Quote of the day

August 9, 2018

Investment is crucial. Because the truth is, you only get jobs and growth in the economy when people invest money, at their own risk, in setting up a business or expanding an existing business. –  Sir John Key who celebrates his 57th birthday today.

August 9 in history

August 9, 2018

48 BC Battle of Pharsalus – Julius Caesar decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus and Pompey fled to Egypt.

378 Gothic War: Battle of Adrianople – A large Roman army led by Emperor Valens was defeated by the Visigoths. Valens and more than half his army were killed.

681 Bulgaria was founded as a Khanate on the south bank of the Danube.

1173 Construction of the Tower of Pisa began.

1483 Opening of the Sistine Chapel.

1631 John Dryden, English Poet Laureate, was born (d. 1700).

1814  Indian Wars: The Creek signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson, giving up huge parts of Alabama and Georgia.

1842  Webster-Ashburton Treaty was signed, establishing the United States-Canada border east of the Rocky Mountains.

1854  Henry David Thoreau published Walden.

1862  Battle of Cedar Mountain – General Stonewall Jackson narrowly defeated Union forces under General John Pope.

1877 Battle of Big Hole – A small band of Nez Percé Indians clash with the United States Army.

1892 Thomas Edison received a patent for a two-way telegraph.

1896  Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist, was born (d. 1980)

1899  P. L. Travers, Australian author, was born  (d. 1996).

1902  Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark were crowned King and Queen of the United Kingdom.

1908 The Great White Fleet – 16 American battleships and their escorts, under the command of Admiral C. S. Sperry – arrived in Auckland.

US 'Great White Fleet' arrives in Auckland

1922 Philip Larkin, English poet, was born (d. 1985).

1925  Kakori train robbery.

1930 George Nepia played his last test for the All Blacks.

George Nepia plays last All Blacks test

1936  Games of the XI Olympiad: Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal at the games becoming the first American to win four medals in one Olympiad.

1942 Mahatma Gandhi was arrested in Bombay by British forces, launching the Quit India Movement.

1942 Battle of Savo Island – Allied naval forces protecting their amphibious forces during the initial stages of the Battle of Guadalcanal are surprised and defeated by an Imperial Japanese Navy cruiser force.

1944  The United States Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council release posters featuring Smokey Bear for the first time.

1944 Continuation war: Vyborg–Petrozavodsk Offensive, the largest offensive launched by Soviet Union against Finland during Second World War, ended in strategic stalemate. Both Finnish and Soviet troops at Finnish front dug to defensive positions, and the front remained stable until the end of the war.

1945  The atomic bomb, “Fat Man“, was dropped on Nagasaki. 39,000 people were killed outright.

1949 Jonathan Kellerman, American writer, was born.

1961 Sir John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, was born.

John Key, in a visit to Brazil, 2013

1963  Whitney Houston, American singer and actress, was born (d. 2012).

1965  Singapore seceded from Malaysia and gained independence.

1965  A fire at a Titan missile base near Searcy, Arkansas killed 53 construction workers.

1969  Members of a cult led by Charles Manson brutally murdered pregnant actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish actorWojciech Frykowski, men’s hairstylist Jay Sebring, and recent high-school graduate Steven Parent.

1971  Internment in Northern Ireland: British security forces arrested hundreds of nationalists and detain them without trial in Long Kesh prison. Twenty people died in the riots that followed.

1974  Richard Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office. His Vice President, Gerald Ford, became president.

1977  The military-controlled Government of Uruguay announced that it will return the nation to civilian rule through general elections in 1981 for a President and Congress.

1993  The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan lost a 38-year hold on national leadership.

1999 Russian President Boris Yeltsin fired his Prime Minister, Sergei Stepashin, and for the fourth time fired his entire cabinet.

1999  The Diet of Japan enacted a law establishing the Hinomaru and Kimi Ga Yo as the official national flag and national anthem.

2001  US President George W. Bush announced his support for federal funding of limited research on embryonic stem cells.

2006 – At least 21 suspected terrorists were arrested in the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot in the UK.

2007  Emergence of the Financial crisis of 2007-2008 when a liquidity crisis resulted from the Subprime mortgage crisis.

2014 – Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, was shot and killed by a police officer, sparking protests and unrest in the city.

Sourced from NZ History Online &  Wikipedia

Confidence plummets

July 31, 2018

Labour, NZ First and the Green Party haven’t even been in government for a year and already business confidence has droppedto the second lowest in the OECD.

New Zealand has tumbled from top to bottom of the OECD business confidence rankings with the most recent data revealing New Zealand has the second lowest level of business confidence in the developed world, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“Given the high level of political uncertainty around the world it is a shocking revelation that New Zealand – typically a haven of political and economic stability – has the second lowest level of business confidence in the OECD.

“In 2016 New Zealand was the second highest in the OECD with 33 of the 35 countries beneath us. Now everyone except South Korea is ahead of us. To have fallen so far in such a short space of time is a damning reflection of this Government’s economic management.

“It is clear the Government’s low-growth policies are having a major impact, and are driving New Zealand’s appallingly low business confidence – though the Government is still refusing to acknowledge that.

“Policies such as industrial relations reforms, increased costs on small businesses via minimum wage increases and higher fuel taxes as well as the banning of oil and gas exploration, have all been bad for business sentiment and the economy.

“We want businesses confident so they can invest for growth, hire more people, and increase wages. That is how Kiwi families get ahead.

“With this Government’s dismissive and reckless approach to the economy, it’s no wonder we are again beginning to see more Kiwis heading overseas to greener pastures as opportunities here in New Zealand dry up.”


Businesses are generally still reasonably confident about their own outlook, but how long will it be before lack of confidence in the wider economy impacts on their decisions?

Increases in fuel taxes and the minimum wage, the prospect of a return to 1970s industrial relations and the strife that will accompany that, and the unilateral decision to end oil and gas exploration are all taking their toll on confidence.

Deteriorating  relations with Australia, our second business trading partner, add to causes for concern on the domestic front.

Sir John Key warns of clouds on the international horizon too:

. . .”We’re at the end of what I’d say is the economic cycle at the moment. There’s no question that when I look around the world and the things I’m now involved in internationally, you can start to see the pressure in the system,” Key said. 

“I was in China a week ago, it’s clear their economy is really starting to splutter a little bit. While the United States economy is doing well, they’re running massive, massive deficits – 7 per cent of GDP. Europe’s obviously much weaker than it was.

“So I think you are starting to see a slowdown in the economy and I think that, in part, reflects the business confidence numbers in New Zealand, and I think in part New Zealand businesses are looking at what the Government’s doing and they’re uncertain about that.” 

Low business confidence numbers could not be ignored, but Key said he hoped the economy remained strong “because every day, New Zealanders rely on it”.

“If doesn’t, then I think the right political party to lead the country wouldn’t be the one that’s currently there,” Key said. . .

A sluggish economy isn’t just a problem for business it’s a problem for everyone and should it get worse, businesses need confidence that the government will handle it well.

The current one has given plenty of grounds for concern that it won’t.

Running a business is full of risks and uncertainties and business people need confidence in their own outlook and the wider environment if they are to take the risks necessary to grow rather than stand still or retrench.

Business confidence doesn’t matter only for individual operations. It’s important for security of employment and a vibrant and growing economy.

That in turn is necessary to fund the infrastructure and services we don’t just want but need.

An open letter to the National caucus

February 14, 2018

Dear National MPs,

Bill English leaves the party and caucus in very good shape.

Please don’t let personal ambition and internal politicking put that at risk.

Party rules leave choosing the leader up to you.

I’m happy with that. I don’t want the projected and public messing about Labour’s rules subjected it to when Andrew Little became leader without caucus support.

Nor do I want you to make any of the other mistakes Labour made for most of its time in opposition.

The National caucus has been united and almost leak-free since John Key became leader. Please keep it that way during the leadership selection and more importantly once the new leadership team is in place.


Voters punished Labour’s dysfunction for good reasons.

Please learn from that and get the right leader the first time.

Once you have that leader, give her or him your loyalty and direct all your energy to developing policy and preparing for a return to government.

Stardust might make good copy for shallow media but it can’t magically solve problems in health, education, the economy, welfare and security which is what really matter to people.

One-term governments are rare.

If you pick the right leader and work as a cohesive and united team with him or her, the current one could be.

Yours sincerely and hopefully,

A National volunteer.




National’s 10 big achievements

November 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Building a more productive, diverse and competitive economy

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

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

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

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

3. Dealing with the Canterbury earthquakes

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

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

4. Significant reductions in child poverty

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

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

5. The Better Public Services programme and Social Investment

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

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

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

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

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

7. Reforms to welfare to reward independence and work

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Treaty of Waitangi Settlements

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

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

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

10. A turnaround in net migration

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

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

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

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

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

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



Chester Borrows’ valedictory statement

August 20, 2017

Whanganui MP and Deputy Speaker Chester Borrows delivered his valedictory statement this week:

Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Deputy Speaker—National): Tēnā koe e Te Māngai o Te Whare Pāremata. Kia ora mai tātou, tēnā tātou katoa. When I came to National from Labour, it was out of spite, but, like any convert, I became more zealous than many born to it. Maybe that is why the worst insult you can offer me is to call me a Tory. I joined the party in 1987 after my party, Labour, had moved so far to the right it was unrecognisable and the National Party had moved almost equally to the left—they had swapped sides. I had recently had my hopes of farming dashed by pressures of Labour’s reforms in the banking industry and the removal of assistance for farmers, which had been put in place post the UK moving into the European Economic Community. I scurried off back to the police and found myself as a sole-charge country cop in Pātea.

The then Minister of Labour had recently decided unemployment was getting too expensive. Instead of continuing the Work for the Dole and Public Employment Project scheme, which kept a lot of our troubled unemployed busy through the day and too buggered to play up at night, Labour decided it would can the scheme and just pay out the benefit because it was too expensive to administer. I knew it would turn to custard on the first day. Black Power decided to have a big booze-up to celebrate, and that developed into a huge scrap that I had to deal with alone. As I walked up to the melee, I thought to myself “Where the hell are you now, Prebble?”, and I resolved, surrealistic as it may seem, to join the National Party and teach the Labour Party a lesson.

People join political parties for many different reasons!

A couple of weeks later, Neil Walker—who is somewhere in the gallery—knocked on my door while canvassing on behalf of Venn Young. I gave him $2 and joined the National Party, and I doubt that anybody in the Labour Party noticed. I do not want over-egg it, but I like to think that some of them have now. The funny thing is that for the next two elections I went into the booth and at the critical time I just could not tick the right box. Shamefully, some other third-party candidate got my squandered vote. I get accused of being in the wrong party by both parties.

It was quite a revelation to finally become an MP in 2005 and to see many of the faces from Lange’s Cabinet, and Labour candidates who in 1990 had campaigned solidly on Rogernomics, trying hard to extricate themselves from any connection whatsoever and swimming like crayfish backwards. In response to yet another assertion that National has only ever been interested in corruptly feathering the nests of its donors and does not care about the impoverished, I remember bellowing across the House in a general debate that Labour needs to keep its voters poor and pissed off so it will have someone to blame. My old mate Rajen Prasad was absolutely disgusted that I could say such a thing, but there it is—that is the House.

In the end, it seems to me that the right is about aspiration, accountability, and expectation and the left is about patronising, blaming, and excusing actions and behaviour. It is not what happens to us in life but it is how we respond to it.

Our “class of 2005” came into Parliament in Opposition, and we all agree that it was the best way to start a career in this place. Our seniors had long decided that they had been there long enough and had moved from grievance mode into looking like an alternative Government. I remember my daughter Katy sent me a note on the first day, wishing me all the best and advising me not to let the big kids push me around.

I worked with Simon Power in the Justice and Electoral, and Law and Order Committees. He told us one day—I cannot do a very good Simon Power imitation, but it was something like: “They are not your friends. Labour’s got our jobs. You new guys just don’t hate them enough.” Funnily enough, we soon learnt that he himself regarded all members pretty well and was well regarded by all members, and I sought to take a leaf out of his book. I recall a line from his valedictory when he said “I came here to do things, not to be things.”, and I resolved to try to do the same.

In Opposition, I was appointed the police and youth justice spokesman. Anne Tolley and I spent several months working on policies that we would introduce in Government. When we visited the youth residence at Rolleston we found that 80 percent of the youth were there for their third, fourth, or fifth sentences of the maximum 3 months. This allowed them to be released long enough to re-offend and create new victims, before being sentenced again on another short, pointless, custodial sentence. Our policies included expanding the sentences available to the Youth Court and allowing for drug and alcohol, literacy and numeracy, anti-violence, other supervision sentences—such as supervision with activity and military activity camps (MAC camps)—and special conditions, all to be bolted on to a sentence such as supervision with residence.

The day John Key announced these policies he made it clear that a MAC camp was not a boot camp with some grumpy old sergeant major screaming at young offenders but precisely aimed at the complex needs of kids who offend and had been labelled “ticking time bombs” by the Principal Youth Court Judge. The next day the Dominion Post had Tom Scott’s cartoon of John Key in a sergeant major’s uniform calling a kid a scumbag. It fitted the purpose of the media and the Opposition, and I see from this week that nothing changes. Nevertheless, these changes halved the number of youth being sent to the District Court for sentencing, and have been independently attributed to drastically reducing youth offending. Just because a programme uses military premises and role models does not make it a paragon of a failed system. Youth passing through MAC camps who did go on to reoffend did so less frequently and less severely, and wanted desperately to stay on rather than go back to their homes because, for the first time in their lives, people were invested in them, cared about them, and wanted them to succeed for no selfish reason. History has shown there has been a marked drop-off in the number of youth appearing before the courts, and a decline in offending, albeit serious offences are still committed by youth as they always have been, sadly.

One of my accomplishments was to convince our justice team that we could collect a DNA swab without a warrant in the same way that we collect fingerprints and photographs incidental to arrest. Previous to this time, we needed a separate warrant from a judge to be able to collect DNA. This simple change meant that any time an offender left skin, hair, semen, saliva, or blood at a crime scene, they could be identified. That ability has probably allowed for early identification and arrest, and prevented the victimisation of thousands of people.

I believe this Government has made some response for the inequities of our justice system so far, but that does not mean there is not stuff that we could do better. The first is to recognise who we are dealing with. I recall speaking at a Sensible Sentencing Trust conference once and having been challenged to put victims at the centre of the justice system. I responded that they were at the centre of the justice system and some of them were standing in the dock. That did not go down too well—but the truth hurts.

As Minister for Courts, Associate Minister of Justice, and Associate Minister for Social Development, I had the opportunity to apply myself in portfolios that I believed in, and had some experience with, prior to coming to Parliament. I think my Ministries’ greatest frustration was that I knew too much about the portfolios and was happy to turn up—in the Tony Ryall sense—unannounced, any time, anywhere. I was at a loose end in Christchurch once and wandered into the District Court and sat in the back row of the public gallery to have a listen. I had trouble hearing proceedings so I leaned back and closed my eyes, trying to concentrate on what was being said. A big burley policewoman tapped me on the shoulder and told me I could not sleep there. I told her to make it interesting and I would do my best to stay awake. A few minutes later, I had a nervous little court manager sitting beside me.

We expanded audio-visual links quite rapidly, which saved a lot of prisoner movements and the threat of violence that accompanies the cramped transport and accommodation of prisoners to court appearances. I have a vision for Skype-type courts, as it seems wrong to me that we can communicate across the planet on Skype, but not within a courtroom in the same country, or even city. For administrative hearings or standard tariff guilty pleas, why can a lawyer and their client not appear by Skype from the lawyer’s office?

I also initiated a trial in the North Shore District Court to place the defendant alongside their counsel, just a couple of metres in front of the judge. This was to get around the ridiculous situation where the alleged offender is 10 to 15 metres away from his counsel and the judge, and not even part of the conversation in a hearing that, for those few minutes, is all about him. It also took account of the fact that the most frequently asked question at the end of any court case in this country is: “What the hell just happened?”. It does not look remotely like justice to me. The trouble is, much of our business in courts is conducted in a foreign language to those appearing before it. Some judges and counsel are very good at using plain English and taking time to engage with defendants, but many are not. At the end of the North Shore District Court trial nobody except the now ex-Minister and the defendants liked the reconfiguration, so nothing happened, but I think we missed a chance that we should have taken to make justice a little more real.

We had the opportunity to make big changes while I had the three hats of Courts and youth justice policy and practice, and so constructed the Youth Crime Action Plan, which built a framework of policy and precedents for engaging with troubled youth for the next ten years. It recognised that we needed to work across agencies: in this case Justice, Police, Corrections, Ministry of Social Development, Te Puni Kōkiri, Health, and Education. We have a plan and the test has been to see it implemented across portfolios, but these things need to be driven. It is very easy to wait Ministers out and then revert to business as usual within agencies, and that is a shame. Trying to get agencies to stop thinking in silos and pretending that whatever great initiative they have should not have to come from their budgets was tricky. People just pay tax. Politicians and bureaucrats divide it up into various buckets and guard them with their lives.

It is always important to see the irony and humour in any situation, and in politics it is the same. Having a sense of humour is key to not taking oneself too seriously. One of the debates I got stuck into early on was to run the conservative line on anti-smacking—the repeal of section 59. I drafted an amendment with the help of the Law Commission, which, on the face of it, looked like a pretty ugly amendment because it virtually prescribed a method for smacking your kids—but at least it would have been clear. It all ended when I heard on the radio that John Key had done a deal with Helen Clark. I was told to withdraw my Supplementary Order Paper (SOP), but that did not stop Rodney Hide crossing out my name and writing his, so I had to vote against my own SOP on the same day that I withdrew it.

Later on, John Boscawen came in to Parliament with the untimely departure of David Garrett—and I do not know if his demise was more ironic or humorous, but it was bloody funny at the time—and he promptly printed off my amendment, crossed out Hide’s name, and wrote his name on it, and I had the happy joy of voting against my handiwork for a second time. In hindsight, the changes are working well and parents are much better at finding other ways of correcting their children than with violence. Fewer children are assaulted, although our serious child assault statistics remain appalling. Sometimes Parliament has to take the lead.

Around that time, I was involved with raising some money for a local wildlife reserve at Lake Rotokare. I got John Key, Bill English, and Nick Smith to paint a painting—under close supervision in my office. They were going to sign it themselves and everything. So they dutifully did exactly what they had to do, and while we chatting away, John, for some reason, loaded up his brush with some bright red paint and drew a diagonal line from one corner to the other and then just put two sploshes of paint in each corner. I said “What the hell did you do that for?” and he said—I do not “do” John Key very well—”I think it looks pretty good, actually.” I told him he taken it from dark corner of the lounge to back of the dunny door. When it came to the auction, my very clever masterpiece, which I had sweated over for hours, sold for $530 and his went for $2,300. What the hell do I know about art?

Chester is a very good artist.

I think one of the most enjoyable parts of being an MP is to see ourselves grow and our views change with more information and opportunity to rub shoulders with a different set of acquaintances. In 2014 I voted against gay marriage for reasons which were more legalistic than anything moral or principled. I thought the real debate was about gay adoption and that we should have debated that—I would have happily voted for gay adoption. Good parenting has got nothing to do with gender. But I have since been privileged to officiate as a celebrant at the wedding of a gay couple and recognise that people who love each other and form families are the backbone of a strong society. We should encourage them regardless. My view is that sometimes you just have to grow up, and I think I have—a bit.

I am proud of some of the achievements, such as securing integration of Wanganui Collegiate School, as failure to do so would have cost the city dearly. Working with Chris Finlayson, Maggie Barry, Nicola Williams, and Greg Anderson in securing the money to strengthen and renovate the Sarjeant Gallery is another project. Finally, seeing the Normanby alignment completed and opened was another, and smaller wins on behalf of constituents fighting against bureaucracy are just as rewarding.

Working with constituents is always rewarding, but sometimes challenging. I have enjoyed cutting through red tape, which has opened the doors for people needing surgery and for businesses wanting to expand and employ more staff. I worked to get some compensation by way of ex gratia payment from Cabinet for the Berryman family, after several attempts before that had proven unsuccessful, and also for a police officer devastated by post-traumatic stress disorder.

I think of the battles that my Whanganui-based executive assistant (EA), Viv Chapman, has led on my behalf with Immigration, ACC, and the Ministry of Health, and getting in up to her elbows and knees in the lives of people to help get an operation, a visa to reunite a family, to make life better for an older person, or to get a house for a young mum who has just run up against a brick wall. We really do make a difference. Viv is also just as likely to turn up with a trailer load of firewood for a client. Viv, like rust, never sleeps.

I have had a number of run-ins with my former colleagues, you will be surprised to know—

Hon Members.: Ha, ha!

Hon CHESTER BORROWS: My colleagues in the Police, rather, over the years. I have had a few run-ins with you lot too, actually. It all started with the Police when I went from policeman to defence counsel. I was congratulated by my new colleagues for stepping into the light; the others thought I had gone to the dark side. Anyway, I picked up my fair share of speeding tickets, but when I became a member of Parliament, with my name and face all over my car, I became a real target.

The most high-profile incident, of course, was when I apparently ran over the toes of the aptly named Ms Treadwell—she did not, did she—when I had Minister Paula Bennett in the car. Thankfully, the matter was recorded in vivid technicolour by the media, and it is the first and only time I will say: “Thank God for the media.” I was tempted to quip that she should never had got between Paula Bennett and a shoe shop, but that was inappropriate and was not true. I was more annoyed than worried about the prosecution, but to have the Police running around soliciting Crown prosecutors on the Thursday and Friday before the Monday trial was a bit over the top. I am grateful for the support, though, that I had from MPs across the House and from my caucus who paid over half the bill.

I recall another case when a young mum was suffering from a condition that meant that she desperately needed gastric bypass surgery. She was 205 kilograms, 25 years old, and had been told that if she did not have surgery quickly, she would pass away. I lobbied the district health board (DHB) for surgery but it refused. I gave the matter some publicity and eventually the Korean Government stepped up and offered to fly her to Korea for the surgery that she needed. She had the surgery and returned with no ill effects, and she has now lost her weight, maintains good health, and has had two new children since the operation. I only wish the Whanganui DHB could take credit for that.

I got a scathing email from someone calling on me to stop helping people out who should be helping themselves. No doubt, this guy is built like a Norwegian racing sardine. He said the woman just needed to eat less and exercise more, so I responded with a one-word email: “Idiot”. My wife, Ella, absolutely bollocked me and said: “What the hell are you going to do if this turns up on the front page of the Dominion?”. I said: “Look, there are idiots out there and we have a duty to tell them before they start playing with matches and running with scissors.”

Finally, I want to say thanks to all those whom I have been privileged to work with in Parliament, in Government, and in caucus. I want to thank you, Mr Speaker—David—for making this role fun. I do not think anyone comes into Parliament aspiring to be the Deputy Speaker. It is generally offered as a compromise or tarted up as a compliment in lieu of the job you really wanted. But thanks for your leadership and friendship, and the leadership and friendship of your team—and friends—Roland, Lisa, and Oliver.

Thanks to Sir John Key and the Rt Hon Bill English for their leadership in standards and discipline, which has kept our party on a straight course and heading into another election in good nick—confident but not cocky. Thanks for the opportunities given and the team spirit generated from that strong leadership.

Thanks to my caucus mates, especially the “class of ’05”, for the fun we have had and the gains we have made. I am relying on classmates to delete certain video clips of certain re-enactments—Coleman. At class drinks on a Wednesday night, it will be straight home for me from now on. I especially want to single out in the House my cousins Chris Finlayson and Annette King. I was absolutely convinced I was the favourite cousin of both of them until recently, but I am prepared to concede it is a three-way tie.

To my electorate team chairs like Neil Walker, Gerard Langford, David Bennett, the late Paul Mitchell, Jan Bullen, and Katrina Warren, and all the campaigners, confidants, supporters, and donors—many, many thanks for your care, love, support, and wise counsel.

To all my staff who have become friends over many years—Viv Chapman, Sue Turahui, Marie Stowe, and Kath Weir in the electorate offices; EAs Kristy Ortel, Kate Pullar, Hannah Hammad, Carla Hemmes, Vasoula Kappatos, Orphee Mickalad, and Rob Webb; my senior private secretary, “Captain” Marie Morgan; Frances Kerei, Oliver Searle, Richard Beresford, Lo’l Vole, Casey Freeman, Rachel Sutherland, Amy Smith, Logan Morton, Michael Warren, and Rachel Crawley—it has been magic working with you. The fact that the old ministerial office still gets together and has breakfast once a month—or about once a month—is a huge compliment. Thanks so much.

To those who make this place tick in the Office of the Clerk—the Table Office, Hansard—Parliamentary Service, VIP Transport Service, and Ministerial Services, a big thanks. To security staff and Chamber security—thank you so much, especially to Jenny Ng who has been such an encouragement in respect of my painting.

I want to thank the media for generally being available. It is usually the other way around, but it is part of our job to get oxygen for the stories we want to get up—as you have been pretty obliging, I want to say thanks. There was the odd story I wish had not got up and got legs, but it was usually at times when I had opened my mouth to change feet, so no hard feelings. I think about the odd quip in select committees about policing in Wairoa; about health and safety, Mike; about depositions hearings, Simon; about the Rt Hon Winston Peters at other times. On occasions these stories have led me to apologise to the caucus for saying what I really thought. On other occasions we have ended up in a better space. I have often wondered why the media and politicians do not get on better than we do, bearing in mind we are equally hated, mistrusted, and misunderstood by the public. We hardly exist without the other and we eat each other’s lunches to survive.

I want to thank tangata whenua who have steered and guided me in many ways that have led to a far greater understanding of who I am as a Pākehā—actually, of who I am as Chester Borrows. I enjoy a warm friendship with iwi of the Taranaki and Whanganui, for which I am most grateful, and especially to Dame Tariana Turia, for her aroha, wise counsel, and the odd telling remark. From the time I turned up as 28-year-old still-wet-behind-the-ears policeman in Pātea, until today as a 60-year-old, you have walked alongside me, you have steered me generously, and I thank you so much for that. You have changed the way I am and will be forever.

I want to give a nod to the mayors and the councils of the electorates with whom I have always had a good working relationship. For a while the most frequently asked question I was asked as the member of Parliament for Whanganui was: “How do you get on with Michael Laws?”. I can honestly say that we got on very well and he helped me immensely. Michael tried very hard to keep the “h” out of Whanganui and when he could not, he got the “f” out of Whanganui. But I do miss the challenges and the conversations that we had and hope we can catch up soon. To the others: Mary Bourke, Ross Dunlop, Neil Volzke, Annette Main, and my old combatant Hamish McDouall—thanks for your collaboration and all that you do for our communities. To my successor, Hārete Hīpango, I wish you all the best in your new role as MP for Whanganui.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Most importantly, I want to thank my wife, of whom I am very proud. She stood by and watched the germ of this dream through its execution and now completion. Ella has always encouraged me to have a crack at my next biggest ambition whatever it was—within the Police, farming, back to the Police, politics, the law, back to politics, and who knows what now, after completing some commissioned paintings and a few odd jobs around the house. Thanks for everything.

My kids, Abi, Katy, and Zac, and their partners, Mike, James, and Kristina, I am so grateful that you never got on the news for the wrong stuff—not like your father. In spite of all the missed events over the past 18 or so years, as I have either tried to get here or tried to stay here, we are still on good terms. I look forward to spending a lot more time with you, making up for lost opportunities.

To wider family and friends—I acknowledge that the public think that we live in a bubble without family members who get sick and need operations or die on waiting lists, and without friends who offend and go to jail or lose their jobs or lose their businesses, but we do not. I have lost my dad to cancer and I have lost my mum to dementia, and I miss them horribly. You friends have kept me real when many think that MPs have no tangible link with reality, and I apologise for neglecting you over the years and I look forward to re-acquaintance over a beer, the footy, at the beach, the pub, or at our place sometime soon.

Finally, in my maiden speech I quoted the scripture Micah 6:8, which says: “What does the Lord demand of you but that you love kindness, do justice, and walk humbly before your God.” It is for others to debate, or to pass judgment on, but I hope that I have lived up to that.

That is it. It is a privilege to give this valedictory; many do not get that opportunity. But the fish and chips are ordered and they will need to be wrapped in something. We all want to be remembered fondly, so I guess I will choose the manner to which I have become accustomed. As I said to my previous boss, Sir John Key: “I remain that loyal old Labrador you’ll never know whether to pat on the head or boot up the arse.”

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.


Hekia Parata’s valedictory statement

August 19, 2017

Hekia Parata delivered her valedictory statement this week:

Hon HEKIA PARATA (National):

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Today is a day of thanks. My performance as a member of Parliament and as a Minister is a matter of public record and for others to judge. I am leaving with a great sense of gratitude for the immense privilege it has been to serve, in this way, in this time, my fellow New Zealanders and our country. I am leaving satisfied with what I have been able to contribute, proud of a number of achievements, stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined I would have to be. I am leaving with huge optimism for our future and the settled conviction that I was blessed to have been born to these Pacific isles a New Zealander—well, a Ngati Porou woman New Zealander, to be absolutely accurate. I guess I was just lucky.

We, all of us, are the sons and daughters, descendants, of adventurers, navigators, visionaries, risk-takers, brave and tenacious people, with imagination, grit, and hope, who crossed Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, whether by whale, waka, ship, or plane, to make this place, Aotearoa New Zealand, their home. Ours is a small, smart, sassy nation, and all of us have a responsibility to our forebears and to those who come after us to make it even better.

I have enjoyed the great gift of being a part of this House of Representatives, and our Government, as we have taken up that responsibility. We have served 9 years as a National-led coalition Government to build a better New Zealand than we found it, and we have done that in many practical, significant, and measurable ways. All of those will be examined and judged over the coming weeks, and I trust that New Zealanders will value the unique blend of stability and competence, fresh ideas and the detail and experience to execute them that our team offers. I leave knowing that my place and those of my colleagues, who are also leaving, are filled by capable, energetic, and thoughtful people. We must constantly refresh if we are to stay relevant to New Zealand families, and I am proud that our caucus and new candidates reflect that challenge.

As our coalition separates for the battle ahead, I want to acknowledge our partners: United Future, ACT, and Te Pāti Maori, and to thank them for the support they have given me in the policy and legislative initiatives I have pursued. Ngā mihi.

To my parliamentary colleagues: thank you for being a part of the active democracy that New Zealand is and must always be, and for your commitment to making this the best country that it can possibly be. Tēnā koutou.

I found it extremely difficult preparing for this valedictory statement. It is a challenge to distil to a handful all the memories, to ensure all those who should be mentioned are, and that Hansard records a fitting end to my time here. The expectations feel very high. It reminds me of a time I was standing in the wings of the year 7 to 13—that would be form 1 to form 7—leadership conference in Taranaki, and I asked my 11-year-old introducer what he thought I should say. He looked up at me hopefully and asked: “Can you be funny?” In a nanosecond I could see he had written that possibility off and trudged on to the stage with me following in his wake—just so you know.

I am proud to be a member of the National Party, to have served in a National-led Government, and to make policy based on values of equal citizenship and equal opportunity, of individual freedom and choice, of personal accountability and responsibility, of competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement, and of limited Government and the challenge to create the conditions in our economy and our society so New Zealanders of whatever background have the opportunity to realise their potential. That is the essence of rangatiratanga, the kind I am interested in—the personal, practical, everyday kind where New Zealanders are self-determining, are in charge of their own lives, are able to make choices, and are able to live independent of the Government. I have always said I will leave the “tino” variety to iwi.

In my maiden speech almost 9 years ago I said that I wanted to contribute to developing quality citizenship for all New Zealanders, and a defining aspect of that would be the reduction of dependence on the State. I have been part of a Government that has, in response, focused on a strong and growing economy, the creation of new jobs, raising the level of qualifications and skills, finding new trade opportunities, investing in infrastructure, science, and innovation. None of that on its own sounds sexy or exciting, but unless we have those, we do not have the ingredients for the recipe of a sustainably better life. The other side of that is the social well-being and welfare of people. That is what our social investment approach led by the Prime Minister is about. To achieve equality of citizenship, there must be unequal resource and support for those most vulnerable, those least able to help themselves. We know better than ever who we need to help, and how we marshal the resources of the Government to do that. In turn we have seen a reduction in benefit dependence.

The binary nature of politics is that if you have not done absolutely everything, you are accused of not having done anything. Not true. We have done much, and there is much more to do, but in doing so we have to keep in mind the hard work of New Zealanders represented in their taxes and savings. I know that when promises are made to spend more it is not the “Government’s money” as so many assert. It is the teachers, and nurses, and policemen, the builders, the plumbers, the electricians, the businesses, small and big. It is my whānau, planting seedlings on eroding hillsides in drenching rain, or collecting hives in blistering heat, or fixing potholes and slips and drains, as logging truck drivers loop tediously along State Highway 35. That is whose money it is; not the Government’s. That is who we have to account to, and I have never lost sight of that as we have sought to make the best decisions with their money.

In my maiden speech I also said that I wanted to “join the crusade for literacy and numeracy and for a good-quality education for every New Zealand student.” I said that “We must adopt an uncompromising attitude that failure is not an option. All our other aspirations for economic growth, raised standards of living, and national confidence and pride will flow from getting these basics right.” And, of course, I had the tremendous opportunity as Minister of Education to carry out my 6-year crusade.

I came from a modest background. We did not own the home we grew up in. We never owned a car all the time we were growing up. With the change in our family circumstances, we were so grateful for a State house and my mother for the DPB, as it was then known. We worked before- and after-school jobs to support our family, and through it all we knew that getting a good education was the answer to a better life. Every opportunity I have had has arisen out of having that education, and hard work. That is why I have been so focused on rewiring our education system to make sure that every one of our young people gets the opportunity of the best education possible.

But before that, I held portfolios or associate responsibilities for Women’s Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, Energy and Resources, the Community and Voluntary Sector, and ACC. I learnt something from all of these, but Energy and Resources was the portfolio I learnt the most in, in understanding what a rich set of resources we have around and in our country. It was also the portfolio that got me pretty much excommunicated from my tuakana iwi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, for proceeding with the approval for exploration for oil and gas in the Raukūmara basin—somewhat awkward, given that we have a home there and we would have to drive past garages and fences saying bilingually just what an egg I was.

It was also during my stewardship that the Māui Gas pipeline went down, taking with it all the hot water in hotels and motels from Taupō North, turning off milking sheds, factories, and businesses across the same vast area. I learnt there was a protocol for the priority of who got reconnected first as the line became restored, and I was lobbied and lobbied. But in that process, I learnt that Sanitarium, Chelsea, and Fonterra were the necessary trifecta for half the country getting a good start to the day. And, of course, Orion energy made sure that it could restore power safely and methodically across Christchurch. One of the privileges one has as a Minister is to meet outstanding New Zealanders, and to see the skills and knowledge, ingenuity and good humour they bring to their everyday work, and most particularly in a crisis.

And then, I got Education. This was my dream job and the reason I ran for Parliament. When the then Prime Minister rang to tell me, I practically perforated his ear drum I was so excited. Apparently that has not often been the response to being offered the education portfolio. In addition, I was given the Pacific Island Affairs portfolio, and what an honour that was. Back when I was training to be a diplomat in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs—I know, when people think of me the first word that springs to mind is “diplomatic”—back then in the 1980s I was arguing for a more Pacific-centred policy, for New Zealand to see itself as part of the Pacific, not just on the other side of it.

I loved my time in the portfolio, meeting Pacific people, who were working so hard, who were committed to their children doing well, singing in church the way we did growing up, and producing some of the best sports men and women and increasingly excelling across the health sector in particular. I also learnt from this, together with the Ethnic Affairs portfolio, how real and alive the diverse cultures are that make up our communities and the richness this adds to all our lives. I think they also have more hui and longer hui than the Māori people do—just saying.

I want to thank our former Prime Minister the Rt Hon Sir John Key for his leadership. He brought a clinical set of decision-making tools to the job, together with a whole-hearted embrace of this country, a confidence about our place in the world, and an unshakeable optimism about what was possible. As a boss, he appointed you to a role, gave you general guidance, and trusted you to get on with it. That was at times both scary and exhilarating—probably for him as well as me. I want to record my thanks for his unflagging support.

It was the Prime Minister in 2013 who encouraged me to look at something big for education. Of course, it was the then Minister of Finance, the right honourable Prime Minister today, who had to be persuaded to fund it. And that, folks, is how we got what I think will truly be transformational for our education system: communities of learning or kāhui ako that keep everything that is special and different about individual schools and early learning centres but systematically joins them in a collaboration centred on the child and their 18-year learning pathway. It cost a shipload of money—$359 million, the biggest single social investment initiative we have made as a Government. It puts the emphasis on the student and their learning and achievement, and it creates 6,000 new roles for teachers and leaders. I want to put on record here my appreciation of the leadership role that the Post Primary Teachers’ Association took in this initiative. To be clear, peace did not then break out; we did continue to argue and disagree about other things.

I also want to thank the many teachers and education leaders who not only have embraced this opportunity but every day bring care and commitment, capability and competence, fun and innovation to the children and young people in their centres and classrooms. We have some of the best educators and education practices in the world, and we see the value in that in the rising achievement of our young people. We have about 2,500 schools and over 5,000 early learning centres and just under a million young New Zealanders engaged in learning. My relentless expectation as Minister of Education was that every child in every classroom every day was learning and achieving. I appropriated from a speech I heard from the then Chief Review Officer, Dr Graham Stoop, a line that said: “The core business of a school is to cause learning to happen and to know that it did”—as simple and as complicated as that.

We have an education system with an architecture that is one of the best in the world. But, like my generation and smart phones, we use only a small amount of its potential. I saw my job as rewiring the system and leveraging that architecture to make sure that it serves every Kiwi kid, to push those who are doing well to do even better, and to pick up those that the system had been leaving behind. I am glad to say that we now have the data to know that all population groups have lifted, and, in particular, at senior secondary, Māori and Pasifika students are achieving at almost twice the rate from when we came into Government in 2008. That is real kids with real results able to make real choices about what is next for them. That is great for them and that is great for our country.

I had the privilege as Minister of Education to visit centres and schools up and down the country and to see the magic that so many of them create. Little Ōturu School in the Far North is developing natural cures for cellulitis and then selling them. Sylvia Park School is involving its whole community in art and sculpture and the living environment. A primary school in Māngere East is lifting numeracy through “Bobbie maths”, a culturally based team approach. Te Kura Māori a Rohe o Ngā Tapuwai is turning out ki-o-rahi exponents and top scholars. Tarawera High School in Kawerau, Tamatea High in Flaxmere, and Pātea High in Taranaki are achieving phenomenal results due to quality leadership. Tolaga Bay Area School is leading a whole of community inquiry based on the transit of Venus and an ongoing ecological project partnering with iwi and the wider community. Kaiti School is leading the way in teaching excellence. A little Nelson Lakes school is introducing ethics-based studies to 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds. There are 23 Marlborough schools forming a community of learning. Haeata Community Campus, formed from 4 schools in Christchurch East, is leading a revolution in learning and lifting the community as it does so.

I have this brilliant idea—are there any other kinds—that I offer to the universe today: develop a weekly broadcast programme modelled on Country Calendar showing a different school, kura, or kāhui ako and see the stories unfold and the difference they are making—magic!

This is the fourth year that the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards has been held. It is a way of showcasing and celebrating the best practice in our education system and, I hope, part of the way of changing the public conversation about education to a far more positive one. This is the second year of the Education Council, which is dedicated to growing and lifting the teaching profession. But a word of caution: no matter how much we invest to grow and develop the profession, they simply cannot and should not be expected to take up every latest demand. As I said earlier, the core business of schools is to cause learning to happen. It is not the job of schools to become the default for everything young people should learn. As Minister I was lobbied to have schools become social welfare hubs, health hubs, to provide financial literacy, sex education, and so on. Different schools can and do make decisions about how and what they operate. But schools are not our mothers and fathers; they are not our families or whānau. They cannot be everything to everybody and nor should they. Theirs is already a huge responsibility: to educate our kids.

I want to table for the House today, my calling card for this past term of Government—it is just sitting right there. It sets out the system changes that are under way. Helpfully, on the back are references to the relevant key papers. It provides a short summary and saves the House a fuller recitation. But small and colourful as this postcard is, it represents a lot of work by a lot of people.

I said that today was a day for thanks. I think we have a magnificent public service. I think it is the best in the world. It is probably one of the smallest, but certainly one that delivers above and beyond. Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu. Although small, it is of the quality of greenstone. Thanks to all those public servants who supported the work of my portfolios. The education portfolio is not the most popular, which I can testify to, but it is incredibly rewarding, and the work we did together has been some of the most satisfying of my professional life. I want to thank Peter Hughes, both for his leadership of the Ministry of Education and the education sector in Government, and for his full support of me and my work programme. He tells me with sincerity and good humour that he loved it—although not always in the moment. Thank you, Peter.

I want to thank Iona Holsted, first in her role as Chief Review Officer at the Education Review Office where she asked me what I was looking for and then with intelligence and conviction she over delivered—such a woman thing! Then as Secretary for Education she has gotten stuck in, bringing all her social policy background and grit to bear.

I want to thank Karen Poutasi, heading the New Zealand Qualifications Authority—and do not worry, I am not going to go through every principal in the country as well—and her board in particular for the strategic vision they have been working toward. Take notice: assessment on line, anyone, any time. In a truly student centred education system, the choice of what and when a student gets assessed will have profound changes, not least of which the manacle of timetabling that serves adults more than the students.

I just want to segue quickly to illustrate the powerful difference that the multiple vocational pathway choices young people have in our system today under our Government and how much more engaging this is for so many of them. I was visiting the Build a Bach project in New Plymouth and was talking to the students working on it. I asked one young guy what the key education thing he had learnt building the bach. He said: “I know why I have to be able to read now” and pointing to a stack of cans, he said: “cos that shit’s flammable, Miss. That means it burns.” But we need flexibility in timetabling to make more of this happen more easily for our students.

Peter, Iona, and Karen have been served by a leadership team of deputy secretaries, some of whom have gone on to serve elsewhere, who I am proud to have worked with. Every one of them unstintingly worked to meet really high expectations, and I want to thank them all, and their teams. I trust I will be forgiven for naming just two people for special reasons, but who exemplify the commitment that all have shown. I want to acknowledge Katrina Casey and Coralanne Child and their leadership in the Greater Christchurch, Selwyn, and Waimakariri education network over the past 5 years. Both had family or homes also affected by the earthquakes, and both led staff similarly affected. Day in and day out, at night, and on too many weekends they worked to restore, repair, redevelop, support, and sustain the people and the education system there, as many other public servants did also. They accompanied me when I met with every community—at least once—many multiple times, to explain, to listen, to apologise, and to deliver.

I completely accept that we got some things wrong. But there was not a manual for those circumstances. We did not have 5 years to think about it. We did the best we could. Thank you both and all those who worked with you. I know that we are about halfway through the billion dollar programme to repair and rebuild and build 115 new schools, and already the network is fulfilling its promise in the continued growth in learning and achievement.

I want to thank the ministry folk who staffed my office over the years and the advisors in my office who have organised me, prepped me, planned for me and around me, who repaid the high trust I placed in them many times over. Thank you for looking out for me and after me: Kararaina Cribb, Otene Wharerau, Hiria Parata, Julie Ash, Florence Faumauina, Charlotte Haycock, Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i, Ana Barbono, Nick Venter, Jasmine Higginson, and Brigitte Morten, with a special thanks for keeping me up on pop culture, trending Netflix series, fashion, latest diets, and Wellington on a Plate. Thanks too, to Geoff Short and Matt Sanders for their fountain of knowledge, incredible networks, and good advice.

I quickly turn to the National Party. I want to acknowledge former president Michelle Boag, who first recruited me in 2001 and has been a steadfast supporter of mine ever since. I want to acknowledge Patricia Morrison, who inducted me into the ways of the party and could not have been a better mentor, and to Peter Goodfellow and the board, our regional chairs, and those who are sitting behind me, which seems appropriate now because I have always felt the National Party behind me, and electorate committees, members, and volunteers who are the backbone of our Party—thank you all.

I have cause to be particularly grateful to those who have voted National, because they have put me in Parliament these past three terms of Government as a list member. Despite early mornings on Police Hill beside State Highway 1, hammering up hoardings, leafleting letter boxes, and generally throwing myself at the Mana electorate, I have not been able to uncouple it, first from Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, and now Kris Faafoi, both thoroughly lovely people with a peculiar political penchant. We have, however, won the party vote twice and are working very hard to keep that arrangement this September. It is here that I pay particular thanks to the Mana electorate team. A number of you are in the galleries today and you have my thanks for your support.

My special thanks go to my dear friend and her whānau, who since we set out on this waka have been with me and mine all the way. Pania Tyson-Nathan, you are amazing. Whatever I have needed, whenever I have needed it, you have been there; Evan Nathan for your long, suffering support and assistance; Enoka Mareikura who, press ganged into my campaigns, became the handiest thing on a nail gun and the smoothest mover in human hoardings, to now being the father of a gorgeous wee girl; and Kaylim, who has practically grown up in the National Party, featuring in our pamphlets and singing for many of our suppers.

We have had fun and challenging times, but we have been dedicated and focused. I remember once when teams of us were out leafleting I got a call from Enoka saying: “Mum’s been bitten by a dog and we’re going to A & E.” I raced over to Kenepuru to see how she was. It was pretty bad. She had been stitched and had multiple shots and was on pain medication. Once I had established, however, that she had been sorted I was able to ask: “Um, did you manage to finish that street?” Sorry Parn!

To the three Dames and two Sirs who in different ways and at different times have offered me wisdom, encouragement, poetry, prayer, and love. Thank you Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Dame Jenny Shipley, Dame Karen Sewell, and Sir Brother Patrick Lynch—the other Sir, I will come back to. An excerpt from the poem “From Landfall in Unknown Seas” by Allen Curnow became a touchstone for me: Simply by sailing in a new direction you could enlarge the world. Thank you, Karen.

We have a brilliant caucus, with an extremely able Cabinet, led by a good man. To the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Bill English, it has been a real honour to work with you and for you, to debate policy with you—some might say argue vociferously—to be prepped and on my mettle ready to make a Budget case when you were finance Minister. Thank you. I wish you every success in this election because apart from every other qualification you have for the job, you are the only Prime Minister who can shear a sheep, and where I come from, that counts.

To our Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett, tēnā koe. You are a fierce and feisty warrior woman, whose hard work, strength, and sense of fun have been a model to us all. I salute you, and your mana wahine. Together, I think your leadership is awesome.

To the 2008ers, all 16 of us, it is been a blast. I could not have wished for a more diverse, smart, talented bunch of people to come into Parliament with.

Mr Speaker, to you and your colleagues, and all the people who make this place tick—my thanks. It is a veritable ecosystem that keeps the machinery going to ensure we have the active democracy we do.

A special shout out to the VIP drivers, who we often spend more time with than our families. Thank you.

To the press gallery, my apologies. I just could not shake the conviction that if I just explained why, you would all say: “Oh, now we get it. OK, we won’t report it the way we were going to.” And, sorry, to all my press secretaries, I just couldn’t get the knack of the sound bite either—self-evidently.

To my family: what a roller coaster ride we have had. Thanks to all my brothers and sisters and partners for always, always being there. To my two sisters, fabulous educators themselves, who have stood silently behind me and proudly for me, Apryll and Nori, thank you. To my nieces and nephews, apart from being great campaign “volunteers”, thank you for your wraparound love of your two cousins.

To Wira, my pragmatic, phlegmatic, soldier protector. Thanks for looking after our girls, thanks for tweeting right back at them, thanks for this decade doing this stuff. And to our daughters Rakaitemania and Mihimaraea who have grown up in this funny kind of life that is politics. You make me so proud. In this time you have gone from early primary school to completing university—or within one semester of—from young girls to gorgeous young women. It has not been easy, as everyone in this House knows more than anyone, to have a parent in politics. But you have understood the call to public service, and you have been unflinching in your love and support of me. I came here wanting to make a difference for our country and for a better future. I know you have understood that and been proud of me and my work, but I also know how glad you are that I am making this valedictory statement today. I love you always and forever.

And finally, I would like to thank the mums and dads, nannies and papas, the families, whānau, and aiga who care passionately about the well-being and education of their children and young people, and who wrote to me, meet with me, attended education events, who give up their time to coach, to support their schools, to be on the board, to encourage art and drama productions. Thank you all. Our children’s education is better for it.

I am speaking almost from where I started in this House—a full circle. I have loved my time here. I am humbled to have had the opportunity and honoured to be a participant in making our country better.

And to those who gave me advice, told me where to go, and how quickly I could get there—I am on my way.

%d bloggers like this: