The draft transcripts of the four Labour maiden speeches is here. I used to e-mail MPs asking for a copy of their maiden speeches but now the draft transcripts are out in 150 minutes, I just wait for them.
First some extracts from Dunedin North MP David Clark:
Politicians do not exist to rubber-stamp what the electorate has already decided, but to articulate and share a vision of a better society. I will describe the better society to which I aspire. It has similarities with what founding members of the Labour Party described as an “applied Christianity”. It is a society where accident of birth does not dictate one’s station and prospects. It is a society where every citizen can get ahead by dint of hard work that builds on their natural endowment. It is one where all have free and equal access to high-quality education, a society where all have the ability to develop their talents sufficiently to ensure fulfilling and enriching lives. It is one in which choices are not driven by fear, but are afforded by opportunity, in which everyone has access to legal representation, regardless of their means.
I agree with those sentiments, even though I suspect we disagree on how to achieve them.
I would describe how we might consider financial transactions taxes, gift and estate duties, and a capital gains tax in order to broaden our tax base.
Broadening the tax base is good, if it leads to lower rates. Not good if it leads to the state growing in size and crushing the private sector.
And I don’t support taxing people for dying, or gift duty which cost three times more to administer than revenue it took in.
A third reason that greater equality makes pragmatic sense relates to public investment. Infrastructure is an example—witness growth in China’s high-speed rail network. It is 12 times bigger than it was in 2008, four times larger than in any other country, and still growing at an astonishing rate. It is hard to imagine this happening in the USA today. Where a critical mass of the truly wealthy exert undue influence on the political process, investment in infrastructure, education, research, healthcare, and other matters related to the common good dwindles …
Oh nonsense. China is growing its rail network because it has 10% economic growth and the cost of labour is so low. To suggest that the USA is not growing its rail network at the same pace because of the wealthy is batty.
This year marks the centenary of one of the most bitter and violent industrial disputes in New Zealand’s history: the Waihī miners strike. It is an important part of the Labour story. A young Scottish union organiser was witness to that dispute and saw how workers who wanted nothing more than decent pay and a fair go were intimidated, divided, and—after a striking miner was beaten to death by those opposed to the strike—run out of town. Those dark events led to that organiser and many others realising that justice would be achieved only when working people reached beyond the workplace for influence and had a direct say on the laws and policies they were subject to. The union organiser was Peter Fraser, who later became a Labour Prime Minister.
I found the Waihi link to Peter Fraser quite interesting. Fraser is my favourite Labour PM.
New Plymouth is a great city with, I might add, a great mayor and I enjoyed campaigning there last year, although I remain intrigued by a question I was asked at one of the first meetings I held: what my position was on the merger of Air New Zealand and NAC. I said that Labour was taking a “wait-and-see” approach.
In my previous role at Plant and Food Research, I observed firsthand the real difference science and innovation can make. We need more businesses to access and utilise the exceptional knowledge that is being created in our Crown research institutes and universities. And we need a proper commitment to the fundamental research that underpins this. To improve this we must commit to adequately fund science and innovation to create jobs and lift wages. …
I am a New Zealand historian by training who has worked in science and innovation. I am a former community board member who believes in the power of communities and the grassroots. I am a Christchurch native who grew up in the ravages of a user-pays world, who, despite being glued to the royal wedding in 1981 believes in the desirability and inevitability of our country becoming a republic in my lifetime, who celebrates the diversity of modern New Zealand. I am here because I have a strong belief in social justice. I am here because I believe that there are always real alternatives in working to ensure that hope, opportunity, and being all you can be, is not an accident of birth for the privileged few but the birthright of all New Zealanders.
And finally Rino Tirikatene:
Eighty years ago, in this room, maybe even in this chair, my grandfather Sir Eruera Tirikātene stood before this House as the member of Parliament for Southern Maori. Forty-five years ago, in this room, maybe even in this chair, my aunt Whetū Tirikātene-Sullivan stood before this House as the member of Parliament for Southern Maori. Today, I stand before the House as the member of Parliament for Te Tai Tonga. At the time my grandfather rose to address the House for the first time, the Māori population numbered a mere 82,000. We were at that time a rural people, still recovering from the ravages of land sales and the scourge of introduced diseases. We existed at the very margin of the country’s economy. What income we were able to earn as unskilled labourers in the agriculture and forestry industries was supplemented by gardening and foraging. The land development assistance programme introduced by Sir Apirana Ngāta in the 1920s, which eventually gave rise to the Māori incorporations and trusts of today, was in its infancy and poverty was all pervasive, especially among those communities that had been left landless by confiscation and land sales. Statutory recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, the claims of Ngāi Tahu, Waikato, and Taranaki, and poverty were my grandfather’s main concerns.
We have made some progress since then.
[Today] more than 1 in every 2 Māori was living in a household with a combined income of more than $50,000, and well over 1 in every 3 in a household with a total income of $70,000 or more. What we are witnessing is the steady growth of a Māori middle class. On the collective front, we are witnessing the rise of the Māori economic authorities, Māori land trusts and incorporations, and iwi authorities.
Life and prospects for Māori are so much better than they were 80 years ago, but Māori know better than anyone that much remains to be done. We are still overrepresented at the bottom of the wealth pyramid. We will, on average, die sooner than our Pākehā mates. We will, more so than our Pacific cousins, end up in prison, and, unlike any other group in Aotearoa – New Zealand, we now receive more in transfer payments than we pay in tax. Too many of use remain locked into a cycle of dependency and poverty.
I am glad he mentioned dependency as well as poverty. The two are linked.