The maiden speeches of the new Green MPs are here.
I joined the Green Party and stood as a candidate for the first time in the 2005 general election. When I first stood I had no concept of what huge challenges lay ahead of me as a deaf candidate and activist. I just wanted to speak out in defence of our water and our environment and be heard. But I learnt the hard way that passion and knowledge were not enough. I had to find different ways of doing politics, ways of getting around the barriers posed by being deaf, ways that allowed me to participate and engage effectively. I started learning New Zealand Sign Language and using sign language interpreters when I spoke to submissions to the local city and regional councils. I am absolutely thrilled that there are New Zealand Sign Language interpreters in the gallery today, and I note that it is the first time in New Zealand that a maiden speech is being covered this way. I hope that this will be the start of greater recognition by Parliament of the status of New Zealand Sign as our third official language.
And Denise Roche:
I set out on a journey that began as a union organiser, initially with the Theatrical Workers Union, hitching rides on trains in the guards’ van with my dad’s union mates and fighting for the rights of cinema workers around the northern part of our country. I have protested and picketed with the best. I can attest that love and politics can mix: my first date with my life partner, John, was at a union picket at the Devonport Docks.
Romance at union pickets. Not likely to happen at Ports of Auckland as the union blokes have managed to keep all but two women away from working there.
I can assure the House that even though I am the Greens’ gambling spokesperson, I am not an anti-gambling zealot, and I will prove that to you by selling you a raffle ticket during the dinner break. I am, however, deeply concerned with the harm caused by commercialised gambling, and especially by the blight on our communities caused by pokie machines. Kiwis know that these machines reap their profits from problem gambling. Kiwis know that they can harm whole communities, which is why whenever they have been asked if they want more pokies, people say no. The former Manukau City Council received over 6,000 submissions asking it to restrict pokies. Active, engaged citizens are saying no to pokies, and will be dismayed by the banana republic, back-room deal being done by the Government, where our laws are for sale, and where the Auckland casino, a monopoly provider, is to be expanded in return for a convention centre—or was that 30 pieces of silver. Commercial gambling is deeply regressive, and cynically exploitative. It is a transfer of wealth from the brown to the white, from the women to the men, and from the poor to the rich. Casinos are an engine of crime and inequality.
If that is NOT being an anti-gaming zealot, I’d hate to see what an actual anti-gaming zealot looks like!
I studied philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, to try to uncover the rational underpinnings of my political and ethical convictions. In my final year I took up French, in part due to a love of Voltaire and his pragmatic approach to humanism. Ten years ago I left the United States. I initially went to France to gain fluency in the language, but I stayed because I could not bear to return to a country engaged in the futile and destructive wars championed by George W Bush. After some time working and travelling in Europe I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to undertake postgraduate study at Sciences Po in Paris, where I was able to study economics and political theory. My questions about the places we live and the nature of our economy were slowly informed by my experiences, as well as by my studies. I eagerly delved deeper into new approaches to urban planning, transport, and resource management at the University of Auckland, and in my subsequent work as a transport consultant. Everyone one of us travels, most every day, and every one of us consumes goods that have been transported from further and further away. We are all very personally familiar with the annoyances and the injustices that inevitably occur when we are running late and need to get somewhere, but there is a much bigger picture. The places we live are fundamentally shaped by the transport system and policies put in place by the Government. In turn, this affects the money and time we must spend travelling, the quality of our air and water, the fact that nearly 40 percent of our energy use is for transport. We increasingly see that it affects our health, the value of our land, the cost of development, the affordability of housing—it even affects the amount of interaction we have with our neighbours.
We are all beneficiaries and should be proud to be so. I am the beneficiary of years of support from family, friends, the State, not to mention the beneficiary of colonisation and at times the unemployment benefit. There should not be a stigma in accepting help when you need it. And there is benefit in sharing and helping others when they need it. Individualism locks in inequality and depression, and as a result we all lose out.
This qualifies for statements ever made I most disagree with.
There is a huge difference between individualism and being selfish. Often those who stick up for individualism are amongst the most generous helpers and supporters of others – when their help and support is given voluntarily.
Forestry—foreign companies such as Tiong own or control the vast majority of logs or timber products going offshore, yet this Government seems hell bent on making it easier for them. One is letting them keep gassing our communities and the ozone layer with spent neurotoxic and carcinogenic, ozone-depleting methyl bromide from the log fumigations. Labour and National have both dodged forcing recapture of the invisible, odourless gas that cannot be tracked with confidence. Giving the industry 10 years latitude, while we increase our exports and fumigations, people are getting sick and dying—dying for whom?
When I first walked on to Parliament’s grounds as a member of this House last November, I heard a tui, practising its scales below the Beehive. The tui’s chorus is sweeter than anything I might say in this Chamber, so I took its song as auspicious—a sign that if tui have come to Parliament, their oral petitions would encourage this House to give more serious attention to our wild landscapes and our indigenous plants and animals whose ancestry and tenure in those islands is so much longer than our own. Aotearoa’s 70 million years of geographic isolation from other parts of Gondwana produced some of the world’s oldest and most unusual life forms: trees such as the kahikatea, fruit basket of the forest, and animals such as the tuatara, the wētā, and the carnivorous land snails, Powelliphanta. We can and must invest more in safeguarding the first inhabitants of Aotearoa and the places where they live. We have no treaty with them, but they define who we are. They are what makes New Zealand so distinctive in the eyes of the world.
Because I never met Rod I never got to tell him that he was partly responsible for the formation of my political consciousness. It was 1997 and I was sitting in a sweltering upstairs classroom at Hutt Valley High School watching a video in fourth form social studies about the 1981 Springbok Tour . Suddenly, there was young Rod, resplendent in his flouro vest and orange bike helmet—clashing spectacularly with his shaggy red hair and beard. He spoke earnestly into the camera about why he was putting his safety on the line to march in the front lines of the increasingly terrifying anti-apartheid protests. I was moved, fascinated, and, strangely, jealous. I went home and told my mum that I wished we had issues like that to protest about these days. She laughed and told me there were plenty. I started paying attention and realised she was right. So I have Rod to thank, in part, for setting me on the path to politics
I suspect Rod would find this the highest compliment.
With the fantastic education I received at public schools in the Hutt Valley, I grew up to win a Rhodes Scholarship and get elected to Parliament, aged 29. But, in the words of Russel Norman in his maiden statement to this House, these stories do not mean that a State house kid, or a public school kid, or a DPB mum can do anything. They mean that the State’s commitment of resources towards housing, education, and income support really does make a difference.
A fair point.Tags: Greens, maiden speeches