Hamish Walker’s maiden speech

November 15, 2017

Hamish Walker, Clutha Southland MP delivered his maiden speech yesterday.

Mr Speaker, it is the greatest privilege to be standing before you today as a Member of Parliament, elected by the people of Clutha-Southland, to represent their views, hopes and dreams for their region and for New Zealand.

People in Clutha-Southland are pioneering, hard-working and community-focused.

The rest of New Zealand can learn a lot from Clutha-Southlanders.

It’s a place where people still look out for each other, people still know each other, and most importantly people still talk to each other whether it be across the fence or in the supermarket aisle.

It’s where I regularly see carefree kids riding their bikes around their neighbourhood, and where local people still rally together to support a good cause.

I intend to be a strong voice in Parliament for Clutha-Southland.

I believe in the core National Party values of strong families, caring communities, personal responsibility, individual freedom and choice.

These values form the basis of my own philosophy.

I was motivated to stand for Parliament by a desire to uphold these values.

I believe the government’s role is to get out of the way and let our people get ahead, and be rewarded for effort.

My experience in life has shown me that it is attitude and hard work that is the key to succeeding.

The Clutha-Southland electorate and previous forms has an extremely proud history of leadership and contribution to New Zealand over the years.

It has included:

The Honourable Adam Hamilton
The Right Honourable Peter Gordon
Sir Brian Talboys
Sir Robin Gray
and of course our Leader and former Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Bill English
I want to take this opportunity to thank Bill for his leadership, and to congratulate him on the policy development that he has led throughout his years in Parliament.

His social investment approach to complex social problems and its long term dividends for New Zealand makes him the most gutsy politician of his generation.

I’d also like to acknowledge current Mayors in my region – Jim Boult, Bryan Cadogan, Tracy Hicks, and Gary Tong.

These individuals stitch together the fabric of our Clutha-Southland communities and provide excellent leadership.

I look forward to working with them to progress the interests of our people.

Clutha-Southland doesn’t just produce some great people.

It is one of the most productive regions in New Zealand.

It is the largest general electorate in the country, it runs from just south of Dunedin to the north of Invercargill, and spans from the Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea.

I have learned that many people in Clutha-Southland are not afraid to call a spade a spade.

You cannot pull the wool over the eyes of a Clutha-Southlander, even if it was grown and shorn there.

It is an honour to represent an area that is part of my heritage and identity.

I am proud of my established family history in Clutha-Southland.

My great, great, great grandfather, John Barr, was a Balclutha businessman who leased the Government ferry across the Clutha river, and built the first store and bakery in the township.

Today, I have family members throughout Clutha-Southland.

My late grandfather, Ronald Walker, often spoke of how it is ultimately up to the individual to determine the path they take in life.

The seeds of working hard and taking personal responsibility for oneself were sown early in my childhood by my grandfather.

He helped put hundreds of Southlanders through university running the Otago University extension program for a number of years and also helped establish the Young Nats in Southland in the 1940s.

And I better not forget to say hello to my nana Ngaire who is watching from Invercargill today.

My urban-raised father Alan, and rural-raised mother Barbara taught me that everyone deserved a chance, and that we all should contribute back to our community.

I’d like to thank my father, who continues to dedicate his life to helping others.

Thank you, Dad.

I’d also like to thank my mother who has sacrificed so much to raise me and my siblings.

Thank you for all that you do Mum.

If you were a taxi driver, you would be a millionaire by now given the fetching and carrying that you have done over the years.

I’m sure you would have done almost as many kilometres in your car 20 years ago as the Clutha-Southland MP at the time.

I respect my urban heritage.

This will hold me accountable to the needs and concerns of the urban areas within the electorate.

Encouraging growth in small towns and responding to the challenges of growth in larger towns will be one of many issues that I face.

I also have an obligation to my rural heritage which will hold me accountable to the needs and concerns of the farming communities within the electorate.

I have many fond memories working on my grandparents farm during my teenage years

Coming from a family with four siblings, I learned early to listen to those around me and to respect their views.

I also learned that working with others achieves more than working independently, a lesson that I have put into practice throughout my life.

I was born and raised in Dunedin and attended Māori Hill Primary School and John McGlashan College.

Like many young people, I wasn’t too interested in learning.

To complicate things, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 14.

Going from leading a normal life to half a dozen injections a day was tough.

I eventually left school early and got a job.

I understand first-hand that some people may not achieve on a typical educational timeline, but they still can succeed in education and contribute to their community.

My early education and health experiences have made me passionate about these areas, especially in regard to our youth.

I didn’t experience typical school success for many reasons.

Perhaps an alternative learning environment may have suited my learning style.

That’s why charter schools are vitally important, and yet another achievement of our previous National-led government.

I was the kid who some might argue, ‘slipped through the cracks’.

But I still managed to experience success, and I want to help ensure youth have meaningful education options with relevance to the real world.

My first role after leaving school was as a commercial fisherman.

I look back on my time as a fisherman with pride.

It was my first real experience of what hard work is all about.

Long hours on the boat were challenging.

I also learned the importance of the primary sector to New Zealand.

It’s important we give these producers every possible chance of success.

In addition to my fishing days, I have worked as a voluntary community patrol member, and later as a Police jailor.

I always had a desire to become a Police Officer, but was unable to apply to Police College because of my diabetes.

This was a huge disappointment for me, but it taught me that when one door closes, another opens and you need to be willing to move on and learn from life’s lessons.

After a few other jobs I decided to study for a degree in accounting.

Instead of incurring a significant amount of debt by taking out a student loan, I decided to work in the mines of Western Australia to save some money.

Six months of hard work allowed me to save enough to pay the fees.

It was during this time I also took up refereeing rugby.

A few years later I made my first class debut which is achieved by less than one per cent of rugby referees.

Rugby refereeing is a lot like life.

To learn, you need to listen.

To succeed, you need to simplify your processes and focus on just one or two key issues that have the greatest effect.

In business, you also need to focus on the one or two things that matter.

Rugby refereeing was the perfect training ground for politics.

Graduating with an accounting degree was also a huge confidence builder for me.

I had come a long way from dropping out of school.

Looking back, I know I wouldn’t have gained the skills I have now if I had gone straight to university from school.

I needed those years to mature.

Since then I have set up, franchised and sold my own business, worked at a big 4 accounting firm and have been a business adviser to others and served on the Boards of the Otago Rugby Union and the local Lotteries Distribution Committee.

As someone who has benefited from our public health system, I am a firm believer in primary care being easily accessible, close to where people live.

Travel times can impact on primary care in rural areas.

Failure to gain early treatment or intervention from primary care providers can add huge costs for the New Zealand taxpayer.

I will fight hard to maintain services in the electorate, and fight for fair funding of rural health.

I first joined the National Party several years ago after advice from John Key to stand in a red seat, cut my teeth and learn.

I have always been inspired by others to do something significant, to make a difference – because life is short.

I was fortunate to have known Jonathan Keogh, who was tragically killed by a repeat drunk driver.

Jono’s legacy inspires me to make a difference and his name will never be forgotten.

I commend Jono’s sister Megan MacPherson and his family for directly helping to change drink-driving laws.

I, like many others, miss Jono and he is often in my thoughts.

There are multiple challenges ahead.

Right now in Clutha-Southland, we should not be cutting off the hands that literally feed us, from farmers in Gore, to hospitality workers in Queenstown.

The government must ensure immigration settings allow business owners in Queenstown and primary producers across Otago and Southland to have the workforce to process goods.

Clutha-Southland has around two per cent of the population and produces over 15 per cent of the country’s GDP.

We need to keep our workers to produce the goods from the region, and to keep the people flowing through our small towns like Lumsden, Lawrence, and Nightcaps.

Our immigrant workforce contributes to our diversity and keeps our towns afloat.

I recently visited a rest home in Tapanui, and asked a 96-year-old gentlemen and Returned Serviceman for advice.

He told me to continue to learn.

Learning indeed is for life, and is life-long.

My biggest hope is to make Clutha-Southland proud of the contributions I can make to our country.

I hope that by taking this gentleman’s advice, I can achieve this.

I promise to listen to my constituents, and I thank them for the advice they have given me to date.

There are many people I’d like to pay tribute to for being in my life, and although I cannot name them all, you know who you are.

I want to thank the people who have enabled me to stand here before you today.

To the more than 1000 Clutha-Southland National Party members, thank you for placing trust and confidence in me.

To Bridgette Smith, Margo Hishon, Rachel Bird, Tim Shiels, Richard Soper and the rest of the executive and campaign team, your dedication to the party is energizing and the sheer distances you have to drive for meetings is remarkable. The electorate is in safe hands in your care.

To Mark Patterson, great to see you here as a List MP.

To Kate Hazlett, Andrew Hunt, Roger Bridge, Alastair Bell, president Peter Goodfellow and the rest of the regional executive and National Party board, thank you for your hard work.

To the Young Nats for the weekend campaigning in Queenstown, you all rock. I learnt a good lesson… not to start days that involve the Young Nats in Queenstown before 11am.

Grant McCullum for the phone calls offering advice, thank you.

Michelle Boag, your wise words are really appreciated.

Eric Roy, thank you for the good solid advice in a Southland way.

National’s strong result is a tribute to you all.

To the ladies who run my offices …. And life…. Rebecca, Paula and Alison thank you for keeping me going.

Sarah Dowie, Mike Woodhouse and Jacqui Dean, Team Southern let’s go!

To Donna & David, thank you for being here today.

Penny, you’re an inspiration to me and words cannot express how much your support for me throughout the selection process, campaign and since being elected has meant. I wouldn’t be able to do this without your support.

I admire the contribution you make to society in your role as a clinical psychologist and yes, you often remind me you did beat me to Parliament as you were Eric Roy’s Youth MP.

Mr Speaker, the privilege of serving in this Parliament is one that comes to very few.

I didn’t come here to eat my lunch, nor to “be” a Member of Parliament.

I came here to DO things as a Member of Parliament, to help make change that benefits all New Zealanders, and to help to enhance the lives of the people of Clutha Southland.

I will probably make mistakes in this House – I have made many already in my short life – but my respect for the Institution, my loyalty and my commitment are solid; my philosophy is honest and true, and my compassion is infinite.

I hope that everything I do in this Parliament, and in my time as a Member of this Parliament, is a tribute to those who have gone before me, those who have helped me and to those whom I love, and who love me.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

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Organisation matters

November 7, 2017

Until just a few weeks ago, one of the big questions over Labour’s suitability for government was its inability to organise itself.

Those questions quietened when Andrew Little resigned and was replaced by Jacinda Ardern.

But Labour still hasn’t got it all together:

Ceremonies to open New Zealand’s 52nd Parliament have kicked off with National threatening to gatecrash Labour’s party over the election of new Speaker Trevor Mallard.

The election is normally straightforward and comes straight after all MPs swear an oath of allegiance.

However, things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges asked whether MPs who were not present today and therefore not sworn-in could vote. . . 

However – in what is an embarrassing oversight for the new Government – at least five of its MPs were absent.

That meant it lacked the numbers to have Mallard elected, and things threatened to go pear-shaped when National MP and shadow leader of the House Simon Bridges raised a point of order.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister David Parker are on their way to Manila for APEC. Green MP Gareth Hughes was also absent.

“Where’s Winston when you need him?” Bridges taunted the Labour benches.

“Get used to it,” another National MP commented.

After hurried discussions between Bridges and Labour’s leader of the House Chris Hipkins, Mallard was finally confirmed as the new Speaker. . . 

National’s delaying proceedings can open it up to accusations of pettiness.

Probably only political tragics will take any notice.

But the government has a wafer-thin majority and it can’t afford to be sloppy over process.

Organisation matters for a party and even more for a government.

UPDATE: In discussion over Labour’s lack of a majority, National got Labour to agree to increase the number of select committees from 96 to 108.

UPDATE 2: Counting and calmness matter too – Labour did have the numbers but panicked when challenged.


No mention of reducing dependency

October 27, 2017

Reducing child poverty is one of the new government’s goals.

It has also talked about reducing sanctions on welfare recipients.

I have yet to read or hear any mention of reducing benefit dependency.

That was one of the goals of the previous National-led government, and one in which it succeeded.

Child poverty isn’t confined to benefit-dependent homes but welfare dependency is one of the greatest risk factors.

If the government is serious about reducing poverty it must also be serious about reducing welfare dependency.


Voters here and there

October 23, 2017
  1. Does this mean people living here and experiencing what was happening had a greater appreciation that National had the country going in the right direction than those living overseas who had to rely on the media?
  2. Will at least some of these people who voted Green in a much greater proportion than people living here did, come home and face the consequences now their party has some influence in government?

 

Votes within NZ: Labour 36.86%; Green 6.06%; NZ First 7.3% and National 44.61%.

Overseas votes: Labour 38.2%; Green 15.23%; NZ First 2.88% and National 37.35%

 


Free trade 2-way street

October 21, 2017

Free trade is vital to New Zealand, Horticulture NZ Mike Chapman says.

New Zealand is a trading nation. We rely on export earnings from free trade for our financial prosperity. But free trade is a two way street – the countries involved open up their borders to allow free movement of goods and services on an equal basis. This includes property ownership.

The pathway to premium export earnings is through innovation and having a point of difference. Access to the latest techniques and innovations is key to New Zealand remaining competitive and market leaders.

The truth here is that to do that, New Zealand needs strong links with the international science community, companies involved in innovation, market leaders and companies with scale and market penetration. Many of those international companies have operations based in New Zealand. Equally, New Zealand also has operations based in their home countries. That involves property ownership. Here, I’m not talking about residential properties.

The importance of trade was recently highlighted in a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER). Here are a couple key points from their analysis:

– Trade accounts for $85 billion (43%) of New Zealand’s GDP.
– Trade gives each household in New Zealand improved product choice worth $3.9 billion, or $2,300 per household.
– A US study estimates that trade contributes about 30% to the average US household’s purchasing power. In New Zealand this would be far higher, given how trade reliant we are compared to the US.
– More free trade agreements will increase New Zealand’s GDP by $18 billion and create 42,000 skilled and 20,000 low skilled jobs.

Freeing up trade and keeping trade free are vital for New Zealand’s continued prosperity.

Tightening up on any aspect of our free trade may have a ripple effect. As a country, we do not want to slip into economic decline. So Horticulture New Zealand’s plea to New Zealand’s new government is to keep the previous Government’s free trade agenda running. Foreign investment in New Zealand enhances our economic prosperity.

We need to keep the door open for three key reasons:

– New Zealand’s prosperity depends on free trade – we can’t compete if, due to tariffs and other barriers, our goods and services are more expensive than those from other countries. Simply put, our goods and services will not be purchased.
– Many overseas companies that have invested in New Zealand enhance our ability to be market leaders and innovate, provide many jobs, and contribute to our economic prosperity and ability to buy goods from around the world.
– New Zealand’s companies need to invest in overseas countries to enhance our ability to compete for premium prices and keep ahead of innovations – it is a two way street.

We can’t win the fight to open doors for our goods and services if we close our own.

Successive Labour and National governments have agreed on the importance of free trade and worked to advance it.

We’ll all lose if the new government attempts to return to the bad old days of fortress New Zealand.


Still backing Bill

October 20, 2017

No sooner had Winston Peters finished anointing Labour last night than commentators were beginning to talk about a successor to National leader Bill English.

That might make good copy but leadership speculation is not in National’s best interests.

Bill led the party to a historic level of 44.4% support – that’s nearly 8% higher than Labour got in this election and higher than Helen Clark ever got.

The ODT nails it:

National’s share of the vote was lower than in 2014, but English secured about 20,000 more votes than Key did in 2014. He held National up against a stronger onslaught from Labour than Key ever faced, and ensured that fourth term was at least well within its reach.

His fate was delivered by the whim of Peters – not the voters.

He’s earned the leadership and it will be better for the party if he keeps it, at least until the new government’s honeymoon is over. After that the choice of staying on as leader or not should be his, for his sake and the party’s.

Someone whose grasp of history is better than mine might contradict me, but I don’t think New Zealand has ever had an opposition this strong in numbers. The MPs also have a formidable breadth and depth of experience and skills.

National was strong, united and loyal to the leader in government, the caucus and wider party need to remain strong,  united and loyal to the leader in opposition.

That’s an important part of the way back to government in the shortest possible time.

 


Bugger

October 19, 2017

Winston Peters has opted for a Labour-NZ First coalition.

I hope the anti-trade, anti-business rhetoric that characterised their campaigns is put aside and they govern for the good of the country.

I am very sorry Bill English won’t have the opportunity to carry on his good work – yet.

National with 56 MPs, and most of them holding electorates, will be a formidable opposition.


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