Shane Jones was at is best in his valedictory speech last night. A 30 minute example of great oratory that had the House and spectators in laughter constantly – but also with some important messages.
Afterwards he had drinks at the Backbencher which had huge numbers of MPs, former MPs and staff there. I left around 2 am, and let’s just say today will be a very slow and painful day.
The notion that the people who should come to see me at my valedictory are Willie Jackson, John Tamihere, Mr Prebble, Mr Douglas, and Ron Mark is a comment, perhaps, on the nature of my politics as a member of this side of the House. There is Willie Jackson, the Māori equivalent of Pam Corkery; John Tamihere, Labour’s No. 1 exile; and the two gentlemen who belong to that generation of Labour politicians of the day.
The Willie and JT lines were superb.
They are part of the legacy of the party that I belong to, that group of reformers including Sir Geoffrey Palmer, including Mike Moore, and including David Lange, who in my time as a young man was a hero in the political world.
Jones had a message in his words here. Many in Labour today despise the 4th Labour Government. Jones was saying that while you can disagree with some of what they did, Labour should be proud of its history as a reforming party.
I was born in a little area in Kaitāia, Awanui. My dad was one of 17. My dad’s mother was born in 1893. She visited upon me, along with my mother and father, an enormous amount of love and affection for the Māori language and respect for the Anglican Church. Sorry, Mum, I did not always hold up that part of the bargain.
The first duty that I undertook, of an international character, on that committee was to lead a delegation to Rarotonga to advise them on transparency. The only problem with that delegation—it comprised Doug Woolerton, Murray McCully, and Hone Harawira, a tall order—was that while I was there, unfortunately, I fell off a motorbike. Despite parliamentary ambitions about transparency, I did everything I could to hide that accident from Heather Simpson and Helen Clark. Hone Harawira immediately reported it to Ruth Berry. By the time I got back to New Zealand, there were 25 messages from Heather Simpson and Helen Clark. If you do not believe me, I am willing to lift the leg of my trou, but for fear of sparking unintended consequences in my own caucus I will resist it.
My colleagues will tell you that I never agreed with Helen that we should have a shower head policy. But when you are a member of the team and junior, as I was, you deliver the policy of the day. As you recall, we were going to regulate the amount of water, have a certain covering for hot water heaters, and, as the water sort of dribbled into a bucket, then you could work out whether it was 8 minutes, 8 seconds, whatever it was. I knew I was in a dire situation when the only person who came to my rescue was Jeanette Fitzsimons. In those days the Greens were my fans.
One of his best lines.
I want to acknowledge Annette King. Phil Goff was out of the country when John Key, in a fit of enthusiasm, decided that all credit card receipts should be made available to the public. If there was ever a motivation to get the CIA on to the Prime Minister, God knows that was it. Our deputy leader trusted me to go forward with one adviser, John Harvey , and front up to that issue. It did not cover me with a great deal of glory, but please know this: I never, ever ran, and I was prepared to front up to the media, whether it was good or bad. If I can say to Kelvin Davis as he comes in—because, Prime Minister, Parliament is now dishing out credit cards, and I understand they are called purchase cards—cash is king, brother; cash is king.
Possible the line with the most laughter.
To move away from a wee bit of levity, as my senior colleagues would know, you have fantastic opportunities when you are a Minister to rub shoulders with power brokers and incredibly influential people around the world. One night, Helen invited a number of us to dine with Condoleezza Rice . We were treated to an inordinately clever exposition and account of where affairs of the world, in terms of the military and economy, were. I went there in my self-drive car back to Tai Tokerau, and within 8 hours I picked up a hitchhiker. So here I am going from meeting with one of the most powerful women in the world, I am in the car, and I pick up a hitchhiker, a young Māori lad of similar age to my boy. As he sat in that car and we went down the road, I said to him … “Close the window, it’s getting cold.” He said: “Oh, matua, I want to leave the window open.” I said: “Why’s that, son?” He said: “It makes me feel free, and I have just come out of a 3½ year lag from Ngāwhā prison.” If there ever was an incident within a short period of time that made me feel humble as a Māori parliamentarian and a junior Minister—to go from that level of power and influence, and still to have the confidence to relate to one of my own rangatahi on the other side of the tracks, so to speak.
I think that is one of Jones’ skills. He could relate to anyone from Condi Rice to the prisoner just released.
I wanted to be a champion for industry, and I have been well supported by fisheries and forestry, and that enabled me to bring their ideas forward. I am a firm believer in trade. I admired, as a junior Minister, Phil Goff and the China free-trade deal. I will totally resist any suggestion that my country will grow richer by turning our back upon the essential importance of international trade.
A very strong implicit plea there for Labour not to become anti-trade and anti–industry. But I suspect he has lost that battle.
The most common question asked by people last night in the Backbencher was who can replace Shane in Labour. The most common answer was no-one. His departure does leave a void.