The members of that broad church have a range of views on just about everything, most don’t go to regular meetings nor do most press their views on MPs, even on such an important internal matter as the leadership.

They might agree with David Farrar on the factors which are important in the party’s leader.

But if there is any consensus on the issue it will not be on which candidate is best.

It might be gratitude that caucus is sufficiently gifted to have five strong contenders.

Members might also agree that whoever the next leader is s/he must have what it takes, including a wise head and warm heart, to lead the party back into government sooner rather than later.

And I think all will agree that once the leader is decided, caucus must unite behind her/him and address itself to both holding the government to account and ensuring it is much better prepared for government than the current one was.


Steven Joyce’s maiden speech

February 20, 2018

National’s finance spokesman Steven Joyce is standing for National’s leadership.

I posted Mark Mitchell’s maiden speech yesterday and those of Amy Adams, Simon Bridges and Judith Collins on Saturday.

Here is Steven’s:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) : Firstly, I would like to congratulate my local MP, Lockwood Smith, on his election to the role of Speaker.

Could I start by saying a fond greeting to Jeremy Greenbrook-Held of Oriental Bay. In the letters to the editor in the Dominion Post on 24 November, under the heading “Just who is this man Joyce?”, Mr Greenbrook-Held lamented that I had made it into my role without giving a single interview. This will come as a surprise to a number of journalists who had interviewed me prior to that time, but I will nevertheless attempt to fill some gaps for Mr Greenbrook-Held today.

I live north of Auckland but I am a Naki boy—born and raised in New Plymouth. It is a wonderful part of the world, and I love to go back to visit the mountain, the parks and the wild west coast. However, I have to say I am a fan of pretty much all of this country; I am actually a bit of a greenie, just not the type who sits over on that side of the House.

As it is for all of us, my family came here from lands far away. My father’s family are Irish Catholics. My great-grandfather Eugene Joyce arrived as a young man on the Invercargill in 1879. He married Ellen and they settled in Taranaki, where they had seven children. One of them was my grandfather Len, a bee-keeper who lived with his wife, Eileen, in Eltham, which is where my father grew up.

On my mother’s side, my great-grandmother Granny Hooper was a Cockney. She migrated with her family in 1878, landing in Nelson after 4 months at sea. She must have liked it here because she lived to 101, and I can vaguely remember her 100th birthday party, held when I was about 5. My mother was born in Kaponga. Her father was a lawyer turned insurance salesman, and a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. Their family were staunch Anglicans, my father’s family were staunch Catholics, and that was a time when those differences did matter. It tested both families when my parents married in 1961, now nearly 50 years ago. I am thrilled they are both here together in the gallery today.

My parents scrimped and borrowed and bought a Four Square dairy in New Plymouth. They were not greatly educated—they both left school at 15—but they worked really hard to make a go of their business and their family. They ran a 7-day business and brought up five kids at the same time. From where I am sitting today, that seems pretty heroic. My family, then, is from a long line of small-business people. Apart from a few years managing a supermarket, my father and mother always owned their own businesses, including their own supermarket. So it is probably not a surprise that I did the same.

I had my first taste of radio when I was finishing my zoology degree at Massey University in 1983. A bunch of us worked at Radio Massey. In 1984, members may recall, there was an election, so we decided to run a series of current affairs shows in the style of the political television shows of the time, with intercut interviews. With seriously inferior equipment, a fearless group of us worked 24 hours at a time to bring to air the hugely important Radio Massey election specials on political issues of the day. We interviewed luminaries like the late Bruce Beetham and the late Trevor de Cleene, and put those shows to air for audiences of roughly 50 people each night, probably 48 of whom would have preferred to hear the latest Joy Division track.

So I could have been a journalist, maybe. I have a brother and a sister who are members of that truly esteemed profession. Instead, it was during those late-night sessions at Radio Massey that five of us decided to start a commercial radio station of our own. We each put in $100, and Energy Enterprises—which became RadioWorks—was born with $500 in the bank. Energy FM ran as a summer station in New Plymouth for 3 years, which was all we were allowed to do under the law at that time, each time making a bit of money to help pay for our full-time FM licence application. We chased down shareholders and a board of directors, went to a licence hearing with the Broadcasting Tribunal, then waited 15 long months for a decision to be released. During that time we lost three of our number—I think they got bored—and found one more. In mid-1987 Energy FM got a licence to start broadcasting across Taranaki, and on 30 November that year we went to air.

Running one’s own business is hard work. It is hard work a lot of the time, and fantastic fun some of the time. Running one’s own radio station is even more fun. The three of us poured all we had into that business. We continued to live like university students for years, on the grounds that if we did not become used to a more comfortable lifestyle, we would not miss it. We bought stations in Tauranga and Hamilton. We started The Edge, and Solid Gold FM, and built those two and The Rock into national, satellite-delivered networks. We added stations by growth and acquisition, until by 2000 we had offices in every major town and city in the country, and 650 staff across four networks and 18 local radio stations. It was an amazing ride. We all learnt a huge amount about growing and running companies, organisational cultures, and getting the best out of people. I met, and worked with, hundreds of fantastic people, many of whom I count as friends today. Throughout, we had mostly the same board: Norton Moller, Derek Lowe, and John Armstrong. They were my mentors commercially, and I am greatly indebted to them.

CanWest raided our share register on the stock exchange in 2000. Some of us held out for a while, but eventually we realised the dream was over, and I retired from my role as chief executive officer of RadioWorks on my 38th birthday.

It was time to take stock, and time to give something back. I joined the gym. I started running; unfortunately, I later stopped running. And I joined the National Party. I put my name forward, and nearly stood, in 2002, but as it turned out it would have been a purely academic exercise. Instead, I got my first National Party job after the election. I was asked to join the campaign review, and then the full strategic review of the organisation. It was an absolute honour to do both, and to be trusted by a set of people who had no history by which to trust me. The party in 2002 was hurting pretty badly, and I was conscious of the need to take real care.

The rebuilding of the National Party was a team effort, and I am very proud to have played my part. However, a lot of the credit must go to our party’s president. Judy Kirk is now coming up towards 7 years in the role. In 2002, when she took over as president, an opinion poll that week rated the National Party at 18 percent. For the first time in its history it was in danger of no longer leading the centre-right in the New Zealand Parliament. In the 2008 election—1 month ago—the National Party achieved 45 percent of the party vote, the highest vote by any political party under MMP, and the highest vote full stop since 1990. It is a fantastic turn-round, ably led from the front by our new Prime Minister, the Hon John Key, and, prior to him, our previous leaders, Don Brash and Bill English. However, any great leader needs an organisation to lead, and Judy Kirk rebuilt that organisation, without sacrificing either her decency or her principles. When all is said and done, I am confident her name will be up there as one of the National Party’s great presidents, alongside the name of her mentor, Sir George Chapman, and that will be no more than she deserves.

It is traditional to thank your electorate workers in your maiden speech for helping you get to Parliament. I am, of course, one of the lesser beasts—a list MP—and, worse still, one who did not stand in an electorate. But I did run a campaign of sorts. It was a little bit dire in places, according to some of my critics, but redeemed by a fine candidate who shone through despite the poor support he received from his national campaign chair! There are many people I can and do want to thank for that campaign, particularly those at campaign HQ in Wellington, and the thousands of volunteers around the country who put up with the rather dictatorial requirements of the Wellington crew. I will not mention names today. They all know who they are. Can I just say that I could not hope to work with a finer bunch of people.

So, via a stint running another marvellous, proud, smallish New Zealand company with another great team of people, Jasons Travel Media, I arrive here in this building, this hermetically sealed vortex, which is our Parliament. So what contribution can I make to this place? Who do I represent? Well, I think I can be a voice for the people who always pay their taxes and who want to see them go to a good home. Primarily because I have been in business for most of the last 21 years, I can bring an understanding of the thinking of business people—small and medium sized business people in particular, who organise most of the wealth creation that takes place in this country.

I understand the mentality of those who become frustrated at Government getting in the way of their doing their job, who chafe at needless regulation and the sight of wasted tax money, who become frustrated by poorly performing infrastructure. I understand the fear they have of Government organisations muscling in on their industries by spending public money to compete with them in their marketplace for no good reason.

I bring a real understanding of the value of a dollar. From the time I was a little tacker, sitting at my family dining table as my parents added up the week’s takings, I understood that there was no money around if you did not go out and earn it yourself. I understand those people who see Wellington as a “great sucking sound” that hoovers up more and more of the nation’s money so that politicians can look like heroes when they spend it—people who are happy to pay their share but are not happy to see it wasted. I also understand what drives people: the desire to better the lot of themselves and their families under their own steam, and to not have to rely on Government handouts.

I understand that as a country we have limitless calls on our resources, and limited resources. I know that the only way we are going to progress in the manner we all hope for and provide for those less fortunate is by spending wisely the money we have, and spending most of our time working out how to grow faster to pay for all the things we need. And I think I understand what is possible in organisations that think small and nimble, where the frontline is encouraged and well resourced and the back office is pared back, and that are tuned to what the customer is seeking.

One of the distinctive features of this country is that we are a small group of islands at the bottom of the world. There are only 4.25 million of us. Small can be tough. It means small home markets, not as many resources, and not as big a pool of talent as some bigger countries have. However, our smallness need not be a negative; it can be a strength, and it should be more often. Individuals with ambition and drive have shown throughout history that they can achieve a lot more here a lot more quickly than they can in bigger countries. One great running coach, one great rowing coach, can achieve amazing things. Our smallness means that a high proportion of us are interconnected. People used to talk a lot about the six degrees of separation; in New Zealand I am sure that half the time it is just two or three degrees.

Our smallness can translate to nimbleness: the ability to change course, move quickly, make things happen. Sadly, from a vantage point outside the Government and, now, from inside it, I can see that we get wrapped up in the fact that this new regulation or law, or entitlement, or initiative is world best-practice, that by doing it we are suddenly right up there with the EU, or the UK, or the US. Maybe a world-beating, all-singing, all-dancing, multilayered process is the correct approach for a large country. Maybe for us we can trim it down, shorten it, and, dare I say, spend less money doing it. Put it this way: if we cannot, how can we compete with much larger countries? I am all for fair and sensible rules of commerce and social interaction; we just need to scale them to our size and look for the simpler way.

I believe we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in this country, and a corresponding risk that goes with it. We can recapture our mojo and become the feisty, resourceful, exciting, No. 8 wire sort of place that enabled all our forebears to make a success of themselves way down here at the bottom of the world; or we can fade away and continue on the path of figuratively, and maybe one day even literally, being the smallest and poorest also-ran state of Australia.

I do not believe I bring any pretensions to this new role. I am honoured to be provided with the opportunity to serve, and I will work diligently to repay the confidence that has been shown in me by my party, by my leader, and by New Zealanders. When it comes to work I am a believer in doing the hard yards. In rugby terms, and I stress that my familiarity with the code has pretty much always been as a fan, I like to grind it out—nothing too flashy.

I also, these days, like to have a little balance. Members may ask what I am doing here! Apparently, it is a little bit tricky in this Parliament to have balance, but I find that it helps people to keep perspective—which also might be a bit tricky here. I have an inspiration, though: my wonderful wife, Suzanne; our daughter, Amelia; and Gemma the retrodoodle. I know they will insist on seeing me regularly, no more than I will insist on seeing them.

Mr Speaker, I will work diligently to help make this country a stronger, more successful, and proud place. That is why I am here—for no other reason. If I can help to do that, then I will be able to hold my head high when I report back to New Zealanders when my time here is done.


Mark Mitchell’s maiden speech

February 19, 2018

Rodney MP Mark Mitchell is standing for leader of the National Party.

I posted the maiden speeches of the other three candidates on Saturday.

Here is Mark’s:

MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) : I stand before you today filled with pride at being given the opportunity by the people of Rodney to represent them in this, our 50th Parliament, and I am honoured to be addressing the House for the first time. Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on your reappointment to the high office of Speaker. You have already been recognised across this House for your sound judgment and fairness, and I look forward to being under your guidance in this Chamber.

Mr Speaker, you have been Minister of Education, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Tourism, and Minister for International Trade during your career, and oversaw the producer board reform that ultimately led to the creation of Fonterra and Zespri Group Ltd. You launched our successful “100% Pure” marketing campaign, which was a global success. But perhaps most important, you were the original instigator of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. You are also renowned for your singing voice, and your annual concert in Rodney is an event constituents look forward to every year. I have made a commitment to continue with this concert, and although I feel my own voice is pretty good I have been assured by those closest to me that I need to find another way of keeping that tradition alive.

I live in Ōrewa, in the heart of the Rodney electorate. Rodney is a wonderful part of New Zealand, stretching from Albany Heights, Wainui, and Dairy Flat in the south, to Warkworth, Matakana, and Leigh in the north. We have been blessed with the beautiful Hibiscus and Kowhai coasts, stunning regional parks like Shakespear Regional Park, Wenderholm, and Mahurangi, and we are home to two marine reserves, one of which, Goat Island, was the first in New Zealand. The new Northern Motorway has brought Auckland closer to Rodney, and our towns in the south of the electorate are experiencing strong growth while still retaining their unique character. Further north, our communities are more rural. Some have become famous, like Pūhoi for its pub and cheese factory, or Waiwera for its geothermal hot pools. We have the charm and history of Warkworth, world-class wine trails, great schools, strong communities, and a real pride in our beautiful part of New Zealand.

However, there are challenges ahead and I am focused on finding solutions that will allow us to develop our infrastructure and services in step with our population growth. This includes the Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway extension and the Penlink development, and I will work hard on common-sense policies and legislation that will encourage investment and growth in our local businesses and economy.

I would like to acknowledge my superb campaign team, who worked incredibly hard, who did the basics superbly, combined with innovative ideas, and really took the campaign to our opponents. I know many of you are gathered around the TV today in Warkworth and Ōrewa, and although I cannot mention everyone, you know that our result was a testament to your drive, passion, and belief in the National Party values and vision for a brighter future. I would like to make special mention of our electorate chair, Jennie Georgetti, and campaign chair, John Evans. Your determination and will were contagious. Thanks also to our regional executive, Alan Towers and Stephen McElrea. Stephen, your solid, dependable advice and guidance was of great assistance to a new candidate. Thanks to our National campaign team who provided a steady rudder and reliable compass to us all, and to president Peter Goodfellow and our board of directors for your support, guidance and counsel.

I was born on the North Shore of Auckland and spent my first years living on the Whenuapai Airbase. My dad was a flight lieutenant, flying Orions in No. 3 squadron. My mum was the daughter of the base commander, Air Commodore Frank Gill—my grandfather—who was also the National Party MP for East Coast Bays, Minister of Health, and Minister of Defence, and our New Zealand Ambassador to Washington. Dad managed to catch the eye of my mum at a base dance and the rest, as they say, is history.

One of the great lessons I learnt early from my dad was about not giving up. When the inaugural Auckland Star Takapuna to Rangitoto race was cancelled due to bad weather, Dad decided to make the swim anyway. He battled strong winds and swells to complete a difficult swim. He won the race and set the best time. Being the only competitor did not matter. Because my mum was the daughter of a career air force officer and spent her childhood on different postings around the world, when she was finally able to settle in one place she nested. There were four of us kids, but our house was always filled with orphans whom Mum would take under her wing. I learnt early that not everyone is born into a loving, caring home, and that when we can help, we should.

I am from Irish Catholic, English, and Canadian stock, with my ancestors arriving in New Zealand from 1860 through to 1919. I was educated at Rosmini College in Auckland, a Catholic school, whose motto is “Legis plenitudo charitas”—charity fulfils the law. A Google search of social justice will result in the name of Father Antonio Rosmini, the original founder of the school. I am a strong advocate of social justice. However, I reject claims that social justice and conservatism are exclusive of one another. On leaving school I went farming in the central North Island. I was lucky enough to be given my first job by Gary Ramsay, who is here today in the gallery. Farming taught me what long hours of hard physical work and graft were all about. Our farmers and our rural sector is where our No. 8 wire attitude and common-sense approach to problem solving was born.

From my own time overseas in a competitive environment, I discovered that those problem-solving skills and “failure is not an option” attitude helped me stand out amongst the crowd. As a country we need to recognise the importance of these qualities and fight hard to retain them as part of our culture and psyche.

In 1989 I joined the New Zealand Police. I was a member of the dog section and armed offenders squad. I would like to acknowledge the officer in charge of the police dog training centre, Sergeant John Edmonds, who is here today. I was lucky enough to have been able to serve with you, and it is a great honour to have you present here today. My partner on the dog section was a small black German shepherd named Czar. When we graduated, our final report stated Czar was a natural-born police dog, and that if the team did not perform operationally, the handler should be replaced, not the dog. He loved children but did not have much time for adults. One of the first jobs we attended together put us head to head with an offender armed with a samurai sword, whose intent was to attack medical staff at Rotorua Hospital. During the arrest both Czar and I were stabbed—me through my right arm and Czar in the chest. We both recovered, although I never regained the full use of my arm.

I thank the Hon Judith Collins for the leadership she provided in making sure our police officers were given every tactical advantage and option available. Had Tasers been around in my day, I would have had a much better tennis swing. One thing I could see early in my career was the amount of damage gangs and organised crime did to our communities. Whether they be the Mongrel Mob, Hell’s Angels, or Asian triads, they are parasites living off the back of our communities and a bunch of low-life cowards. Hunting in packs, they rob, steal, rape, murder, intimidate, assault, and generally terrorise anyone unlucky enough to get in their way. Many of the social issues we face today are connected either directly or indirectly to the gang culture.

Our police service is now being led by leaders rather than managers. With morale the highest it has been for years and with the best police officers in the world we are on the right side of the ledger in continuing to tackle gangs and organised crime. Our brave men and women of all our emergency services have my full support, admiration, and gratitude for the services you provide our country. I make a commitment to my electorate that I will be strong on law and order and will support changes to bail laws that strengthen the rights and protection for victims of crime.

Our Rodney health services are very important, with a growing population and a high number of older people choosing to retire in Rodney. I support our locally driven initiatives, like the Rodney Health Trust and the Rodney Surgical Centre, which are providing local services for our communities. I am proud of how far we have come as a country in our understanding, caring, and tolerance of those suffering from a mental illness or depression. I was often asked if I was angry at the person who stabbed me, who at the time was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. No, I was not angry with him. He did not wake up one morning saying: “I want to be a paranoid schizophrenic.” He was ill with a sickness he did not want.

In 2000 I lost my younger brother, Sean. He was intelligent, the life of the party, an active member of the Auckland coastguard rescue team, and was diagnosed with manic depression. He wrote a letter to us, his family, and then swam into the Rangitoto Channel. We found him the next day washed up on Rangitoto Island. We love and miss you, Sean. I applaud John Kirwan and the courage it took to tell his own story about depression and the debilitating effects it can have. I am committed to supporting the mental health services in our communities.

In 2002 I resigned from the police to live a quiet life raising and training horses in Taupō. But fate had other plans, and in 2003 I found myself in Iraq as part of a small team establishing a safety and security programme for the newly formed interim Government. It was a tough year for me, because it was the first time in my life I was exposed to the ugliness of corruption and extreme ideologies in a country where there was very little regard for human life. The first election in Iraq had over 7,000 candidates for 235 parliamentary positions. Opposing candidates would dispose of each other with roadside bombs and hit squads. It helped me to put a little context around the teapot tapes last year. In 2005 I was asked to establish the Provincial Joint Operations Centre in southern Iraq. This was the command centre for all the newly formed Iraqi security forces. Iraq faces some very big challenges in its rebuild, but I was lucky enough to work with some very good men and women, and, where there are good men and women, there is hope.

In 2005 I was approached and asked to establish a security programme for a company that was providing food and life support to the coalition in Iraq. Seen as a legitimate target by al-Qaeda as they were supporting the Government, employees of the company were being attacked and killed. The security programme I put in place was successful and soon I was being approached by Governments, including the United States, Japan, and Australia, to assist with logistics and protective support in high-threat and difficult environments.

Although I have the deepest respect for organisations such as the United Nations, I also saw how difficult it was for big, bureaucratic organisations to move quickly when sometimes people needed protection and aid today, as it would be too late tomorrow. I am proud of the fact I was part of a dedicated team that formed an initiative backed by the World Economic Forum to create emergency logistics teams set up to deploy aid into areas struck by humanitarian disasters. I am proud that we led refugees out of Lebanon to safety when they were trapped in a war between Israel and Hezbollah, that we protected and supported scientists from the Hague to open and take evidence from mass graves in their case against Saddam Hussein, that we delivered food and medical supplies to flood-ravaged areas of Pakistan and ensured it got to the people who needed it, and that we were able to open up a supply chain to get food and medical supplies into Darfur and Mogadishu.

I have been a farmer, a policeman, a small business owner, and the founder of a successful global company. I understand the pressures they face, the responsibility they carry, and the importance that each one plays in the future of our country. But they cannot carry the weight by themselves. I believe that for the privilege of living in this beautiful country, regardless of when we arrived, we all have the same obligation, and that is to look for ways to contribute to New Zealand’s future.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge my family. To my wife, Peggy—I would not be standing here today delivering this maiden speech if it was not for your unconditional love and support. You have helped me achieve my dream, and I hope that I can help you achieve yours. To my children, Taylor, Spencer, and Jazlin—your father was taken away from you and New Zealand too early. Possum was the only sportsman in New Zealand to beat the Aussies in their own national championship seven times in a row—what a legend. But first and foremost, he was a loving and caring father. I will continue to do my best to provide you with the love and security that your father would have provided. To my daughter, Sylvie—yes, honey, it did feel like life had really begun for me when you came into this world, and I am proud of the caring young lady you are growing into. To my son, Nathan—you’re the man. Your energy and enthusiasm for life is contagious. To my sisters, Lissa and Tracey—I love you both. Thank you to my Auntie Francis and Uncle Rodney, and to Geoffrey and Lynda Bourne, for also being here.

I am back in the service of my country. There is no greater honour. Thank you.


Is it too late to bring back doctors?

February 19, 2018

The NZ Councils of Midwives says midwifery is in crisis:

Midwives are appealing to the new Government to act urgently to deal with the unfolding crisis in New Zealand’s midwifery workforce.

The New Zealand College of Midwives warned the previous Government over many years that pay for community midwives was failing to keep pace with inflation and the level of work required of midwives. Meanwhile, under-resourcing – leading to chronic under-staffing – was undermining the morale of midwives working in our hospitals and maternity units.

“We are hearing an increasing number of stories from around the country of severe shortages as midwives continue to leave the profession,” says Karen Guilliland, Chief Executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives. “We can now see a pattern confirming that this is a service in crisis”, she says.

Mrs Guilliland says this is the result of years of under-funding in New Zealand’s maternity service however the College is heartened that the new Government has decided to enter negotiations to ensure pay equity for mental health support workers, which, like midwifery is a mainly female workforce.

“The College began fighting for pay equity for midwives three years ago when we began court action under the previous Government. This action led to an agreement between the College and the Ministry of Health to design a new funding model for community-based (LMC) midwives. We have presented our recommendations to the Ministry’s leadership team and the new Minister of Health. At this stage, we have no certainty that the recommendations from the co-design will be accepted, or funded,” she says

Mrs Guilliland is urging the new Government to reassure midwives that they will not be disappointed.

“The College is increasingly concerned that every day we wait, the sustainability of the midwifery profession continues to be negatively affected and this in turn has a significant impact on women’s access to maternity services. More and more women will be unable to find a midwife if this crisis is not urgently addressed.”

Mrs Guilliland says the new Government has an opportunity to resolve this and the College and its members cannot highlight the urgency of this situation enough.

“We need the Ministry and the Minister to act immediately,” she says.

The ODT covers the situation in Wanaka here and here.

Low pay and long hours is part of the problem.

Another part few if any midwives will talk about is the changes that drove general practitioners from obstetrics, adding to the load placed on midwives and risks for women and babies.

An Otago university study found babies are more at risk during birth if a midwife rather than a doctor is in charge.

Bad outcomes for new babies are more likely when a mother’s chosen maternity carer is a midwife, as opposed to a medical specialist, research shows. 

The University of Otago research project examined major adverse perinatal outcomes of 240,000 babies born between 2008 and 2012. 

It found that babies were less likely to encounter problems during and after giving birth, when their mother’s carer was a specialist obstetrician or general practitioner. . .

The changes were driven by the feminist movements insistence that birth is a natural process.

It is, but so is death and you only have to look at the number of women and babies in old cemeteries to see what used to happen when birth was predominantly left to midwives.

Midwifery practices are very different now from how they were then, but there still ought to be a bigger role for doctors, not just specialists but GP obstetricians, in the birthing process.

Is it too late to bring doctors back to births?


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