Shane Ardern’s valedictory

August 2, 2014

Taranaki King Country MP Shane Ardern delivered his valedictory statement on Wednesday:

SHANE ARDERN (National – Taranaki – King Country): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen—tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Prime Minister, after 16 years in Parliament there is quite a bit I could say, but I will not. Do not panic! I was elected to Parliament in 1998 as the result of a by-election following the former Prime Minister the Rt Hon John Key—another Freudian slip, Prime Minister. It was Jim Bolger, who had just been replaced by the very caucus that I was now a part of. What I found was that having been his electorate chair and expressing similar views to him was not career enhancing.

For the last time in this Parliament I wish to declare an interest in the dairy industry. I am the son a sharemilker. I worked my way through the industry and bought our first farm at the age of 23. To those who have experienced my determination and unflinching support for the farming community, my late parents, Olive and Noel Ardern, and their employer, the late Tom Hargraves, are responsible for who I am. I am a farmer, came in as a farmer, leave as a farmer, am—although it does not sit comfortably with many in this place—proud to be a farmer, and I am prouder still to have represented a rural farming electorate.

I know that being a working farmer has served me well as an MP, so it will come as no surprise that I am going to talk about agriculture. On my arrival one of the most important pieces of legislation was the deregulation of the dairy industry and the debate on what structure should replace the dairy board. This was a contentious issue not just for Parliament but among farmers and the wider financial community. The result was the formation of Fonterra*, , and, despite its many critics to this day, name me one other industry that has performed as well, for as long, and currently is the only opportunity for New Zealand exporters to be truly of an international scale. As the weeks of prolonged caucus debate went on, with economic commentators claiming that the sky would fall if Fonterra was allowed to be formed, I was concerned that the formation would not happen and we would be left with a fragmented industry.

You only have to look at other industries that have not taken this step to see how damaging to the sector and the New Zealand economy this would have been.

As I was driving to the airport at 5.40 a.m. on a cold Tuesday Taranaki morning preparing for another caucus debate on the issue, I came across this young mother driving an old * Ferguson tractor with a child in a backpack and another child sitting on her knee, with a transport tray loaded with bobby calves, making her way to the farm gate. I realised that it was her that I was fighting for, and it steeled my resolve against those bureaucrats, those economic commentators, economists, and politicians who thought otherwise, because her efforts could reach their maximum opportunity only with the formation of a focused marketing structure that was internationally competitive so that we could capture the highest world market prices.

I told her story to my caucus colleagues because she epitomised the 11,000 other dairy farmers. Despite adverse conditions and personal demands, what I saw was one gutsy young New Zealander out there making it happen. For her sake, I have no regrets at maintaining a non-negotiable position on the type of industry structure that will give the highest returns possible to the farm gate and to *“ “New Zealand Inc.” I know it has not always been career enhancing, but if I had my time again, I would not change my stance.

 

My biggest regret is not being able to see the same structural change in the meat and wool industry. The question is: was I wrong? If Fonterra had not been formed, could members of this House guarantee that our economy would be growing as well as it is today? The answer is no, they could not. So stop criticising the primary industries, and, instead of looking for alternatives that do not exist, celebrate that we are world leaders in agriculture.

Why is it that we unite and support our international sporting teams, but when it comes to primary industries, we think that any small provincial structure will succeed? Support the industries that support you. Some in this House today will remember when Myrtle* the “Fergie”* ” came to Parliament. Eric, you should have bought a “Fergie”, mate. I was happy to become known as the “Tractor Man” when I took the old “Fergie” up the steps of Parliament in protest at the proposed introduction of a methane tax, commonly known as the “Fart Tax”. Some considered that this was the wrong thing to do, but nobody and nothing was put at risk, and that was subsequently proven in court. All I am going to say is that the tax did not happen, it has not happened, and it should not happen.

If anyone thinks I was dangerous then, be warned; I will be a lot worse when I am not constrained by parliamentary considerations—and the old “Fergie” is still around.

The only time that I doubted I may have gone too far was when I was chairing a select committee and I was greeted once by a leading trade unionist as “Comrade”. The other good thing that came out of that, of course, was that it really brassed off Hone. He still has not got over it.

I want to say to this Parliament that Fonterra earns the money that gives us the ability to have a first-class* social system. It allows us the luxury of enormous investment in environmental sustainability and conservation. Internationally, our farmers are known as one of the lowest carbon producers with the highest food safety standards and the most sustainable farming practices.

If members are honestly concerned with the environment, then work with the farmers and approach this with an open mind. If you really care about the future of New Zealand, I beg you to spend time on farms speaking with farmers and observing what they do. Look at the money that Fonterra spends on research and investment in environmental issues, despite Fonterra remaining, by international standards, a small farmer cooperative. For example, in the last 5 years 23,000 kilometres of riparian margin planting and fencing of waterways have been completed. That is further than New Zealand to London. It is a long fence.

Members have an opportunity to play an important role in keeping New Zealand’s economy growing, with the triple bottom line* of social, environmental, and economic benefits. To tax, restrict, and punish farmers while turning your heads away from the pollution of the cities is hypocritical and does nothing for the future of New Zealand. Abraham Lincoln once said that you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

Over the 16 years I have established my role as representing farmers, I have served as chair of the Primary Production Committee* and chair of Ag Caucus. I have represented Parliament overseas as the New Zealand delegate on the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association* and I have served on many other select committees as chair and member. Some of you may not know this, and it will come as a shock, but I was proud when the Hon Bill English appointed me as spokesman for conservation. There are some environmentalists who have not yet recovered. Fish and Game* should be grateful to have Nick Smith as its Minister.

As biosecurity spokesman, I am delighted that many of the policies I put before caucus have now become legislation. I came into this Parliament during the first MMP* Government and I have a concern about the unintended consequences of our electoral system. My electorate has changed over the 16 years as MMP has forced rural areas to become larger and harder to service. Rural New Zealand has been the biggest victim of the MMP system, and all parties should look to redress the imbalance. It is not fair and it is not right that the areas that produce the money have very little representation in Parliament. When I was in high school, five MPs used to represent the area that is now the Taranaki – King Country*. .

We are in danger of becoming a Parliament of professional politicians, and if that happens, then we forget that we are the people’s representatives. In order to be a worthy representative, to truly be a good MP, I believe you need to remain connected or, if you like, have a vested interest. It is my view that Parliament and the media have become childish around vested interests in business. As a farmer I am worried about the lack of representation of farmers in politics.

This is a message for farmers. If you are not happy with the direction that a Government is taking, then you should stand and be a representative. If you do not, if you stand back, then you are as guilty as those who are doing what you do not like. Farmers in the past have had the reputation of serving their communities, and you will fail if you use the excuse that farming has become more complex and you are too busy. If you do not get involved at all levels, then the price that is paid will be yours. To my own electorate, I am proud that I have increased my vote each election, despite many boundary changes, because at the end of the day it is the opinion of those you represent that is most important.

I thank the people of the Taranaki – King Country area for their loyal support. All MPs know that we cannot do the job without the hard work and support of dedicated people willing to go the extra mile. My thanks go to everyone who helps make this building work: the Clerk’s Office*, , select committee staff, report writers whom I have worked with, the Parliamentary Counsel Office*, , Parliamentary Library*, , Hansard, security, messengers, Bellamy’s*, , and the cleaners. To Instyle Taxis, Jane and Paul, thanks—thanks to all of you for your support. There are too many individuals to thank by name, but, in particular, I would like to single out a few: Leveson Gower, our new electorate chair, and his wife, Vicky, and son, Angus, who are here today; past chair Harry Bayliss and his wife, Helen, who are here today; and special mention must go to the late Matthew Hammond and his wife, Angela. Matthew was my electorate chair for 10 years, and, I might point out, a sheep and beef farmer. He said to me one night after an extremely frustrating meat and wool meeting: “Shane, if those meat and wool farmers want to go broke, then I guess you are just gonna have to give them the right to do so.” Matthew was my chair until a few weeks before he succumbed to cancer. Thanks to my electorate secretary, Helen Hoskin, and treasurer, Janette Brocklehurst, who previously worked for Roger Maxwell and then for me, and has continued in a voluntary role throughout my whole political career. As treasurer, Janette’s strength has always been to answer any suggestions from branch members that involved spending money with a no. The Hon Bill English could take lessons from her.

To my executive assistant, Kathy Ker, who was recommended to me by senior whip* John Carter as someone who may be able to keep me out of trouble—I suspect that in all her years, this is the only area where she has failed. Jokes aside, she is the one who watched my back and whom I trusted to ensure the work was done. The value of having someone who is loyal and brutally honest to the point where she has told me right up to, and including, the writing of this speech when she thinks I am a plonker has made it possible for me to be an effective MP as well as continue farming.

I have seen senior bureaucrats, Ministers, and other officials who have not seen things from my point of view walk away checking themselves bodily after an encounter with my executive assistant. By the way, she has been referred to on many occasions as the “Tractor Woman”. Thank you, Kathy. To my electorate staff, the first two, the late Maureen Wilkie and Ella Borrows; to those in between; and to my current agents Sharon, Claire, and Tracey, who are here today, I know that it is not easy looking after a large electorate. Thank you for your work.

To my wife, Cathy, and to my family—sons Jonathon and Cameron—all MPs know that when you make the decision to become a politician, then it has a significant impact on your family, and personal sacrifices will be made. Our occupation is not for everyone, and I am proud of my family, who have embraced farming—for all the good, the bad, and the challenges that it delivers. My family’s love and commitment to the land is best reflected in the words of Princess Te Pūea Herangi* when she said: “The land is our mother and our father. It is the loving parent who nourishes us, sustains us, and when we die it folds us in its arms.”

We are a typical farming family who know that we must leave the land in better condition than when we found it. Thank you Cathy, Jonathon and Cameron for your support over the years. I am returning home, you will see a lot more of me, and I love you. To those MPs who ventured into * Taranaki – King Country, friend and foe, I notice that not many of them return. But my good friend and colleague Gerry Brownlee is the exception, and Gerry, we still have those gumboots ready for your next visit.

To the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key, thank you for being an exceptional leader. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a leader who plays golf with the President of the United States, who dines with the President of China, who stays with the Queen of England, and who knows all of the European leaders. As an export nation at the bottom of the South Pacific, that is a rare and wonderful thing. Our leader is exceptional.

To my parliamentary colleagues, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today, and may you all enjoy the electoral success that you deserve. Might I add that it is often said that you make no friends in politics and that you do not meet many nice people. It is just not true. Some of the security staff, messengers, and other people in this place are wonderful people. I wish to share with you the following verse, which I quoted in my maiden speech: “Seek that which is most precious. If you bow down, let it be to a lofty mountain. Let nothing but the insurmountable turn you from your goal.” It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as a member of this House. Thank you members, thank you Mr Assistant Speaker. I am returning back home to the slopes of * Mount Taranaki, to the farm, to the land where I belong. Kia ora.

Shane might have been an MP but he never forgot he was a farmer –  note the tractor climbing up the steps beside him.

Shane Arden MP .horny-handed son of toil and highly successful  farmer from the Naki recalls his visit to the steps of Parliament with Myrtle his Ferguson tractor as he makes his Valedictory address


Good people

July 31, 2014

Yesterday I was in parliament’s public gallery for six valedictory speeches.

National MPs Shane Ardern, Phil Heatley, Paul Hutchison, Eric Roy and Tony Ryall, and Labour’s Ross Robertson delivered their reflections on their time in parliament.

All were very different but there was one similarity – all had come to parliament, motivated by their desire to serve their constituents and improve their country.

Politicians in general are often derided. Sometimes individuals deserve that derision.

But listening to all the speeches yesterday reminded me that most are good people and most do good work, some in smaller ways, others are able to achieve something bigger.

It also reminded me that there is a lot of common ground on ultimate goals. The divisions are often much less about where we’re going and far more about how to get there.


“Typical MP looks male”

July 29, 2014

Rob Salmond thinks he knows why National has more male candidates:

. . . National leaves everything to its local branch, to simply vote up the candidate they like. They vote in complete isolation from the broader needs of the party – they focus only on their area.

A simple vote in a single seat election like this (the “seat” here is the right to stand for National in a particular electorate) is well known to advantage males. It is a lowest common denominator effect, where a male candidate – by virtue of entrenched mental images of what a “typical” MP look like – is more likely to be the one that the fewest people object to. As a psychological level, candidates who in any way represent a change to the status quo face an uphill battle in a single-seat election, as people who have no reason to object to the status quo (through either disinterest or design) feel some level of threat. . .

What utter tosh.

How could anyone think a typical MP looks male in the 21st century?

We’ve had two women Prime Ministers, several other female co-leaders, lots of women ministers and MPs. We’ve also had and have MPs of both genders of a variety of ethnicities.

If there ever was a typical MP look-alike there is no longer.

If Salmond had looked at the two women candidates selected by National electorates this year he’d realise how silly his supposition is:

Sarah Dowie who won the Invercargill selection could hardly look less like sitting MP Eric Roy:

shoes 2

Taranaki King Country  candidate Barbara Kuriger looks very different from retiring MP Shane Adern.

Both women were selected in a transparent and democratic process by members in the electorate.

And while both look very different from the men they are working very hard to replace they do share their National Party values, commitment to their electorates and strong desire to serve them well.

The problem with gender balance is not National’s fair and democratic selection process.

As a party insider I can say unequivocally that there is no preconceived notion of any typical MP look-alike among members. In any selections I’ve been involved in, delegates didn’t care about gender they were seeking to get the best people for the job.

One reason other parties have a better gender balance is that they have more list MPs.

Good list MPs work hard. But electorate MPs have less choice about the demands on their time and energy and women who want a more active role in parenting can find it too difficult to balance them both.

Parliament and life as an MP aren’t family-friendly.

Improving that would do more to help attract more women than reducing democracy within the National Party.


Valedictory roster

June 19, 2014

Parliament’s Business Committee has released the roster for valedictory speeches from retiring MPs:

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Cam Calder

4.15pm – 4.30pm John Hayes

4.30pm – 4.45pm Chris Auchinvole

4.45pm – 5.00pm Colin King

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Chris Tremain

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Kate Wilkinson

Thursday, 24 July 2014

4.45pm – 5.00pm Dr Rajen Prasad

5.00pm – 5.15pm Darien Fenton

5.15pm – 5.30pm Hon Dr Pita Sharples

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tariana Turia

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

(At the conclusion of the General Debate)

4.00pm – 4.15pm Dr Paul Hutchison

4.15pm – 4.30pm Hon Phil Heatley

4.30pm – 4.45pm Eric Roy

4.45pm – 5.00pm Shane Ardern

5.00pm – 5.15pm Hon Tau Henare

5.15pm – 5.30pm H V Ross Robertson

5.30pm – 5.45pm Hon Tony Ryall

The Herald opined that valedictories should be the preserve of “deserving” MPs:

No fewer than 14 National MPs are retiring at the coming election, plus a couple from other parties. While the turnover is refreshing for public life, it carries a cost if every departee gives a valedictory address. . . .

Few voters could name many of those retiring this year. Many are leaving because they have not been able to make much impact and accept that they should give others a chance. More credit to them, but valedictory time should be reserved for those who have made their mark and will be missed.

That is very ungracious and also shows a depressing level of ignorance about the role of MPs.

Most of the good work MPs do never makes the headlines, much of it can’t because it’s helping people over matters which must remain private.

Maiden speeches and valedictories are among the best speeches given.

All MPs deserve the opportunity to do one and in doing so show their work and parliament in a far better light than it’s normally portrayed.


More money not always solution

February 20, 2014

When National won the 2008 election it inherited Labour’s forecast of a decade of deficits.

Careful management has turned that round in spite of the economic and natural disasters with which the government has had to deal.

The careful balance between economic management and provision of services to those in need was explained during question time yesterday:

3. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government balancing its focus on responsibly managing its finances with addressing some of the most challenging social issues facing vulnerable families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has been clear since it became the Government that the 50 percent jump in Government spending in the 5 years to 2008 was unsustainable. In setting a path back to surplus, we rejected the option of aggressively cutting spending. Instead, we took the time to understand the drivers of existing spending and whether the spending was delivering results, and to ensure that results were delivered. At the same time, we put significant resourcing and effort into improving the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly children. We are not doing that by throwing taxpayers’ money around indiscriminately. We are attempting to resolve the complex and persistent problems that mean some of our children have lives that sap their sense of opportunity.

Shane Ardern: What are some of the social issues the Government is addressing to improve the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has set out what it believes those social issues are, but, more than that, it is publishing results in order that the public can hold us and the public service to account for achieving something for the most vulnerable New Zealanders. The Better Public Services targets are particularly challenging because they cover some of New Zealand’s most persistent problems, like long-term welfare dependency, vulnerable children and the amount of violence that they suffer, the need to build skills and employment so these young New Zealanders have real opportunities, and also crime reduction and making our communities safer. Overall, we are making good progress towards meeting these results and further updates will be published tomorrow.

Shane Ardern: What kinds of social issues affecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders did this Government inherit in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There were a number of long-standing social issues making the lives of New Zealanders miserable in 2008. They are set out clearly in the Salvation Army’s state of the nation report of February 2008. It said: “The social outcomes which we as New Zealanders have achieved over the past five years”—that is, under the previous Labour-led Government—“were somewhat mixed and in some areas quite disappointing.” The report noted that in 2008 more children appeared to be at risk of harm, more young people were engaged in petty crime, there was more violent crime, and the number of people going to jail was rising at a significant rate. I do not think that any of those trends could be seen as progress. The Salvation Army noted in 2008 that New Zealand households were chronically indebted.

Shane Ardern: What else do reports say about the serious social challenges facing New Zealanders when this Government took office, and particularly the fiscal policy approach to dealing with those issues?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Salvation Army said in its report in 2008 that perhaps the most disappointing aspect was that New Zealand had invested huge amounts of money in core areas of social spending but the spending seemed to have contributed very little to New Zealand’s social progress. This was not said by the then Opposition’s spokespeople; this was from the people from the Salvation Army. The report listed billions of taxpayers’ dollars that had been spent, and then listed many indicators that were going backwards—rising numbers of referrals to Child, Youth and Family Services, more children in Child, Youth and Family Services care, rising youth offending, rising teenage pregnancy and abortion rates, continuing educational inequality, and early childhood enrolment rates lower than 65 percent. Funnily enough, in 2014, almost all of these indicators are turning positive, when the Government has been very careful about its spending but instead has focused on its effectiveness.

It’s an issue of quality rather than quantity.

More money isn’t always the solution to social problems.

While the Labour-led government of the noughties spent more social indicators worsened.

By looking at causes and focussing on effectiveness the government is achieving more without throwing taxpayers’ money into a black hole where it makes no difference.


Rural round-up

January 4, 2014

MP: Tractor protest well worth it – Sue O’Dowd:

The retiring politician who once drove a tractor up the steps of Parliament would do it all again.

Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern famously gunned the tractor called Myrtle up Parliament’s steps in a 2003 protest against the Labour Government’s proposed flatulence tax on ruminants. It was later described as the single most effective protest in scuttling what was deemed an idiotic proposal.

Today Ardern is still incensed the Government sacked eminent ruminant scientists conducting research into harnessing methane emission to improve production, even as it was proposing to tax those emissions.

“The scientists were working on something that would potentially overcome the problem, but the Labour Government sacked them because it wanted to introduce a tax on the productive sector that drives the economy of New Zealand.

“It was a lie and it still is a lie. [The proposed tax] was nothing to do with environmental problems. It was about getting extra revenue from the productive sector and it was about wealth redistribution. . .

Fonterra scare could have been prevented– Catherine Harris:

The botched Fonterra botulism scare in August last year might have been prevented if an independent food safety centre had existed, a top toxicologist says.

Professor Ian Shaw, of the University of Canterbury, is among those to welcome the idea of a $5 million food safety centre, which was recommended last month by a government inquiry into New Zealand’s food safety systems.

Shaw, who has chaired a food safety body in the UK, said the Government’s proposal was “a bloody good idea”.

If there had been a food safety centre in place when the Fonterra scare occurred, the test results might have been known more quickly and the false alarm possibly avoided, he said. . .

Sheep injures man:

A man has been airlifted to Palmerston North Hospital with serious chest injuries after being ‘‘rammed’’ by a sheep on a farm north of Hunterville.

Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter pilot Lance Burns said the man did not appear to have been trampled but had obviously been headbutted relatively hard by the sheep.

It was thought he was in a pen with the sheep at the time of the incident.

He stabilised by St John paramedics on board the rescue helicopter and arrived at Palmerston North Hospital in a serious condition. . .

DOC targets rats to help save struggling bats – Neil Ratley:

The Department of Conservation is going in to bat for a critically endangered mammal species in Fiordland.

A low count of long-tailed bats in the Kepler Mountains is prompting DOC to design and undertake rat control to protect the rare species.

The rat control will emulate that undertaken by DOC in the Eglington Valley, the only other known long-tailed bat habitat in Fiordland.

There was excitement surrounding the discovery of the long-tailed bat colony near the Kepler track in December 2011, with DOC staff estimating the population was close to 70. . .

The Myth About Seed Choice – Foodie Farmer:

I recently had a twitter conversation on a topic that seemed to perpetuate an urban myth – that farmers do not have a choice when it comes to planting seed or that seed companies “impose” their seeds on farmers, as if it is a dictatorship… Last time I checked, America was a pretty free country. Most people are able to make choices on what they buy at the store… So why would that be different for farmers?

As a family farm, we grow both GMO (we don’t actually use this term but for the sake of this blog, am using it for the reader for whom it may be a descriptor) and non-GMO crops and choose our seed produced from a variety of different seed companies, buying directly from our neighbors, which frankly, is the whole point of the fabric of rural America. We support one another. . .

Donkey meat contamination scare in China’s Walmart – Horsetalk:

Several Walmart outlets in China have withdrawn “five-spice donkey meat” after tests revealed the presence of fox meat.

The company is helping authorities in eastern Shandong province investigate the Chinese supplier.

Walmart confirmed it found traces of DNA from animals other than donkey after testing the product. The Shandong Food and Drug Administration had been reported as saying the product contained fox meat. . .


Shane Ardern to retire

December 3, 2013

Taranaki-King Country MP Shane Ardern has announced he won’t seek re-election next year.

“I have decided to stand down at the next election. I know that I leave with the country in safe hands, under the excellent leadership of John Key as Prime Minister,” Mr Ardern said.

“It is a privilege to serve the electorate of Taranaki-King Country, which is a large rural electorate stretching from Stratford to Hamilton International Airport.

I entered politics because, as a farmer, I am passionate about representing and standing up for rural New Zealanders, and ensuring they have a voice in Wellington. “But at next year’s election it will be sixteen years since I was first elected. Now it is time to spend more time with my family and return to farming full-time. Family and farming is where my heart lies.”

Mr Ardern was first elected in a by-election in 1998. Despite boundary changes he has increased his majority, receiving nearly 70 per cent of the vote in 2011.

“As Chair of the Primary Production Select Committee, Chair of National’s agriculture caucus, and through my work on a number of other select committees, I have worked on policies that have helped drive New Zealand’s economic recovery. These have assisted our farming communities and the towns and businesses that rely so heavily on the success of our primary industries.

“It has given me great satisfaction to see policies I have worked on – particularly in the dairy industry, biosecurity, forestry, and rural New Zealand – passed into law. “Between now and the election, I will continue to work hard for the people of Taranaki-King Country and continue my focus on agriculture and our rural communities.

“I am immensely proud to represent the people in Taranaki-King Country. Thank you for your support. As an electorate MP, it is your vote and your belief in me that is the opinion I value the most. This is the best electorate in New Zealand.”

Shane is probably best known as the MP who drove a tractor up the steps of parliament during protests against the fart tax.

As an electorate MP he will have helped countless people in many ways which never make the headlines but make a difference to them.

Taranaki- King Country is the biggest North Island general electorate and solidly blue.


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