Northland MP John Carter gave his valedictory speech to Parliament on Tuesday. John is one of the funniest guys you will ever meet, but also one of the most hard working MPs around. His advocacy for his constituents is legendary, and this is why he has such huge majorities in an area which is economically quite poor.
Parliament won’t quite be the same without John there. But as he said in his valedictory speech:
Here I am, giving my valedictory. If I had known it would be this good I would have done it years ago! I must say people have been kind enough to say they are sad to see me going. I am sorry they are sad; I am as happy as all hell.
It’s great to see an MP leave with no regrets or rancour.
I cannot help but mention the “Hone” affair. This is the real “Hone” from the far north, by the way, folks. The only thing I want to say in that regard is that it made things rather difficult for me, because the Prime Minister, who had been waiting 10 years to meet the President of the United States, happened to be in the United States meeting the President at the time the “Hone” affair occurred. I think otherwise I might have got away with just a good boot in the proverbial. Unfortunately, what happened was the Prime Minister, who had had his photo taken shaking hands with the President, appeared on page 8 of the New York Times andI appeared on page 1. It seriously pissed him off, I can tell you.
Oh it did indeed. He was absolutely ropable.
So I got stuck into the Labour Party in Opposition and talked about all the cunning things those members were doing. I said we were not going to put up with these cunning things and we would not have cunning stunts like this happening. It went on and on. I kept saying it, and I know that Gerry, who was sitting there, was waiting for me to bugger it up, and so was everyone else, funnily enough, even people in the gallery. I carried on about cunning stunts until I slipped up. Eric Roy was in the chair. He fell over in collapse. Ailsa Salt, who was a dear, dear lady and a very prim and proper lady, just about fell out of her chair. Gerry Brownlee collapsed in his seat. Trevor Mallard, who was sitting on the other side, got redder and redder and sort of fell back; I saw tears flooding down. Annette King, who was sitting there, said “I resemble that remark.” and slid under the chair. The worst part was that I had to keep talking while the whole place around me was bloody hosing themselves laughing.
I was watching Parliament when that happened. It was even worse than John described. The entire house was in tears of laughter and I’d say it took at least two minutes until people stopped laughing.
The thing that disappointed me was that I had thought I would be the first person ever to have that word recorded in Hansard—the Speaker could not pull me up, because he was laughing—but when I got it I saw it had been written as “cunning tricks”.
I checked that myself also. Sadly the c word is not to be found in the hallowed pages of Hansard.
I raise that story for a reason. There is a serious issue that we all need to consider, and it is this: we need to have humour. We need to be serious. Obviously, we need to debate issues—this place is important to the country—but we also need to be able to share humour. I have to say that I am more and more concerned—indeed, I am pleased I am retiring—that the scrutiny we are coming under, particularly from the media, who are trying to sanitise us and turn us into saints, is ridiculous. We need to have members who are real, who can laugh at themselves, share things about themselves, and be real people. If we do not, how else can we represent the people in this country who are real? I ask the people who are prone to criticise us to let us have some space and let us be real people. Occasionally, we will make mistakes, but let us be real, because that is what New Zealand is.
I could not agree more. The last thing we need is 120 plastic fantastics who never say anything in case they offend someone.
I will start with racing, which has been seriously frustrating, to say the least. I just want to say that the people in the racing fraternity are a wonderful group of people, but, sadly, until they realise that the changes that need to be made to the racing industry have to come from within, it will not succeed. We need to get more focus from within. Craig, I say to you good luck my friend. Every racing Minister—with one exception—has not been well liked. I also thank Michael Stiassny, who has done the best job he can in trying circumstances to get the changes that are needed. But if the racing industry does not change, in my view it is doomed.
That is a shot across the bows.
I also want to comment on local government. I am particularly proud of the part I played in the Auckland reforms. We made an amazing change, working with the likes of Mark Ford and Brendan Boyle and so many others from the Department of Internal Affairs and local government offices. What a wonderful team we had. But, in particular, I commend Rodney Hide for the leadership he gave and for the way in which he brought together that team to put together the Auckland reforms, which are now such a success. I know there may be one or two who do not agree, but in the main it was an outstanding achievement. Rodney, thank you for your friendship and thank you for your leadership. It is a real credit to you and to those who were able to work with you in that role. Thank you very much.
Finally, there was the civil defence portfolio. I have to say that of all the portfolios it became rather challenging, given that I was told by John Hamilton when I started that the portfolio would not take too much time and that I would not have to put too much focus on it.
I am proud to have been the longest-serving member of Parliament for the Northland electorate. Mr Speaker, I am conscious of the fact that you have served in this Parliament longer than I have, but as far as the electorate goes, I have been the longest-serving member. One of the things I am proud of is that, with the exception of 1993, with every election the majority has increased. I am really proud of that fact. It is something I am very proud of.
John won Bay of Islands in 1987 and 1990.Then the Far North in 1993, and Northland since. His majorities were:
- 1996 – 5,961
- 1999 – 5,454
- 2002 – 7,558
- 2005 – 9,275
- 2008 – 10,054
Growing the majority in 2002 was especially impressive.
I will finish with this little ditty that someone sent to me. I thought it was worth reading it out, and it goes like this:
He walks, his head beneath the clouds
He strides across the North
He helps the people far and wide
He is the people’s man.
There was a nice function afterwards also, with great speeches from Maurice Williamson and others. My highlight was having the PM note that John was the first Minister who had resigned who wrote his own resignation letter!
I won’t say that I hope John enjoys the Cook Islands, because I know he will. Farewell for now, mate.