Chris Bishop was given the honour of leading off the Address in Reply debate on behalf of National, and I think almost everyone would agree he was an excellent pick.
Some extracts I particularly liked:
I come to this House as someone who has always, for as long as I can recall, been interested in politics, history, public policy, and the law. My parents, John Bishop and Rosemary Dixon, are to blame. From dad I got my love of politics. Dad was in the press gallery from 1982 to 1987. He was chief parliamentary reporter for TVNZ during that momentous year of 1984. The political bug was transferred to me, or so the family joke goes, when he was told to talk to his new baby. Most people would choose to talk about the weather, what is on TV, or something like that; his topic of choice was none other than this man called Sir Robert Muldoon. I have had an enduring fascination with him and his politics ever since. Growing up I would pepper dad for stories about his time as a journalist—about the night of the 1984 snap election, about the night of the Mount Erebus crash, about travelling with Geoffrey Palmer to try to save the ANZUS alliance. I drank it all in, and those stories and those lessons have shaped who I am today. From mum I got my love of the law, particularly public law. From both my parents I gained an interest in ideas, in current affairs, and in the world around me. Growing up, our household was one where everyone was expected to have a view and not to be shy about expressing it. Indeed, both my parents were champion debaters, and mum was instrumental in establishing the New Zealand Schools’ Debating Council, which I was president of for 4 years much later in life. Almost every year since 1988 the grand final of the Russell McVeagh National Championships have been held where we were this morning—the Legislative Council Chamber . There are now four alumni of the championships who have become MPs: Jacinda Ardern, Megan Woods, Holly Walker, and myself. I am pleased that our side of the House is now represented on that list, and I am sure that there will be many more in the years to come.
Chris is a formidable debater, and I expect he will become a strong presence in the House.
My dad’s side of the family—although, I should say, not necessarily my dad, whose politics I do not know—is true blue. The Bishops were farmers at Hillend, outside Balclutha in South Otago. My poppa Stuart joined Wright Stephenson in 1928 and worked for it until he retired, interrupted only by World War II, where he fought at Monte Cassino . Stewart and Cora Bishop almost certainly voted National their entire lives. They referred to national superannuation as “Rob’s lolly”.
My mother’s side of the family could not be more different. They were Methodists in the great reforming progressive tradition, and Labour voters to their toes. One great-grandfather was a wharfie who won the honoured 151-day loyalty card during the 1951 strike. My grandfather Haddon Dixon was a Methodist minister, a social activist, a director of CORSO, and an inveterate follower of politics. He was the sort of man for whom Parliament TV was made. My nana was a progressive socialist. In 1981, as a 61-year-old, sickened by apartheid in South Africa, she joined the “Stop the Tour” movement, helped organise a sit-down protest on the Hutt motorway during the Wellington test, refused to move, and was duly arrested.
She happily did her 200 hours’ community service painting the Barnardos centre in Waterloo Road in the Hutt, so I think I get my social liberalism and my reforming zeal from my grandparents, although, it is fair to say, not my Labour Party politics. I come to this House as a 31-year-old, a representative of Generation Y. Our generation does not remember needing a doctor’s prescription to buy margarine or needing permission from the Reserve Bank to subscribe to a foreign magazine or any of the other absurdities of life in the Fortress New Zealand economy. It seems scarcely believable to us that from 1982 to 1984 all wages and prices in New Zealand were frozen by prime ministerial fiat. For our generation, inflation has always been low, we have always been nuclear-free, homosexuality has always been legal, and the Treaty settlement process has always been under way. New Zealand is a completely different country to what it was when I was born, and I have always been profoundly fascinated by that transformation and what its effects have been.
The post Muldoon generation do not understand why we have political parties that seem to paint the 1970s as the high point for New Zealand.
It intrigues me, for example, that although Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are regarded by the Labor movement in Australia as heroes and receive standing ovations at Labor conferences to this day, New Zealand’s own Labour reformers are essentially pariahs from their party. I think a significant portion of the left in New Zealand has never made its peace with the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, and in some ways the debate inside the Labour Party today is the most visible manifestation of that lack of reconciliation.
Sadly there seems to be not a Labour MP left in caucus, who defends the legacy of the 4th Labour Government.
A maiden speech is traditionally the time to put on the record your principles, philosophy, and beliefs. I will do so with the caveat that I am not so arrogant as to think that my current views are immutable. Some of my political heroes said things in their maiden speeches they almost certainly would not have agreed with later in their careers. Roger Douglas’ maiden speech in 1969, for example, is extremely sceptical of the benefits of foreign investment in New Zealand. In 1970 Paul Keating told the Australian Parliament that the Commonwealth Government should set up a statutory authority to fix the prices of all goods and services in the Australian economy and he bemoaned the number of young mothers who were entering the workforce. I think good politicians listen, reflect, read, and think deeply about the world, and, if necessary, change their minds. I hope to always be open to that in my time in this House.
Indeed. You should have convictions and ideas when you enter Parliament, but you should also be able to change your mind to changing circumstances and superior arguments.
I am an unashamed economic and social liberal. The classical annunciation of liberalism within the National Party remains John Marshall’s maiden speech as the member for Mount Victoria in 1947. I believe, as he did, that the conditions of a good society are liberty, property, and security, and the greatest of these is liberty. I think individuals make better decisions about their own lives than Governments do. A fundamental belief in the primacy of the individual over the collective should be the lodestar that guides all good Governments. I think we should trust individuals more than we do and be more sceptical about the ability of the Government to solve social problems. I believe that the best way to deliver the prosperity New Zealanders deserve is through a globally competitive market-based economy that rewards enterprise and innovation. The reforms of the 1980s and 1990s were vitally important in transforming New Zealand from a sclerotic economic basket case to a modern, functioning, competitive economy, but there is more to be done.
Lower taxes, less inefficient Government transfers, less corporate welfare, more trade liberalisation and less regulation would be a start.
I support a tolerant, multicultural New Zealand that is confident, proud, and open to the world. Our society is enriched greatly by migration. The periodic desire by some to scapegoat migrants I find is deeply distasteful. I am proud of how far New Zealand has come in only one generation from an inward-looking, insular economy and society to one that is increasingly internationally connected and confident on the world stage. I believe that we can responsibly develop our natural resources and improve our environment at the same time. We are blessed with abundant natural resources in New Zealand, both renewable and non-renewable, and we are not wealthy enough as a nation to not take advantage of them. What we know from history is that the wealthier a country is, the more able it is to take practical steps to improve the environment. Some of the most polluted places on Earth were in the communist Soviet Union. Growing out economy through the responsible development of our resources gives us the ability to preserve things precious to New Zealand like our rivers, lakes, and national parks.
Yes, the economy and the environment are not in opposition. The cure to dirty rivers is not to shoot one in five dairy cows.
I have a profound belief in free speech, the power of ideas, and the importance of persuasion by those in public office. Fundamental sustainable change in public policy is only ever achieved when the argument is won. That is how marriage equality was achieved. It is how Treaty settlements were started and how they have continued. It is how we tore down the walls of the Fortress New Zealand economy. Leaders in this Parliament made the case for those things and won the argument. One of the proudest moments of my life was to debate in the Oxford Union, standing at the same dispatch box that Lange stood at when he delivered his famous speech on the moral indefensibility of nuclear weapons. Lange was at his best when he was arguing. I believe Bill English had it right in his maiden speech as the member for Wallace in 1991: “What I bring to this job is a willingness to get into the argument rather than to avoid it. I owe it to my voters to present in Parliament what is best in them—a credible, constructive, and committed argument. Power without persuasion has no lasting place in a democracy.” As long as I am an MP I will always try to present credible and constructive arguments and I will always be willing to have one.
Sadly the last Labour Government tried to close down much free speech with their Electoral Finance Bill. Today’s law is much better than what was proposed, but it is still too restrictive.
We are the first Government in a long time that has a resolute focus on tackling some of the intractable social problems that have bedevilled New Zealand for too long such as a persistent underclass, welfare dependency, Māori and Pasifika educational underachievement, and poor-quality social housing. We are not doing this simply by throwing more money at problems. Care for those most vulnerable in our community is not, or should not be, measured by the amount of money spent, the number of bureaucratic agencies set up, or the number of people employed to deal with the problem. We should judge policy by results. Milton Friedman was right: “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programmes by their intentions rather than their results.”
This is I think a key difference between right and left. Many on the left do think it is the amount you spend that matters. National’s Better Public Services targets has for the first time incentivised the state to focus on outcomes, not outputs.
One thing that I am personally passionate about is our plan to reward excellent teachers and keep them in the classroom, doing what they do best—changing kids’ lives. Everyone remembers their amazing teachers growing up. It is simply wrong that the classic career pathway for teachers at the moment involves leaving the classroom to move into administration.
Absolutely. The most important reform this term I’d say.
When people look back on this passage in New Zealand’s history, it is my fervent hope that they will recognise that it was the fifth National Government that put in place the reforms to raise the quality of teaching in our schools, that challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations, that made progress on tackling child abuse and family violence, that made social housing actually work for people, and that invested in people to support their aspirations for independence from the State. This Government’s signal economic achievements are important, but I think and hope this Government will be known for much more than that.
The bigotry of low expectations is one I particularly dislike.
As I said, an excellent maiden speech. There have been and will be many other fine ones. I normally try to do a summary of each one, but as I am on holiday, I won’t have the time. But they are all on the parliamentary website.
I booked my holiday for October/November on the assumption that Winston would hold the balance of power and take six weeks to decide, ad hence I would get back just in time for the new Parliament. Pleased to say things moved faster than that, even if it means I have missed the first few weeks of the 51st Parliament.
However the Herald has very usefully done a summary of the maiden speeches to date.