Another parliamentary farewell

February 11th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

will give his valedictory speech this week. I’ve already blogged several times on Lockwood’s contribution to Parliament, and will cover his valedictory.

It is timely to recognise that this also sees the retirement of , who has worked for Lockwood for over 25 years.

Many staff work for an MP for a couple of years only. To work for one MP for over half your working life is a huge commitment. You become essential to them, and effectively part of their family.

Those who stay with an MP for the long haul, often have their own ups and downs which coincide with the MP. If your MP is a Minister and there is a change of Government, you go from being a Senior Private Secretary managing an office of a dozen people to a sole executive secretary.

I recall in 1999 when this happened, Parliamentary Service added insult to injury by initially saying that someone who had been an SPS for nine years had to come in at the bottom of the salary scale for executive secretaries as their ministerial experience was deemed to be with a different employer! Common sense eventually prevailed.

An experienced staff member makes a huge difference to an MPs effectiveness. They don’t just run their office and diary. They act as eyes and ears and protect them whenever they can.

I think my first experience with Beryl was in 1991 when I was organising the Young Nats policy conference we wanted Lockwood as Education Minister to attend. It was at National Park in Mt Ruapehu. Beryl politely but firmly pointed out to us that what we were asking was for an extremely busy Minister to get up at 5 am, drive an hour and a half to an airport, then fly to Auckland, then fly to Taupo, then drive an hour or so to us, and then do the same in reverse. In other words he would be giving up his entire Saturday just to spend an hour with us. That was part of the job – making sure that we understood that while we were just getting him for an hour – his attendance was in fact a major undertaking for him. Lockwood was a great supporter of the Young Nats and turned up though pretty much every year without fail.

So if you are an aspiring MP, you should hope you manage to get a Beryl Bright to work for you. The difference it can make can not be under-stated.

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9 Responses to “Another parliamentary farewell”

  1. metcalph (1,293 comments) says:

    I wonder if he’ll mention his defenestration?

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  2. maringi (13 comments) says:

    Absolutely agree DPF with your endorsement of Beryl. The dedicated office staff are such a huge part of any MP’s success and yet are often under-recognised. I don’t think people understand the critical role they play in managing the avalanche of work Ministers have to deal with every day and night (for example current Ministers could easily have 8 hours of paperwork a weekend on top of a diary full of 12 hour days..)

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  3. brucehoult (185 comments) says:

    It would have cost a lot less and taken far less time to hire a small plane and fly directly to the airstrip at National Park (or the bottom of the Chateau road. Or Raetahi. Or Taumarunui. Or Turangi.)

    The 250 km from Wellington is almost exactly an hour in a reasonable 4 seat plane such as a Piper Arrow, which can be had for about $250/hr (plus pilot). And a lot lot less in 1991.

    You’d need reasonable weather though, as there are no landing beacons at those airfields and they didn’t have GPS in 1991.

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  4. brucehoult (185 comments) says:

    In fact it was in 1991 that my grandmother’s brother attended my brother’s wedding in Auckland and another wedding at the Chateau on the same day precisely by hiring someone to fly him to the Chateau airstrip.

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  5. David Garrett (5,131 comments) says:

    Brucehoult: Was the plane a cessna or a piper? How many hours had the pilot logged at that point? When did the aircraft have its most recent engine change?

    You sir, win today’s prize for most off topic and inane contribution to Kiwiblog..(although the first para. of this one is a strong contender)

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  6. shady (250 comments) says:

    Really DG? The comments related directly to the fact that you could easily fly in a light aircraft directly to National Park from Wellington (or Auckland) saving all the travel time involved in flying from Wgtn, Ak, Taupo and then driving to National Park. Personally, my thoughts were that it’s a four hour drive from Wellington to National Park – surely that would be a far less exhausting option.

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  7. pq (728 comments) says:

    thanks Farrar, an excellent column. I used to watch Lockwod on TV, he was always smiling and happy in his work.
    Perhaps sometimes pedantic, but he understrood the ceremony and I never saw him unscrupulously misuse his power.

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  8. CharlieBrown (789 comments) says:

    You have to admire Beryl, that is a massive commitment. I wonder what she will do after Lockwood leaves?

    I do think that 25 (or is it 30 for lockwood) years in parliament is ten years more than anyone should be allowed to have as an mp. Parliament shouldn’t be made up of career politicians, mps should have their time as an mp restricted to just 15 years. Parliament is already way to eletist, especially in the 2 main parties, and at least with a more regular circulation of people in parliament we are likely to get better representation.

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  9. big bruv (12,352 comments) says:

    “I think my first experience with Beryl was in 1991 when I was organising the Young Nats policy conference we wanted Lockwood as Education Minister to attend. It was at National Park in Mt Ruapehu. Beryl politely but firmly pointed out to us that what we were asking was for an extremely busy Minister to get up at 5 am, drive an hour and a half to an airport, then fly to Auckland, then fly to Taupo, then drive an hour or so to us, and then do the same in reverse. In other words he would be giving up his entire Saturday just to spend an hour with us. That was part of the job – making sure that we understood that while we were just getting him for an hour – his attendance was in fact a major undertaking for him.”

    Wow!…big bloody deal.

    This sort of arrogance from our elected employees (and their staff) annoys the hell out of me. What DPF was asking our employee to do is nothing more than many business people do every day of the week. Frankly Lockwood’s receptionist should have simply said “he will be there”. Most who work in the house quickly become arrogant and rude, I suspect there is an induction course that new employees sit where they are given instruction in how to be as rude and arrogant as possible, a refresher course is offered to all new ministers’, and their staff when they reach the dizzy heights of cabinet.

    Some years ago I had cause to deal with a Minister, I had some correspondence with the Minister and having spoken with the sanctimonious prick (and his staff) on one or two prior occasions I kind of knew what to expect. Anyway, the phone rang and I was told to “hold for the Minister”, at that I promptly hung up the phone. The staff member called back and asked me again (in an even more aggressive tone) to “hold for the Minister”, again I hung up the phone. When she called back the third time and started to rip into me about hanging up I simply told the old cow that “if the Minister wants to speak with me then get the prick to make his own bloody phone calls”

    We should never forget that Ministers are our employees, they are there to work for us, it irks me that so many bow and scrape to these protected public servants when many of them are grossly under qualified for the jobs they end up getting.

    Yes Lockwood might have been the best ever speaker, however when it comes to over rating his own self importance and the importance of the house he is without equal. The man is institutionalised; he is nothing more than a career politician and therefore somebody who has spent the best part of his working life sucking off the tax payer.

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