Quotes of the year

December 31, 2018

That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them. –  Inspector John Kelly on the New Year revellers who built a large sandcastle in the middle of the Tairua estuary in an attempt to avoid the liquor ban.

Among western leftists, morality had become culture-specific. If imperialism’s victims asked for support, then they would be given it, unquestioningly. If not, then they would tend to their own political gardens exclusively.

The problem for western feminists is that, in spite of these cultural and political self-denying ordinances, the only garden currently showing unequivocal signs of flourishing, is their own. Across vast regions of the planet, not only are women’s rights not flourishing, they are being diminished. – Chris Trotter

Any family, in any part of the country, dealing with any one of those challenges, would find it difficult. But when you have all of those at once, it is incredibly difficult to see how a family could navigate their way through all of that on their own.

And you sure as heck, can’t have an official sitting in Wellington waving a magic wand, and fixing it for them. – Louise Upston

If I look at my colleagues, they get up and go to work every day because they care so much. . .Why would we do that if we didn’t care? Why would we do that if we didn’t care about individuals and actually want something better for their lives? Louise Upston

Men who have been inculcated into a culture of toxic masculinity need to regularly top up their King Dick Metre, which can only be fuelled by the disempowerment of someone else. And that someone else is very often a woman.

Their feelings of strength only come when someone else is in a position of weakness. They can only feel valid when they are able to invalidate someone else. They only feel like they have won when someone else has lost. – Kasey Edwards

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers?

Could you imagine the next time Fonterra was in the news, it was for a collaboration with Lynx in producing a deodorant that smelled of silage and cowshit, that dairy farmers could put on if they used too much soap in the shower?

Maybe we can hope that our on-farm processes continue to develop, along with scientific developments, adoption of best practices and consumer preferences, as opposed to at the whim of vote-hungry politicians, misinformed urban housewives and the combined armies of anaemic vegans, animal rights activists, goblins and orcs.

Maybe we could hope that we can reverse the trend that has seen rural folk and farmers become an ethnic minority in this country – a minority that is now seen by many New Zealanders as dirty, destructive and somehow freeloading on resources, with less credibility then prostitution. . .  –  Pete Fitzherbert

We welcome the government’s focus on tracking the number of children in persistent poverty and hardship. However, setting multiple arbitrary targets for reducing child hardship is easier than actually helping people extricate themselves from their predicaments. – Dr Oliver Hartwich

Good intentions are not enough. They’re not even a start, because there’s been a lot of money wasted and lives wrecked on the basis of good intentions expressed through public services. Bill English

 . . . the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there. – Fran O’Sullivan

Peters’ inability to contain his bitterness suggests the coalition negotiations were a charade. His resentment towards National is deep-rooted, and since the election, the feeling is reciprocated. It is unlikely that National’s change of leader will diminish Peters’ toxicity.  – The Listener

It strikes me as rather unfair that while we’ve been up in arms over where the country’s burgeoning cow population does its business, our burgeoning human population has been fouling up the waterways with what comes out of our own backsides. We can’t berate dairy farmers for dirtying the rivers if we’re content for our biggest city to keep using its waterways as one giant long drop. – Nadine Higgins

Over-reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues.Jennifer Lawrence

The incident has also highlighted the danger of a government full of academics, health professionals, public servants, teachers and career politicians picking business winners.

The idea that councils around the country would rail or truck their rubbish to Westport for incineration is one of those ludicrous ideas that only regional development officials would think is a flyer. – Martin van Beynen

Getting policy right matters. In the end, lots of money and good intentions is never enough. You’ve got to get the policy right. – Nicola Willis

So consumed are they with the grassy vistas opening up in front of them that they are oblivious to their drawing ever closer to journey’s end, namely the holding yards of the local freezing works. – John Armstrong

Businesses, by and large, are better at coping with bad news than they are at coping with uncertainty. You cannot plan for it or adapt to it. Hamish Rutherford

Feminism is about choice, the right to have one, the right to be equal. It is not about trampling men to death in the process. It is not about spending so much time telling girls that “they can do anything” that they become curious and confused as to why you keep telling them something they already knew.

Guess what? The girls we’re raising haven’t had it occur to them they can’t do anything. – Kate Hawkesby

I’m not sure what affordable means but I am sure I’m not alone in that. It’s bound to be a complicated formula with one of the variables being the price of avocados. I just hope it doesn’t add up to borrowing from KiwiBank to buy from KiwiBuild during the KiwiBubble resulting in KiwiBust.James Elliott

 If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.    – Emma Espiner

A tagged tax has to be a tagged tax, otherwise it’s a rort. – Mike Hosking

While the Greens are dreaming of compost, wheelbarrows, chook poo and quinoa, the rest of us wouldn’t mind getting on with business. And that means we need water. – Mike Hosking

Certainly a rational person, and especially one convinced of the threat of global warming and the possibility of more droughts, would increase, not stop investment in irrigation?

That is not to argue that water quality and nitrate leaching are not problems – they are. But to stop irrigation as a solution is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The rational approach is to find ways of reducing nitrate leaching even under high-producing irrigated pastures. This requires more science, more evidence, more rational thinking. – Dr Doug Edmeades

Businesses — it doesn’t matter what they are — require reliable steady staff; not rocket scientists but reliable steady staff. Unless we have those types of people available our whole economy has an issue. – Andre de Bruin

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. – Michael Bruce Curry

The well-being of all communities can be enhanced by enabling greater levels of social solidarity, empowering people in their personal and community lives, enhancing social infrastructure and establishing opportunities for dignified work and alternative livelihoods. – Tracey McIntosh

Tough on crime is popular with the insular and ignorant when it comes to justice policy, while restorative approaches with enduring outcomes that help people stay away from jail because they offend less are not popular, not sexy and seen as “soft on crime”. Chester Borrows

Everyone can do something amazing once. You’ve got to back it up and do it again – Rowland Smith

The money spent on eliminating risk in one area means less available to fix problems in other areas. In other words, the consequence of lowering risk in one sphere can hinder minimising risk in another one. Chew carefully on that one. – Martin van Beynen

That’s what the call for diversity means. An endless slicing and dicing of society into every thinner minority groups with everyone scrambling for quotas and box ticking.

It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. It’s also a complete denial of individuality. You are not important. All that matters is what boxes you tick. It’s the boxes that define you, not what you do, what you think or what you produce. – Rodney Hide

We went to do a story about an American billionaire buying up wineries in Wairarapa. Local wine makers were going broke and in stepped the American billionaire. I went down with a TV crew expecting locals to be up in arms about the ‘foreigner’ buying up the land. But I couldn’t find one voice raised against him.

There is one thing worse than a foreign buyer, they told me, and that’s not having a buyer at all. – Guyon Espiner

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

We grow up thinking the world is fair, but it’s not, so you’re not always going to get the results you’re looking for. The challenge is to pick yourself up again when you have those days.Joe Schmidt

I believe rugby is similar to society, where it is about interdependence and us trying to help each other. Imagine if everyone in life became the best version of themselves and made life easier for those either side of them. – Joe Schmidt

The very premise of our system is we learn from our mistakes and wrongs and are given freedom to make amends.Mike Hosking

Grown-ups know that being short $60 a week is not what ails and troubles our most vulnerable children. Proper parenting can’t be bought for $60 a week. – Rodney Hide.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people. – Jessica Stillman

Feminism has descended into a cauldron of cattiness; of nasty factionalism. It doesn’t empower. It  scrutinises and judges groups within groups. Like extreme left or right politics, the creed is hardest on those most like it – those who should know better but fail. – Lindsay Mitchell

Regional development is about more than funding a few projects; it’s about allowing people to make a living. – Paul Goldsmith

This image of Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t grounded in the up-to-date distinct cultural traditions or practices of the United Kingdom. It is a cover of a misremembered song, played by a drunk who forgot the words mid-song and so started humming. – Haimona Gray

Imagine the world today if William Wilberforce and Kate Sheppard had refused to engage with people whose views they found repugnant. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr had decided not to argue back. If Desmond Tutu and Te Whiti had seen no point in suffering the slings and arrows of their opponents because, hey, nothing’s gonna change.

The twist in this debate is that the Molyneuxs, Southerns and other so-called champions of free speech only win when their shouting drowns out other voices. Voices of conciliation and peace. Because regardless of the polarisation we see today, people can change. We can learn. And, even if we still disagree on some profound issues, we can find other things to agree on and other things to respect in each other. Tim Watkin

The day that this country’s dictated to by the social media trolls is the day that democracy dies. If we are to be spooked into compliance by what an anonymous moron threatens by the swipe of a cellphone screen then we’re little better than they are. – Barry Soper

It is unfortunate, but the world seems to have lost the ability to disagree well. Civility in our discussions and debates over contentious issues seems to have been lost. We are increasingly polarised in our views with recourse to extreme positions in order to ‘prove’ or force our point. However, the answer is not to avoid difficult and, at times, confronting conversations. Rather, community leaders, and universities in particular, play a vital role in leading our communities in those discussions, as difficult as they may be, applying the principles of informed discussion, compromise, enlightenment of the points of view of others, and if all else fails, respectful disagreement. – Chris Gallavin

But where is that line that we need to find as a Parliament between being culturally sensitive to people that may not see things in the way in which New Zealand’s own cultures have developed, and, on the other hand, being firm enough that, actually, no, these things, regardless of culture, are not right. Nick Smith

We have an education system that does not reward excellence and does not punish failure. Decades of bureaucratic hand-wringing has delivered a broken system that relies on the personal integrity and good intentions of those who choose teaching as a profession. – Damien Grant

After all, as long as we can discern the truth clearly, love it passionately, and defend it vigorously, we have nothing to fear from open debate; and if we can’t do those things, then why are we claiming to be a university at all? – Dr Jonathan Tracy

The answer to suffering, physical or mental, is affection and good care. This should come first and as far as possible from family and community, supported by institutions.

“Finishing people off” may suit our current individualistic, utilitarian, impatient culture, but it will degrade us all in the end. – Carolyn Moynihan

In a liberal, democratic society, there will always be speech in the public domain that some people find offensive, distasteful or unsavoury. Unless that speech is manifestly doing harm to others, there is no case to ban it, only a case for arguing strongly against it or ridiculing it. Recourse to suppression is redolent of authoritarianism, not democracy. – Chris Bishop

The irony is that although the elimination of subsidies started out as a kind of political punishment, it wound up becoming a long-term blessing for farmers. We went through a difficult period of adjustment but emerged from it stronger than ever. . .

 We became ruthlessly efficient, which is another way of saying that we became really good at what we do.

We also improved our ability to resist regulations that hurt agriculture. Subsidies empower politicians, who can threaten to cut off aid if farmers refuse to accept new forms of control. Without subsidies, we have more freedom to solve problems through creativity and innovation rather than the command-and-control impulses of government. – Craige Mackenzie

But as someone who’s spent a bit of time writing and talking about the important, and not so important, issues in life, there is one thing I know which will never change.

Truth always wins. If you report the facts you can never go wrong. – Peter Williams

We can’t prosper by taking in our own washing so, strutting it on the global stage has to be our modus operandi.And I mean strutting, not just selling low value stuff that rises or falls on the rise or fall of the NZ dollar. Strutting starts with the daring of the ambition and is sustained by the ability to execute.  Ruth Richardson

The frightening retreat from sane economics. Free trade is the path to growth, protectionism is the path to decline. Ruth  Richardson

This is an accidental government formed on the fly and governing on the fly.–  Ruth Richardson

Death of great science on the alter of doctrinal and PC positions doesn’t strike me as the smartest choice.  – Ruth Richardson

I’m satisfied within myself. I’ve got more to do with my life than look at that. Barbara Brinsley

Each of us has made different life choices and, actually, that gives women everywhere role models.

It’s legitimate to choose. We don’t have to be the same, we don’t have to judge each other, we make our own choices. – Dame Jenny Shipley

Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind, highly likely to go to prison, highly likely to commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem or problems, die at an early age, have an addiction – drugs, gambling, alcohol or smoking. Virginia Crawford

I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne. I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin. I am a victim. I did not choose to be a victim. – Maanki 

If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand. – Maanki

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. – Maanki


The Senate, collectively, could not find their own arses with a sextant and a well-thumbed copy of Gray’s Anatomy
Jack the Insider

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that God’s table is a smorgasbord of theological truths with some in conflict with others and some more important that others.    People are free to pick and choose from that smorgasbord and do so based on what is important to them. – The Veteran

But I can’t remember not having books. I’d go to the library every week, search every shelf with children’s books, then go home with a stack. . .   Every choice was my choice. Then I could control what went into my head by plugging into new worlds, learning new things and just imagining a different life. . .

When we only look to reinforce our taste and beliefs we lose the opportunity to browse and the opportunity for serendipity, and that’s unfortunate. – Maud Cahill

It was sort of total irritability associated with feeling hungry that would manifest as grumpiness. This void in my stomach would create a void in my sense of humour and my ability to tolerate things. – Simon Morton

This is a partnership designed by a drover’s dog and a clinical psychologist who have absolutely nothing in common except they both have experience dealing with rogue steers who don’t believe in being team players. – Clive Bibby  

I live down in the South Island, and there’s been a lot of farmers trying to curtsey. Most of the time they’re in gumboots. – Dame Lynda Topp

In the west food is produced by a few to feed the many and when people are relieved of the duties of working on farms and subsistence farming the job is handed to a few and people move to the cities and that is when they become disconnected. – Anna Jones

Class is a commodity that doesn’t seem to be in conspicuous supply in politics at the moment. – Chris Finlayson

New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government’s and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. Andrew Ketels

I certainly don’t celebrate diversity for its own sake. You have to distinguish pluralism from relativism. Relativism tends towards ‘anything goes’ and that can’t be right

Pluralism is the view that although some ways of living really are wrong, the list of possible good ways to live a flourishing human life and have a good society contains more than one item. – Julian Baggini

We didn’t need a tax on stones, there wasn’t a concern about ‘peak stone’ and we didn’t need to stage protests in front of the chieftains’ caves to argue for the use of bronze. It came down to developing the new technology, which had benefits over the old technology, and disseminating the knowledge. – Andrew Hoggard

I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together. – Kurt Fearnley

It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow. – Queen Elizabeth II

When I noticed that I was spending far more time scrolling through my email and Twitter than I was playing on the floor with my son, I realized that the problem wasn’t with screens warping his fragile mind. It was that I’d already allowed my phone to warp mine. So these days, my husband and I try not to use our phones at all in front of our son. Not because I think the devil lives in my iPhone, but because I think, to some extent, a small part of the devil lives in me. – EJ Dickson

The proper purpose of journalism remains as Kovach and Rosenstiel defined it – not to lead society toward the outcome that journalists think is correct, but to give ordinary people  the means to make their own decisions about what’s in their best interests.Karl du Fresne

I’m bloody angry at New Zealand for fighting over Santa and I want us to stop. This is not what Santa’s about. Santa is not about angst and Santa is not about Santa hate.

Santa is about hope, Santa is about dreams. Santa can come down the chimney even when you don’t have a chimney. Santa can come in the ranch slider, Santa can drink craft beer. Santa can drink strawberry-flavoured Lindauer for all I care. – Patrick Gower

The expectation that we rustics just need to lean on the gate chewing a straw and making obscure pronouncements about the weather in impenetrable accents for picturesque effect is entertaining until it dawns on you that your role apparently really is just to provide background local colour and not disturb the peace too much.  Rural places are workplaces — stuff happens down on the farm and that stuff can be noisy.  And not just on the farm — gravel quarries, jet-boat companies and the construction sites of all those new houses that didn’t used to be there. – Kate Scott

Rose-tinted nostalgia strikes us all from time to time, but when it comes with a side of imported urban world view where non-working weekends and the notion of property values is accorded more worth than building community resilience, I begin to feel resentful of the twittering worries of suburbia intruding on my bucolic peace with its soothing soundtrack of barking huntaways, topdressing planes and chainsaws –Kate Scott

I had a gentleman come to my office three years ago. He was a Labour candidate. He ran for the Labour Party. He was coming to see me because he’d been to see his own team—they wouldn’t help him with an issue, so he came to me. Did I say, “Oh, sorry, you’ve been a Labour candidate. I’m not going to assist you. I’m not going to help you.”? No, I didn’t. I actually helped him with his issue, because that’s my job as a member of Parliament. I don’t care whether you support New Zealand First, I don’t care whether you’re a supporter or member of the Labour Party, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, or the National Party—if you come and ask for help and support, you will get it. That’s my job.-  Mark Mitchell

The only positive outcome from the UN’s 2009 Copenhagen fiasco was the launch of New Zealand’s Global Research Alliance (GRA) to reduce methane and nitrous-oxide emissions, which account for 22 per cent of the world’s GHG total. More than 50 countries are now involved. If the GRA develops science to cut agricultural emissions by two-thirds it would be the equivalent of the US becoming a zero emitter. If it eliminated them, it would be like China going carbon zero. This would benefit the world at least 100 times more than New Zealand becoming net-zero domestically. – Matthew Hooton

No one bets on a horse with a dud jockey.  Simon Bridges

Ms Ardern promised to lead the most open and transparent Government New Zealand has seen. That doesn’t mean picking and choosing to be open and transparent when it benefits her. – Tova O’Brien

Shaw and his comrades have a vision of a different economic model, one that sane people have tunnelled under barbed wire fences to escape. Alas, the sacrifice required to achieve this gender-fluid post-colonial paradise requires a reversal of most of the economic gains of the last 50 years.Damien Grant

The less you trust people, the more distrustful they become and so the more law you need in order to trust them. A good society would not have too much law, because people would do the right thing he says. But in New Zealand we have a lot of law. – Professor Mark Henaghan


365 days of gratitude

December 18, 2018

Two men retired this week.

On the face of it they are very different – Peter Williams a newsreader and television frontman, Chris Finlayson a lawyer and MP.

But both are consummate professionals who leave their places of employment the poorer for their going.

Tonight I’m grateful for their contributions and examples.


Chris Finlayson’s valedictory statement

December 18, 2018

Chris Finlayson, one of the most erudite and eloquent MPs I’ve had the privilege of knowing, delivered his valedictory statement today.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National): Mr Speaker, I have to say, I’m delighted to be leaving. In fact, I would have gone sooner, but I stayed on a few more months for a few reasons. First, Jim Bolger advised me not to go straight after the new Government was formed but to wait until about October, and I always follow the advice of Jim Bolger. I have to say, secondly, I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie of the caucus, especially getting to know and work with the 2017 intake. Thirdly, I’ve been very keen to progress reform of the law of contempt, a hugely important topic I had spent many, many years trying to advance, and it’s one of the ironies of politics that I succeeded in Opposition. The recent debate over suppression orders shows why the bill is so very important. It’s now in the Justice Committee, in safe hands, and so I don’t need to stay until the bill is enacted. Finally, I became increasingly irritated by journalists asking me when I intended to go, and I started serious planning after Lloyd Burr was posted to London.

There are two parts to my speech. The first are acknowledgments of people I need to thank and, secondly, there’s the inevitable lecture.

Could I begin with the acknowledgments. In no particular hierarchy or order, I want first to acknowledge my opponents. The Labour opponents that I had in Mana and Rongotai, Winnie Laban, Annette King, and Paul Eagle and their spouses, are very, very nice people. I really enjoyed their company. The campaigns were pleasant and issues-focused.

I especially acknowledge Annette’s husband Ray, who would sit through campaign meetings in Island Bay with a beatific smile on his face as Paul Tolich, Ken Findlay, and the rest of the Island Bay Labour gang yelled at me. I once told Ken Findlay in 2014 to sit down and shut up—I always had a special rapport with constituents. After that meeting, he accused me of being a CIA agent. A few days later, I was appointed Minister in charge of the GCSB and the SIS, so perhaps dear old Ken wasn’t totally deluded.

One person at those meetings who always asked tough questions but was always very pleasant and courteous was Peter Conway. I think of Peter and his family a lot. He was a fine man. I also acknowledge Paul Swain, Rick Barker, and Fran Wilde, former Labour MPs who were great Treaty negotiators and whom I regard as good friends.

I have to say I have great respect for social democracy, though I prefer liberal conservatism. But I still admire the courage of the 1984-87 Labour Government in the economics area, even if the Labour Party doesn’t. The changes they made were essential and overdue.

Can I say something about the Greens—far from me politically in many areas, but we always got on well. Kennedy Graham is someone I regard as a good friend, a man of principle and courage, and someone who still has a lot to contribute, and I hope that party can look beyond divisions of the past and use his talents. I also acknowledge James Shaw and, particularly, Teall Crossen, who was the Green candidate in Rongotai in 2017. I think she has a great future, or perhaps she had a great future till I started praising her.

I know my colleagues very well. By now, my colleagues will be whispering to one another that I’ve gone troppo. Well, fear not, because I now turn to talk about New Zealand First. The most I can say to them is: thank you very much for not choosing the National Party in 2017. As is well-known, I think we dodged a bullet. That decision lays the foundations for a National Government in 2020. It’s very hard to say much about their candidates in Rongotai, as I’m sure Mr Eagle would agree. They tended to wear black shirts and rage at me over the foreshore and seabed and Treaty settlements—very strange people.

Can I acknowledge the staff in Parliament. I especially acknowledge Jim Robb, who worked so hard on development of the new building, sadly shouldered for reasons I still don’t fully understand.

I had a ministerial suite in Bowen House for about eight years. I did not want to move to the Beehive, but Mr Brownlee offered me Murray McCully’s seat if I agreed to speak to my colleagues from time to time. It was my staff who made me move. I tried to organise an exorcism of the suite, given that McCully had been there for eight years, but was told the incense would set off smoke alarms.

Bowen House is past its use-by date, and the annexe should proceed. The real reason for the delay has never been made clear.

I really do need to acknowledge the Public Service. There are so many people to thank: the Office of Treaty Settlements—Lil Anderson, and her wonderful team. I especially thank John Wood for his work on the Tūhoe and Whanganui River settlements. We did a lot of work in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and can I acknowledge Lewis Holden. We achieved a lot with very little money, and we reformed much of our cultural legislation. I need to mention Crown Law and especially Solicitors-General with whom I have served: David Collins, Michael Heron, and Una Jagose. I acknowledge the intelligence agencies and I acknowledge the excellent work of Ian Fletcher, Andrew Hampton, and Rebecca Kitteridge. I think those agencies are in very good heart because of their work.

Can I especially thank John Grant for the tremendous work that he did on Treaty settlements and reform of Te Ture Whenua. I am very disappointed that reform has stalled for the moment. The next National Government must urgently progress that reform.

Can I thank Lou Sanson, the Director-General of the Department of Conservation, without whose help Treaty settlements would never have been achieved. We’re so very lucky to have public servants of that calibre, and while I never worked with Brendan Boyle and Martyn Dunn, I particularly want to mention them as I have always admired them and the work they did in critical areas.

I’ve had wonderful staff over the years: the formidable Sarah Ferguson, who worked for Simon Power and Michael Cullen; Richard May; Ben Thomas; Lucy Askew Leah Walls; Hamish Juneau; Luke Redward; and Brayden Mazey—a very happy team, and they remain very good friends. I especially acknowledge James Christmas, who’s the brightest person I ever worked with and whose work on the intelligence reforms was simply outstanding.

Then, there’s my National Party family, but especially Judy Kirk, whose decency and warmth helped the National Party recover in 2002. I also acknowledge and thank those who tried to help me in my quixotic quests in Mana and Rongotai. Thank you to Bernie Poole, Ross Brown, Elizabeth Neilson, Michael Newman, David Ryan, and the late Patricia Morrison, and I especially acknowledge Glenda Hughes for her friendship and wise counsel for over a decade.

I need to say something about the media, because they are not the enemy and should never be referred to in that way. Their work is essential to our democracy. I promised Tova O’Brien I would say this: I especially acknowledge the young, clever, and classy TV3 team, Audrey Young, who’s the best bush lawyer in Wellington, and I’d better mention Claire Trevett and Barry Soper, otherwise they’ll get snarky.

I’ve almost forgiven Guyon Espiner, who taught me a very good lesson: do not appear on Morning Report just after you’ve woken up. I remember very well the morning he interviewed me and put a proposition to me from Metiria Turei, and I said, “Oh, well that’s what happens when one is dealing with a left-wing loon.” And he put another proposition to me, and I said, “Well, that’s what happens when one is dealing with a right-wing loon.”, and he said, “Well that commentator was John Key.” The message came down from the ninth floor that if I wanted to be Minister for Consumer Affairs I was on the right track.

I’ve worked with a number of wonderful, wonderful communities over the years. Just a few examples: the Jewish community, a welcoming, loving community who’ve contributed so much to our land. Sadly, even in this country, they are exposed too often to that incurable disease of anti-Semitism. I acknowledge members of the Assyrian Christian community, who, faced with the tragic destruction of Eastern Christianity in ancient lands, have come to our shores. I think we should try and bring in more of these people. They are hardworking and decent folk with much to offer New Zealand.

I’ve really enjoyed my time working with the Chatham Islands community. Peter Dunne and I got the new wharf, and Paul Eagle—he has to deliver the new runway. I acknowledge Alfred and Robin Priest in the gallery today and hope I shall be able to continue to work with the islands in the future. And then I also especially want to mention, of all the school communities I’ve dealt with, the Mount Cook school community, and I want to acknowledge Sandy McCallum, who, as Grant Robertson knows, is an excellent principal and is retiring after many, many years of superb leadership of that school. It’s a delightful multi-ethnic school, and I really enjoyed being part of that community over the years.

I need, as we all do, to acknowledge our friends from outside this place, who have been so good to us.

People like my golfing buddies: Ian Coe, David Cochrane, Charles Finny, Pat Walsh, Chris Baker, and a special mention of John Brocklesbury, whom I almost took out on Sunday afternoon with an appalling nine iron shot on the 14th at Heretaunga. John, my apologies for the twentieth time. There’s my great gym instructor, the son of Ngāti Raukawa ki Te Tonga, Karanama Peita. He is a tough and demanding physical coach and one needs that sort of discipline. There are my friends—well, I could—no, I won’t go there. There are friends in the arts, some of whom are no longer with us, people like Athol Mann and Denis Adam. And then there are those who have provided me with a politics-free zone—and every member of Parliament needs a politics-free zone—far, far too many to mention all by name. But I want to mention two people: my dear friend Maria De Lever of Island Bay, mother of five sons, helper to so many less fortunate in that suburb. I wanted her here tonight, but she promises me she’s watching. She’s recovering from a stroke. So I thank her for her kindness—and Sam Perry, lawyer, counsellor, friend, and first-class fellow.

I’ve worked for so many iwi over the years, so many people to mention: my old friend O’Regan’s sitting up there from Ngāi Tahu; Vanessa Eparaima from Ngāti Raukawa; the gentleman, kind Tiwha Bell from Maniapoto; the wise Tāmati Kruger from Tūhoe; Kirsti Luke from Tūhoe also of Ngāpuhi, who needs to go to Ngāpuhi to sort out of few of her cousins; and all of my wonderful colleagues in Taranaki. I especially mention my friends in Parihaka, who cannot be here tonight because of their commitment on the 18th of each month. People have said some nice things about me in recent days but these people are the ones who made the settlements happen. I also acknowledge John Key and Bill English, without whose active support nothing would have been achieved. I say to Andrew Little that this is the best job in Government. Don’t worry about setbacks. Just when it seems a negotiation has gone all wrong something very good can and invariably does happen. I mean who knows, Sonny Tau could decide to go and live in Iceland!

Lastly and most importantly, my family: I acknowledge my mother, who is Annette King’s second cousin, a great person. She developed an unfortunate tendency to send me texts during question time this year telling me not to look so stern and to smile more. After I threatened to put her in Sprott House, this aberrant behaviour ceased.

So that’s the nice warm stuff, and now for the inevitable lecture. Although I cannot wait to leave, I have great respect for the institution of Parliament. I think there are ways to improve our institution, and I outline a few of them now.

How long should the Parliamentary term be? I think it needs to be four years—three years is too short. A longer term will make for an effective Parliament. The proposal to lengthen the term failed in a referendum many years ago. It’s time to revisit the issue.

How long should MPs be permitted to serve? Imposition of term limits as a non-starter, but I think there should be a compulsory sabbatical after five three-year terms or four four-year terms—don’t look at me like that. A break would allow MPs to re-enter the real world and if they are odd enough to want to come back, well, they can do so.

How should parties be funded? A very important question, because generally I think our funding rules work well. But I have become concerned about funding of political parties by non-nationals. That’s why I think both major parties need to work together to review the rules relating to funding. I have a personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to our political parties. Our political system belongs to New Zealanders, and I don’t like the idea of foreigners funding it. Similar concerns are now starting to be raised in other jurisdictions, and we need to work together, without recrimination, to ensure that our democracy remains our democracy.

How should MPs be paid? The key principle is that those in public life should have no say in what they are paid. This should be determined by an independent body. The principle has been undermined in recent times, and so I think all MPs are going to need to work together over the next year to establish the principles for remuneration once and for all, and then leave the issue to the remuneration authority. There will always be criticism of MP’s pay.

And then, finally, what’s the relationship between the courts and Parliament? One of the things that amazes me in this place is that there really is a lack of practical understanding of the separation of powers. For example, the Ministry of Justice constantly fails to recognise the judiciary as a separate branch of Government, and sometimes the courts overstep the mark with Parliament when they go too far with Parliamentary privilege, as they did—David Parker knows these things. We passed the Parliamentary Privilege Act. Now, Parliament must deal with the consequences of the prisoner voting case. Parliament could nullify the decision, as we did in 2014, or recognise the court’s jurisdiction, provided Parliament makes it clear that there is no jurisdiction to strike down legislation. This will be an intensely important issue for Parliament in 2019. I shall be watching it with great interest from the sidelines.

Finally, I want to address a few comments to my fellow National MPs—my friends and colleagues for many years, a diverse and a talented bunch, you lot. I’ve said quite a bit over recent times about John Key and Bill English, so my praise for those two great New Zealanders can be taken as read. I have no intention of saying any more nice things about Ian McKelvie. He’s had his quota. But I do want to say something about two MPs I greatly admire. First, Gerry Brownlee: when the history of the Key Government is written, his work rebuilding a shattered city will be regarded as that Government’s greatest achievement. I witnessed in Cabinet his absolute commitment to and compassion for his fellow Cantabrians. Sometimes I felt that his contribution has been taken for granted—well, not by me, because I think he’s a great New Zealander.

And secondly I want to acknowledge Nikki Kaye, who won Auckland Central in 2008 and has held it since then. Auckland Central is very like Rongotai, except Nikki wins Auckland Central. She was a Minister with a brilliant future and, as we know, was very unwell last year, but she fought that cancer and is doing a tremendous job in Opposition. I strongly support her bill on teaching foreign languages. She’s an example to all of us of grit, of courage, and of determination.

I could comment on others and my team, but it is time to stop, so let me say this: New Zealand needs a liberal conservative Government in 2020. Some say we have no friends; I think friendship’s overrated—just a joke. But I actually think we’re turning back into a two-party State. There will be much to do in the years to come, but can I ask my colleagues if they would mind attending to the following for me: reviewing the role of the State. I think the SOE model is past its use-by date; in particular, Landcorp needs to go and its farms need to be sold to iwi. In my nine years as Minister for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations, I regret to say—well, Ron Mark knows these things—I always found Landcorp difficult and uncooperative.

We need to continue to update our constitution. The Senior Courts Act is now law and soon we’re going to have a Parliament Act—I hope. Then we need to review the Treaty of Waitangi Act. There have been some complaints recently that insufficient attention is paid to the tribunal’s recommendations; it would help if they were more practical. The shares plus decision, for example, was described as incoherent and ignoring basic principles of company law. And finally, we need to pass the Te Ture Whenua Bill in the first 100 days of a new administration. The product of a careful review and many years’ consultation, it’s going to provide landowners with a world-class regime of registration and dispute resolution.

When I delivered my maiden speech from this very seat in November 2005, I said the liberal conservative was concerned to govern and the public good and the national interest, confident in the knowledge that this is a great country full of talented and decent people. Other countries have problems; New Zealand has a project—an exciting, sometimes difficult, but nevertheless achievable project. As I give my last speech in the House today in the same place where I started, I stand by those words. I’m very pleased to be going, but grateful I’ve had the opportunity to serve.

Members probably know the old wisecrack, “Some people please wherever they go; other people please whenever they go.”, and I’m sure many will be thinking the second part applies to me—although, I understand, not Mr Robertson. I have it on excellent authority that he’s distraught and is currently undergoing counselling.

In 2005, Michael Collins said in the Address in Reply debate that he wasn’t convinced of “this sort of Latinate habit of everyone kissing each other after every maiden speech”, and I agree. It’s a dreadful habit. I think the same principle applies to valedictories, so Mr Speaker, fellow members of the House, that’s all from me. If anyone needs a lawyer in the future, don’t bother me. All the best. Goodbye.

 

Claire Trevett took a farewell tour with him which you can read here.


Mad, bad or both?

October 18, 2018

Is Jami-Lee Ross mentally ill, just behaving really badly, or both?

Amateur diagnosticians are using terms like manic depression, bipolar and narcissism to describe his behaviour.

Former colleague, Mark Mitchell, who is in a better position to know spoke to Mike Hosking yesterday about mental illness and said: “He has to take responsibility for his actions, but he must look after himself first.”

That was before the release of the tape that didn’t appear to be the smoking gun Ross said it would be, but did needlessly insult other people, all of whom responded with dignity.

Maureen Pugh tweeted:

Chris Finlayson said:

“Any suggestion that I am upset about the tape is just wrong,” he said.

Finlayson noted he had said plenty of nasty things about people himself over his career that thankfully had not been taped.

“I can wound with my tongue at 100 paces,” Finlayson said. . .

David Carter was equally untroubled:

Mr Carter also said he was not in the slightest bit bothered by comments made about him by Mr Bridges.

Mr Carter said Mr Bridges was clearly set up by Mr Ross in the phone call.

“Looking at renewal that’s inevitably needed by all political parties, I take no offence at all about what was said by Simon Bridges.”

Mr Carter has confirmed he will not be seeking re-election as a list MP.

“He’s made two contacts with me, one before he was leader and one after, on both occasions he actively encouraged me to stay – he said I was very valuable contributor to caucus discussions and particularly in a mentoring role to many or our new MPs.

“I have told him I will stay and complete this term but have no intention of standing beyond the election of 2020.” . . 

These are just three of many needlessly dragged into the mess Ross has made. David Farrar writes of the terrible personal cost:

. . . This self-inflicted scandal is taking a terrible human toll. I’ll focus on the politics in another post, but I find it really sad the damage that has been done.

  • Jami-Lee’s career is destroyed and he may not even be employable in NZ. He’s gone from being a newly promoted front bencher to a pariah
  • His wife has the humiliation of what should be private matters between them laid out in public
  • His children will grow up with articles on the Internet about their father’s relationships with other women. As a father this upsets me greatly. No kid should have to endure that.
  • The four women in the article have obviously been through a horrible experience. I’m not the most sensitive soul out there but I found it hard to read the article. It impacted me emotionally. Forget politics. Those women have had a terrible time.
  • In at least one case, a marriage has split up and you’ll have a husband and children hurting
  • Simon Bridges has had someone who was one of his closest mates in caucus secretly tape record him. That is a huge betrayal of trust. Forget the politics. How would you feel if one if your mates did that to you?
  • Maureen Pugh has been humiliated by the release of the tape with a harsh description of her. She is incredibly upset, as is her family. And those who have campaigned for her and supported her are also upset. Maureen’s public response has been magnanimous and classy. But’s let’s not pretend how terrible she must feel.
  • 40,000 National Party members and supporters are upset. The vast majority of these people don’t want to be MPs. They don’t expect to gain anything in return for their hard work door knocking, donating, delivering etc. They just think that New Zealand does better when National is in Government. They feel betrayed and disappointed that this fiasco undermines their hard work

So there is a terrible personal cost to all this. It is very sad and I hope it stops. . . 

Mental illness might explain the behaviour but it doesn’t excuse it nor justify the hurt inflicted.

As a party member I am appalled that any other member, let alone an MP, could behave in this way and inflict so much damage.

If memory serves me correctly, my electorate donated money to help Ross win the seat in the by-election through which he entered parliament.

The party is strong enough to withstand it and winning the by-election will prove that.

Ironically Ross’s actions have also strengthened Simon Bridges’ position. Even if there was some disquiet about the leadership – and I have no knowledge of any –  everyone in caucus knows they must show 100% discipline and unity so as not to reward Ross.

He may well try to release more of what he sees as ‘proof’ but the media needs to ask itself, if it would be in the public interest and safe for his mental health, to carry on publishing it.

Much of what we has become public was not.

Modern media is in a very difficult position, knowing that if they don’t publish something, it can still become public through social media but that doesn’t justify hurting those who will become collateral damage and there is even more need to tread carefully if someone’s mental health is at risk.


A classical education is never wasted

October 8, 2018

Hon Chris Finlayson at his erudite best in the general debate:

. . . I was trying to work out, the other day, the dynamics of this coalition Government, and then I worked out the answer, because it reminds me very much of that excellent play by Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus. Doctor Faustus is the person who sold his soul to Lucifer in exchange for a few baubles, but at the end of the day Lucifer demands his price. He wants the soul of Doctor Faustus. You, Mr Speaker, from your outstanding academic days at Onslow College, would remember Faustus’ last speech: “Ah, Faustus, now thou hast but one bare hour to live, then thou must be damned perpetually. O lente, lente currite, noctis equi!” because Satan has come to claim his soul.

That is the dynamic in this coalition Government. [Interruption] Well, I don’t what they learnt at Petone Tech, but that’s what Greg O’Connor and I did at St Patricks College. I don’t know that Greg O’Connor actually went to class very much because he was too busy down the front grounds smoking. But I digress.

This is what happened in the negotiation with New Zealand First. They sold their soul to “Old Nick”, to Lucifer, whom we shall describe as the Rt Hon Winston Peters—the vanquished member of Parliament for Tauranga and Hunua and Northland—so that they could have the baubles of office. When they got there, they said to themselves, “Great, we’re here. What are we going to do?” And they had no idea, because they weren’t prepared for Government, but, slowly but surely, “Old Nick” has called in the favours. [Interruption] I’m not talking about Dr Smith; he’s “Young Nick”. . . 

 


Um, ah, ah

September 6, 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern might still have confidence in Clare Curran but the minister doesnt’ appear to have confidence in herself:

. . . Curran stumbled over her answers in Parliament’s debating chamber, as she was forced to admit that Government business was conducted on her personal email. She was not forthcoming with a response about why she used her Gmail account for official business from “time to time”. 

Asked “what Government business has she conducted via her Gmail account”, Curran appeared flustered and claimed she’d answered the question before being told by the Speaker she had to answer it directly – she then required Lee to ask it again. 

Curran answered: “To the best of my recollection, um, ah, ah, I haven’t, um, I haven’t used my, um I’ve answered um OIA, ah, ah, OIA responses and personal, um and parliamentary questions correctly and to the best of my recollection, um, ah, you know, that, that has, that’s what I’ve done.”

It pales in comparison to the email controversy surrounding former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her 2016 presidential run against US President Donald Trump, but has raised similar questions over security and transparency of information.  . .

When you read Nick Smith’s speech in Tuesday’s snap debate about Curren’s sacking, it is easy to see why she might be lacking confidence in herself:

“We have a Minister of Open Government—actually, the very first Minister of Open Government that’s ever existed in this Parliament—and the promise of the Minister of Open Government was to be the most open and transparent Government that this country has ever had, and then what we find out from that Minister is that not once but twice that Minister behaved in a secretive, in a sneaky, and in a dirty way.

“Now, let’s come to the events that have led to Clare Curran’s resignation as the Minister of Open Government. Firstly, we had the incident with Radio New Zealand.

“Let’s understand how important that is. A free, politically neutral media goes to the heart of how our democracy works.

“We are not …  one of those countries where we have a State media that just spins the Government line, like you might get in a North Korea or a Zimbabwe. Here we have Clare Curran having private, secret meetings with the head of news—not some public servant.

“What is the Minister of Broadcasting doing having meetings—secret meetings—with the head of news at Radio New Zealand? There wouldn’t be a member in this House, not even my newest colleagues, that wouldn’t have a feeling that, well, that doesn’t feel quite right. ‘I’m the Minister of Broadcasting; I shouldn’t really be having secret meetings with the head of Radio New Zealand news.’

“But here’s the part that has me gobsmacked: the week after this Parliament admonishes her for being dishonest about the secret meeting, guess what Clare Curran does? She arranges another secret meeting, this time wearing the portfolio as the Minister of Digital Technologies.

“I’ve been here for 28 years. I’ve seen some Ministers goof it up. What I have never seen is a dicky Minister commit exactly the same crime just one week after there’s a massive controversy.

“Now there are only two possibilities here. Either she’s dumb, or she’s dishonest. I’m sorry, there can only be two explanations for that course of events that has occurred. . . 

Dumb or dishonest?

Oh dear, neither of those are qualifications for a minister inside or outside Cabinet and it says little for Ardern’s judgement that she couldn’t see that.

By taking the soft option of demoting Curren from Cabinet but allowing her to stay on as a minister, Ardern has made her a target and bought herself an on-going headache.

And while we’re not he subject of ministers who are out of their depth, this exchange between National’s Chris Finlayson and Labour’s deputy Kelvin Davis is instructive:


National’s 10 big achievements

November 9, 2017

Hutt South MP Chirs Bishop writes on 10 of National’s big achievements in government:

. . Let me say at the outset that no government is perfect. All are affected by global economic circumstances and – as encapsulated in Macmillan’s famous dictum – “events, dear boy, events”. Governments never deliver all the fervent desires of their most ardent supporters, and most aren’t anywhere near as hopeless as partisans from the other side would have you believe.

I believe New Zealanders can look back with pride on nine years of National government. The country is demonstrably a better place than it was in 2008. Since Muldoon (who infamously, and depressingly, promised to leave the country no worse than he found it) that has surely been the litmus test for good government in this country. New Zealand is prouder, wealthier, more confident and aspirational than it was nine years ago. . . 

Nine years ago the country was in recession and forecast to have a decade of deficits.

Thanks to the good work through three terms of National-led government the situation and outlook are much rosier.

1. Getting the country through the global financial crisis – and back into the black

Any account of the last National government has to start with the GFC. Sir John Key, Bill English and team took office in the teeth of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it’s worth recalling that New Zealand actually entered recession a year before the rest of the world. Treasury predicted never-ending deficits, unemployment to rise to over 10%, and debt to peak at 40% of GDP.

The government didn’t panic – and nor did it slash and burn. Social support was maintained, but poor quality programmes were rationalised, and new Budget operating allowances were pared back. In the years preceding 2008, Labour had increased spending unsustainably (50% in its last five years) for little to no effect. With Bill English in charge of the purse strings, departments were told to focus on results, not just to lobby for ever-escalating spending.

The government books got back into the black in 2014/15. Unemployment is now down to 4.6% and labour force participation is at record levels. Our debt to GDP topped at just 25%, and is coming down (Australia’s is 40, the UK’s is 90 and the USA’s is 108%!).

I’m proud that we did this while maintaining investment in core public services. For example, since 2009 health spending has increased by $3 billion per year, or around 25% (population growth has been 14%).

The incoming government inherits books that are the envy of the developed world.

2. Building a more productive, diverse and competitive economy

While dealing with the GFC, National started the process of consistent, moderate and sustained economic reform to build a more productive and competitive economy.

Through careful, measured tax reform, state asset sales and welfare reform, the results are plain to see. The economy is growing at 3% per year, one of the fastest growth rates in the world, and has generated 274,000 jobs in the last two years. The job numbers are remarkable: New Zealand has the third highest employment rate in the developed world (at a time of record migration – it seems that immigrants don’t “steal” New Zealand jobs, as some like to claim).

Economic strength has flowed through to people’s pay packets: average annual household income is up 42% since 2007, and average wages have increased by more than twice the rate of inflation. In fact after tax wages have increased twice as fast in New Zealand than in Australia since 2008.

The economy is more diverse. When the bottom fell out of dairy in 2014/15, New Zealand kept growing. The technology sector is expanding at a dizzying rate with revenue now over $10 billion. That famous “manufacturing crisis” that Labour used to talk about? The sector’s now been expanding for 57 consecutive months.

3. Dealing with the Canterbury earthquakes

Following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011, the government was told that the local economy could expect a sustained downturn, a dramatic fall in population, and rising housing costs. National worked quickly to keep jobs in the region and support unemployed workers and businesses facing temporary shutdowns. The SCIRT programme to repair broken roads and pipes was an unequivocal success and the EQC home repair programme has repaired hundreds of thousands of homes – a building project the likes of which New Zealand has never seen. Yes, a small number of the repairs require remedial work, but this is typical in the private sector as well.

Many of the key anchor projects are now complete, including the Bus Interchange and brand new Justice Precinct. A solution has finally been achieved for the Cathedral and progress is being made again on the Convention Centre.The real news is in the results. The Canterbury economy is booming and the population higher than ever. The housing market is stable. The dire predictions following the earthquakes have not come to fruition – on the contrary, Canterbury is thriving and is well on the way to becoming one of the best cities in the world to work and live in.

4. Significant reductions in child poverty

Some will call it chutzpah for including this, but the facts are indisputable: child poverty measures fell on National’s watch, despite absurd hyperbole to the contrary. Using MSD’s Material Wellbeing Index, the number of children in material hardship in 2016 was 135,000. Too many, obviously, but well down on the 170,000 in hardship in 2008; and massively down on the 220,000 following the GFC (in 2011).

For a supposed “neoliberal” government regularly accused of showing no empathy for the disadvantaged, National’s record is impressive: the first real benefit increases in 43 years, massive insulation programmes for state homes (and the private market), breakfasts in schools programmes, free GP visits for all kids under 13, and more. National’s family incomes package (about to be legislated away under urgency by Labour) would have lifted around 50,000 further kids above the poverty line.

5. The Better Public Services programme and Social Investment

In 2012 the government did something quite profound. It set ten targets aimed at delivering results for our customers by reducing welfare dependency and crime, increasing immunisation and achievement at school, and more. This quiet revolution in the public service has led to improvements across the board: crime down 14% (youth crime is down a third), rheumatic fever has reduced 23%, 94% of 8 month olds are now fully immunised, to name a few.

Allied to this was “Social Investment” – targeted, evidence-based investment to secure better long-term results. The government spends $61 billion on social services every year. Far too often we don’t ask much about the efficacy of that spend – particularly for those with complex needs. Bill English often says: “we need to know what works, for whom, and at what cost.” Social Investment is about doing things differently: using sophisticated data to identify need and risk, and to invest up-front in what works. By breaking down silos between agencies, harnessing the power of community instead of big government this approach changes lives for the better, rather than just servicing misery.

6. A more competitive, affordable, secure and renewable electricity system

It’s a bit odd that Labour has promised a full-scale review of the electricity market (although it seems to be what new governments do – we’ve had one every time there’s been a change of government). I’m confident the review will show that New Zealand’s electricity policy settings are outstanding. That’s largely due to the work of Gerry Brownlee, who inherited a totally dysfunctional system. Under Labour consumers were told every second year to save power during winter, prices rose 72% in nine years, and security of supply was at serious risk. Moreover, despite rhetoric to the contrary, gas and coal use massively increased – Labour even underwrote the building of a new gas power plant!

Fast forward nine years and renewable electricity is at near record highs, electricity prices actually fell in 2017 in real terms thanks to more competition, and despite dry years we’ve had no forced conservation campaigns. Most astonishingly, we have decoupled economic growth from increased electricity demand: the economy is growing at around 3% while demand is flat and even falling.

7. Reforms to welfare to reward independence and work

National undertook the most significant reforms to the social welfare system in a generation. Benefit categories were simplified and new expectations introduced for beneficiaries, requiring them to be available for work or getting ready for work. Social obligations for beneficiaries with dependent children were introduced to ensure they were meeting health and education goals. National established the Youth Service, where case managers and providers help young people gain education, training and employment skills. Sixteen and 17 year olds on benefits were placed under money management.

Welfare reform demonstrably worked. The number of sole parents on a benefit is the lowest it has been since 1988. Sixty thousand fewer children are now growing up in a benefit-dependent household since 2011. The current lifetime liability of the benefit system has reduced by $13.7 billion over the last five years. This equates to clients spending 1.3 million fewer years on main benefits over their working lifetimes.

8. A big lift in the number of young Kiwis achieving educational success

When National came to office in 2008, one in two Māori and Pasifika kids left school without NCEA Level 2 – a passport for the future and the recognised minimum standard for other tertiary options.

In 2016, nearly 75% of Māori students, and nearly 80% of Pasifika students, achieved the NCEA Level 2 qualification – remarkable progress by any measure.

Under National, participation in Early Childhood Education hit record highs. The dysfunctional industry training system was overhauled. By 2016, there were 43,000 apprentices around the country, including 100,000 trainees. The Network for Learning was started and completed (on time and under budget) providing ultra-fast, uncapped, high-quality data, at no cost to schools. Pathways from school to study and work were overhauled through the Youth Guarantee and Trades Academies.

9. Treaty of Waitangi Settlements

Despite Māori overwhelmingly voting for them, and Labour liking to preen as the party of and for Māori, the Treaty Settlement process stalled between 1999 and 2006, only getting started once Michael Cullen took over the portfolio.

Using his skills developed in a former life as a negotiator for Ngāi Tahu, and his genuine good-hearted commitment to reconciliation, Chris Finlayson just got on with the job. The results speak for themselves: 59 Deeds of Settlement signed in nine years, meaning the majority of historical Treaty settlements across New Zealand have now been resolved. And consider this: it was Chris Finlayson that delivered the long overdue apology to the Parihaka community for the atrocious actions of the Crown committed almost 140 years ago. Not only that, National gave legal personhood to Te Urewera and the Whanganui River, allowing long-overdue settlements to proceed.

A final point. The Foreshore and Seabed confiscation was one of the most disgraceful acts of the Clark government. National restored the rule of law by restoring the right of Maori to go to court to prove customary rights through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

10. A turnaround in net migration

One of National’s most effective ads in the 2008 election featured John Key standing in Westpac Stadium, pointing to the 30,000 plus yellow seats, and noting that about the same number of New Zealanders were leaving to move to Australia every year. National said that we’d turn it around – and we did.

Quite remarkably, net migration between New Zealand and Australia for the year to June 2017 was 560 – in our favour. Usually people move from smaller countries to much larger countries. But over the last nine years, New Zealanders literally voted with their feet: staying home and coming home in record numbers. Around 10,000 more Kiwis are coming home than under Labour, and far fewer are leaving.

There’s so much more that could be added: the most significant action on improving freshwater quality in New Zealand’s history, the National Sciences Challenges and a big lift in research and development, huge investments in infrastructure (such as the Waterview tunnel and the Kapiti Expressway), the ambitious goal of Predator Free NZ, and so much more.

National leaves behind a better New Zealand than it inherited from Labour in 2008. And we are hungry to hold the government to account so it doesn’t squander the hard-won gains of the last nine years.

National has left the incoming government with a very solid foundation of success on which to build.

It owes it to all New Zealanders not to fritter it away, to keep the policies that were working well and improve on those which need to be done better.

 

 


%d bloggers like this: