Other Valedictories

July 31st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

There were five other valedictories yesterday. Some extracts from each starting with Paul Hutchison:

As science * spokesperson in 2005 and 2008, I was alarmed that New Zealand was well below international benchmarks for research and development both from public and especially private industry investment. The only snag was that by the 2008 election, and the sense of the * global financial crisis, Bill English had said that there was no extra money for science. I cunningly introduced John Key to * Peter Gluckman at his home on several occasions and lobbied hard for science to have greater recognition. The 2008 science policy had some modest but profoundly important changes. There would be greater funding for basic discovery research. A chief scientist would be appointed. Sir Peter Gluckman has been outstanding. Not only has his massive talent and experience informed the shape of our science system since, but he has introduced the idea of having a scientist in each government department in order to achieve evidence-based policy.

I’m all for more evidence-based policy.

In terms of the ** Inquiry into how to improve completion rates of childhood immunisation, I was a bit alarmed when the * Dominion Post captioned an article I had written on this subject “A prick in the right direction.” I did not take it personally. It is hardly conceivable that here in New Zealand, as recently as 2007, our completion rates for 2-year-olds were third world at less than 70 percent. Today, rates are over 90 percent and for 12 out of 20 district health boards, * Māori rates are higher than non-Māori. 

A great achievement.

 I thank all colleagues across the political spectrum where our committee achieved a cross-party consensus over a range of contentious issues, from reproductive health and education, to optimal maternity care, from the socio-economic determinants of health and poverty, to an all-of-Government approach to improve nutrition and prevent the impending burden of long-term chronic diseases such as diabetes. Every member of the committee made great contributions. I really appreciated the collaboration of Kevin Hague and Annette King, who, although we are miles apart on many political issues, see improving all children’s start in life as a national priority for New Zealand, and I thank that always thoughtful journalist Colin James for his positive commentary. We recommended a proactive investment approach from the work of Nobel Laureate* economist James Heckman. The rate of return for the dollar spent on a child is far higher the earlier the investment is made, from preconception on. 

The first few years are important.

Phil Heatley:

My favourite question time was actually as Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Colleagues might recall the death of * Happy Feet the * emperor penguin. Gareth Hughes tried to pin the murder of Happy Feet on me and the fishing industry. What Mr Hughes did not know was that the Ministry and I had been GPS*- -tracking Happy Feet since the day he was released into the * Southern Ocean. We compared his GPS position to that of the fishing fleet in order to keep it well away. Happily, on the day when he accused me of the murder, I was able to declare to the House that the fishing industry was innocent and that, in fact, Happy Feet had quite simply become a * Happy Meal.

And there was a happy shark somewhere!

As * Minister of Housing I updated the rental rules of the * Residential Tenancies Act, I began the insulation of every State house in the country, and I got rid of the decades-long notion of a State house for life. 

State houses should and must go to those with the greatest need, not just to those who got in first.

I recall Lockwood Smith, when we were out at dinner once, talking about his waistline. Lockwood was very body conscious. You are not like that at all, Mr Speaker. I remember Lockwood saying “Colleagues, it’s interesting. My chest and my waist are the same as they were when I was 25.” Quick as a flash, Gerry piped up and said “Same with me.”

Heh.

Eric Roy:

One night I could not eat my tea and later that evening I was walking up Glenmore Street and I collapsed. Sometime later, and I am not sure when, a car picked me up and took me to my flat. That was Thursday night. It was Monday before I could get to the doctor. He pushed and prodded and then got me scanned forthwith, and they found that I had lumps inside me as big as footballs, as my entire lymph system had been taken over by an aggressive lymphoma. The oncologist informed me that I had a 20 percent chance of getting through it, which is a kind of code for “Are your insurance premiums up to date?”. They opened me up, then closed me up, and said that there was nothing they could do. So I went home and I was sitting there—this was Wednesday. So the award for the most surreal telephone conversation I have ever had in my life went something like this. Here I am, sitting at home internalising some reasonably significant issues. The phone goes—ring, ring. “Hello, this is Eric.” “This is Murray McCully.” I think, goodness me. The all-knowing black knight has heard about my predicament and he cares. “What’s on your mind, Murray?”. “Um, I have to give a speech in Invercargill on Friday. It’s July and I’ve got a very bad cold. I don’t think I should be going to Invercargill on Friday. Can you do it for me?”. “Murray—um, do you think I really should be doing this? I’m sorry to hear about your cold, but I’m dying of cancer.” There was a long pause, then “Ha, ha! I’ll send you the notes.”

No one was quite sure if Eric was joking or not.

I believe there is, and I have for some time, and I have an increasing feeling that we should do this and that is, make all third reading votes a personal vote. Note well that I am saying personal vote not free vote. I think increasingly there is some isolation and dislocation by members in this House from the actual meaning of voting and we see when a vote comes along, sometimes the groupings left and right advise the minor parties what they are doing. We are seeing increasing times when there is redress sought to either amend the vote or to record in the record of the House what actually was the intention. Even more recently we are seeing the veracity of proxies challenged by points of order or by interjection. I do not think that looks too credible in the eyes of the public. It is not what they expect from their representatives in the highest court of the land. I do realise that there would be a time factor involved in actually doing this. I think the Business Committee could think about how that might be done. One suggestion would be to have any third reading votes immediately after question time the following day, or even one more extended hour in a session of a Parliament would cover for any of that time that had been taken up in that personal vote situation. 

An idea worthy of consideration.

Shane Ardern:

My biggest regret is not being able to see the same structural change in the meat and wool industry. The question is: was I wrong? If Fonterra had not been formed, could members of this House guarantee that our economy would be growing as well as it is today? The answer is no, they could not. So stop criticising the primary industries, and, instead of looking for alternatives that do not exist, celebrate that we are world leaders in agriculture. Why is it that we unite and support our international sporting teams, but when it comes to primary industries, we think that any small provincial structure will succeed?

A good point.

I want to say to this Parliament that Fonterra earns the money that gives us the ability to have a first-class* social system. It allows us the luxury of enormous investment in environmental sustainability and conservation. Internationally, our farmers are known as one of the lowest carbon producers with the highest food safety standards and the most sustainable farming practices. If members are honestly concerned with the environment, then work with the farmers and approach this with an open mind. If you really care about the future of New Zealand, I beg you to spend time on farms speaking with farmers and observing what they do. Look at the money that Fonterra spends on research and investment in environmental issues, despite Fonterra remaining, by international standards, a small farmer cooperative. For example, in the last 5 years 23,000 kilometres of riparian margin planting and fencing of waterways have been completed. That is further than New Zealand to London. It is a long fence. 

The anti-dairying agenda pushed by some,would see us as a country unable to pay for our education and health systems.

Ross Robertson:

The commentators would have you believe that success in politics is charisma. Well, I was standing in another queue the day they handed out charisma. Rather, I have built my career on the principle famously expounded by US Democrat Speaker * Tip O’Neill, that “All politics is local.” Every Saturday for 27 years I have got up at 6.30 and gone to the * Ōtara market, the meeting place of my electorate, where my team of volunteers sell quick-fire raffles and I meet the people. Then I travel to the sports grounds in my electorate and support the local teams. If parents, players, coaches, and referees can be there every Saturday, so can their MP. Around 4 p.m. I go and visit one of the bowling clubs in my electorate, have a cup of tea and a chat. Members should try it. You will be amazed at what you learn, and your constituents become your friends. On Saturday nights for 27 years I have been privileged to have an electorate engagement, and sometimes two or three—perhaps as a guest of honour at a dinner, a * prize-giving, a wedding, a birthday—and 50,000 constituents soon become 50,000 friends. Sunday is God’s day, and I give it to my family and my church. On Mondays and Fridays I see constituents. Rather than always having constituents come to my office, I visit people in their homes because it tells me so much more. I have a programme of electorate visits, so every year I visit every church, temple, and mosque, and every business. I also see each of the more than 40 educational institutions in my electorate at least once a year.

Very good advice on how to be a good local MP.

 I can say that because I have been an Assistant Speaker under four Speakers—two who were Labour and two who were National. I would like to see the day come when the Speaker is nominated by the backbench, as happens in the United Kingdom. 

I think we’d need a bigger backbench for that to happen.

There will be some new faces in the next Parliament. Retiring at this election are 13 National MPs, three Labour MPs and one Green MP.

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Prioritise health towards the young

November 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Dr Paul Hutchison, chairman of the health committee which this week made a raft of recommendations around early intervention health programmes, told TVNZ’s Q + A the Government needed to reprioritise the health budget to better address the needs of many young New Zealanders.

“This dollar spent very early on, not only improves the health outcome of the younger, it gives them the chance to be productive and lead highly functional contributory lives.”

I agree. For the same reasons I would spend more on early childhood education than tertiary education – you do the most good when young.

They key recommendations from the select committee chaired by Dr Hutchison are:

*Research the cost-effectiveness of early intervention programmes from pre-conception to three years within 12 months.

*Set a national health target for all women to have an antenatal assessment within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

*Make sexual education mandatory in all schools and increase access to long-acting contraceptives.

*Develop an action plan with NGOs and private sector for evidence-based nutrition programmes.

*Develop an action plan to combat fetal alcohol syndrome, introduce warning labels on alcohol products, and consider higher taxes on alcohol.

*Consider expansion of early childhood education services in poor areas.

*Prime Minister to take on a formal leadership role in developing a cross-agency plan for children’s health.

*Invest in a nationwide oral health campaign and transfer responsibility for fluoride additives to Ministry of Health and DHBs.

*Give support to funding for research on children’s health, and match it to international benchmarks.

 All looks pretty sensible and worthwhile.

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Two more retirements

October 25th, 2013 at 11:44 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National MPs Paul Hutchison and Cam Calder will not seek re-election in next year’s election.

Dr Hutchison is the MP for Port Waikato and was first elected in 1999.

Dr Calder is a list MP who has stood in Manurewa. He was first elected in 2008.

Their announcement today means four National MPs have decided to bow out of politics.

Internal Affairs Minister and Napier MP Chris Tremain and West Coast based list MP Chris Auchinvole have said they will not seek re-election.

Sad to see Cam and Hutch retire on a personal level – two genuinely nice people, who I doubt have any enemies in politics. Cam is 61 and Hutch 66, so their retirements are not huge surprises.

I worked with Hutch in opposition a bit. He was an obstetrician and gynecologist before he became an MP, and as a health spokesperson he had an affinity for the portfolio. I would help him put his powerpoint presentations together and he would always find some reason to need two or three photos of sperm, ovaries, fertilisation etc. I would get worried that Parliamentary Service would get worried about the nature of some of the images I was putting through the scanner!

While sad to see them both retire on the personal level, renewal is a constant need for political parties. National needs to keep rejuvenating both Cabinet and Caucus to maximise its chances of further terms.

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Stealing the limelight!

April 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Clips of Mr Williamson’s speech have had 1.5 million views on YouTube, and there were now versions with Spanish and Chinese subtitles. It was tweeted about by celebrities including DeGeneres, Stephen Fry, Perez Hilton and Ronan Keating.

A spokesman for Mr Williamson said they were waiting to hear back from the show’s producers for more details.

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Williamson, the long-standing MP for Pakuranga, made humorous references to “a big gay rainbow” over his electorate and said the Marriage Amendment Bill was a positive step.

He has since been getting accustomed to his newfound status as a poster boy for gay rights, for which he has received praise from the United Kingdom, Australia and America, offers to stand in as Governor in several states as well as appearances on various television shows.

The already married Mr Williamson said the New York Times called him one of the few “openly gay” MPs in New Zealand. “It’s gone a bit far,” he said. “My wife wanted to know whether the New York Times knew something more than I did.”

Green MP Kevin Hague, who helped Labour’s Louisa Wall with the bill, said there were no sour grapes that Mr Williamson was getting all the attention.

“Louisa and I – and this is tongue in cheek – gave pretty good speeches too but at every stage we’ve been upstaged by straight National Party men. There was Paul Hutchison in the first reading, Chris Auchinvole in the second reading and now Maurice Williamson. But there’s no resentment about that. It’s funny, that’s all.”

He said some people might have been surprised by Mr Williamson, but in Mr Hague’s time heading the Aids Foundation in the 1990s he had worked with Mr Williamson as Associate Health Minister. “He has always been progressive on issues like gay rights, including supporting needle and syringe exchange when it was not popular.”

It is ironic about Hutch, Auchie and Maurice being the stand out speakers at each reading. They have the following in common:

  • All heterosexual men
  • All married
  • All have children, nine between them
  • All are National MPs
  • All in their 60s

An unlikely trio to be poster boys for same sex marriage.   :-)

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Two embarrassing driving distractions

September 22nd, 2009 at 5:39 am by David Farrar

First the Herald reports:

American Eric Hertz, who moved to New Zealand from Washington DC to become 2degrees’ chief executive nearly two months ago, said he had glanced down at the Google Maps function on his phone when he drove into a stationary vehicle at an inner-city Auckland intersection. …

Mr Hertz’s phone was in a hands-free cradle, and always is when he is in the car.

This would not be covered by the change in law mooted by the Government.

And in another Herald story:

National’s Hunua MP Paul Hutchison has been dobbed in for reading while driving on the Auckland motorway and his attitude is it’s a “fair cop”. …

Dr Hutchison said it was him yesterday and thanked the reader for reporting him.

“Anyone who dobs someone in for driving unwisely is doing their public duty and that’s fair enough. Caught red-handed – or blue-handed,” he said.

He had been “frantically” going from one meeting to another on the Auckland governance issue.

“If I was driving unwisely I shouldn’t have been and I will endeavour to correct my ways,” he said.

I note this also will not be covered by the law change.

This is why I prefer a general law on distractions while driving, rather than picking on handheld cellphones only.

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The Central North Island Seats

November 13th, 2008 at 12:15 am by David Farrar

Oh I do like that solid blue look. And in 2002 only a handful were blue.

Hunua is a new seat. The party vote is another 60:20 type solid seat. On the electorate vote Paul Hutchison narrowly beat Jordan Carter by 14,738 votes and Roger Douglas another 2,700 votes behind Jordan.

Waikato is 58% to 22% on the party vote. And Lindsay Tisch drove his majority from 7,000 to almost 12,000.

Coromandel went from 45% to 31% up to 51% to 26%. And Sandra Goudie scored a 13,400 majority for the seat she won in 2005.

The two Hamilton seats are no longer marginal weathervanes. Hamilton East went from a 9% party vote lead for National to a 19% lead. And David Bennett turned a 5,300 majority into one of over 8.000. Hamilton West saw an 11% lead in the party vote for National after being 2% behind in 2005. And Tim Macindoe turned his 1,100 loss in 2005 to a 1,500 victory in 2008.

Bay of Plenty is another 60:20 seat on the party vote. and Tony Ryall got a massive 16,500 majority up from 11,000 in 2005.

In 2005 in Tauranga, National had a 15% lead in the party vote. In 2008 the lead was 32%. Bob Clarkson beat Winston Peters by 730 votes in 2005. This time Simon Bridges beat him by 10,700. Simon will be happy to be the Member of Tauranga for some time.

Rotorua saw National lift the party vote from 43% to 51%, and Todd McClay scored a majority of almost 5,000 over a sitting Minister.

Taupo saw a party vote victory of 15% and Louise Upston beat Mark Burton by almost 6,000 votes. She ran a good campaign and for a big enough majority to make it safe for National. Burton got 2300 more votes than Labour so even harder for any future Labour candidate.  I also heard a rumour that Louise held the first meeting of her 2011 campaign committee at 8.15 am on Sunday morning :-)

The East Coast had a 15% lead in the party vote (the graphic has it wrong) and on the electorate vote Anne Tolley turned a 2,500 majority into a 6,000 majority.

The growing seat of Napier saw National go from a 1% lead in the party vote to a 12% lead. And Chris Tremain drove his 3,300 victory over Russell Fairbrother in 2005 to a 8,400 margin. Remember this is a seat Labour held for all but three years from 1928 to 2005 and Tremain is building John Carter or Nick Smith type majorities as a brilliant local MP who owns his seat.

Over on the west coast, we have the huge Taranaki-King Country seat which is another of those lovely 60:20 seats.  And the 12,000 majority motors up to 14,500.

Finally we have New Plymouth. National was ahead on the party vote last time by 8% and this time it was 20%. And it was too much for Harry Duynhoven who lost the seat by 300 votes. In 2005 he held it by almost 5,000 votes and in 2002 his majority was a staggering 15,000. New candidate Jonathan Young will be watching the special votes though.

Labour will struggle to form a Government again, while so many seats have them getting just 1 in 5 party votes. Every seat in this region had at least an 11% gap in the party vote, with many having a 40% gap.

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