A tale of two caucuses

June 26, 2019

National leader Simon Bridges announced a minor reshuffle of portfolios yesterday:

“Paul Goldsmith will become the spokesperson for Finance and Infrastructure following today’s announcement from Amy Adams that she will leave at the next election.

“Paul is the natural choice for the Finance role. He has done an outstanding job holding the Government to account in the Economic and Regional Development portfolio.

Shane Jones will be very happy with this change, though he shouldn’t relax, the two taking over Paul’s portfolios will be just as effective at holding the Minister to account.

“Regional and Economic Development will now be split across two spokespeople. Todd McClay will look after Economic Development, while Chris Bishop will take over the Regional Development and Transport portfolios.

“Chris has done a brilliant job as spokesperson for Police and deserves to take on more responsibility.

“Jo Hayes has been appointed the spokesperson for Māori Development and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations following the departure of Nuk Korako. Jo is a passionate advocate for Māori.

“Gerry Brownlee will pick up the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Brett Hudson will take on the Police portfolio and Tim Macindoe will become the Shadow Attorney-General.

“Other changes include Michael Woodhouse as the Associate Finance spokesperson, Maggie Barry taking over the Disability Issues portfolio, Stuart Smith will be the spokesperson for Immigration, Todd Muller will be the spokesperson for Forestry, Nicola Willis will take on the Youth portfolio and our newest MP Paulo Garcia will become the Associate Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank both Amy Adams and Alastair Scott for their valuable contributions to the National Party and Parliament. Amy was a brilliant Minister across a range of portfolios. The changes she made to domestic violence laws as Justice Minister have made families in New Zealand safer. Amy has excelled as our Finance spokesperson and has been an outstanding member for Selwyn.

“Alastair should be proud of the work he has done to prevent drug driving, and for the way he has represented and advocated for the people of Wairarapa. I’m pleased they will be here for the rest of the term to help us form policies for the 2020 election.

“National is the largest and most effective Opposition this country has ever seen. I’m proud to lead such a talented and hardworking team.” 

There are no surprises there and there will probably be none in tomorrow’s reshuffle of Cabinet but there is a major difference between the two caucuses – there’s plenty of talent in National’s with many MPs capable of becoming Ministers.

By contrast Labour’s is a shallow pool and, as Barry Soper noted:

. . .The reshuffle will be minor because most of those who should be in Cabinet are already there. And the amount of time Ardern’s taken getting around to shuffling the chairs just goes to show how hard leadership is for a person who clearly finds it hard to be hard. . . 

Ardern doesn’t have much to choose from and, if past form is a guide, will be reluctant to demote the poorest performers.


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


Money where it matters

July 30, 2018

The National Party has committed to funding more primary school teachers when it returns to government.

National Party Leader Simon Bridges has announced National’s commitment to increasing the number of primary teachers to reduce class sizes and give kids more teacher time.

“With the right education we can overcome the challenges that some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into,” Mr Bridges said at the National Party’s annual conference in Auckland today.

Too many children start school unready to learn.

They don’t have the necessary language and social skills and current staffing levels stretch teachers to thinly to address their needs.

“There is one thing every child needs to help them achieve their potential, from the one that struggles to sit still and follow instructions to the bright child that wants to be challenged to the gifted child that doesn’t know how to channel their talent.

“And that’s attention from one of New Zealand’s world class teachers who can cater to the needs of each child, and spend more time with each of them. 

While deprived children need more help, so too do the bright and gifted.

“More teachers means more attention for our kids at a stage of life when they need it most.

“To achieve their potential and reach their dreams our kids need less Facebook and more face time with teachers.

“National is committed to delivering that by putting more teachers in schools to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

More teachers by itself won’t make a big difference, unless there are enough to substantially reduce class sizes, but it will help as will improving the attractiveness of teaching as a profession.

“We’re also committed to attracting more teachers and ensuring they are highly respected professionals in our communities. Part of that is pay, and it’s also about conditions such as class sizes and the investment we put into teachers to deliver quality learning to our kids.

Teachers aren’t always valued. One reason for that is that teaching isn’t highly regarded as a profession and one reason for that is that their pay and conditions aren’t as good as those for many other professions.

Mr Bridges said National would spend the next two years working with teachers, parents and communities on the details of the policy, along with the others it will take to the electorate in 2020.

“Unlike our opponents, we will be prepared for Government. We’ve got a multi-year process to run the ruler over our existing policies, and propose new ones for 2020.

“This year is about listening to our communities, next year about getting feedback on the ideas we put forward and 2020 about delivering the concrete plans that show New Zealanders we are ready to lead.

“We will make every day count. National will bring strong leadership, the best ideas and the ability to make a difference. I’m backing New Zealanders and I’m starting with our children.”

Labour failed at Opposition, Its MPs spent more time there on in-fighting and self-sabotage than policy development.

It was ill-prepared for government and the policies it did have were ill-thought out.

There’s no better illustration of that than the fee-free tertiary education.

Every government does something stupid that even many of its supporters struggle to justify.

They don’t usually do it as early as Labour did with this policy and I hope that National has the courage to say they will drop it.

It would be hard for even those who directly benefit to say that the more than $2 billion that policy will cost would be better spent on them than on more teachers to give all children the best possible start at school.

Good governments put money where it matters.

Fee-free tertiary education doesn’t. More and better primary teachers do.


Nicola Willis’s maiden speech

May 2, 2018

Naitonal’s newest MP, Nicola Willis delivered her maiden speech tonight:

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga rangatira, tena koutou, tena koutou, kua huihui kia ora koutou, katoa.

Mr Speaker, I acknowledge your mana.  I do so with trepidation, recalling the many Official Information Act requests I wrote to you in your former role as Minister of Education.  I intend to be less of a nuisance to you as a Member of this House.

I’m late to the 52nd Parliament.    I had a brief induction seven months ago and now I’m back.  The privilege of being here is immense and I will make the most of every day.

I am grateful to the National Party who chose to rank me well on our list, to Party President Peter Goodfellow, our office holders and all those who support National and the values we represent.

My special thanks go to the members of Wellington Central who selected me as their candidate and backed me to the hilt. 

The Wellington Central campaign trail was an education. Candidate debates with rooms full to bursting, challenging policy questions and door-knocking routes fit for mountain goats.  I was supported by an energetic and resilient team enlivened by our incredible Young Nats. I thank you all.

I acknowledge my companions on that campaign trail and now colleagues in this House, the Honourable Grant Robertson and Honourable James Shaw.  I learnt a lot from each of them.  I suspect they were unwilling teachers, but I thank them anyway.

Grant, I hope we can sometimes work together to make good things happen for Wellington. 

James, I will keep persuading you of the merits of a teal-deal. 

Wellingtonians should know that while I do not currently represent an electorate here, I will always work hard on their behalf.   Wellington is my home and I want it to succeed. 

Mr Speaker.

Growing up in New Zealand has given me great opportunities.  I come to Parliament to ensure more New Zealanders can have the choices and experiences I’ve had.  This should be a country of aspiration where every child can pursue big dreams. 

I am a relentless optimist.   New Zealand has enormous potential and I am determined we realise it. 

Our forebears came here seeking security and prosperity. 

My Great Great Grandfather Archibald Willis was one of them.  Orphaned at 15, Archie left England, arriving here in 1854.  Gold-digger, journalist, and printer, Archie met his wife Mary in Wellington and raised a large family in Wanganui.  There he befriended John Ballance who became Premier of New Zealand.  Ballance died in office, but first endorsed Archie for his seat.

Archie was elected MP for Wanganui in 1893.  On the 6th of September that year the question of women’s suffrage came before this House:  my Great Great Grandfather voted yes. 

Today I follow in his feminist footsteps.

Archie was a member of the Liberal Party whose union with the Reform Party created our modern National Party.  That meeting of city and country, taking the best of liberal and conservative philosophy, rejecting the binaries of ideology in favour of problem-solving pragmatism, is a tradition I am proud to represent.

My personal values come from Mum and Dad.

My mother Shona was a journalist, at one time serving in the great Parliamentary Press Gallery.  She sacrificed paid work and the status it brings to raise me and my siblings.  Thank you Mum. 

My Dad, once a Stop and Go man for the Ministry of Works, and always a surfer, is a lawyer who lives life to the max. 

Journalist, lawyer, both unpopular professions, but neither as unloved as politician.

Mum, Dad you get what you deserve.

My parents taught me we should always work hard and do our best.  We should treat others as we wish to be treated.  Actions have consequences, and we must own our mistakes.

Fairness, that Kiwi sense of doing what’s right, is an ideal not just to aspire to but to fight for.  We do not make our own candle burn brighter by blowing out another.   And when much is given, much can be expected in return.

I was raised to value education.  I had many great and inspiring school teachers and I am humbled to have my former headmistress Jenny Button here today. Ad Summa!

At university I studied English Literature.  I will always be a proponent of the arts and the role artists play in reflecting the beauty and complexities of our lives and society.

My unofficial second-major was my membership of the Victoria University Debating Society where I honed my debating skills, made great friends and met my husband.

Having worked jobs selling clothes, shoes and bagels, I was incredibly fortunate to land a role as a researcher, working with then Opposition Education Spokesman Bill English.  Bill taught me that politics is not about personal ambition, it’s about making a difference for people.  I look up to Bill not only as a political mentor, but as proof that juggling multiple children is compatible with a successful life in Parliament.

I went on to work for Sir John Key whose infectious enthusiasm, respect for all and sheer intelligence had a profoundly positive impact on our country. Thank you Sir John for your support, your belief in me and your constant ribbing.

My time with Bill and Sir John was the best political apprenticeship I could have hoped for.

It was inspiring to watch them lead New Zealand from a dark hour of financial crisis and natural disaster to a time of prosperity and choices.  To see the exodus of New Zealanders leaving for Australia each year reversed as jobs and incomes flourished here at home.  That transformation cemented my view that a strong economy is the foundation on which equality of opportunity is built.

Economic growth ensures New Zealanders can have better jobs, better incomes and aspiration for our children’s futures. 

It doesn’t just happen. 

We must back our risk-takers, innovators, and entrepreneurs who put their capital and livelihoods on the line to produce a product, idea or new way of doing things.

We must back the hard-workers, those who go the extra mile, who toil day in day out to make progress for themselves and their families.

The dairy-owner who works twelve hours a day, six days a week, with one week off at Christmas.  The student who holds down two part-time jobs, the cleaners working night shift and the social entrepreneurs applying the disciplines of business to improve our world. The single Mum, who starts an online business, picking up her laptop the minute her daughter is asleep, sacrificing rest for the chance of a better future.

These people are the best of us.  It is their efforts that will ensure New Zealand gets better and better.

Government can too easily take their discretionary effort for granted or worse invoke the politics of envy against them. 

My desire to better understand business led me to work for our largest co-operative.

I wanted to experience the reality of managing a bottom line.  Of selling New Zealand’s products to the world and striving to maximise their value. 

Fonterra opened my eyes.  I saw our country from new perspectives, from high-rises in Shanghai, trade offices in Jakarta, and a factory-floor in Colombo.

  

I saw that New Zealand has so much more to gain from embracing trade than we do from fearing it.  We must remain open to the world, its markets and its people.

Best of all, I got to walk in gumboots alongside Kiwi farmers, who know that nobody owes them a living, who go out rain or shine, high milk-price or low, to earn their way in the world.

These men and women share my view that New Zealand’s land and water are taonga for which we are stewards.

Farmers should be respected as partners in the vital environmental work New Zealand has before it:  to combat climate change, to clean our rivers, and to protect our biodiversity. 

Mr Speaker, I am hugely fortunate to have married Duncan.  He understands that caregiving is a responsibility and a privilege to be divided according to circumstance, not gender, and has again and again made sacrifices to further my dreams.

We are parents to four beautiful children aged eight, six, five and two.  James, Harriet, Reuben, and Gloria.  That’s you darlings.

I remember our excitement and confidence when I first became pregnant.  We read all the books, drafted sleep-schedules, and planned an infancy of structured excellence.

And then our son arrived.  He seemed determined not to adhere to our plans in any way at all.

Each of our children have confounded us like this, at different stages and in different ways.

The imperfection of raising children has been a gift to me.  It has taught me that much is beyond our individual control, that plans only take you so far, and that the messy bits in life can be a source of joy. Parenting has deepened my well of empathy, strengthened my patience, and helped me understand that sometimes sugary treats, takeaways, cartoons, and disposable nappies are the keys to sanity. I will not be a Government-knows-best politician because I know just how imperfect family life is. 

I’ve had the fortune of parenting with the support of a village: open-minded employers, engaged grandparents, loving caregivers and teachers, and the means to fill our supermarket trolley, heat our bedrooms, and buy ever-bigger shoes. 

Even with all that support parenting is sometimes a tough gig. 

There’s no getting away from the broken sleep, the tantrums, the hospital visits, the worry and the heartache. 

I respect the many Kiwis who day in day out do the hard-work of parenting well, without fanfair and often in difficult circumstances. 

It’s time we did more as MPs to acknowledge, honour and support the work of Kiwi parents.  They are the heroes of New Zealand’s homes.

Too often our public institutions and services ignore the realities and demands of modern family life. 

Why is it that in a world of working parents we have 12 weeks of school holidays which leave many families stressed and scrambling for childcare?

Why is it we can’t access our children’s medical and education records online?

Why when some parents choose to work an extra shift or take a promotion do they end up financially penalised by the blow-back of childcare costs, tax hikes and loss of tax credits?

Why do we so seldom acknowledge those who forgo paid employment to care for their children and contribute to their community? 

Why don’t we better target investment at those crucial first 1000 days in a child’s life? 

Mr Speaker, we should put whanau and family at the heart of policy. 

Let me be clear.  Families come in all shapes and sizes:  one parent, two parents, four; grandparents as caregivers; blended, gay, married, not married, adopted, whangai.  I’m not concerned by the form a family takes but by the function it performs. 

What matters is the strength of the bonds, the shared values, the getting up at 2am to change the nappy or give the feed, cheering on at assembly and from the sidelines, asking the questions when progress stalls at school and providing the comforting words when worries loom at night. Support. Belonging.  Unconditional love.  No Government intervention can replace it.

I endorse the work of successive Governments to eliminate the material deprivation in which too many families raise their children.   This work must continue.

But we are kidding ourselves if we think lifting family incomes is all that is required to strengthen Kiwi families. 

We cannot ignore the cycles of dependence, dysfunction and criminality that exist in our country. 

A smarter social investment approach is needed to break those cycles.

Our efforts should be joined up across Departments, Votes, Government and non-Government organisations.   Bureaucratic silos must be dismantled. Data and evidence must be leveraged.  Results for children and their families should be our focus, not the dollars spent. 

We live in an age of technological disruption, information networks and personalised services.  Government must harness those forces for the good of all our people.

Mr Speaker, politics is not just about the what, it is about the how. 

We do our best as leaders when we listen well.  When we treat each other with civility.  When we bring people together, not when we drive them apart. 

Duncan and I have taught our kids that my political opponents are good people.  They share a motivation to make this country better but have different ideas about how to achieve it. 

I think the members opposite me have good hearts, their ideas are occasionally a bit mad or naïve, but I want the chance to talk them round from time to time.  So I intend to get to know you.

I see politics as a team sport.   I am a small part of a great Party, with a long and proud history, a talented caucus and a mighty membership.

While I’d rather National was leading the Government I’m excited to play my part in reshaping us for the new challenges our country and world face.  I have great confidence in the Honourable Simon Bridges and Honourable Paula Bennett and I am honoured to have theirs.  I‘ll always be thankful to National’s class of ’17 for adopting me as their own.

And now, it’s time to get on with it.  To walk the walk.  To do the mahi.  To serve. 

Mr Speaker, let me finally say to my family, most especially my parents James and Shona, my sister Amanda and brother Jono, my husband Duncan and our wonderful children James, Harriet, Reuben and Gloria.  I love you and I hope to make you proud.


%d bloggers like this: