Claire Trevett reports:
He stood to make his farewell speech to Parliament yesterday after nearly 28 years, observing very few people got the chance to deliver what is in effect their own eulogy “or at least a progress report thereon”. …
“[The 1980s economic reforms] certainly caused me some small financial pain. The biggest speeding fine I ever got was driving back from Whakatane to Wellington in January 1990 when I heard on the news that Geoffrey Palmer was supposedly moving to reinstate Roger Douglas as Minister of Finance. I hit 134kph.”
On the political gamesmanship of Parliament’s question time:
It is, in my view, by far the most effective test of the mettle of ministers and their opponents of any Westminster-style Parliament. Imagine, for example, how well George W. Bush would have survived question time on a daily basis if he had been our Prime Minister. It would have taken many Grecians bearing many sorts of gifts to get him through the experience.”
On the different outlooks of New Zealand and Australia:
“An Aussie believes a little ripper is something good. We are just as likely to fear it might be the son of Jack, let in by mistake by Immigration.”
Sigh. I will miss him. I didn’t like his economic policies (in fact I think they represent the missed opportunity of a lifetime- a decade of waste), but he was a great parliamentarian with a real love for the House and its institutions. Sometimes his wit (especially in their final term) would descend into bitterness or nastiness, but most of the time it was a joy to behold.
When I worked in Parliament, a lot of the staff would gather around a TV to watch question time. And obviously you are there to cheer your own side on. But Cullen was the only Labour MP who could consistently get the partisan Labour-hating (in a competitive sense) Nat staffers clapping and cheering as he skewered a National MP with a witty response.
There were times too, when said National staffers would yell abuse at Dr Cullen’s image on TV, when his tongue went from funny to malicious. The relationship was certainly a love/hate one. But for me, I will remember the good times.
Cullen is the last of the three MPs who could dominate Parliament like no others since Muldoon and Lange. The other two were Peters and Prebble.