Praise for maiden speeches

All_your_base at has a very generous post on the maiden speeches of Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and .

I’ve just watched the first part of the Address in Reply debate which included maiden speeches by two new National Party MPs – Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Melissa Lee. They were impressive. This in itself should provide some cause for concern for Labour but more ominous should be the signal that while this year’s election is over, National’s campaign for 2011 has already begun.

I doubt very much that Sam and Melissa’s names were drawn from a ballot.

They were not. It is a rare privilege to move and second the Address in Reply debate, and the honours normally go to two new MPs whom are judged by the party leadership as having bright futures ahead of them.

In their speeches both made much of the changing face of the National Party. If I heard her correctly, Ms Lee will be New Zealand’s first Korean MP and the first female Korean MP in the world outside of her mother country. Mr Lotu-Iiga scored a convincing victory in the previously Labour-held Maungakiekie electorate. Both MPs spoke confidently in english, in their native tongues, and in Maori. If Labour was ever becoming complacent about the continued traditional support of the nationwide ethnic community, the approach National took today should be a wake-up-call.

Both speeches were excellent. I blog some quotes below.

Finally, I may have missed something but it would have been nice to see even a few of the members of the Labour caucus cross the floor to congratulate the new National Party MPs as did those from other parties (including the Greens). You don’t have to like it, but for the time being you might just have to suck it up.

Yeah maiden speeches are generally a time to put party differences aside.

NZPA reports on parts of Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga’s speech:

Education, family and faith mean a lot to new National MP Sam Lotu-Iiga.

The Samoan-born MP was the first to give a in the new which opened today.

He recalled a childhood in Mangere, where extended family at times swelled the numbers in the household to 16, and sacrifices his parents made.

“My parents suffered and endured a great deal just so us children could live better lives. We were not a wealthy family but we were rich in spirit, resourceful and determined to succeed in this country.”

While he thanked his wife Jules and family, several watching in the audience openly wept. His own voice broke when he talked about his late daughter who he was sure could hear his words. “I miss you and I love you.”

Sam’s family has had huge challenges this year.

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he was raised with strong family values, Christian principles and a strong work ethnic.

“I was taught at a young age that education was the key to a successful future.”

Educated at Auckland Grammar School Mr Lotu-Iiga went on to study at Auckland University to attain BCom/LLB and MCom(Hons) degrees. He also holds an MBA from Cambridge University (Queens College).

I’ll link to the full speech once I have it.

Melissa’s maiden speech was also very personal and moving:

It is with great honour that I deliver my maiden speech not only as the first MP of Korean descent in New Zealand, but also the first Woman of Korean descent to become an MP outside of Korea. It is indeed humbling. It is truly a sign that the world has come of age in a global sense. It’s also a step toward realizing our Prime Minister’s and the National Party’s vision, to make our parliament more diverse and truly representative of the population that now make up our country.

I am also very pleased to be giving my Maiden Speech in this House, at a time when New Zealand has chosen to say NO to a party, whose policy gained support from people who “dislike” people like me – simply because of my ethnic heritage. Call it irony or just a fortunate turn of events that with the exit of that party, comes the first minister of Asian origin in the Cabinet. New Zealand has come of age it seems by saying we have no room at this inn for racists. It is the dawning of a new era, and it is my privilege to be a part of it.

NZ First did run shocking campaigns targeting immigrants based on their race. I actually don’t think Peters himself was racist, but think he did set out to appeal to people who believed in a white only immigration policy, such as his Deputy Leader appeared to.

KA MIHI ATU KI TE TANGATA WHENUA,.. OTIRA KI NGA WAKA HUHUA KATOA I WHITI MAI I TE MOANANUI A KIWA, MAI I HAWAIIKI NUI, KI AOTEAROA.
I pay homage to the tangata whenua … To all of the canoes that crossed the Pacific Ocean from Hawaiiki to New Zealand.

NA RATOU TE ARA I WHAKATAKOTO, OTIRA, NA RATOU TE OOHAAKI I EA AI TE KORERO, HE IWI KOTAHI TATOU.
They paved the way, and they initiated a unity that has made us who we are today.. We are one people.

PERA I A RATOU.. I HAERE MAI AU KI KONEI MA RUNGA I TETAHI WAKA I TE TAU WARU TEKAU MA WARU.
Like them, I too arrived on a waka in 1988.

ENGARI KO NGA HOE O TOOKU WAKA, HE PARIRAU KEE… A, I TERE AKE TE HAERE I TERA O NGA WAKA A NGA TUUPUNA.
The only difference was that my oars were replaced with wings and it travelled much faster than that of the ancestors.

KA AWHI AU I A AOTEAROA, KA AWHI MAI A AOTEAROA I A AU, I TENEI RA KO AU TENEI KUA PUAWAI.
But as I embraced New Zealand, it embraced me back, and nurtured me into what I have become.

I TENEI RA,KA MINAMINA AU KI TE KII.. NOOKU ANO HOKI TENEI WHENUA, NOOKU HOKI TENEI TURANGAWAEWAE.
Today I can honestly identify myself as being a New Zealander, and Aotearoa being my home..

I love the symbolism of a Korean born MP, speaking in Maori, to explain how she has become a New Zealander.

The full speech is over the break.

Address-In-Reply – seconder – Maiden Speech – 9th December 2008
MELISSA LEE (NZ NATIONAL):

Mr Speaker, I second the motion that a respectful Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General in reply to His Excellency’s speech.

I’d like to begin my maiden speech by congratulating you Mr. Speaker, on your election to the chair, and wish you, your deputy and assistant speakers my very best. From a journalist’s view of how this House operated in the past, your job is one that requires the patience of a saint. And if the little time I’ve spent speaking with you in the past few weeks is an indication – I have no doubt we will benefit greatly from your vast experience in parliament.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge The Honorable Anand Satyanand, our Governor General. It is an honour to be giving my maiden speech under your watch.

I’d like to pay tribute to the Hon. John Key, our Prime Minister, for delivering such a fabulous result for the National Party and New Zealand. You are indeed the Fresh Leadership the country has demanded and I’m privileged to be a part of the future you envision. I’d like to acknowledge the members of the National Caucus and other parliamentary colleagues – it is indeed my great honour to be here with you all and to call you my colleagues. I’d like to particularly acknowledge our very first Asian Member and now the first Cabinet Minister of Asian origin, Honorable Pansy Wong, who has encouraged and supported me. You have my gratitude. I’d like to pay tribute also to the National Party President Judy Kirk, who has shown me that a powerful woman need not lack grace or style. Thank you for your guidance and love.

I’d like to also thank National Party Northern Regions Alistair Bell, Alan Towers, Kate Graham and Peter Keiley who were there to help me with a friendly ear and ready advice whenever I needed it.

I’d also like to acknowledge the former Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark – who has been a great supporter of the television program Asia Downunder and the Korean Cinerama Trust over the years – Thank You.

It is with great honour that I deliver my maiden speech not only as the first MP of Korean descent in New Zealand, but also the first Woman of Korean descent to become an MP outside of Korea. It is indeed humbling. It is truly a sign that the world has come of age in a global sense. It’s also a step toward realizing our Prime Minister’s and the National Party’s vision, to make our parliament more diverse and truly representative of the population that now make up our country.

I am also very pleased to be giving my Maiden Speech in this House, at a time when New Zealand has chosen to say NO to a party, whose policy gained support from people who “dislike” people like me – simply because of my ethnic heritage. Call it irony or just a fortunate turn of events that with the exit of that party, comes the first minister of Asian origin in the Cabinet. New Zealand has come of age it seems by saying we have no room at this inn for racists. It is the dawning of a new era, and it is my privilege to be a part of it.

KA MIHI ATU KI TE TANGATA WHENUA,.. OTIRA KI NGA WAKA HUHUA KATOA I WHITI MAI I TE MOANANUI A KIWA, MAI I HAWAIIKI NUI, KI AOTEAROA.
I pay homage to the tangata whenua … To all of the canoes that crossed the Pacific Ocean from Hawaiiki to New Zealand.

NA RATOU TE ARA I WHAKATAKOTO, OTIRA, NA RATOU TE OOHAAKI I EA AI TE KORERO, HE IWI KOTAHI TATOU.
They paved the way, and they initiated a unity that has made us who we are today.. We are one people.

PERA I A RATOU.. I HAERE MAI AU KI KONEI MA RUNGA I TETAHI WAKA I TE TAU WARU TEKAU MA WARU.
Like them, I too arrived on a waka in 1988.

ENGARI KO NGA HOE O TOOKU WAKA, HE PARIRAU KEE… A, I TERE AKE TE HAERE I TERA O NGA WAKA A NGA TUUPUNA.
The only difference was that my oars were replaced with wings and it travelled much faster than that of the ancestors.

KA AWHI AU I A AOTEAROA, KA AWHI MAI A AOTEAROA I A AU, I TENEI RA KO AU TENEI KUA PUAWAI.
But as I embraced New Zealand, it embraced me back, and nurtured me into what I have become.

I TENEI RA,KA MINAMINA AU KI TE KII.. NOOKU ANO HOKI TENEI WHENUA, NOOKU HOKI TENEI TURANGAWAEWAE.
Today I can honestly identify myself as being a New Zealander, and Aotearoa being my home..

NO REIRA KUA TAE MAI TE WAA HEI WHAKAUTU KI TE MOTU I TAANA I HOMAI AI KI A AU.
Therefore the opportunity to give back to New Zealand what it has given to me has come to hand

New Zealand is indeed a land of many people of diverse cultures and heritage. And I’m proud to be representing the third largest Asian population in New Zealand. It was reported before the elections that only two percent of the 40,000 Korean population voted in previous elections. If the support I received during the campaign is any indication – I’d say 100% of the Korean Kiwis – aka – Kowis – voted on November 8th and I’d like to thank them regardless of which party they voted for. Because voting is the ultimate realisation that we live in a democracy.

The Korean settlement in New Zealand isn’t long and often I’m confronted by people’s misperception of Korea formed out of ignorance and often by television programmes like MASH. And when people have preconceived ideas of what you’re like – settlement into New Zealand can be paved with tears.

I remember a Korean migrant who had a visit from the police when the stench from dried cuttlefish – a Korean delicacy – raised the curiosity of her neighbours who jumped to the conclusion that she must have killed and buried her Kiwi husband to have produced such a foul smell.

But now, when I look around our cities I am pleased to see restaurants offering food from different cultures. And it isn’t just us black-haired people who frequent these premises. I’ve even been told by our Prime Minister that he likes KimChi – which is literally – fermented BokChoi – full of chilli and garlic – and according to one of my European friends – smells like sewage. Which is rather strange, as it smells comforting to me.

I am grateful NZ’s taste buds and sense of smell is evolving. The variety we have now makes us much more interesting than the era of big boil-ups. Thankfully, it’s not only our taste buds that have evolved.

When my parents left Korea more than 30 years ago to provide my brother John and I a brighter future, it took a lot of courage – the pioneering spirit New Zealanders value. And Courage was what ultimately brought my family to Aotearoa in 1988. Through failed businesses and lost opportunities, my parents worked harder than anyone I know to provide a good life for my brother and me. Never once did they complain about not getting a handout, nor did they ask for one from the government or anyone else. They took the personal responsibility for our family. It is something we learned from our childhood, and are in turn instilling in our own children to value.

I still remember our early days in Auckland. My day at the Sunday News as a young reporter would finish around 5pm, and while others went to the pub, I headed for my parent’s dairy in Grafton. We’d all work as a family till the shop closed at 11pm and then have supper together and drive home. A strong family bond was always fostered and maintained through my mother’s strong leadership. My story isn’t unique – it is the story of thousands of Asian migrants who have come before me and who will come here in the future. Who now make up about 10% of New Zealand’s population.

Family is also the foundation in which NZ was built. As a mother raising a 10 year old boy – I’ve become frightened for all children growing up in NZ in the past decade. I wish there were more parents like mine who would go the extra distance. But New Zealand has had a shameful record when it comes to our children and there have been some pitiful examples of parents and caregivers.

I was overjoyed to hear of the convictions of Wiremu and Michael Curtis at the Rotorua High Court recently for the murder of 3 year old Nia Glassie. And of the conviction of Nia’s mother Lisa Kuka. No child should have gone through what Nia did, and no child should ever in the future.

More shocking than the abuse and the murder of Nia was the fact that neighbours, friends, family who knew what was going on, turned a blind eye to the horrific abuse this innocent child suffered at the hands of these monsters. It is indeed a sad indictment on our country.

It was also very pleasing to read about the arrest made for the killing of Octogenarian Madam Yang who died in her home earlier this year. What she must have gone through… the fear, the violence and her eventual death, I can only but imagine. As a victim of a home invasion myself who was confronted by two men wearing balaclavas with a gun and a hammer – I don’t feel safe in my own home, let alone on the streets.

More than 10,000 people took to the streets to march against violence in South Auckland earlier this year – it is my hope that their voices are heard and repaid with a tougher stance against criminals in this country. It is not right that Madam Yang had to die in her own home where she should have had her safety guaranteed. It is not right that little Nia Glassie died at the hands of people who should have protected and cared for her. It is our duty as a nation to provide safety in our homes and in our communities. It is a priority that we must deliver as law makers – in my view.

Our children are our future. But instead of teaching them to become achievers, we are teaching them it’s okay to be losers. Instead of teaching them the value of hard work and the satisfaction that comes with it, we’re teaching them not to bother because the government is always there with an opened purse – promoting government-funded dependence. Instead of reporting unspeakable crimes like that inflicted upon Nia Glassie, people are cowering behind closed curtains for fear they’d be accused of meddling. Instead of celebrating our New Zealand identity, our children are growing up lost between American, British and Australian television programmes which dominate our airwaves because we’re too frightened to put a stake in the ground to say “this is who we are”.

As a child, when I needed to find some information, I turned to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Now, children turn to Google. We must use technology to foster the New Zealand Identity our children so lack and need. We must use television, radio, and the internet, to empower them– to make them understand who they are and where they stand in the world; to make them stand proud to be Kiwis – regardless of what their ethnic heritage may be.

There must be a mandate to provide and support local programming to foster these identity issues. Because without it, our children will never be empowered. Take a look at South Auckland. It seems absurd to me that people who should feel proud of their Pasifika and Maori cultures should feel proud to display the ghetto culture of America.

New Zealand is a young country compared to the country I was born in. Korea has a 5000-year old history – but it doesn’t mean we New Zealanders can’t feel proud of our heritage. I may not have been born here, I may not even have been brought up here. But, I’ve made a commitment to become a New Zealand citizen, and am a proud carrier of a New Zealand passport. That is a privilege. And I proudly call myself a Kiwi.

But not all New Zealanders would accept that I’m a Kiwi – because of my skin colour. I will forever be a foreigner. This must change. We are far too small a nation to be divisive. We must work together to decide who we are as a nation and work together to achieve where we want to be in the future.

We’ve had some brilliant moments in history where we’ve led the world. NZ was first country to give women the vote. It was New Zealander Ernest Rutherford who split the atom. And the late Sir Edmund Hillary ….We’ve also produced bands and actors over the years– some of whom Australia insists are theirs.

There are many others. Film directors, Peter Jackson, Andrew Adamson, Vincent Ward – far too many to mention – all working hard and placing NZ on the world map. We should not only applaud their successes – we should celebrate it. And build a nation these global Kiwis would feel proud coming home to.

Many people have asked me why I put my name forward to be selected by the National Party. As a journalist of 20 years, it wasn’t possible for me to show my political leanings, although close friends and family have known for a long time.

The reason I decided to come out – so to speak – was because I felt the need to have a say in shaping the future of New Zealand. With my 20 year career in journalism and business – I feel I come equipped with some life experience.

To close, I’d like to thank some very special people in my life. My mother, Min-Ja LEE – thank you for always encouraging me that there isn’t anything I can’t achieve.

My dad, Peter LEE – for your hard work to give John and me the best opportunity in life.

To my son Ethan Chul Hawke – Your campaigning impressed me – when I didn’t asked you to. I want to work hard so I can become a good role model for you. I hope I’ll make you proud.

뉴질랜드 한국 교민 여러분 그리고 전 세계에 계시는 동포 여러분 – 그동안 저에게 보내주신 성원 감사드립니다. 그동안 저에게 보내주신 격려는 저에게 피는 물보다 진하다는 것을 새삼 느끼게 해주셨습니다. 이제 최초의 한국계 뉴질랜드 국회의원으로서 조심스럽게 첫 발을 내딛으면서, 제가 5,000년의 역사를 가진 대한민국의 딸이라는 사실과 한국 교민 공동체가 제 뒤에서 저를 응원해 주시고 계신다는 것을 항상 기억할 것입니다.

(translation = To the Korean community in New Zealand and Koreans all around the globe – thank you for your support and encouragement. Your emails and phone calls of support came simply by virtue of our shared heritage and I am humbled. I’m grateful that the Korean community is always behind me to support me, as I take my baby steps as the very first New Zealand Member of Parliament of Korean heritage.)

Last but not least to my God. I know you are always beside me to guide me.

Mr Speaker, it is a great honour, and a privilege, to be in this House as a Member of Parliament and I pledge to do my very best.

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