Paul Foster-Bell delivered his maiden speech this evening:
E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga karanga maha e huihui nei, Tena Koutou Katoa!
Mr Speaker. Members. Family, friends and supporters.
It is with a mixture of exhilaration, trepidation and aspiration that I rise to make a maiden statement in this 50th Parliament of New Zealand.
I am delighted to be joining the parliamentary team of the National Party led by the
Right Honourable John Key. National is, I believe, the only party capable of leading the sound, stable, and steady government this country needs. This Government is delivering the increased economic growth rates, thriving and safer communities, efficient public services, and personal freedoms which all Kiwis want and deserve.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and his excellent ministers for their unstinting work in untangling the mess created by nine years of socialist misrule, and in leading this nation to a brighter future in years to come.
It is a real honour to serve as an elected representative of the people of our beautiful country. At the same time, it is almost impossible not to be awestruck by one’s weighty responsibilities as a new MP: enacting the laws of the land, scrutinising government expenditure, assisting constituents with their issues, and having input into the policy of the governing party must all be taken very seriously.
I intend to keep my head down and learn from older and wiser members. I am grateful to Hon Chris Finlayson QC, the Hon Judith Collins, the Hon Tony Ryall, the
Hon Nick Smith, and the National MPs of the 2011 intake in particular, as well as all the National Party team, for their advice and warm welcome into this House.
Mr Speaker, I particularly look forward to being a Member in this House when the National War Memorial Park is opened in Wellington, where I am based. The centenary of Gallipoli marks a momentous event in our evolution towards independent nationhood a hundred years ago – and the plaques in this chamber commemorating that campaign, and others in which New Zealanders have fought, serve as a constant reminder to members of the Kiwi lives lost to secure our democracy and defend our way of life.
As John Key said, the National War Memorial Park will be a significant legacy to commemorate the centenary of Anzac Day. It is a special gift to the Capital and will become a wonderful civic amenity as well as a focal point for national commemorations. Earlier plans for a National War Memorial park fell by the wayside through neglect by the previous government, and the current precinct remained divided by State Highway 1 – until Chris Finlayson and Gerry Brownlee set out to deliver on a vision for an upgraded Buckle Street area.
I look forward to supporting other initiatives which will contribute to Wellington remaining a thriving, wonderful place to live.
Mr Speaker, given a maiden speech is one of the very few occasions in this Chamber when a member may make reference to guests in the public galleries, I ask that you indulge me in mentioning a few special people who are here today.
I would like to acknowledge president Peter Goodfellow, the board of the National Party – in particular Lower North Island chair Malcolm Plimmer and the lovely Linda – and all the office holders, activists, and members of the party.
I am very grateful for the help of our wonderful people locally in Wellington.
I was most fortunate to have as my campaign chair Brett Hudson, who put in an enormous effort during the 2011 election. I would also like to thank stalwart campaign and executive committee members: Dr Pat McCarthy, Murray Radford, Richard and Elaine Westlake, Sir Christopher and Lady Anna Harris, Graeme and Judith Sugden, Peter Milne, Alistair Scott, Aaron Hape, Chloe Oldfield, Brian Anderton, Carolyn O’Fallon, Carsten Schousboe, Carina Aiken, Haimona Gray, Jim Guo, Dr Joe Rousseau, Bridget-Anne Fowler, Rainer McAlister, Victor Cauty, Lliam Munro, Dr Rosy Fenwicke, Julian Light, and Henry Williams – as well as Cameron Pickering who has come up from Christchurch and Lyndon Crabbe from Roxburgh.
Many thanks to the Super Blues, especially Nancy McDonald, Joan Farrance, Pam Finlayson, Bernie Poole, and Patricia Morrison for their kind assistance. Thank you David Farrar and Neil Miller for the useful guidance. We were also very well supported by an exceptional group at Party HQ: Jo, Greg, Cam, Liam, Donna, Beth, and Sean. And to the hundreds of volunteers who gave so much of their time, thank you all so much.
I want to make special mention of the Young Nats. This was the group that gave me my start in politics, and I am thrilled that they have never been in such good heart and strength on campuses around the country as they are today. I would like to acknowledge Daniel Fielding who led the Young Nats over three years up to this high point, Sean Topham who is capably chairing it today, Christian Hermansen who chairs the regional Young Nats, and Joel Rowan from our local VicNats branch.
The Young Nats have won some real victories on longstanding youth issues in recent years: lobbying successfully to remove compulsion from student unions, keeping the age for purchase of alcohol at 18, addressing teen depression and suicide, and supporting equal access to marriage for all Kiwis. I hope the Young Nats keep rattling cages, and keep me on my toes as a new MP.
To friends who could not make it today – Malcolm and Marian Cone in Temuka, Peter and Sarah Walker and Robyn Broughton in Dunedin; Ele Ludemann in Oamaru, Professor John and Jenny Leader in Blenheim; Emma Mellow-Sandford in Sydney; Tiffany in Canberra; Kezia in England; Geoff and Chris Pope in Seattle; the Cammock Family in Jakarta; Johnny and Chantal Rayner-Burt along with my godson Hugo in Italy – I am most grateful for the loyal support I have consistently received over the years.
And, most importantly, I would like to pay tribute to my family.
To my parents – Bob and Alyse – a child could not have had a better start in life than I got, thanks to you. The example set by you Dad – of putting your family above all other concerns, and working every hour of the day to provide for them – is an outstanding one.
And Mum, the lesson you taught us that learning is something to be treasured, and with a sound education the world is one’s oyster, is something that I hope – one day – every Kiwi kid will be inculcated with. I couldn’t be prouder that after more than 30 years of part-time study you are on the cusp of completing your PhD.
I would also like to send special greetings to my brother and sister, Greg and Shaan, my niece, Caitlin, and granddad Ayers Robert Foster Sr, who will be watching this on the TV in Whangarei along with Dulcie. And warm regards to my Aunty Eleanor Ashcroft, who will be tuned in along with Vic Reid, in Rotorua.
Mr Speaker, I have been privileged to have served our country both on and offshore in the foreign service over the past nine years. It was a real pleasure to work for some of the most capable and dedicated senior officials in this country’s public sector: ambassadors Hamish MacMaster, Brian Sanders, Rod Harris, Malcolm Millar,
Dr Jonathan Austin, Dr James Kember, and Wendy Hinton – as well as some absolutely first rate colleagues and workmates – both Kiwis and locally engaged.
I have also enjoyed a range of experiences overseas which few visitors to distant lands get – including seeing, from a behind the scenes perspective, how a number of other countries really operate.
Mr Speaker, of all the countries I worked in, none is as free as
New Zealand. Some, such as Iran, would actually fall at the opposite end of any objective scale measuring corruption, transparency, and rule of law.
Thankfully, it is the people of New Zealand – not the State – who have, to a larger degree than almost anywhere else in the world, power over their own lives and the ability to decide their own prospects for the future. This reminds me of a quote from the late, great Baroness Thatcher of our right “to have the State as servant and not as master … on that freedom, all our other freedoms depend”. This is just as true today as when the Iron Lady first said it.
We should be rightly proud of the advances towards freedom which we have made. But there are areas where further work is needed, in my view, if we are to retain our place as a country where liberty and freedom of speech, of thought, of belief and of action are most cherished. The abolition of blasphemy as a criminal offence, for which one can be imprisoned for up to a year, is one example of such an area crying out for reform.
Mr Speaker, of all the countries I spent time in, none is as clean, green and endowed with such a pristine natural environment and spectacular scenic splendour as
New Zealand. In demonstrating that economic growth and preserving environmental values can go hand in hand, and showing that good science is essential to high quality environmental decision making, New Zealand is leading the way.
I am glad that New Zealanders are able to enjoy our unique birth right, to access our special places: the beaches, rivers, lakes, and mountains for which our land is rightly renowned.
Mr Speaker, of all the other jurisdictions I have worked in, none is as well served by their public servants as ours. Across a range of departments from MFAT, the Treasury and MBIE, through to Defence, the security services, the Police and the Prime Minister’s Department, I have worked in a state sector which has seen increasing levels of resource shifted from bureaucracy and administration to delivering the services New Zealanders need; which is operating more efficiently than ever before; and which is carrying out this Government’s policies to achieve unprecedented positive results. Results like the lowest crime rate in a generation or record numbers of elective surgeries for those who need them.
Mr Speaker, of the developed economies I have visited, few are as well positioned as New Zealand to ride out the world’s current period of economic instability and to take advantage of the opportunities offered by exporting to a rapidly growing Asian middle class; or by servicing the food security needs of the prosperous but arid Gulf States; or by hosting increasingly high value tourists and students from abroad in our safe, tolerant, and welcoming nation.
None of this is to say that we have all the answers here in our island home. Quite the opposite. There is a lot we can learn from other successful smaller states, such as Singapore, or the UAE. And, of course, as a small trading nation we are utterly dependent on our trading partners and a stable, rules-based world order to ensure our own future prosperity.
Our first woman Prime Minister, Rt Hon Dame Jenny Shipley, tidily summed this concept up when she said that “New Zealand needs the world a heck of a lot more than the rest of the world needs New Zealand”. This sentiment certainly echoes my experiences, representing our country out in the field.
Mr Speaker, the National Party was founded 77 years ago as a coalition between sectors which were diverse in origins, but which had aligning interests and shared objectives.
National’s founders were those in the productive sector – whether farmers or urban manufacturers.
They were those in business, both employers and employees, professionals practising on their own account, or tradesmen.
They were those hardworking mothers and fathers who aspired to a better life for their children and equal treatment for everyone, irrespective of colour, creed or class.
They were those who valued property rights for themselves and others, and who wanted a limited government which encouraged free enterprise and rewards for effort.
National is still the bastion of equal opportunity and the rule of law. These timeless values are why the public has elected National to the treasury benches for 40 of the past 60 years. Our party continues to govern in the interest of all New Zealanders, and that is why I am proud to call myself a National Party Member.
Mr Speaker, I have come to this esteemed place to do more than simply occupy a seat.
Sir, I have come to this House to support sound economic management, growth, and sensible public spending. I stand firmly against ruinously high borrowing, inefficient public services, or incentivising irresponsibility through unfettered welfare.
I have come to this House, Sir, to back the Prime Minister and his Government. I am resolutely opposed to socialism and its overweening conceit that redistribution, and governmental meddling in private enterprise can deliver positive outcomes for our people. They cannot. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle”.
I have come to this House, Sir, as a champion for trade, tourism, and closer linkages with other countries, and the transformative effects these can bring through higher incomes, and more employment. I repudiate xenophobia and protectionism, which damage our overseas relationships, our reputation, and our earnings.
Mr Speaker, I have come to this House to advocate strongly for our capital city, and for all the residents of Wellington Central and Hutt South.
I have come to this House, Sir, as a Blue Green. I want to see pragmatic protections for our stunning natural environment, balanced against the need to derive economic benefits from our natural resources where appropriate. I will criticise impractical and Luddite responses to environmental challenges.
I have come to this House, Sir, as a Blue Liberal, and a defender of diversity, liberty, and equal treatment by the State for all its citizens. I will be a trenchant enemy of any laws which seek to implement the hideous apparatus of the police state here in New Zealand. In the words of our National Anthem, “May our mountains ever be, freedom’s ramparts on the sea”.
I have come to this House, Sir, as a proponent of the Constitutional Monarchy which has served us so well for over 170 years. I will fiercely resist any measures which weaken this essential pillar of our robust democracy.
Mr Speaker, to paraphrase Alfred, Lord Tennyson – I have come to this House made weak by time and fate, but strong in will: to seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield.
I look forward to working with you, Sir, and all likeminded members to achieve these goals.
You can see and hear him deliver the speech at Parliament Today.