Build vs borrow

September 9, 2020

Something to think about as Labour makes its tax announcement today:

What I think is really important to understand is that we cannot simply borrow our way out of a recession, what we need to do is build our way out of it.Judith Collins

There is a place for borrowing but the need to do that makes the need for policies that will build the economy even more important.

Rural round-up

August 24, 2020

Family first for these high flyers – Ashley Smyth:

Topflite tends to fly under the radar when people think of Oamaru businesses, but for this family-owned success story, things are quietly taking off. Ashley Smyth reports.

While being Oamaru-based can present its challenges, these are far outweighed by the benefits the small-town lifestyle offers, Topflite general manager Greg Webster says.

“The fact we’re close to where the product is grown is a big one. Also, being a family business, family is always something we’ve put importance on.

“We want people to have a life outside of work. Living in Oamaru allows that – your staff don’t have an hour commute.”

The company, perhaps most famous locally for its striking sunflower crops, was founded by Greg’s father Jock Webster and Jock’s brothers-in-law Ross and Bruce Mitchell, in the 1970s. . . 

Minister missing in action:

The Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor has taken a staggering 10 days during the Auckland level 3 lockdown to grant a blanket exemptions for sheep and beef farmers, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“The previous lockdown allowed farmers to continue operations and travel between properties as essential workers, the current lockdown has imposed stricter requirements of needing a Ministry of Health exemption.

“The delays and confusion are a direct result of the Government’s lack of planning for an outbreak.

“Minister O’Connor has failed to see that this would require further compliance from farmers. It was only after heavy pressure from various sectors that saw exemptions for diary, horticulture and poultry. . . 

New rules go ‘too far’ – farmer – Sally Rae:

“Farming’s a tough game but they are hellbent on making it tougher.”

West Otago dairy farmer Bruce Eade is concerned about the Government’s new freshwater regulations which start coming into force from September 3, saying many of the rules concerning winter cropping and grazing were “almost unfarmable” in the South.

The Eade family are longtime dairy farmers and converted their Kelso property 25 years ago. They milk about 550 cows, have a free-stall barn and also winter beef cattle on crop.

“We’re lifers, you could say. We do it for the cows is the biggest thing for us. If I didn’t love my cows, I wouldn’t be doing it. There’s far easier ways to make a living,” Mr Eade said. . . 

Scramble over new freshwater rules – Colin Williscroft:

Regional councils and industry good groups are scrambling under a tight timeframe to get to grips with how new freshwater regulations will be implemented and what its impact on farmers is likely to be.

The new Essential Freshwater rules became law earlier this month and in the past couple of weeks councils and groups including Federated Farmers, Beef + Lamb NZ (B+LNZ) and DairyNZ have been studying the detail of the regulations so they and the people they represent are as prepared as possible for changes when they come into effect.

Some of those changes come into effect next month, while others will be rolled out over the next few years. . . 

Wool handler keeping work local – Mary-Jo Tohill:

It’s a perfect early spring-like day in the Ida Valley in Central Otago.

Merinos bleat in the yards, and the shearing machines buzz inside the woolshed as the crew gets to work.

Southland-based world-class woolhandler Tina Elers quickly finds her rhythm as the fleece hits the table.

This time of year, she’s chasing the work as well as thinking about upcoming competition as a woolhandler.

“Do I treat the fleece any differently? No. What I do every day in the shed as a wool classer is practice for competition.”

Both come down to quality and speed. . . 

Expensive Geraldine-produced Wagyu beef being auctioned for charity– Samesh Mohanlall:

A South Canterbury farm has produced one of the biggest rare Wagyu steers ever seen in New Zealand.

Evan and Clare Chapman of Rockburn Farming near Geraldine have been raising Wagyu (a term referring to all Japanese beef cattle), which is renowned for its sought after marbled meat and costs hundreds of dollars for a simple steak since 2017.

Last week a 946 kilogram Wagyu steer from the farm was processed by First Light, the New Zealand farming co-operative the Chapman’s belong to.

“This isn’t a one-off,” the co-op’s managing director Gerard Hickey said. . . 

Using data in Nigeria to reduce violence and build food security – Rotimi Williams:

Farming should be safe, but in Nigeria it can be deadly.

It’s so dangerous, in fact, that a report released on June 15 by an all-party parliamentary group in the United Kingdom asks a provocative question in its title: “Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?

Thousands of Nigerian farmers are murdered each year, according to human-right groups such as Amnesty International-and all we want to do is protect our land so that we can grow the crops our families need and our country requires.

As a rice farmer in Nigeria, I’ve seen this problem up close-and I’m trying to solve it with technology. . . 

Ben Cross 16.12.47 – 18.8.20

August 19, 2020

Actor Ben Cross has died:

. . . He was born Harry Bernard Cross in London to a working-class Catholic family.

After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada), he moved from the stage to screen and took a minor role in the 1977 war film A Bridge Too Far, which starred Sir Sean Connery and Sir Michael Caine.

He became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the same year, before gaining wider acclaim as Billy Flynn – the lawyer representing murderer Roxie Hart – in a 1978 version of the stage musical Chicago.

It was a performance that was widely believed to have earned him his role in 1981’s Chariots Of Fire, which went on to win four Oscars including best picture.

Cross played Jewish runner Harold Abrahams in the film, which was based on the true story of two British men racing for Olympic gold in 1924.

BBC religion editor Martin Bashir said Cross’s portrayal of Abrahams had “captured the burden of being an outsider”. . . 

Word of the day

August 19, 2020

Skelm – a raskal, rogue, scoundrel, villain; sly; wicked.

Rural round-up

August 15, 2020

Letter to the Prime Minister from New Zealand butchers:

Dear Prime Minister, 

We are writing to you on behalf of the independent butchers of New Zealand to urgently reclassify local butcheries as essential services in line with dairies. 

Like dairies, local butcheries have been the foundation of Kiwi communities for decades and are entwined in our community fabric. They proudly provide consistent, quality, nutritious products to all New Zealanders. 

At their core, butchers are committed to serving our communities, and to do that, need to be reclassified as an essential service. If they are not, these mainstays of our community risk disappearing forever. 

As a result of the first lockdown, many butchers have been left on the verge of financial ruin. Confused messaging in the lead up to the first lockdown in March meant many butchers stocked up on meat, only to be informed hours before Alert Level 4 came into effect, they would not be allowed to open. As a result, many butchers had to write off stock costing them tens, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.  . . 

Feds backs the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer:

Federated Farmers says the government needs to reconsider and let small business fresh food sellers stay open under level 3 and, if necessary, at level 4.

“Let the little guys stay open, and sell fresh food, because it’s safer, fairer and better for small communities trying to buy local,” Feds president Andrew Hoggard says.

New Zealand’s first COVID-19 lockdown rules meant butchers, bakers and greengrocers could not open as the small retailers were considered non-essential.

“This rule needs a rethink if we are to go back into a full-scale lock down,” Andrew says. . . 

Retiring MP’s $2m vote of confidence in dairying – Peter Burke:

Former Minister for Primary Industries, and retiring MP, Nathan Guy says his plans to invest more than $2 million in a new innovative dairy shed is a vote of confidence in the future of the dairy industry.

Guy owns a large dairy farming operation near the Horowhenua town of Levin and is about to build a unique dairy shed that incorporates two 50 bail rotary platforms in the same building and is capable of milking 700 cows in just one hour. The design is identical to the one built by former National MP and Taranaki dairy farmer Shane Ardern.

The new shed will replace two other milking sheds on the property, but Guy says they will keep a small 28 bail rotary which his father built in 1975. It will be used for milking mainly the heifers on the property. He says his father had the vision to put in that shed back in the 1970’s and says his new shed is about investing for the next generation – his children. His children have been involved in the decision making and are also excited about the future of the industry. . . 

Working dog heading for retirement – Sally Brooker:

Man’s best friend” is the perfect description of Jimmy.

The 12-year-old heading dog has retired from an exceptional agility career in which he always did owner Allen Booth proud.

Mr Booth and his wife Kathy, who farm and own boarding kennels at Peebles, have been running dogs in agility competitions for 20 years. Mr Booth said he started when he was 50 and now, at the age of 70, he reckons it might be time to retire himself. . . 

Woollen mask sales spike – Annette Scott:

Suppliers of woollen face masks have been slammed with orders as a second wave of covid-19 threatens New Zealand.

Following the Government’s warning that face masks may become compulsory, suppliers and manufacturers have been challenged to meet demand as NZ-made woollen face masks take a top spot on the fashion accessory charts.

“Face masks are out of stock.

Due to order demand, we are not currently taking back orders.

Available again for purchase September 1.”

These are the messages heading several websites and Facebook pages of Merino wool mask suppliers. . . 

Lancashire farm welcomes yoga classes alongside cows – James Holt:

Dairy cows graze in a field as Yoga instructor Titannia Wantling takes part in the first ever Cow Yoga session at Paradise Farm in Leyland.

The experimental yoga class gives people a chance to experience movement with cows, as the animals are proven to lower stress whilst encouraging adults to enjoy exercising outdoors.

With tackling obesity currently high up on the government’s agenda, the Lancashire farm, alongside free range yogurt brand Lancashire Farm Dairies, has launched the Cow Yoga classes to get people motivated. . . 


Word of the day

August 13, 2020

Quarterpace – a staircase landing where the stair turns at a right angle; resting place or landing where two flights of stairs converge at right angles to each other in a quarter turn.

National list

August 8, 2020

National has released its 202 party list:

National’s 2020 Party List is a strong mix of experience coming up through our Caucus, and new and exciting talent joining our team from communities across New Zealand, Party President Peter Goodfellow says.

“The National Party is incredibly fortunate to be able to draw on such a diverse and experienced team of passionate Kiwis, from our Leader Judith Collins, our Shadow Cabinet, right through to newcomers like Christopher Luxon in Botany, Tania Tapsell in East Coast, Tim Costley in Otaki, and Penny Simmonds in Invercargill.

“National run the most democratic selection processes of any party, and our process for putting together our Party List is the same. Our focus is always to strike the right balance between recognising and promoting experience, striving to reflect the diversity of New Zealand, and ensuring ongoing renewal.

“Rejuvenation is important for any political party, and National is heading into the 2020 election with some impressive and exciting new candidates. We are also saying goodbye to some very hardworking and dedicated members who have announced their retirement. They have served our country, our communities, and our Party with distinction, and we thank their families and loved ones for sharing them with us.

“We are incredibly proud to be the Party that represents Kiwis from all walks of life, from a range of ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences. We have teachers, servicemen, doctors, a paramedic, farmers, lawyers, community advocates, scientists, businesspeople, and a virus specialist – just to name a few.

“We know that every MMP election is a close fought race. Every single one of our candidates will be campaigning hard in their local communities to deliver a strong Party Vote for National, and ensure Judith Collins is our next Prime Minister.

“COVID-19 has changed our world, and while Kiwis can all be proud of our collective health response, New Zealand is facing the biggest economic crisis in generations. More than ever our country needs a strong team, with real-world experience, that can deliver what we promise and get New Zealand working.

“The only way to avoid another three years of chaos from Labour and the Greens, is to Party Vote National. That’s what our team of 75 candidates and tens of thousands of members, supporters and volunteers will be focused on right up until election day.”

National’s 2020 Party List:

1 Judith Collins Papakura
2 Gerry Brownlee Ilam
3 Paul Goldsmith Epsom
4 Simon Bridges Tauranga
5 Dr Shane Reti Whangarei
6 Todd McClay Rotorua
7 Chris Bishop Hutt South
8 Todd Muller Bay of Plenty
9 Louise Upston Taupo
10 Scott Simpson Coromandel
11 David Bennett Hamilton East
12 Michael Woodhouse Dunedin
13 Nicola Willis Wellington Central
14 Jacqui Dean Waitaki
15 Mark Mitchell Whangaparaoa
16 Melissa Lee Mt Albert
17 Andrew Bayly Port Waikato
18 Dr Nick Smith Nelson
19 Maureen Pugh West Coast-Tasman
20 Barbara Kuriger Taranaki-King Country
21 Harete Hipango Whanganui
22 Jonathan Young New Plymouth
23 Tim Macindoe Hamilton West
24 Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi Panmure-Otahuhu
25 Paulo Garcia List
26 Nancy Lu List
27 Dr Parmjeet Parmar Mt Roskill
28 Agnes Loheni Mangere
29 Dale Stephens Christchurch Central
30 Alfred Ngaro Te Atatu
31 Matt Doocey Waimakariri
32 Stuart Smith Kaikoura
33 Lawrence Yule Tukituki
34 Denise Lee Maungakiekie
35 Simon O’Connor Tamaki
36 Brett Hudson Ohariu
37 Simeon Brown Pakuranga
38 Ian McKelvie Rangitikei
39 Erica Stanford East Coast Bays
40 Matt King Northland
41 Chris Penk Kaipara ki Mahurangi
42 Tim van de Molen Waikato
43 Dan Bidois Northcote
44 Jo Hayes Mana
45 Katie Nimon Napier
46 Catherine Chu Banks Peninsula
47 Hamish Campbell Wigram
48 David Patterson Rongotai
49 Lisa Whyte New Lynn
50 Rima Nakhle Takanini
51 Liam Kernaghan Taieri
52 Bala Beeram Kelston
53 Lincoln Platt Christchurch East
54 William Wood Palmerston North
55 Nuwi Samarakone Manurewa
56 Mark Crofskey Remutaka
57 Jake Bezzant Upper Harbour
58 Mike Butterick Wairarapa
59 Tim Costley Otaki
60 Nicola Grigg Selwyn
61 Christopher Luxon Botany
62 Joseph Mooney Southland
63 Penny Simmonds Invercargill
64 Tania Tapsell East Coast
65 Simon Watts North Shore
66 TBC Auckland Central
67 TBC Rangitata
68 Adrienne Pierce List
69 Senthuran Arulanantham List
70 Sang Cho List
71 Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau List
72 Trish Collett List
73 Ava Neal List
74 Katrina Bungard List
75 Shelley Pilkington List

Amy Adams’ valedictory statement

August 1, 2020

National MP for Selwyn Amy Adams delivered her valedictory statement this week:

Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn): In rising to make my valedictory statement, I feel every bit as humbled and as privileged as I did when I rose to make my maiden speech from the very back row of this Chamber 12 years ago. It’s always seemed to me that time has its own rules in this place. My maiden speech feels both just like yesterday and at the same time a whole lifetime ago. I battled my emotions during that speech, and I give the House fair warning that I’m highly likely to succumb again tonight. I remember giving a pretty emotional speech in the general debate shortly after the first major earthquake had devastated much of Canterbury and losing the battle on that occasion not to cry in this House. As I tried to get a grip on myself, I recall Hone Harawira yelling out, “Kia kaha, sister.”, and I remember thinking, “Holy cow, if Hone is feeling sorry for a Tory like me, I really must be a mess.”

I spent a good portion of my maiden speech casting back to some of the debates in the battle for women’s suffrage that reflected on the benefits that women members would bring to politics. I’m incredibly proud and actually quite shocked to find that I was just the 98th woman member in New Zealand’s history to become an MP. Over my time as an MP, I’ve tried to use the role to encourage more women to see their futures without limits and to push back on the still unlevel playing field. As any woman in this place can tell you, we continue to face a type of scrutiny and criticism that is unique to us, and often a different measure of competence. While the number of women in politics is growing, we still have some way to go. But as MPs we have the ability to model possibilities for so many New Zealanders, and that’s something we should never lose sight of.

One of my proudest moments came five years after I’d been asked to give a speech to the seniors at my old high school, Rangitoto College. I talked about the fact that I’d never won a prize of any sort at school, and while I’d done OK, I certainly wasn’t someone who was marked out for bigger things. Years later, a woman came up to me and told me that she’d been in the audience that day and after hearing me, she decided she would go to law school, too. She’d just graduated, and she came up to thank me for making her believe that she could. I have to say, I was lost for words that our stories could have such an impact, but they do.

I’ve never really seen myself as a politician. I didn’t come from a political family. I wasn’t a youth MP. I wasn’t a member of a youth wing of any party, nor did I study political science or work in the halls of power before coming here as a member. My path to this place grew out of a deep love of my country and an overriding sense of optimism of what being a New Zealander could and should mean for everyone. After my children were born, I found myself increasingly thinking about what their futures in New Zealand looked like and worrying when I thought we as a country were getting it wrong. I grew up in a household where sitting on the sidelines complaining simply wasn’t an option. If you thought something was wrong, you had two choices: you could suck it up or you could do something about it. So the opportunity to step into the ring and try and make a difference became everything. Standing for Parliament and nailing my political colours to the mast was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. It involves doing that very un-Kiwi thing of stepping forward and saying out loud that you think you’re good enough. But it has been, without question, one of the best decisions of my life.

I have to say that I started my time as an MP in a relatively bizarre way, and I’ve seen it end in a similarly unusual way. My selection and initial election involved a candidate being selected for the seat then unselected after a public furore, then a new process being commenced, then a High Court injunction, and finally a rare Electoral Act challenged based on a disgruntled aspirant challenging the party rules. After a hearing before a panel of judges in the High Court in Christchurch, which some of my colleagues will member for a number of reasons you can ask them about later, I had to come to a question time early in my first term to listen to the Speaker deliver the judgment of the court, without any idea how the court had ruled and knowing that if the applicant had won, then the Serjeant-at-Arms would be called upon to eject me and I would’ve had one of the shortest terms as an MP ever. I have to say that keeping a poker face while the judgment was being read involved acting skills my famous namesake would have been proud of.

After a beginning like that, it’s only fitting that the end of my time as an MP has also been somewhat non-traditional. It’s always good to hold some of the firsts in this place, and I’m pretty sure that I am the first MP to have retired, unretired and then re-retired all without actually leaving. When I told my son a few weeks ago that I would be announcing I was stepping down, he said, “OK, thanks for the update, mum. Just let me know when you un-retire again.” It was a bit harsh, Tom, but I do admit that I must seem a little bit like the A J Hackett of New Zealand politics.

Michael Cullen described a valedictory as like being asked to give the oration at your own funeral, and I have to say it does feel a little bit like that. It’s a surprisingly uncommon thing to be able to say you are going at your own time, of your own choosing, and, in recent times particularly, to know that you leave with your reputation and your integrity intact. I’ve been here for less time than some, but for longer than most. And I’ve been fortunate to hold a vast number of roles, including holding 13 ministerial roles over six years around the Cabinet table. I do have one perspective, though, that those of you who are staying on don’t yet have. And that’s of being in the position to reflect back on my time here as I think about what really matters when you come to say goodbye.

That reflection puts our work here in a different light. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day, the relentless news cycles, the parliamentary skirmishes, the never-ending papers to read, and the palace intrigue. Years can pass like that, filled with unbelievable hours of hard work, little sleep, and high stress. But that’s not why any of us come to Parliament. Simon Power, who was an MP I greatly admired, said in his valedictory, “People don’t spend years getting elected, more years waiting to get into Cabinet, to then say ‘Well, I managed that week well. I minimised risk, I had no view, I took no decisions, I stayed out of trouble. Well done, me!’ Once you’re in office, you’ve got to do something. People come and go, but ideas endure.”—and I agree with that.

In the words of Teddy Roosevelt I have a horror of words that are not translated into deeds, of speech that does not result in action. None of us should measure our contribution here by our goals, our hopes, or how much public money we spend in pursuit of them. The only measure that counts is the difference that our actions, ultimately, make for people. It’s not good enough just to deliver a programme if that programme doesn’t actually make the difference it was supposed to. In my view, we don’t spend enough time as a system looking back and answering those sorts of questions.

I don’t think anyone leaves this place without some things left undone. I have plenty of things I would have liked to achieve, including—Mr Speaker, I’ll admit to you now—a secret desire to have been thrown out of this Chamber. There is still time, however.

SPEAKER: Three more days.

Hon AMY ADAMS: Ha, ha. But for all the things not done, there are many more that I do reflect on with pride. The Parliamentary Library tells me that I was responsible for the introduction or carriage of 74 pieces of legislation—each one of which I reflect on with pride and, as far as I know, none of which have yet been repealed, but you’ll be very pleased to know I’m not going to list them. Legislation aside, there are a few things that are being part of here that I do want to mention.

In my three years as justice Minister, it very quickly became clear to me that the best thing we could do to reduce crime was to intervene many, many years before the offenders ever turn up in court. That was the basis of my absolute adoption of the importance of social investment as championed by Sir Bill English. Yes, it’s early intervention but it’s so much more and involves radical change to our delivery models if we’re going to make progress on the hard intergenerational issues. Last week in her valedictory, the Hon Anne Tolley talked about the work that she and I had led to change the delivery model for family violence and to force agencies to come together to treat it as everyone’s problem, not just something for the police. The integrated safety response pilots we set up in Christchurch and the Waikato are embodiments of that and hearing from those involved that many lives have been saved as a result of that new way of working makes me incredibly proud.

As environment Minister, putting in place comprehensive environmental protections for our exclusive economic zone; delivering New Zealand’s first ever national standards for fresh water; and mandating regular, independent, environmental reporting feel like substantial pieces of work to have been involved in in that critical area.

In my maiden speech, I extolled the importance of long-term thinking and planning when it comes to the infrastructure needs of New Zealand. And in my longest-held ministerial post, I was fortunate to play a central role in providing better internet connectivity across New Zealand. To me, good internet connectivity is a great leveller, both for New Zealanders looking to trade globally and domestically across our communities. Our ultra-fast broadband, Rural Broadband Initiative, and mobile blackspot programmes were transformative in that regard, and I want to acknowledge John Key and Steven Joyce for their vision and commitment in that area.

I’ll never forget visiting a tiny school on Great Barrier Island with John and Nikki Kaye to launch the connectivity upgrade there, and watching a group of gifted students being able to study astronomy via remote learning, or listening to the story of a small baby on the West Coast of the South Island being able to be quickly diagnosed and treated in their local medical clinic by specialists at Christchurch Hospital through their dedicated fibre link. Of course, those stories were just a taste of what that vision and investment will mean for New Zealand for many generations to come—and didn’t we see that during the COVID lockdown, when we all worked from home.

One of the amazing things about being an MP is getting to experience parts of New Zealand life we wouldn’t otherwise get to see. When I became the MP for Selwyn, and knowing that my area included Burnham Military Camp, I realised that I also knew absolutely nothing about our defence forces, so I decided to go about changing that. During my first term, I convinced the Minister of Defence to let me set up a New Zealand equivalent of the UK parliamentary defence forces scheme that saw MPs embedded with either army, air force, or navy for a week, in uniform, and living on base. As the guinea pig, I did a rotation with each service, and I have to say they’re experiences I will never forget.

Now, I’m a massive coward when it comes to all things adrenaline. I scream on Ferris wheels—it’s really embarrassing. I never thought I would skydive. Yet my week with the air force saw me throw myself out of a plane at 12,000 feet. The only thing that made me do it was knowing that there were two bloody Labour MPs in the plane with me, and I was damned if I was going to wimp out in front of them! During my navy stint on the inshore patrol vessel Pukaki, I got to see a man overboard drill. When the man went over, I was somewhat startled to hear the command go up, “Get the rifles.” I commented to the captain that that seemed a pretty harsh consequence for falling overboard, to be reassured by him that the weaponry was for the sharks and not the sailor.

Those experiences left me absolutely blown away by the dedication of our defence force personnel. And in 2017, when I was given the honour of speaking for New Zealand at the dawn service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli alongside Julie Bishop and I heard the stories of those young men and saw the countless grave markers, I came to understand what true public service really means.

So other than my first and last speeches in this Chamber, four other speeches stand out particularly in my memory: the speech post the 2010 earthquake that I’ve already mentioned; giving the final speech in the passing of the recent abortion law changes; talking about the death of my own mother during the euthanasia debate; and giving the apology of this Parliament to those men unjustly convicted of loving who they love as part of expunging historical convictions for homosexuality. In each case, the emotion was real, and it was difficult, but they were all speeches that needed to be made to be true to who I was.

Colleagues, the jobs we hold matter. They matter so much more than any one of us. We need good people to want to step into this arena, and we need them to do it for the best of reasons. I worry that increasingly the scorn and the vitriol that is heaped on politicians—often fairly—discourages those good people from stepping up. These jobs are tough. The life is brutal, and the public will never really see the hours, the stress, the impossibility of the perfection that is required, and the impact that life in the public eye has on our families. While you are here in your political role, it is your life. Friends, family, and our health get what’s left over, and often that’s not much. But this job deserves that level of devotion.

Hunter S Thompson once said about politics that it is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs—and there’s also a negative side. We all as MPs face the same personal challenges and upheavals as the rest of the population, but we quickly learn that we have to put on our public faces no matter what our internal turmoil, and that can take a toll. In my time in this House, I have dealt with the death of both of my parents and my two remaining grandparents. I’ve witnessed the devastation in my electorate through the Canterbury earthquakes, the Port Hills fire, and, more recently, the mosque shootings. I’ve received death threats and abuse, and I’ve seen my children have to deal with the relentless negativity and lies that are aimed at us through the media and social media alike. Yet not for a moment do I think it all hasn’t been worth it.

I want to quote from Teddy Roosevelt again: “It is not the critic who counts … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

If we’re honest, though, none of us get the chance to be in this arena and dare greatly without the incredible support of a huge number of people, and I’m honoured to have so many of those people here with me today. I want to start, of course, by thanking my electorate of Selwyn and to all its incredible communities from Akaroa to Arthur’s Pass, from Rolleston to Rākaia, what an honour it has been to represent you. Being chosen to be your voice in Parliament for 12 years has truly been a privilege. My thanks to the three electorate chairman I’ve worked with: the late John Skinner, Frank Brenmuhl, and John Suncle.

Thanks to all of the incredible members and volunteers who have been with me and given extraordinary service. I couldn’t possibly name you all, but you have been like a second family to me.

To all my staff across 12 years, you made me look far better than I actually was. In Selwyn and in Wellington, what an incredible team you were. I particularly think back to the times we had as a Minister, and some of the hilarity that that included. Thank you, in particular, for stopping me one day from sending out a letter which had intended to call for a meeting with the iwi leaders, but which autocorrect had helpfully changed to request a meeting with the ISIS leaders—that could have been somewhat interesting; might have been easier, I’m not sure! The professionalism, laughter, and support of you all, and all of the officials that I had the privilege of working with, made every day a pleasure, and any successes that I’ve had in this job, I share with each one of you.

There are two staff, in particular, though, who need special mention and my deepest thanks. Sharon O’Callaghan, who has run my electorate office for every single day of those 12 years, like an absolute boss; and Caron Hoare, who has been my phenomenal executive assistant and senior parliamentary secretary for almost as long. These two are legendary, and, quite simply, you are the best in the business. I thank you.

Thank you to the National Party for giving me incredible opportunities; to party president Peter Goodfellow and the board, to all the leaders I’ve served under, and to our tireless regional chairman, Roger Bridge, my thanks.

To my caucus colleagues, present and former, what a group of minds you are. I’ve been so lucky to be able to debate and collaborate with you. I’ve made some incredible friends, particularly in my 2008 year group, in a way that can only be formed by sharing such a big part of your life over so many years. Go well, all over you.

A special thankyou also to Sir John Key for taking a chance on a stroppy young backbencher from Canterbury and for your being an inspiration to me every single day that you served in office. When I started here as a young fresh-faced MP, I thought it was highly likely that the Prime Minister wouldn’t really have a clue who I was; just a few months into my first term, I found out that he certainly did, when I stepped on to the treadmill in the Parliament gym early one morning, only to find it had been left going at warp speed by the previous user and I found myself jettisoned through the air, swearing like a sailor, to land, quite literally, at John’s feet while he was doing weights. He looked down at me, somewhat bemused, smiled, and said, “Are you right, Amy? Be a bit careful, our ACC budgets are tight.” I can tell you, I don’t recommend it as a way to improve name recognition.

To my wider parliamentary colleagues, most of you I have come to respect and enjoy, even though I usually thought that you were utterly wrong. The best of this House is when it acts with its humanity taking precedence over its politics, and I’ve been lucky enough to see that on many occasions.

To my family, my mother and father were both here with me at the beginning—oh—

Chris Bishop: Breathe.

Hon AMY ADAMS: —no, you’ve got to tell me to harden up, not breathe!—but you are no longer, and I miss you both. To my siblings Belinda, Ingrid, and Cam, and your partners and kids, my amazing in-laws, my uncles, aunts, and cousins, you all mean the world to me.

Finally, my husband, Don, and my two children, Tom and Lucy. As everyone in this Chamber knows, you guys serve in these roles as much as we do, but you don’t get any choice in the matter. Tom and Lucy, you were eight and 10 when I started this journey, and you’re both now in your 20s. I’m sorry I missed so much along the way, but you’ve turned into the most incredible people—I’m very proud of you.

Don, for someone who hates any sort of public attention, you’ll hate this, so how you’ve put up with my political life is a mystery. I am sorry that I refused your very kind offer to write this speech for me, but I really didn’t think we could afford the legal bills or the counselling for the Hansard staff that had to transcribe that, so I didn’t take the option!

If I have any advice for those who follow me, it would be pretty simple: do the right thing and let the politics take care of itself. Be brave, stand up on the divisive issues, and never lose sight of the difference you get to make in the time that we are here.

For me, I head off with no regrets, with immense pride, and now with the rare delight of being able to express an opinion without having to get 54 others to agree with it first. This place and these jobs matter. Go well. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui. Ka kite anō.

Waka jumping Act on way out

July 30, 2020

The Waka jumping Act is on its way out:

The Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading, marking one step closer to Parliament getting rid of NZ First’s ‘waka-jumping’ legislation, National List MP David Carter says.

“I’d like to thank the Greens for voting for this legislation. They have reasserted their values as a Party that stands up for free speech, and we look forward to working with them further to make sure this Member’s Bill passes.

“No credible democracy should ever have given the power to Party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don’t agree with the Leader.

“It is an affront to democracy. The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.

“The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for Party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

These are not countries whose attitude to democracy we should be following.

“As I will be retiring at the next election, I have passed responsibility for the legislation to Nick Smith, who shares my passion for good, democratic process.”

The waka-jumping Act was one of many dead rats the Green Party swallowed in return for joining Labour and New Zealand First in government.

It has now spat it out, incurring Winston Peter’s wrath in the process:

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

“You cannot possibly be going forward to the years 2020-2023 contemplating a party that can’t keep its word.”

Is this an instruction for his own supporters to vote for other parties?

But Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

That the government has held together when the antipathy between these two parties is so strong.

With just days to go before parliament rises for the election, any presence of unity has gone.



Alastair Scott’s valedictory statement

July 30, 2020

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott delivered his valedictory statement yesterday:

ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa): Thank you, Mr Speaker. In preparing for this speech, I did some research on other valedictory speeches. Most give thanks to their supporters. Some talk about what they’ve achieved. Others talk about what they’ve not achieved and wish they had. Some talk about what should be done in the future. But all of them will talk, at some point, about their favourite subject, and that is themselves, so I will do the same.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been the member of Parliament for the Wairarapa for the past six years. In fact, it is a privilege to give a valedictory speech. Some of us who arrive here don’t get that opportunity, so I’m grateful to be able to sign off with this speech today. Six years has flown by. This experience has been like no other. Today marks the end of my parliamentary career. For me, it is a time to move on to the next challenge and adventure. Reflecting on the time I’ve been here, I realised that I’ve learnt quite a lot. For example, I’m more convinced now that the democratic process is a good one.

Like all democracies, the system is run by the people. As politicians, we think we run the place, but the system, thankfully, ensures that we do not. I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter if you have a good idea that might change the world. On their own, good ideas don’t count. There must be support with numbers to get the idea across the line. There needs to be a pressure to squeeze that idea towards its destination. Of course, I’ve had at least 101 very, very good ideas, but don’t worry, I won’t go through them all. Most of them, unfortunately, did not have the support of the numbers, either in caucus or in the general public. So the idea fails, at least for the moment. This is the nature of democracy—slow moving and frustrating for me at times, but democracy ensures that my crazy ideas are not instituted simply because I sit in this place as a member of Parliament.

So what ideas have I failed to move forward? The elephants, for me at least, that should be addressed, but are difficult to change—ideas that I’ve discussed with various Ministers in the previous Government. That is not a criticism of the previous Government, but more an understanding of the way the system works. In fact, the National Ministers mostly agreed with me, but as one Minister said, “Alastair, you’re absolutely right. I agree with you, but in reality, I’m only middle management, and you are a junior’s assistant.” In fact, middle management or not, a previous Prime Minister said the same thing: “Look, Alistair. I just won’t be hard to get this past the kitchen Cabinet.”

So what were those elephants that I couldn’t get movement on? Remembering these issues are not new; they are just the ones that are important to me. The first is abatement rates and our welfare system. Of course, we need a system to support those that find themselves in difficult situations. My elephant relates to tax credits that support working families, but, in fact, penalise those same families when they earn an extra dollar. The abatement rates that are so punitive that it is no wonder that some choose not to work, or restrict themselves, at least. The effective tax rate for some people can be as high as 100 percent. That is, for every dollar earned, the tax man takes the entire dollar. For me, that is not right or fair.

The second elephant is similar, but more specific, and that is the Income Related Rent Subsidy. I see in recent weeks, the Minister of Finance has discussed the issue with the Wellington City Council. The intention might be good. However, the subsidy is an incentive not to work. The more the tenant earns, the more rent the tenant must pay. Again, this is an abatement issue. The housing allowances also create problems. These subsidies encourage people to stay at home, not to work, not to relocate, and not to get ahead. It is a bad policy. A universal basic income could be part of the solution. After all, we already have a universal basic income for those over 65, without the punitive abatement rates. My last elephant is the huge underutilised State-owned asset of 65,000 houses managed by an agency that doesn’t know if it’s a landlord or a social welfare provider, an asset that could do so much better for the people that live in them, and for the landlord—don’t forget, the taxpayer.

What else have I learnt? I think that the bills in the ballot should be given more attention by the Government of the day. There are some good ideas and policies sitting in there that don’t get any attention until they’re drawn. This, to me, is a wasted opportunity. Of course, there are a couple that I would like to mention today, and, yes, they are my bills.

First, there is my drug driving bill that was drawn and rejected by the Parliament. It is unfortunate that it was not at least sent to a select committee at the time, but that is politics. I am pleased to say that the issue will be dealt with by a National Government as a road safety priority.

Another is the issue of child sex offenders, the ones that are on the Child Sex Offender Register that unfortunately are able to travel overseas without Customs being able to alert police when those registered offenders leave New Zealand for a foreign country. The registered offender is supposed to tell the police of their international travel plans. Yeah, right! As if they’re going to do that. There is no automatic check at the border so, unfortunately, the recipient country is unaware of who the nice man from New Zealand is, and is unaware of his history. To me, that is a no-brainer that should be combined with Greg O’Connor’s member’s bill dealing with a similar issue.

The last of my bills in the ballot relates to company directors and when a company may be trading insolvently. This has become more important since COVID-19, and I acknowledge the changes the Government has made in this regard. However, it’s a temporary fix, and while it is a complex part of the law, it needs to be clarified to give confidence to directors so that they can continue to act in the best interests of the company, rather than taking the easy, personally safer pathway to resign and liquidate the company. The changes made in Australia two years ago have been positive. I’m sure there are many other good ideas in that ballot box that a Government of the day can pick up and should pick up.

When I arrived, I had been told that a select committee is the place where the Government is held to account, where Ministers are brought in and questioned by the members to satisfy themselves that the Minister is doing his or her job. I had done this sort of thing before, sitting at boardroom tables and questioning the CEO and questioning the status quo. It must have been my first opportunity to question the Minister of Finance. I’d been given a few patsy questions to ask, but I wanted to ask some proper questions, the ones that were really on my mind at the time. So I did, and I thought I’d done a pretty good job. The Minister had to finally answer a couple of tough questions. Later that evening, Todd McClay and then David Bennett pulled me aside. “Mate, what were you doing?”, they said. “We’re in Government, not Opposition. It’s the Opposition’s job to rip into the Minister. We’re here to make him look good.” So that was something else I learnt.

We are certainly living in different times to when I arrived in 2014. Then the economy was strong and Kiwis were returning home, creating higher demand for housing and kept Aucklanders flocking to provincial New Zealand. Today, we are in an economic crisis. COVID-19 has resulted in greater quantitative easing across the globe. Our own Reserve Bank is starting to print New Zealand dollars. Modern monetary theory is in full swing, as deficits balloon to stimulate and try to give confidence to slowing economies. The way we deal with this crisis will have long-term consequences for all of us. It is important that the stimulus packages are not directed to unproductive work schemes that simply postpone the inevitable and waste real money. We cannot simply print money and spend it to solve the problem. Eventually, international markets will judge the management of any economy and ruthlessly punish countries that print and spend where no productive output is created. It is important that we make sound economic judgments for every dollar that we invest.

There are many sensible opportunities that can be taken to catch up on infrastructure spending that has not occurred, to change the funding model of local government so that they might create better value, and to rip up the Resource Management Act (RMA) that puts a handbrake on projects that could and should be delivered by the private sector, and it is good to hear Judith Collins announce a rewrite of the RMA so that New Zealanders can be relieved of the colossal burden that the RMA has put across every household and business while also rewriting the legislation that protects the environment that is so important to us all. If we want the New Zealand waka to travel effectively and efficiently, we should not drag the anchor and anchor rope behind it. We should do everything we can to allow people to operate with the least amount of resistance, the least amount of bureaucracy. We can trust people to build businesses and support their communities themselves without a nanny State. We do not need the State to own and control so much of the economy. Governments from both sides have proven to be poor landlords, poor property developers, poor farmers, poor IT developers, and poor managers of buildings and infrastructure projects. The less interference a Government has in our lives the better off we will all be.

One of the pleasures of this job is to meet young people who come to Parliament on school trips. They think we’re some sort of special group of people, and of course some of us think we are more special than others, but I let the kids know that we MPs are the same as them. We come from various backgrounds, like them, and we get nervous about certain aspects of our day, like them. And, of course, we have good days and bad days, just like them. I ask them a question. I ask: what is the most important thing you can do to achieve your goals? Some kids say it is to do your best, to work hard, to be determined, to study, to do your homework—all those things that we get told at school. And those things are all fine, but it’s not what makes the difference, in my view. I say to them that the most important thing is to take a risk, to consider options and then give it a go, give it a real crack, go to where it feels uncomfortable, take the risk that you might fail, and then roll the dice. Opportunities are there to be grabbed. Life is short. We need to back ourselves and take those risks.

We’re an unusual bunch of people here in Parliament. Although we are here as a House of Representatives, we are not your typical bunch. We are extroverts. We like to hear the sound of our own voices. We love to be heard, and of course we all know what is best for ourselves and for others! We’re always right, and we will stand here for days arguing about how right we think we are. And we are all here to make a difference and to contribute to this place and to our communities by being here. The flip side, and another reality, and potentially a surprise to some of us, is that we are not indispensable. Parliament will work just fine once we are gone. When we leave, the system’s wheels will continue to spin. Usually they spin faster as we learn and progress as a country, and so I am satisfied with my time spent here as a member of Parliament, having an opportunity that most don’t get and saying what I’ve wanted to say in the time that I’ve been here.

Some friends said I was mad going into politics—it was a thankless task and I would not have the patience—and they were generally right. However, I would not change a thing. I have had some many, many wonderful experiences and have met some great people along the way. There are many people who have backed me. I know and appreciate that I could not have done or been here without the help and support of those people: my party supporters in the Wairarapa, my staff here and in the electorate, my friends, and especially my family. I thank them all, and to you, the members to Parliament, I wish you all the best for the job you have ahead. Thank you.

Soft bigotry not kind

July 30, 2020

The government is planning to end the requirement for people on a benefit to return to work 12 months after they have a subsequent child:

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni on Wednesday said the Government planned to change the law to remove the policy in November 2021, as part of a “overhaul” of the welfare system. Labour would have to win the election to bring this policy into effect.

Under the policy, a parent who is on the benefit and has another child is obliged to find part-time work when the child is 12-months old. It was introduced in 2012 by a National Government. . . 

It is ironic that this was announced on the same day former National Minister Paula Bennett said this in her valedictory statement:

. . .As we were well into the global financial crises and many people were losing their jobs, we needed an immediate plan. We quickly implemented the ReStart, redundancy support and job support scheme to respond to the recession. These temporary financial packages have been recently put in place in various iterations to help us during the COVID economic crisis. We also introduced the job opportunities and Community Max programmes to specifically assist young people. Even though these were the hardest times that we had seen for a long time, we were able to see many positive results. Nearly 10,000 young people were helped with the Community Max and job support programmes and 73 percent did not go on benefit when they finished. One third of jobseekers were being exited into jobs before entering the benefit system, but more had to be done. These short-term measures were important, but our welfare system was part of the reason we were seeing intergenerational welfare dependence and too many people stuck in a cycle of hardship, reliant only on State assistance and a belief they would be there for decades.

The system seemed to throw people on welfare and then largely ignore them, and not offer them a path out. Sole parents were not expected to look for work until their youngest child was 18 years old. We too quickly wrote those with disabilities off; ignoring the huge potential many had and their desire to work. We designed a plan to make significant changes to the system that would look at what people could do, to believe that they had a contribution to society that would improve their lives, and also mean that we could reduce the huge welfare bill to taxpayers. I have been truly inspired by sole parents in this country. I understand how difficult it is to raise a child on your own and believe you don’t have the experience or skills to enter the workforce.

Those on welfare don’t need sympathy. They need to be backed, encouraged, and supported to plan their future and see a path off welfare dependency. We are currently taking backward steps, and that’s before COVID. Sympathy and kindness do not put food on the table or pay your bills. We need to understand dependency. We need to understand decades of despair and marginalisation that in too many people’s lives turns to violence, welfare dependency, and a pretty crappy life. But equally we have to be careful that that understanding doesn’t turn into an excuse and we lose our belief in people and their ability and their sense of self-responsibility.

We undertook the biggest welfare reforms that the country had seen. The emphasis was on people being available to work and on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t. We invested more on those that were at the highest risk of staying on welfare long term. We spent more on job support and training, and worked directly with employers and subsidised employment so they would give people a go so they could prove themselves. We saw over 30,000 fewer people on sole parent support because of these changes. I met remarkable people who are living bigger and better lives because they were in worthwhile work and had a huge sense of self-worth.

Working with and for teen parents was personal for me. I met some of the most incredible young people raising their children, studying in teen parent units and being supported by amazing people running homes and programmes. We extended support to them. We changed the welfare system so they received more support, but weren’t just handed hundreds of dollars a week and then ignored like they had been previously. Instead, we paid their rent and utilities, insisted that where possible they be in training. We helped look after their babies and supported them to budget and plan a life that wasn’t welfare dependent. It’s some of the work I am most proud of. And to all those parents, thanks for the baby cuddles. Most days that I was out and about, I insisted that a childcare centre or school be in my diary as I needed children to remind me why we do what we do and just to make my day a bit better.

I have always believed the answers to long-term dependency, child abuse, and neglect, and violence are in our communities. There is no programme that a politician or a bureaucrat can design that will solve these complex issues. Our community and Māori organisations, I believe, are best placed with support from the State to assist those that are living hard lives. We have to set targets and accountabilities, bring in Māori, community leaders, beneficiaries, workers, and the business sector, and know it will take some time but we can improve people’s lives. We need to set communities up to succeed.

Money is currently being thrown around but with no accountability. We have to be bold, brave. How can throwing millions and millions of dollars around and hoping some gets to those that need it most, through Government agencies and community organisations, and yet watching more people in despair be OK? Where is the accountability to the taxpayer, but, more importantly, where is the accountability for those people that so desperately deserve more help? Targets, measures, and accountability have gone. I regret, Bill English, that we didn’t get another three years to truly implement social investment into our bureaucracy and into our communities. We had tested and trialled, had seen people’s lives changing, and we were ready to scale it up significantly. . . .

The measures National introduced were working, rescuing people from long term benefit dependency and all the negative health, social and financial consequences of that.

As Lindsay Mitchell says:

. . .There is a wealth of data analysis showing children added to benefits stay there the longest and have the worst outcomes. But she doesn’t seem to have given the research a second thought.

Last year one in ten babies was added to an existing benefit at birth. For many of them it’s a life sentence to neglect, abuse, transience, involvement with OT and eventually their own criminal offending and custodial sentences.

The proposed policy looks as if it is being kind to beneficiaries it is not.

It is demonstrating the soft bigotry of low expectations that is anything but kind.

Really kind welfare policy gives support where it is needed but also works with all beneficiaries who could work to help them do so for their sakes, that of their children and the rest of us who pay the high costs, in financial and social terms, for long term benefit dependency.

Sowell says

July 28, 2020

Dame Olivia de Havilland 1.7.16 – 26.7.20

July 27, 2020

Film star Dame Olivia de Havilland has died.

Dame Olivia de Havilland, who has died at 104 in Paris, was one of the last survivors of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Her most famous role was that of the virtuous Melanie opposite Vivien Leigh’s wayward Scarlett, in the epic Gone with the Wind.

Her relationship with her sister, the actress Joan Fontaine, was a constant source of speculation in the gossip columns.

At the time of her death she was the oldest living performer to have won an Oscar.

Olivia Mary de Havilland was born in Tokyo on 1 July 1916 to Walter, a British patent lawyer and his actress wife Lilian. . . 

Maggie Barry’s valedictory

July 24, 2020

National MP Maggie Barry delivered her valedictory statement:

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore): Thank you, Mr Speaker. E te Whare, tēnā koe. E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, e ngā hau e whā, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. To the leaders, to the many voices, to all the diverse people and communities of the four winds, I honour and respect and I greet you all.

I will begin by acknowledging my family and friends here in the public gallery. Many who have come to this Chamber tonight to witness my final speech, were also here for my maiden speech. I am grateful for your ongoing love, friendship, and support. It has been my honour to serve the people of the North Shore, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity and for having enough confidence in me to elect me three times, for trusting me to represent the interests of t their beloved community since 2011. In particular, I thank Gary and Leslie Monk for their ongoing friendship and support. It has meant a lot to me. To the president, Peter Goodfellow and the board member Alister Bell, for all their unquestioning help and loyalty, thank you. To Don McKinnon, a mentor and friend, and, of course, Lady Clare McKinnon, thank you. I acknowledge David McKeown, who’s been an outstanding North Shore electorate chair, a man of integrity and great fairness. I’m grateful for all he’s done for me and for all of North Shore National, and I’m also very glad he’ll be there to support the new candidate, Simon Watts, who is here in the gallery tonight.

I wish Simon all the very best for the election, as, of course, all my talented and highly competent National Party MPs and colleagues. They will thrive. I am sure, under the competent and dynamic leadership team of Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee. I’ll be campaigning right through until election day to contribute to a National victory. So don’t worry, team. I won’t be slackening off.

To be an effective MP, of course, it is vital to have the right people walking and working cooperatively alongside you. I acknowledge at this point my staff who are here in the gallery, Miriam Wiley, Jack Boltar,and the indefatigable Pat Humphries. They have certainly been the three musketeers, and I thank you for your skills, your energy, and your loyalty. Monica Miller was for seven years alongside me as my electorate agent in Takapuna, and to Sally Guinness was with me from day one in here in Parliament, and in charge of our Beehive team, Gail and Alex/ Brent and Kayla, et al.

I have always been a hard worker and I have high standards and expectations of myself, as I do have anyone who works for me. The job of an MP is far too important not to have highly competent and dedicated staff, and I was fortunate to have worked with two of the very best. I thank you, Monica and Sally, wholeheartedly for your loyalty and for always going the extra mile.

The most constant and significant influence on my political life has been my good friend Peter Kylie. It was indeed serendipitous that I was made member of Parliament for the very electorate where Peter lives. There was an outside chance it might reflect badly on him if I didn’t do well. So he’s always taken a keen interest in my wellbeing and has kept me safe from harm. Peter, I thank you for your friendship, your support, and your wise advice from the beginning until the end.

As I said in my maiden speech, this parliamentary precinct, as part of my old hood. Thorndon is my tur, Thornton is my tūrangawaewae. Dad was an accountant at the railways and my mother’s florist shop was just a few doors up from here on Molesworth Street. Our family home was around the corner in Tinakori Road, and I went to the primary school next to the church on Hill Street where my parents were married and buried from. Growing up, these leafy grounds of Parliament were part of my everyday childhood landscape, and having now spent the best part of my fifties here as an MP, you might say I haven’t come very far. But today it feels a little bit like I’ve come full circle as this chapter in my life now comes to an end.

I had been planning to wear the same frock for my valedictory as I had for my maiden speech, but alas, it seems to have shrunk rather a lot, unlike its owner, who should have done a lot less Bellamy’s and Copperfields and a lot more nil by mouth and exercised steps. But I have gained so much more than just a couple of kilograms here, in my time in Parliament. Having been in the media, examining politics closely for 30-odd years before stepping up to be an MP, I was well aware of how rare it is for members to be able to choose their time of leaving, as I am doing after six years in Government, three as a backbencher and three as a Minister inside Cabinet, and now a final term in Opposition.

I’ve been here through good times and through tragedies, the earthquakes, global financial crisis, mosque shootings, and now the COVID challenge. At its best, I think this Parliament delivered in a way that our team of five million New Zealanders can be very proud of. But at its worst, being in Parliament can be frustrating, dehumanising, and brutal. As we’ve all been reminded recently, the pressures that come with the privilege of being in the service of the public can take a heavy toll on MPs and on their families. Please don’t be too quick to judge. It’s a tough life in here, tougher than you might think from the outside, and I think that the long hours and the unrelenting 24/7 scrutiny adds up to the sort of life that doesn’t suit everyone.

In this place, you do need a loyal subtribe of your own where you can take shelter from the storms. An essential part of my survival strategy has been the weekly get-together with my class of 2011 intake year group. Thank you all for those hundreds of Wednesday nights in trusted company, trying to make some sense of it all. It’s still work in progress, of course. I value the honesty and the camaraderie, if not always the food—Goldie’s coleslaw, toasted sandwiches; they are not height of the cuisine that I’ve been used to, but good on your Goldie. That’s how he keeps so thin, I suppose.

Look, I’m not what you might call a career politician, like the predecessor, perhaps, who spoke before me. I didn’t sign on for a 30-year lag with a gold watch at the end, although I am looking forward to getting my souvenir traditional farewell silver tray soon. I have unbridled admiration for those stayers with stamina—my old friend and father of the House with the big brain and the big heart, Dr Nick Smith; our ever ebullient and fast on his feet deputy leader, the nimble Gerry Brownlee—both are National’s lifers, and we need their parliamentary debating skills, their institutional knowledge, as well as their strong sense of fairness in this House.

For my part I was raised to be a participant, and not so much an observer or a bystander. I was expected to contribute to the community and to try to help those less fortunate. I didn’t joined the armed forces as my grandfather and father had done in the two world wars. Instead, my contribution to serving my country when the time was right for me was to stand for public office. The notion of service might be seen by some as rather quaint and old-fashioned, but to me it has meant trying to be a voice for the vulnerable, for the people who don’t have a voice in this House. I’ve wanted to speak up for our seniors suffering silently with elder abuse, and to strongly advocate as well for the survival of the critically endangered plants and birds that partly define who we are as New Zealanders.

I acknowledge John Key. Thank you, sir, for believing in me and backing me from the start, and for the trifecta of portfolios you gave me for my birthday in 2014. It was the best present ever—or, so far, anyway. The commemorations of World War II coincided with my time as the Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage. I was privileged to represent my country on many formal occasions, perhaps most memorably, at the Western Front battlefields. It was a moving experience reading the Ode of Remembrance at the Menin Gate in Belgium, where almost every night since 1929, they have sounded the bugle for The Last Post and recited the ode to express their gratitude and to remember the sacrifices of the fallen, including some 12,500 New Zealand soldiers buried there.

I will never forget the sadness, standing in the windswept, empty carpark of a Belgian cheese factory in September 2015. There was no marker, nor memorial, to show the significance of that place, which was the battle site of New Zealand’s worst ever day of military loss. One year later, I was able to return to Passchendaele and unveil the first of many Ngā Tapuwae plinths, as part of our footsteps in the Anzac Trails, which tell the stories of our courageous soldiers of the Great War. It was also a proud moment for me as the MP for North Shore to dig in the first plant in New Zealand’s memorial garden at Passchendaele, part of a project that had been driven by a determined group of my fellow Devonport RSA members, Chris Mullane and Mike Pritchard amongst them. It was a bronze flax, just in case you were wondering.

With my lifelong interest in plants and nature, a highlight of my political life was as the Minister of Conservation responsible for Predator Free 2050. We launched it four years ago this week, and at the heart of National’s bold vision to save our precious vulnerable national species, to achieve that goal, we can and must eradicate the unwanted eco-invaders—the rats, the stoats, and the possums who don’t belong here and are eating our songbirds and our taonga plant species to the brink of extinction.

Sir Paul Callaghan said getting rid of the pests was essential, but it would be our Apollo moon shot, and he was right. The late Sir Rob Fenwick, who I first met on a television garden show 30 years ago, and who had a profound influence on my thinking, was a visionary who made an enormous contribution and helped convert our distant moon shot prospect into something down to earth and well within reach. We are, of course, only the custodians of this land. We are the kaitiaki, the guardians, of our grandchildren’s natural heritage. We owe it to them to do better and to try harder to save our kiwis and our other endangered native species. I encourage people to put aside their prejudices about genetic modification and also prejudices about 1080. There is no time to waste.

I’ve enjoyed being part of National’s most effective policy advisory group, the Bluegreens, and at the annual forum earlier this year I was humbled to be given the inaugural Takahe Award for tireless work encouraging all New Zealanders. Thanks to Chris Vern and the Bluegreens for all you have done. I hope that in my time here, I have made a worthwhile contribution to preserving our natural heritage. I acknowledge the Department of Conservation’s (DOC’s) greatest director-general, Lou Sanson. DOC is in his DNA, and he’s been the right man for the times to lead New Zealand’s conservation heroes and warriors.

One of the most sobering realisations as Minister for Seniors for three years was knowing the extent of the abuse and the neglect of our elderly. We would not be the country we are today without their skills and without their hard work and toil and their wisdom. For those people who have come before us, we truly do stand on their shoulders, and yet why is it that 70,000 of them over the age of 65 say they have been the victims of physical, psychological, or financial abuse?

I don’t believe we value our seniors enough and I don’t believe that as a society we are doing enough. We need to do more to keep them safe, and that’s often from their own families.

I know from my own experience with my mother, Agnes, and her 10-year journey with dementia how important it is to put the person at the heart of our policy decisions. It’s a philosophy I’ve tried very hard not to ever lose sight of, as an electorate MP for North Shore as well as a Minister.

My concern for the vulnerable and the elderly is at the heart of my opposition to a proposed law change to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide. For more than 20 years since the death of my father, I have been involved with end of life care as patron of Mary Potter Hospice and, later, of Hospice New Zealand. I chaired 28 days of public hearings into the euthanasia bill, and I’ve heard and I understand that people want more and different choices at the end of their lives and to have their suffering eased.

New Zealand has simply not done well enough in the care for the dying, and we must do better, which is why I have put together, with the palliative care community, a member’s bill to guarantee and enshrine New Zealanders’ access to world-class palliative care wherever and whenever they need it. The member’s bill is now in the ballot in the name of my friend and colleague Simon O’Connor.

Properly funded end of life care is what needs to happen before, in my opinion, we push the nuclear button on the option of euthanasia. I acknowledge Sir Bill English. Along with Lady Mary English and Professors Sinead Donnelly and Rod McLeod, it’s been a great privilege to work with you over a long number of years in our opposition to euthanasia, and I know that we all hope the public will vote against that referendum on assisted suicide at the upcoming election.

In the 10 years I have been in politics, my son, Joe, has grown from beginning in college to being a university graduate, and as I said in my maiden speech and reaffirm here tonight, Joe has taught me more about myself and about life than anyone else in the world ever has. I thank him for being him, and how proud I am of the fine young man he has become. I know his father, Paddy—alongside him, here in the gallery tonight—shares that same pride in our son.

Your life is not your own when you’re an MP, and that’s as it should be for a role as important as this one. But I’ve missed, now, enough family events and milestones, and the time is right for me to get together and get stuck into the bucket list with my best friend and my husband, Grant. We first met doing Outward Bound, and I knew then that he was the man I could go into the jungle with—I could trust him implicitly. We’ve certainly been in the parliamentary jungle together for the best part of 10 years, and he has never once failed nor faltered. He has always had enormous faith in me, and for that I am hugely grateful. In politics, as in life, I am excited about the prospect of walking alongside him in this next chapter of our lives together.

My time in this place has been short, and yet sometimes it seems an eternity. You don’t get everything right every time and you can’t always get everything that you hope for and dream and strive for, but I know that I have worked and fought hard, tried my best, and not given up on the issues that are important to me. Whether I have succeeded or not is up to others to decide.

I have no regrets. I’ve done my dash, and I’m leaving Parliament with my integrity intact and in the certain knowledge that being the National Party’s MP for North Shore has been a rare privilege and a lifetime’s highlight. I thank you. Fare thee well. Haere rā.

Fair? Right?

July 18, 2020

Two opinion pieces.

The first on Labour leader Jacinda Ardern from Kerre McIvor:

“She is creating a climate of terror designed to keep people cowed and bowed. 

“It’s cynical, and I believe she was acting in the best interest of the country in the beginning, and now it’s become almost a mania.”

The second on National leader Judith Collins from Josh Van Veen:

 While Collins and Muldoon are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to economic management, they share the same philosophic outlook. Collins, like Muldoon, speaks to a New Zealand that sees itself above class and race. She imagines a country where the language of political correctness has no place and anyone who works hard can get ahead. Don’t underestimate how many New Zealanders share that vision.

Is the first fair?

Is the second right?

2020 Jonesies

July 15, 2020

The Taxpayers’ Union has announced its Jonesies Awards for 2020:

The third annual Jonesie Awards were hosted at Parliament today, celebrating the best of the worst of Government waste. Watch the video at

New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Every year, we host a glamourous Oscars-style award ceremony to highlight and lament the most absurd examples of wasted taxpayer money to emerge in the last 12 months.”

“Behind the tuxedos and gilded statuettes is a serious message: politicians and bureaucrats in both local and central government happily fritter away your hard-earned money on bizarre pet projects and ill-planned schemes without fear of consequence.”

“The Jonesies serve as a shot across the bow for anyone in charge of a government chequebook: rein in the waste, or see your name up in lights at the next Jonesie Awards.”

Local government nominees

Dunedin City Council: Responding to COVID-19 with dots

Dunedin City Council responded to COVID-19 by spending $40,000 on red and blue dots for its main street. The dots were variously justified as a tool to assist social distancing, a way to attract people to the city, and as a “traffic calming” device. The Council also spent $145,000 on a new tourism slogan: “Dunedin, a pretty good plan D”.

Napier City Council: Golden handshakes for a failed CEO

After a series of headline-grabbing failures, Napier City Council gave its CEO Wayne Jack a reported $1 million payout to leave before his contract expired. Mr Jack’s final official act was to throw himself a $4,000 farewell tea party. The Mayor complained that she was not invited.

Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

When nine-term councillor Andy Foster was unexpectedly elected Mayor last year, he promptly enrolled himself in a $30,000 leadership course at Arrowtown’s Millbrook estate. However, he has refused to say what, if anything, he learned – and has since spent more money on a team facilitator to smooth over problems on his Council.

Auckland Council: Temporary cycleways for COVID-19

Auckland Council installed 17 kilometres of temporary cycleway in response to COVID-19. Like Dunedin’s dots, the initiative was intended to assist social distancing. All works had to be reversed in a matter of weeks. The total cost is estimated to be more than a million dollars.

Rotorua Lakes District Council: $743,000 for the Hemo Gorge sculpture

Rotorua’s 12-metre, 3D printed Hemo Gorge sculpture was initially planned to open in 2017 at a cost of $500,000. Three years later, it is still under construction, and costs have blown out to at least $743,000.

WINNER: Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for Extraordinary Leadership

Central government nominees

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

The Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Party Leader led the Government’s COVID-19 response by announcing a $72 million funding package for the racing industry. This package included two synthetic horse tracks. No-one has been able to establish how horse tracks relate to coronavirus.

Rt Hon Trevor Mallard: $572,000 for a Parliamentary slide

As part of his initiative to make Parliament more “family-friendly”, the Speaker of the House commissioned the construction of a playground on Parliament’s lawn. The playground, which essentially consists of a slide and some stepping stones, was budgeted at $400,000, but ultimately cost $572,000.

Hon Chris Hipkins: $87 million for unwanted internet modems

An $87 million package to give students the means to study remotely during COVID-19 lockdown resulted in thousands of unwanted modems being sent to wealthy schools. Epsom’s Auckland Grammar alone received 137 unwanted modems, and even Mike Hosking’s child was a beneficiary of the policy.

Hon Shane Jones: Three train trips for $6.2 million

The Regional Economic Development Minister re-opened the Wairoa-Napier rail line last year, predicting that up to six train services would run per week. As of last month, only three services had run in total: a cost of more than $2 million per train trip.

Hon Kelvin Davis: $10 million for AJ Hackett Bungy

In response to a tourism downturn due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis singled out one of Queenstown’s most successful businesses – AJ Hackett Bungy – for a taxpayer handout. AJ Hackett received a $5.1 million grant, plus a potential $5.1 million loan, all on top of its substantial payout received under the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme.

WINNER: Rt Hon Winston Peters for responding to COVID-19 with horse tracks

Lifetime Achievement Award

Hon Phil Twyford is this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for excellence in government waste.

First elected as a list MP in 2008, Phillip Stoner Twyford was thrust into power as Minister of Housing, Urban Development, and Transport in 2017.

His most high-profile election promise was to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, with an initial investment of $2 billion. Two years into that period, KiwiBuild has delivered just 395 houses – fewer than the number of houses blocked by protestors at Ihumātao. At the current rate, Phil Twyford’s promise will be fulfilled in 436 years.

Even with the taxpayer subsidy, these homes are too expensive or located in places people don’t want to buy. As a result, many finished homes have sat on the market for six months or more, and the Government has promised to buy back homes that do not sell.

Last year, the Prime Minister finally removed Phil Twyford from the Housing portfolio.

However, his record of waste now extends far further than KiwiBuild. As Transport Minister, Twyford blew out the cost of SkyPath – a cycleway across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge – from $67 million to $360 million, with more cost increases expected once construction actually begins.

Twyford has also increased fuel taxes by 12 cents per litre – and even more in Auckland – across three years.

This tax hike was justified on the basis of paying for light rail from Auckland Central, down Dominion Road to the airport. Last month, after two and a half years and $5 million was spent investigating the project, the light rail proposal was shelved.

Despite the main justification for fuel tax hikes being void, Twyford has no plans to reverse his increases to the tax on commuters.

In his maiden speech in Parliament, he remarked: “At the end of our times here, some of us will be remembered, but most of us will not.”

He need not worry. We are confident that taxpayers will never forget Phillip Stoner Twyford.


Do they think govt would spend their money better?

July 15, 2020

Eighty three of the world’s wealthy are asking governments to tax them more:

Businessman and philanthropist Sir Stephen Tindall is among the world’s richest people urging governments to raise taxes on the rich, as the world grapples with the economic impact of Covid-19.

Tindall is one of 83 millionaires who signed an open letter which said “today, we, the undersigned millionaires, ask our governments to raise taxes on people like us. Immediately. Substantially. Permanently”.

“As Covid-19 strikes the world, millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world,” it says.

“So please. Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice. It is the only choice.”

Are they saying this in the knowledge that they have been and are paying all the tax they should, that they haven’t arranged their affairs to minimize their personal or business taxes?

Oh and how many of them have applied for government subsidies? If they have, would they like to start by repaying at least some of that?

The letter says: “No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door.”

But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.” . . .

They do have lots of money and they’ve got that through hard work and shrewd investments. Do these people really think the government would spend their money better and do more good with it than they can?

If so they are free to give the national coffers a lot more money than they owe in tax at any time.

But there aren’t very many really rich people in New Zealand and governments aren’t as good at using other people’s money as successful people are at using their own.

If they really want to make a positive difference the wealthy would be better to invest their money themselves in businesses that would increase or create jobs, preferably ones that would also earn export income to replace at least some of what we’ve lost from international tourism and education.

These successful businesses would then contribute to the tax take without the need for the punitive tax rates the wealthy are suggesting.

If they prefer something more philanthropic they could build and run charitable hospitals and schools to reduce the burden of providing health and education services publicly.

Either way they would waste less and achieve more than the governments they are so eager to give more to would.

New Zealand’s Tahr – They Are Us

July 13, 2020

Why is the Tahr Foundation fighting to keep them in New Zealand?

The Tahr Foundation has released a short video that shows just what Himalayan tahr mean to Kiwis and why so many people are fighting so hard to maintain them in New Zealand.

The video is a powerful reminder of the extent that tahr are now woven into the fabric of everyday New Zealand life.

New Zealand’s Tahr – They Are Us is available at

“From people that work in the hunting industry and make a living from these animals to those from all other walks of life that just love spending time in the mountains amongst them, this video shows just how much tahr mean to so many Kiwis,” says Tahr Foundation Spokesperson Willie Duley.

“For the professional and recreational hunters, climbers, trampers, school teachers, sportsmen, helicopter operators and families that appear in this video, tahr not only enhance their experience in the mountains but in many cases are the reason for it.”

“We also want to see tahr properly managed and our alpine flora and fauna preserved because those of us who love the mountain environment and spend so much of our time there have the greatest stake in looking after it.”

“Despite our win in the High Court which confirmed DOC had not properly consulted with us, it is still extremely disappointing that they have been allowed to carry on in the interim with 125 hours of culling and the eradication of all tahr including bulls in Aoraki/Mt Cook and Westland Tai Poutini National Parks.”

“This interim culling still has the potential to decimate the tahr resource and the livelihoods of thousands, which is exactly what we have been fighting against and will continue to do so until an agreement is reached” says Duley.

“We feel the Minister and DOC are riding rough-shod over those of us with an interest in tahr, and the people that appear in this video and the near 50,000 others that have signed our petition are asking that their voice be heard.”

“It’s time this almost annual conflict was ended, and we’re given the opportunity to sit down with all stakeholders and constructively work together.”

“The Tahr Foundation wants to work with DOC and the Game Animal Council to come up with an enduring management strategy that fits with the realities of modern New Zealand and will work for both recreation and conservation. This is neither impossible nor too much to ask.”

Rural round-up

July 5, 2020

A business-as-usual approach at Fonterra won’t produce the food-production transformation which Sir Peter Gluckman is urging – Point of Order:

As  the  Covid-19 pandemic  rages   round the world,  New  Zealanders  are  re-discovering food production  is the fundamental  engine of  the   economy.  And farming is not a sunset industry.

Instead of being rubbished   by lobby  groups  for  so-called “dirty dairying”,  the  country’s core  export industry has the chance  to transform itself to be  both more  sustainable and  profitable, along  with remaining one of the main props of the  economy.

Coincidentally,  dairy  giant  Fonterra  gets a   new  leader  in Peter McBride  who  takes over  as chairman in  November.  McBride   steered  Zespri   through  several  crises.   Now, he  says,  he is looking  forward  to  “creating value”   for the co-operative’s 10,500 suppliers. . . 

Fast track Bill for infrastructure approved but water strategy urgently needed:

IrrigationNZ is pleased to see that the Government’s bill for a short-term consenting process to fast-track projects passed in the House last night.

“For far too long we have seen valuable projects fall over because of the long and laborious RMA process, in a post-COVID context we can no longer afford these delays to progress,” says Elizabeth Soal, IrrigationNZ CEO.

“But for our sector, this is not enough.“

“We remain concerned with the capability and capacity for communities to develop meaningful water infrastructure solutions, even if the consenting process is more efficient, without some national level guidance.” . . 

Rural NZ deserves a share of provincial infrastructure spend – Feds:

As it divvies up the $3 billion ‘shovel ready’ infrastructure spending pie, the government should reserve a few slices for the rural areas that drive our export earnings, Federated Farmers says.

“It’s understandable that the first 12 predominantly urban projects announced this week emphasise jobs and kick-starting the post-COVID rebuild,” Feds President and commerce spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

“But at the same time we should also have an eye to building longer-term resilience and putting in infrastructure that underpins increased primary industry production.”

For example, the government has earmarked $210 million of the fund for climate resilience and flood protection. . . 

Chicken virus in NZ blocking exports to Australia until 2022 – Maja Burry:

A chicken virus blocking exports to Australia is expected to hang around another year before New Zealand is clear of it, a poultry industry leader says.

A chicken virus blocking exports to Australia is expected to hang around another year before New Zealand is clear of it, a poultry industry leader says.

In August last year Infectious Bursal Disease Virus Type One (IBDV-1) was detected on two Otago egg farms belonging to the same company. This can affect the immune system of young chickens, but doesn’t pose any risk to human health.

Recently concluded testing of poultry farms nation-wide found no presence of the virus elsewhere, said Michael Brooks from the Egg Producers Federation and the Poultry Industry Association. . . 

Hunters ask conservation authority to work with all New Zealanders:

The Tahr Foundation is asking the Conservation Authority to represent all New Zealanders and their recreational pursuits in National Parks, including the tens of thousands of hunters who flock to them every year.

The Foundation’s plea is in response to the Conservation Authority’s decision to come out in support of DOC’s controversial plan to exterminate Himalayan tahr in national parks.

But Tahr Foundation spokesperson Willie Duley says tahr were living in the mountains before national parks like Aoraki/Mount Cook were created and exterminating them conflicts with the Authority’s role to protect our cultural heritage. . . 

Prospects for horticulture look bright:

The horticultural sector has continued to surge ahead despite the turmoil and uncertainty Covid-19 has inflicted at a local and international level. Latest figures from Horticulture New Zealand highlight this success with the sector generating a record-breaking $6.2 billion of exports for the year ended June. This is up $700 million from last year and the sector’s earnings now account for 10 percent of the country’s export merchandise earnings.

Kiwifruit has become the “poster fruit” for the horticultural industry’s success, now generating over a third of that export income followed by wine accounting for $1.8 billion of export earnings and apples at $830 million.

This year’s grape harvest of all of these crops bought real challenges, falling as they did while the Covid-19 lockdown commenced with social distancing rules and limited travel all impacting both in the field and within processing facilities. . . 

Word of the day

June 27, 2020

Errantry – the quality, condition, or fact of wandering, especially roving in search of chivalrous adventure; conduct or performance like that of a knight-errant.

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