Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson is one of parliament’s best debaters.
In the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement he pays tribute to Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser who left without delivering a valedictory statement.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): It is great to be back after a glorious summer in this magnificent capital city. I had a great summer. There is nothing more enjoyable than charging up Mount Kawakawa to look out on this city—the best views in Wellington .
Unlike the previous speaker, Jacinda Ardern , I thought that the Prime Minister gave an outstanding address to inaugurate the political year. I was particularly interested when the Prime Minister outlined a number of significant New Zealand sporting achievements. He mentioned the Sevens , our great cricket team, and Lydia Ko’s brilliance. I was just a little disappointed that he did not mention another great New Zealand sporting achievement, namely, my hole in one on the 11th at the Royal Wellington Golf Club at 1.30 p.m. on 29 December 2015. Mr Faafoi would be interested in this, because I know he plays at Heretaunga . It was a 7 wood, brilliantly teed-off, went slightly to the left in—well, it was about 160 metres in a northerly. It jumped the bunker and slid into the hole. I was very proud of that.
I want to begin by paying tribute to my colleague Tim Groser , who is about to leave for the United States . He and I came into Parliament together in 2005, and I was his associate arts, culture and heritage spokesperson until Tim was reshuffled out of that role and I took it for myself. In 2014 Tim and I won the party vote in New Lynn and Rongotai , embarrassing our high-profile opponents. In fact, Tim almost became the member of Parliament for New Lynn, which was slightly better than I have ever achieved against Mrs King , although Tim did have the benefit of being up against David Cunliffe . I am very interested to hear that Annette King may be standing down as the MP for Rongotai—a very important political development, because it will have the effect of turning Rongotai into a hair-trigger marginal. Whenever I am out campaigning with the people in Rongotai, the voters always say they will switch to me once Mrs King retires. So I used to say I would win the seat in 2038, but I have been doing some very hasty recalculations and I think it could be as early as 2023.
Tim and I were bench mates for our first term. We used to sit in the second row, where David Shearer sits now, and we often used to come down to question time reading our Spectators until Marian Hobbs , the then-MP for Wellington Central , told us that, no, that was not very wise. We should try to look riveted when the speaker is asking questions—very sound advice that I have always remembered. I am very sorry that Tim has left our presence without giving a valedictory speech, so I thought I would give one for him. I would like to outline what I think are his top five contributions in office, even if Tim would have done a far better job telling us about his achievements than I will be able to do. Over the course of my speech, I will avoid quotes from Napoleon, Juvenal , and Thucydides .
Tim’s achievements were momentous. The first one, of course, was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. It is the obvious one. He achieved what many people thought was unachievable. Secondly, there was the Taiwan economic agreement and the Hong Kong free-trade agreement, which made New Zealand the first country to have trade deals with all of China. He concluded a free-trade agreement with the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand arrangement. He positioned New Zealand’s trade relationship with Asia in a very effective manner. He also concluded a free-trade agreement with Korea. These all prove the value of free-trade agreements, as traditional Labour leaders have always said. The rise in the volume of New Zealand’s exports has been huge, and the same will happen with the TPP agreement, which makes Labour’s approach both so bizarre and so disappointing given its very positive contribution to trade over the years.
Tim was a very respected voice overseas for New Zealand business, and I am sure he is going to continue to be so in his new role. He spearheaded overseas business trade missions to introduce New Zealand companies to new markets. Whether at the World Trade Organization , whether at Washington or Beijing, people listened to him—they had no choice—and New Zealand businesses all benefited from it. Finally, he was a very effective Minister for climate change issues. The work he did behind the scenes on international agreements earned him significant respect. The recent Paris agreement was based on the New Zealand proposal. I know the Greens are looking disconsolate because they think they have a monopoly of virtue on these matters, but Tim was a very effective Minister in that area. I should not finish without mentioning his glorious reign as the Minister of Conservation between 2008 and 2010—as Tim himself calls it, “the golden age of conservation in New Zealand”—until he was fired by the Prime Minister. I am sure all of us wish him all the very best for the future, and I know that he will be a very effective ambassador to the United States. . .