Power’s Valedictory

October 6th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve enjoyed listening to all the (with one exception, which I will blog on later), but the one which most resonated with me was ’s which was simply superb. You can view it on You Tube, but here’s some extracts which struck a chord with me.

I have been surprised by some of the reaction I have  had to my decision to retire. All sorts of motivations have been ascribed to my decision

One of my cabinet colleagues – who is always concerned about how these sorts of things look for the Government – was keen to spread the rumour that the real reason could be traced to the existence of a series of incriminating photographs.

I was alarmed at the speed at which Murray McCully was able to invent such a scenario.

Heh.

As recently as last month, a constituent wrote to me angrily demanding my resignation. He may get pretty excited when he catches up with the news.

He may think he caused it!

I believe that politics is 90% preparation and 10% execution. At a day-to-day level, politics, particularly at a ministerial level, can quickly deteriorate to the daily management of tasks – dealing with papers, the media, OIA requests, Question Time, Written Questions, expectations from colleagues and your Party; tasks that become all consuming, and tasks that in the end do not improve the lives of New Zealanders at all.

That’s not why we run for Parliament. We run to lead agendas, improve the lot of our countrymen, to push change, and to execute ideas. People don’t spend years getting elected, more years waiting to get into Cabinet, to then say “Well, I managed that week well, I minimised risk, had no view, took no decisions, stayed out of trouble: well done me.”

Once in office, you’ve got to do something. That is why having a plan matters. Ideas also matter. In politics, ideas matter more than the political players themselves, because those people will come and go, but ideas endure.

Politicians should manage less and lead more.

Absolutely. We have Chief Executives to manage departments. Ministers should be about leadership. Sadly though in any Government it is usually a minority of Ministers who actually lead rather than manage.

I love the quote from influential Republican media adviser Roger Ailes, who was moved to quip: “When I die, I want to come back with real power. I want to come back as a member of a focus group.”

As a market researcher I shouldn’t laugh, but it can be so true!

So much of Parliament’s time is spent attacking each other, trying to out-manoeuvre each other, and just plain loathing each other. It’s an incredible waste of energy and time.

I was always reminded in cross-party discussions, or in the House during a particularly rough debate, of Michael Corleone’s edict: “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”

Very true.

To the day I die, I will never forget sitting in the lounge of Gil and Lesley Elliott in Dunedin, listening to them describe their experiences of the justice system. It had a profound effect on me and the way I viewed our legal system. Good, decent, kind people, whose lives were destroyed by tragedy deserve our help, not a slow-motion replay of the horror they went through.

And Simon’s mandate will be that things should be better for future victims and their families.

What the hell is it about the psyche of this country that we feel the need to go home and hit someone, be it a partner, a child, or another family member? This is totally unjustifiable, wrong, and an indictment on us as a society. Our legal system needs to protect these people and I hope I have made a small contribution to remedying these despicable acts of injustice and cowardice.

The entire House applauded this part.

Although the Peter Ellis matter was straightforward in the end – because appeal rights had not yet been exhausted (a basic requirement of the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy) – the wider case worried me and continues to worry me.

This is one area where I do think Simon made a bad call.  Even if he could not grant mercy, I hoped he would set up a commission of inquiry into the case. I am glad to see he acknowledges the  case continues to worry him – it should worry us all.

The PM, whose confidence I have enjoyed and who gave me plenty of rope, some of which I have used. But of the 462 papers I have taken to Cabinet as a Minister, on only one did he phone to say “I can’t support this one.” Thanks for everything, John, you have been great to work with.

I wonder which one that was? Regardless a good record.

Nothing sums up Gerry more acutely than the time we got fish and chips for the caucus during urgency in the early hours of the morning in 2000. He stormed into the fish and chip shop at 4am, with me trailing behind, and said to the owner: “42 pieces of fish, 40 scoops of chips and 31 hotdogs.” Then he looked at me and said: “And what do you want?”

That one cracked the House up.

So, Mr Speaker, I bid you farewell, and leave you with one thought: We all know that it is a privilege being a Member of Parliament. But the most satisfaction should come from doing rather than being.

I hope that final quote features in some future MPs maiden speeches. It is not enough to just be a Member of Parliament, it should be what you do with that privilege.

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30 Responses to “Power’s Valedictory”

  1. nickb (3,696 comments) says:

    Simon Power will ultimately go down in history as a populist, nanny statist failure who took many of our civil liberties away.

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  2. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    We all know that it is a privilege being a Member of Parliament. But the most satisfaction should come from doing rather than being.

    Does that not become:
    “But the most satisfaction should come from doing a Member of Parliament”?

    It’s a shame we’re losing Simon Power and yet retaining MPs who have stagnated in the halls for 20+ years. Five terms should be your lot. Make a difference or get out.

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  3. Manolo (14,065 comments) says:

    Figjam Power, a colourless small-town conveyance lawyer from who will be quickly forgotten.

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  4. Viking2 (11,568 comments) says:

    What Simon says is why Simon Power should have been our next PM.

    Only met him once very briefly at Linton Camp. (which is he is reading he will no doubt recall) We had a 2 minute discussion about an idea that I had posted elsewhere which was taken up by Sensible Sentencing and forwarded to him. Although it was several months before he recalled it in detail.

    That few minutes made a good impression and his leaving Parliament is a loss despite all the lawyers etc whinging and moaning about having so many of their privileges demolished.

    Unfortunately he will be replaced no doubt with some control freak or another Prince of the Darkness like McCully or worse someone like Findlayson.

    Good Luck Simon.

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  5. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    I was bemused by Power’s comments that “We run to lead agendas, improve the lot of our countrymen, to push change, and to execute ideas…Good, decent, kind people, whose lives were destroyed by tragedy deserve our help, not a slow-motion replay of the horror they went through.”

    His comments clearly weren’t made with another case in mind – the Christchurch Civic Creche case. Good honest workers (most of them women) accused of all manner of heinous crimes. One man was sentenced to prison on multiple counts. Despite strong and compelling evidence that Peter Ellis was wrongly convicted, he remains – some 18 years later – a convicted paedophile. Power could of course establish a Commission of Inquiry into the case. He could also pardon Ellis. Indeed, I am aware that Power has been given considerable information on this matter, but has either not read it, or chosen to ignore it.

    Power is a politician who can certainly talk a good story, but he won’t be remembered as someone who had the courage of his convictions.

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  6. Inventory2 (10,432 comments) says:

    His memory will last longer than yours Manolo, or mine for that matter. Good on him for getting out on his terms and not merely becoming a time-server.

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  7. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    > Figjam Power, a colourless small-town conveyance lawyer from who will be quickly forgotten.

    A little crude perhaps, but a description that I suspect is not far from the truth.

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  8. helmet (807 comments) says:

    So, it’s more satisfying doing an MP than it is to be one.

    Makes sense I guess.

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  9. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    Viking2,

    Or he could be replaced by Judith Collins. She is one really smart cookie.

    http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz

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  10. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    I’m also bemused by Power’s comment that “I think there is merit in reinforcing the independence of the advice from the Ministry of Justice and moving decision making to a separate independent body.”

    Well, quite. So why has an independent Criminal Cases Review Commission, the merits of which have been discussed for many years and whose setting-up is favoured by just about every legal outfit except the Ministry of Justice, been put on the back burner? For someone who says he likes to focus on doing things, it’s difficult to comprehend how he couldn’t find the courage (or time) to ensure that such a body be established.

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  11. tvb (4,512 comments) says:

    He has a good grasp of the role of a Minister which is to provide political leadership. Too many Ministers just sit there and expect Departments to sort out what to do next. The PM should ask each of his Ministers on what they want to achieve in politics and if the answer is vague then that Minister is a waste of space and should go to the backbenches.

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  12. Viking2 (11,568 comments) says:

    ross (918) Says:
    October 6th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Viking2,

    Or he could be replaced by Judith Collins. She is one really smart cookie.

    no she is not.

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  13. Brian Smaller (4,026 comments) says:

    What the hell is it about the psyche of this country that we feel the need to go home and hit someone, be it a partner, a child, or another family member? This is totally unjustifiable, wrong, and an indictment on us as a society.

    I fucking hate comments like this. Some violent people do these things. It certainly is not caused by some flaw in the psyche of the country. Pure psycho-babble bullshit, equal to anything lying on the paddocks of the Rangitikei. Most of the population does not commit violence and to suggest that it is a shared flaw is insulting beyond measure to the vast majority of us. Power should have been in the Labour Party.

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  14. ross (1,437 comments) says:

    Sorry, Viking2, I should have put a sarcasm alert after my comment. :)

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  15. Mark (1,491 comments) says:

    Valedictories may well interesting for other members of parliament and those Journo’s and bloggers who have a passing interest in the hill but frankly are somewhat of a waste of time for the rest of us.

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  16. backster (2,184 comments) says:

    The best Minister of Justice in my memory and the only one game enough to take on the entrenched legal oligarchy. In the end he made little headway but at least he tried. Best wishes for a successful future.

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  17. BlairM (2,365 comments) says:

    It’s not that he “did stuff” that I have a problem with, it’s the stuff he did. I’d rather have a Judith Tizard who sits on their arse than a meddler like Power increasing the power of the police state.

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  18. Rodders (1,755 comments) says:

    I’ve watched enjoyed watching the valedictories at http://inthehouse.co.nz/taxonomy/term/985

    My nomination for least memorable would be Ashraf Choudhary. I miss the good old days when MP’s weren’t supposed to read their speeches aloud.

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  19. orewa1 (410 comments) says:

    Really sad to see a guy of his capability leaving at the beginning of his prime.

    Even sadder to hear him lamenting parliament’s failure to tackle the hard issues. He is right. But why has he not used his influence as a member of the National caucus, to change this?

    Sadly what his departure reveals is that our governance system is broken. Muldoon used bluster as a substitute for leadership. Key, knowingly or not and despite being a nice guy, is using charisma to the same end.

    We needed Power; yet his valedictory speech is effectively an admission of failure. We have weak and complacent leadership, and an ineffective opposition. New Zealand has never drifted more out of control in my 60 plus years.

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  20. Rodders (1,755 comments) says:

    Re Ashraf Choudhary’s valedictory, I should add that fifteen years ago, David Lange made a general comment that “there are many speakers in Parliament who would be struck dumb if you took their glasses away from them”.

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  21. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    I don’t believe the NZ Parliament has a decent orator in any party

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  22. Rodders (1,755 comments) says:

    From what I have seen of House of Commons debates on youtube, the standard of parliamentary debate is far higher than NZ (backbenchers often don’t toe the party line in the UK too.)

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  23. reid (16,634 comments) says:

    Ministers should be about leadership. Sadly though in any Government it is usually a minority of Ministers who actually lead rather than manage.

    Well all you have to do is look around at Question Time at the appalling mediocrity in 95% of the Chamber.

    I have to say I rated Power badly for a time based on an incident I saw once at a National Party event but results speak and he has delivered soundly and well.

    Yes he did have a lot more to offer us in the future and his departure leaves a significant talent deprecation in the overall House.

    Still he seems to be a person who isn’t venal, who is energetic, dynamic and who must have fantastic contacts. I haven’t heard yet what his next job is.

    I heard an inside rumour he resigned since it’s difficult to accommodate Key and anyone else in the same room at the same time but I don’t know if that’s true. I only mention it so people inclined can add it to their political jigsaw if they wish, since it didn’t come from Power.

    Still he’s done alright, even if it was for only one full term. Thanks Simon, sorry for misjudging you, and good luck in all your future endeavors.

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  24. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Kid skins its knee, Simon changes the law to ban asphalt…

    sorry his meddling with the provcation defence pissed me off hugely, Nick nailed it , too populist

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  25. Viking2 (11,568 comments) says:

    and yet you were happy to pass retrospective legislation the other day.

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  26. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    V2

    Wrong again old fella, I think any retrospective legislation is wrong, the whole thing regarding the video was because becaus ethe guys that started the whole thing before it got huge are idiots and have been found out. The police lost, shit happens move on

    Just get the drunken dwarf to pay back what he owes NZers V2 thats retrospective enough for me.

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  27. big bruv (14,156 comments) says:

    Not sure how I feel about Power.

    I liked that he shook up the legal system, those bastards need to be reminded that they are only players in the game and not the main act. Their sense of self importance and arrogance makes them an easy target I guess however it is about time that the rules of the game were changed to better reflect what society wants.

    The legal fraternity can like it or lump it.

    Having said that, I am also disturbed that Power could claim to be a man of principal yet so quickly react to the populist notions of his party leaders and ban the defence of provocation, I can only hope that a future MOJ sees sense and brings it back.

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  28. CharlieBrown (1,027 comments) says:

    “Once in office, you’ve got to do something. That is why having a plan matters. Ideas also matter. In politics, ideas matter more than the political players themselves, because those people will come and go, but ideas endure.

    Politicians should manage less and lead more.”

    Hmmmm – the current national government should read this statement and act on it. At the moment they have NO ideas, and people matter more than policy within that party. John Key will go down in the history books as a complete failure, not for doing anything wrong, but for not doing anything right… well for not doing anything ie, no ideas. For you nats out there that don’t believe me, ask yourself how many changes that national vohemently opposed in opposition have they rectified? John Keys legacy will be the entrenchment of political correctness.

    I assume the one paper John Key didn’t support was one that would have made a positive yet was slightly controversial to the swing voter.

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  29. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    I thought he was smarter than to ask “Why do we go home a want to hit someone…”

    When you are watching the Haka on Sunday you should see the answer right there on the TV. The haka is all about doing violence to someone. The whole stadium and the TV audience is being told to “Go do some violence to someone”

    Its a no-brainer.

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  30. Elaycee (4,409 comments) says:

    Viking2 (5,276) Says in response to a comments by ross that Collins is one really smart cookie: “no she is not”.

    Have to disagree, Viking2.

    I sat in a few meetings with Collins over some (reasonably) technical matters a few years back and have to say she was very quick to grasp the technology / quick to understand the issues and her questions back were on the money. In fact, of the pollies I’ve met both professionally and socially (from either side of the House), I’d say that Collins is one of the sharpest.

    Did she catch you hooning in your car and run it through the crusher?

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