Amy is the MP for Selwyn – a seat that has produced many good MPs, including Sir John Hall:
We seem to raise strong politicians on the Canterbury plains. I come from the same part of the country as the great Sir John Hall, a farmer, and former premier of New Zealand who, in the 1870’s, formed and maintained a government in a period of change and great instability. Sir John is particularly to be remembered for one of his final acts of public life which was to successfully sheppard the women’s suffrage bill through the House in the 1890’s.
Living in a world where women in NZ have risen to the top in almost every profession, and now dominate the universities, it is hard to believe that only just over 100 years ago they didn’t even have the right to vote. And it was not until WWII, that women seriously started to enter the workforce.
In the passage of time we seem to have lost sight of the enormous contribution Sir John made and as a woman now representing his home area, I want to take a moment to acknowledge his legacy.
As a farmer, he and his brothers formed one of the first large-scale sheep runs in the South Island, which later became Terrace station. And as a politician for the original Selwyn seat, he was respected for his integrity, and huge contribution to the developing nation’s landscape.
Sir John was a staunch conservative, who felt women would bring more decorum and civilized behavior to politics, plus would be least likely to countenance official extravagance.
Women, he noted “instinctively possess a far keener insight into character than men, and the result of giving them a vote would be that a candidate’s chance at election would depend more on his character, for trustworthiness, for ability and for straightforwardness than upon mere professions made on the hustings.”
I find it interesting that even enlightened MPs such as Sir John argued women should get the vote not on the basis of it being a fundamental right for all adults, but on the basis it would produce better outcomes!
I come to this House as a commercial lawyer and a Canterbury sheep farmer and based on that just last week in Wellington someone called a “typical Nat”. I make no apology for that side of my background, I am proud of what I have worked hard to achieve, but for those looking to stereotype me it is worth pointing out that I also grew up in a sole parent household, always short of money, with my mother putting herself through a degree with two pre-schoolers underfoot, eventually becoming a psychologist bonded to the education department.
All these new MPs are making it very hard for those fighting class wars from the 50s to portray National as the party of inherited privilege.
At this time, we need the rural sector more than ever. We need to treasure our rural communities, not trash them.
Something that worries me is how many New Zealanders have lost touch with the land. Most kiwi kids don’t visit farms anymore, they don’t see lambs in spring, and they don’t grow up knowing that farmers care about their land, its health and its future. It’s not in their interests to pillage nature. Farmers farm for future generations, and they farm for the prosperity of all New Zealand.
Actually it worries me too how few kids gets exposed to the outdoors and rural NZ. I was very lucky that growing up we had a few acres in Reikorangi, and over the summer would help the local farmer out mustering stock, dagging etc etc.
We must also remember that the plight of the agriculture is not just about the success of our economy. The world has a massively expanding population and UN predictions are that feeding those people will be one of our biggest challenges in years to come. We cannot afford to let our agricultural industry shrink in NZ where we have the proven capability to produce some of the best, and most environmentally sound, foodstuffs in the world.
And if we follow a fundamentalist approach to climate change, the only way to reduce emissions enough will be to slaughter livestock, rather than have them produce food for the world.
Making laws that effect people’s lives is a very grave responsibility. And when the law does put restrictions on people, we owe it to them to make the rules clear and concise, and not open to subjective interpretation leading to wide inconsistencies of result.
Mr Speaker, business in this country has often been demonized in recent years as large, heartless corporations making money off Kiwis for their international owners.
But in reality the face of New Zealand business is a couple of guys working in a workshop out the back of town fixing cars. Or a mum selling kids products via a website from home. Or builders, sparkies and cleaners. Lawnmowing contractors, painters.
The productivity of this country is in their hands. They form the bulk of New Zealand businesses, and they will be very exposed in the coming economic storm. They are the infantry of our economy, and they are fighting on the frontline right now.
So are we sending in reinforcements? Or are we going to abandon them?
Well Labour and Greens are fighting to make it harder for small businesses.
The state is here to help, but its role is not to run your life, tell you what to do or how to do it.
The role of Government is not to wrap us in cotton-wool to ‘save us from ourselves’.
I can assure you that I will stick up for the right for kiwi kids to play on swings, see-saws, skateboards and cycles, and to climb trees and build treehouses without having to apply for a building consent!
The full speech is over the break.