Jackie Blue’s valedictory

May 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Was in Parliament yesterday for Jackie Blue’s valedictory speech. It was a nice reminder that you can achieve things in Parliament as a List MP. Some extracts:

While I was a new MP in 2005, Herceptin became high-profile, with many countries funding a 12-month course for a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. It was being used for treatment in metastatic breast cancer in New Zealand, but the trials were showing that it was reducing death in early stage, newly diagnosed breast cancer. I am grateful that Tony gave me the opportunity to advocate for 12-months’ Herceptin funding for women with breast cancer in New Zealand. I was extraordinarily proud when John Key made this a National Party election promise in 2008. One of the most marvellous memories from my time in Parliament was shortly after the November 2008 election, when I joined Tony, who was the new Minister of Health , and key officials from the Ministry of Health and Pharmac. The meeting was to work through the logistics of ensuring that the women who needed Herceptin had access to it by Christmas 2008. The timing was very tight, but it was a case of “Yes, Minister.” at its very best. Everyone worked together to ensure that the policy rolled out smoothly. With results of recent trials, time has proved that funding 12 months’ Herceptin was the right decision. Twelve months is considered to be the international gold standard.

A decision that has helped save lives.

Early in 2008 I met with a group of refugee and migrant doctors who were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service , or ARMS, in Mount Roskill. The group had been struggling to get registration with the New Zealand Medical Council . They were frustrated that we did not have a bridging programme like Australia had. Over several years they had made successive approaches to health Ministers without making any traction. They were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service to study and to support each other, and I would like to acknowledge the amazing support that Dr Mary Dawson and Anna Fyfe-Rahal from the service have been providing to this group. Without their support and encouragement, I am quite sure that this group would have disbanded long ago. My heart went out to these doctors. After the election I re-established contact with the group and began to meet with them each month. I went back to Tony Ryall and I said that we simply had to do something for them. Tony was very supportive and agreed that I could start investigating options, and I began discussions with the Ministry of Health and the Medical Council. However, when Professor Des Gorman, chair of Health Workforce New Zealand, got involved in the latter part of 2009, the project developed a momentum all of its own. The NZREX preparation placement programme began in 2011 and has been hugely successful, with 33 out of 38 migrant doctors passing the Medical Council registration exam. This programme has been truly life changing for those doctors and their families.

Stuff like this often flies below the media radar.

 It has been the work of these committees that has left me utterly convinced that society must back its women and girls. Women make up one-half of the world’s human capital. No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs. Empowering and educating women and girls is fundamental to succeeding and prospering in the ever more competitive world. This is particularly true in developing countries but it is also absolutely relevant in developed countries like New Zealand. As women progress, everyone in society progresses, including men and boys. Tapping into the potential of women and girls is not only the right thing; it is the smart thing. Sexual reproductive health and rights and education go hand in hand. When women have the opportunity to control their fertility and have access to reproductive health services they are more likely to stay in education, get employment, and provide for their family. Education leads to more choices and opportunities.

All true.

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The Chauvel valedictory

February 27th, 2013 at 9:36 pm by David Farrar

A rather extraordinary valedictory speech by Charles Chauvel which makes clear how fragmented and divided Labour is.

Before we get to that, also amused by this statement:

Journalists working in much of our undercapitalised, foreign-owned media are under constant professional pressure. This comes from many quarters, including the constant need to sell newspapers and air time, and also the need to compete with instantly available online sources. In the case of the two better-known right wing blogs, those online sources are proxies for the present Government, and much copy is supplied to them directly out of Ministers’ offices at the taxpayer’s expense.

I tweeted in response that having Charles accuse people of planting information with the media is akin to Jim Jones warning people against drinking the kool-aid!

Some on the left always have these conspiracy theories about supplied copy. If only it was true. I recall once I did a comprehensive rebuttal of a Labour press release 60 minutes after it came out with links to all sorts of official sources. A blogger said I must have had the info supplied to me, and I facebooked my browser log for the last hour which showed my Google searches and references.

I am the only person who writes copy for Kiwiblog, unless I indicate it is a guest post.

I blogged at the end of last year links to several dozen blog posts where I criticized or disagreed with the Government.

Anyway enough with Charles’ conspiracy theories and accusations under parliamentary privilege. Let’s look at what he said about Labour:

Secondly, it is unproductive to keep trying to locate and exclude the supposed enemy within.

The enemy within! What a phrase. I suspect that Charles is someone that his colleagues have used that phrase about!

Instead, in order to avoid history repeating, it is time for an honest, open, and overdue assessment of why the 2011 campaign produced Labour’s worst ever electoral result. Those responsible for it should make dignified exits

That is a stunningly provocative statement for a valedictory. The four MPs he must be alluding to are then Leader Phil Goff, then Deputy Annette King, campaign manager Trevor Mallard and campaign strategist/spokesperson Grant Robertson.

You expect a statement like that at The Standard, not in an MPs valedictory speech. No love lost there!

and all the undoubted talent and diversity of the caucus should be included in the shadow Cabinet.

A plea to stop excluding Cunliffe and the Cunliffe faction.

To put it another way, in Gough Whitlam’s immortal words, the party must have both its wings to fly.

Remember that when next a Labour MP tries to tell you the caucus is not divided, and there are no factions!

I can’t recall a previous valedictory speech which so obviously ripped open the factional feuding, and called for four senior MPs to leave Caucus.

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Lockwood’s valedictory

February 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Lockwood Smith gave his valedictory statement to Parliament yesterday, and it was a very interesting speech covering his time in Parliament. Very little was about his high profile role as Speaker – a lot was on policies and portfolios. The speech is in the draft Hansard. Some extracts:

By 1984 the economy was in a mess, and I hope history will record more positively the decisive actions of both the Lange-Douglas Labour Government and the Bolger-Richardson National Government that followed. The resilience of the New Zealand economy during the recent global downturn owes much to the courage of those Cabinets, at least in their early years, putting New Zealand’s very real needs ahead of political considerations in pursuing necessary reform.

I agree. Without those reforms, we would be truly stuffed.

Twenty-eight and a half years is quite a long time—long enough for me to see 288 members arrive in this place and 263 leave. So many things we rely on today did not even exist then. It is not just the iPads and smartphones; personal computers were in their infancy, as were, I must say, some of our current colleagues.

I think Jami-Lee wasn’t even born then!

Regrets that have lingered include my voting against the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1986. I faced the classic dilemma of voting according to my own judgment, or the opinion of those I had been elected to represent. As a new member I opted for the latter and I have always regretted it. Edmund Burke was right.

Edmund Burke’s quote on this issue  is one of my favourites.

Science and technology have been so crucial to the advancement of human well-being, yet scientists are a rare breed in politics. Internationally, there is something of a disconnect between the two. In politics, for example, green is the claimed colour of sustainability. Yet in science the very reason we perceive plants to be green is that they reflect green light. They cannot use it. It is red and blue light that sustain most of our living world. [Interruption] It is true!


In 1987 my life was to change for ever. Jim Bolger appointed me National’s spokesperson on education, and the Minister was none other than Prime Minister David Lange. He was a formidable parliamentarian with a great sense of humour. I still remember the Tuesday when I came into this House after tripping and landing on my face when vaulting over a gate on the farm. Lots of skin was missing. David Lange called out across the House in his booming voice: “Huh! He’s been visiting kindergartens again.”

I can almost hear Lange’s tone saying it.

And, yes, I confess to being the architect of both the student loans scheme and means-tested student allowances. While the former, I would argue, was good policy—made less good by some later changes—the latter I was never happy with. It was so transparently unfair where students whose parents were unable to, shall we say, camouflage their incomes were pinged and all were means-tested up to an age when young people simply are not dependent on their parents at all.

Great to hear Lockwood say this because I agree. I have never supported means testing students based on parental income up to the age of 25.

I dreamed of a seamless education system where students could pursue their learning via a multitude of pathways, their hunger for greater theoretical knowledge driven from the challenges experienced in developing their skills in practical areas of interest. I think it is fair to say that the qualifications framework is now well embedded into our senior secondary, tertiary, and industry training systems. But to me it is only starting to deliver its full potential. With the explosion in knowledge I wanted to see motivated students well into their first tertiary qualification or part way through an apprenticeship-type programme before they completed their secondary years. And it is great that is starting to happen.

The qualifications framework is on of his biggest legacies.

Not many would know I put 7 years’ work into a project to redevelop New Zealand’s income tax, benefit, and tax credit systems. The work started on trying to find a way round the massive churning involved in employers deducting PAYE only for the Government to pay it all back to some employees in family tax credits.

I did some of this work with Lockwood, when I was an opposition staffer. We tried to find parabolic equations which could deliver a fair tax rate based on someone’s income and number of children, and not change net incomes greatly. Economically we were able to do so, but politically having a parabolic equation as the tax rate would have been rather difficult :-)

My research unravelling that interface soon got into the challenging area of effective marginal tax rates. At the time a single parent with three dependent children seeking to work their way off the domestic purposes benefit and trying to get from $10,000 of earned income a year to $25,000 would have had to work an extra 20 hours a week at $15 an hour say. The problem was the effective tax on that extra $15,000 of earned income was about $13,300, meaning that even though the parent was paid $15 an hour, their take-home pay would have been little over $1.50 an hour. Things have improved somewhat since then, but high effective marginal tax rates still remain a significant disincentive for many people.

They do. I’d like to see lower or no tax rates on the first $10,000 or so of income, in return for lower welfare payments and hence less steep abatement rates.

Some commentators assess members on how successfully they play the political game. But to me what sets a member of Parliament apart is how much they care about the impact of the State on an ordinary person, and how far they are prepared to go in representing people whose lives can be so knocked around by the actions of the State.

This is a core role of an MP, in my opinion.

As I look to the future, this is something that troubles me. The introduction of MMP in 1996 changed this place. Some of it is for the better. There is no doubt we have a broader face of representation, and that is good. But like so many policy changes, it is the unexpected outcomes that need to be watched, and one of those outcomes has been a significant shift in the accountability of members. Obviously, list members are very much accountable to their political parties, as they owe their place on the list to their party. But the pervasive power of the party vote has meant that all members are now totally accountable to their parties. This House, in so many ways, has become a place of political parties rather than a House of Representatives. I am not for one moment trying to make a case for the old system, but I do believe there will come a time when we will need to re-examine that balance of accountabilities. Representation is enhanced when members have to help ordinary people in their local communities, many of whom may never have voted for them.

Well put, and it is an issue. The protection of the party list has insulated many MPs. This is one reason why I do not support dual candidacies.  Electorate MPs should stand or fall with their electorates.

But standing head and shoulders above them all despite her shortish stature is Beryl Bright. I stole Beryl from Merv Wellington almost 27 years ago—I am not sure he ever forgave me.

Merv often carried a grudge – including against me.

She was my executive assistant in the early years, my senior parliamentary secretary in my 9 years as Minister, and loyally stayed with me despite losing almost half her salary when I was back in Opposition, and has continued to look after me in my time as Speaker. Perhaps most special of all, though, Beryl helped shape the lives of so many young people who worked with me as a Minister. Young people like Simon Tucker, newly appointed High Commissioner designate to Canada; Ben King, now foreign affairs adviser to the Prime Minister, and Matthew Hooton, commentator and founder of Exceltium. For all Beryl did, thank you seems such an inadequate word, but I say it from the bottom of my heart. She was wise, witty, loyal, and tough. Even my wife, Alexandra, quickly realised she first had to win over Beryl.


 And so, Alexandra, I likewise say thank you for sharing me with this place. Alexandra gave up so much of her own professional career that we might be together again. As a professional counsellor she taught me to find the good in all people. She made me a better person, which in turn enabled me to be a better Speaker. In recent years I have felt so guilty that she gave up her wonderful counselling job at King’s College to be with me and yet has had me only part time. From now on it is full time, I promise.

There are few other jobs that require so much from spouses.

I will miss having Lockwood as an MP. He is to some degree the reason I ended up involved in the National Party. In 1986 I was a first year at Otago University and I saw a poster advertising that he was speaking on campus. I was interested to hear and meet him, so went along. He gave a great speech and I joined the National Party that day.

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Power’s Valedictory

October 6th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve enjoyed listening to all the valedictories (with one exception, which I will blog on later), but the one which most resonated with me was Simon Power’s which was simply superb. You can view it on You Tube, but here’s some extracts which struck a chord with me.

I have been surprised by some of the reaction I have  had to my decision to retire. All sorts of motivations have been ascribed to my decision

One of my cabinet colleagues – who is always concerned about how these sorts of things look for the Government – was keen to spread the rumour that the real reason could be traced to the existence of a series of incriminating photographs.

I was alarmed at the speed at which Murray McCully was able to invent such a scenario.


As recently as last month, a constituent wrote to me angrily demanding my resignation. He may get pretty excited when he catches up with the news.

He may think he caused it!

I believe that politics is 90% preparation and 10% execution. At a day-to-day level, politics, particularly at a ministerial level, can quickly deteriorate to the daily management of tasks – dealing with papers, the media, OIA requests, Question Time, Written Questions, expectations from colleagues and your Party; tasks that become all consuming, and tasks that in the end do not improve the lives of New Zealanders at all.

That’s not why we run for Parliament. We run to lead agendas, improve the lot of our countrymen, to push change, and to execute ideas. People don’t spend years getting elected, more years waiting to get into Cabinet, to then say “Well, I managed that week well, I minimised risk, had no view, took no decisions, stayed out of trouble: well done me.”

Once in office, you’ve got to do something. That is why having a plan matters. Ideas also matter. In politics, ideas matter more than the political players themselves, because those people will come and go, but ideas endure.

Politicians should manage less and lead more.

Absolutely. We have Chief Executives to manage departments. Ministers should be about leadership. Sadly though in any Government it is usually a minority of Ministers who actually lead rather than manage.

I love the quote from influential Republican media adviser Roger Ailes, who was moved to quip: “When I die, I want to come back with real power. I want to come back as a member of a focus group.”

As a market researcher I shouldn’t laugh, but it can be so true!

So much of Parliament’s time is spent attacking each other, trying to out-manoeuvre each other, and just plain loathing each other. It’s an incredible waste of energy and time.

I was always reminded in cross-party discussions, or in the House during a particularly rough debate, of Michael Corleone’s edict: “Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”

Very true.

To the day I die, I will never forget sitting in the lounge of Gil and Lesley Elliott in Dunedin, listening to them describe their experiences of the justice system. It had a profound effect on me and the way I viewed our legal system. Good, decent, kind people, whose lives were destroyed by tragedy deserve our help, not a slow-motion replay of the horror they went through.

And Simon’s mandate will be that things should be better for future victims and their families.

What the hell is it about the psyche of this country that we feel the need to go home and hit someone, be it a partner, a child, or another family member? This is totally unjustifiable, wrong, and an indictment on us as a society. Our legal system needs to protect these people and I hope I have made a small contribution to remedying these despicable acts of injustice and cowardice.

The entire House applauded this part.

Although the Peter Ellis matter was straightforward in the end – because appeal rights had not yet been exhausted (a basic requirement of the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy) – the wider case worried me and continues to worry me.

This is one area where I do think Simon made a bad call.  Even if he could not grant mercy, I hoped he would set up a commission of inquiry into the case. I am glad to see he acknowledges the  case continues to worry him – it should worry us all.

The PM, whose confidence I have enjoyed and who gave me plenty of rope, some of which I have used. But of the 462 papers I have taken to Cabinet as a Minister, on only one did he phone to say “I can’t support this one.” Thanks for everything, John, you have been great to work with.

I wonder which one that was? Regardless a good record.

Nothing sums up Gerry more acutely than the time we got fish and chips for the caucus during urgency in the early hours of the morning in 2000. He stormed into the fish and chip shop at 4am, with me trailing behind, and said to the owner: “42 pieces of fish, 40 scoops of chips and 31 hotdogs.” Then he looked at me and said: “And what do you want?”

That one cracked the House up.

So, Mr Speaker, I bid you farewell, and leave you with one thought: We all know that it is a privilege being a Member of Parliament. But the most satisfaction should come from doing rather than being.

I hope that final quote features in some future MPs maiden speeches. It is not enough to just be a Member of Parliament, it should be what you do with that privilege.

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Farewell Keith Locke

September 29th, 2011 at 1:11 pm by David Farrar

Looking back I probably hated Keith Locke before I met him. He stood for everything I detested.  Famously he had welcomed the USSR “liberation” of Afghanistan. He was basically an avowed communist who openly talked about much better the world would be without the United States.

I still disagree with Keith on almost every issue. His opposition to Police tasers is woefully misguided, and I doubt we would agree on a single economic or foreign policy issue.

However Keith is a great example of someone where you can hate their views, but like the person. Some people can’t do that (and I used to find it harder) but I think it is a healthy thing to be able to do.

Keith is one of the nicest MPs that has been in Parliament. I can’t recall a time where he had made a personal attack on someone. His views, while extreme, are sincere. He is a product of his parents and upbringing.

My views on Keith are not unique to me. Many National MPs have said how much they like him on a personal level, and Keith has attended a fair few National parties and functions.

There are a couple of issues where I have agreed with Keith, such as republicanism, and have enjoyed working with him on those issues.

Keith used to get tormented in the House, especially by Winston Peters and Michael Cullen. Cullen once almost reduced him to tears. While I think it is quite legitimate to use MP’s previous utterances against them, the nature of some of the taunting was over the top.

Keith gave a witty valedictory yesterday, commenting how his SIS file will be very useful to him in writing the history book he is working on. I hope he enjoys his post-parliamentary career.

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September 16th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

For those who want to follow them, this is the schedule of valedictories:

Tuesday 27 September

5:45pm            Sue Kedgley

Wednesday 28 September

5:30pm            Hon. Mita Ririnui

5:45pm            Keith Locke

Thursday 29 September

5:00pm            Dr Ashraf Choudhary

5:15pm            Hon. Heather Roy

5:30pm            Hon. Sir Roger Douglas

5:45pm            Hon. George Hawkins

Tuesday 4 October

5:15pm            Lynne Pillay

5:30pm            Hon. Pete Hodgson

5:45pm            Hon. Jim Anderton

Wednesday 5 October

5:00pm            Sandra Goudie

5:15pm            Hon. Georgina te Heuheu

5:30pm            Hon. Dr Wayne Mapp

5:45pm            Hon. Simon Power

Hat Tip: Homepaddock

I doubt I’ll attend in person for all of them, but hope to view them all on Sky.


No valedictory for Hide

August 1st, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Armstrong at NZ Herald reports:

Former Act leader Rodney Hide will not be delivering a farewell speech to Parliament because as far as he is concerned he is not retiring from politics.

He is instead being pushed out of the House by his successor.

Retiring MPs traditionally deliver a valedictory speech before the House rises for an election in which they review the highs and lows of their parliamentary career.

“I am not retiring,” Mr Hide said last night. “I did not choose to be pushed out.”

True, but many MPs leaving Parliament were pushed out.

For my part, I think it is a pity, as I’d like to hear what Rodney would have said in a valedictory.

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A valedictory and a maiden

December 15th, 2010 at 7:01 am by David Farrar

I can’t recall the last time Parliament had a maiden speech and a valedictory speech on the same day. First NZPA report on the valedictory of Pansy Wong:

“It was beyond my wildest dreams when, 14 years ago, a girl born in Shanghai who grew up in a Hong Kong apartment where eight families shared a kitchen and bathroom, made an historic maiden speech in Parliament,” she said. …

“My political career has been an all-consuming one,” she said.

“It would not have been possible without my husband Sammy’s unrelenting support. As a consequence, his business interests were severely curtailed.”

“The playing field is far from being equal, but anything is possible if one works hard for it…nowadays it is accepted that Asian New Zealanders can succeed in the highest office.”

“It is time to turn a page in my life’s journey, to focus on personal and family priorities.

“The journey has been a remarkable one and it is time for me to exit political life.

“Sammy, I am coming home.”

I’m personally very sad to see Pansy go in these circumstances. I’ve known her since 1996, and she has always been delightfully cheerful and down to earth – has never let being an MP go to her head.

Pansy used to live in my apartment block so when I worked at Parliament, I’d sometimes get a lift in with her. We used to joke about the ghost of Muldoon haunting our apartment block (he used to live here also).

I was also the regional liasion to the Wellington Asian Committee for a couple of years, when I was Regional Deputy Chair. They were a powerhouse wheb it came to organising events and functions. It was always amusing as they planned a function and went around the committee, asking people how many tickets to a yum cha or the like they could sell for say $50 each. Most people would commit to selling 30 – 50 places each. Pansy would often take on responsibility for 100 places, and then when it came to me, I would sheeplishly commit to two tickets!

I often reflected that the only thing more surreal than me being the regional liasion to the Asian Committee, was that I also was regional liasion to the women’s committee also :-)

So a sad farewell to Pansy, with the contrast being the maiden speech of Mana MP Kris Faafoi:

This is not the first time I have spoken in the House of Representatives.

In 1994 as a spirited 18 year old Jim Anderton chose me as his Youth MP.

That September day I arrived not realising I had to give a speech.

Flustered and nervous I scrambled to write something on the spot.

I also recall a young – well spoken – ginger headed Youth MP from up the line.

He spoke enthusiastically and seemed comfortable in his surroundings.

16 years on Darren nothing has changed!

Some say Darren is still a Youth MP :-)

I didn’t know Kris had been a Youth MP. Knowing this, his switch from journalism to politics is more logical.

Can I take this opportunity to also acknowledge the other candidates in the recent by-election.

In particular I would like to acknowledge the Honourable Hekia Parata and Jan Logie.

On the whole the mood on the hustings was genuinely friendly.

Mana is one of the few electorates where spontaneous Pacific Island dancing is not an uncommon happening at campaign events.

I’m sure we are all glad my former TV colleagues did not make it to many of those.


Dad – I don’t know how you did it – but when I went hunting through your Wairarapa College yearbook and noticed your nickname was Romeo – it sounds like you did OK.

My mother Metita – left as part of a repatriation scheme – she didn’t know she was leaving Tokelau until the day she left.

They departed their homeland as 16 year olds – they left behind their loved ones, their culture, their religion to seek a better life in New Zealand.

Through hard work and sacrifice – and some help from the state – they toiled to make sure their hard work counted for something.

My parents wanted to ensure their three sons and daughter were raised as New Zealanders – they also wanted us to hold on to the important aspects of their way of life from the Pacific.

One reason I always like maiden speeches, is they are a reminder of the families behind an MP, and the incredible sacrifices parents make for their children.

Last week I got a letter of congratulations from Ward Clarke – my High School Principal.

I have two vivid memories of Mr Clark.

He espoused the value of the afternoon nap.

And each year he delivered us this quote from William Penn which inspired me and which I would like to share as I come to an end -.

I expect to pass through life but once.

If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.

A very nice touching speech. Well done Kris.

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Cullen’s speech in full

May 4th, 2009 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has a transcript of Dr Cullen’s valedictory speech, plus they stuck it on You Tube.

UPDATE: My NBR column on Friday looked at Dr Cullen’s record as a Finance Minister. I thought I was fairly harsh on him, but most of the commenters to date think I was too easy!

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More Cullen wit

April 30th, 2009 at 5:57 am by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

He stood to make his farewell speech to Parliament yesterday after nearly 28 years, observing very few people got the chance to deliver what is in effect their own eulogy “or at least a progress report thereon”. …

“[The 1980s economic reforms] certainly caused me some small financial pain. The biggest speeding fine I ever got was driving back from Whakatane to Wellington in January 1990 when I heard on the news that Geoffrey Palmer was supposedly moving to reinstate Roger Douglas as Minister of Finance. I hit 134kph.”

On the political gamesmanship of Parliament’s question time:
It is, in my view, by far the most effective test of the mettle of ministers and their opponents of any Westminster-style Parliament. Imagine, for example, how well George W. Bush would have survived question time on a daily basis if he had been our Prime Minister. It would have taken many Grecians bearing many sorts of gifts to get him through the experience.”

On the different outlooks of New Zealand and Australia:
“An Aussie believes a little ripper is something good. We are just as likely to fear it might be the son of Jack, let in by mistake by Immigration.”

Sigh. I will miss him. I didn’t like his economic policies (in fact I think they represent the missed opportunity of a lifetime- a decade of waste), but he was a great parliamentarian with a real love for the House and its institutions. Sometimes his wit (especially in their final term) would descend into bitterness or nastiness, but most of the time it was a joy to behold.

When I worked in Parliament, a lot of the staff would gather around a TV to watch question time. And obviously you are there to cheer your own side on. But Cullen was the only Labour MP who could consistently get the partisan Labour-hating (in a competitive sense) Nat staffers clapping and cheering as he skewered a National MP with a witty response.

There were times too, when said National staffers would yell abuse at Dr Cullen’s image on TV, when his tongue went from funny to malicious. The relationship was certainly a love/hate one. But for me, I will remember the good times.

Cullen is the last of the three MPs who could dominate Parliament like no others since Muldoon and Lange. The other two were Peters and Prebble.

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Cullen’s best quote

April 29th, 2009 at 9:50 pm by David Farrar

My favourite is:

“To those in government, a genuine thank you for the NZPost appointment. When I attacked National last year for swallowing so many dead rats little did I think that some might see me as one of them.”

Also good:

“The attorney-general does not have to be a lawyer any more than the minister of education has to be a teacher, the minister of health a doctor, or the minister of corrections a convict.”

And some advice for the Greens:

“To the Greens — good luck. But loosen up a bit; saving the planet needs to sound less like punishment for our sins if it is going to succeed.”

Will link to video and transcript when I can locate them.

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Further thoughts on Clark valedictory

April 11th, 2009 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar

There has been some interesting commentary on Clark’s valedictory speech – mainly commenting on the total lack of reflection that she ever did anything wrong.

Guyon Espiner blogs:

Her valedictory was like her premiership: cautious and competent; meticulous and managerial.  I’d hoped Helen Clark might show us a flicker of feeling; a sliver of humanity; a scintilla of humility. …

It was similar when she spoke to us on TVNZ’s Q+A show last Sunday. There was no acknowledgement of her mistakes. Could she not have conceded to mishandling the anti-smacking law? To rushing the Electoral Finance Act? To being a little too lenient in her handling of Winston Peters?

I don’t think she considers any of them mistakes. Just as she has never conceded she was wrong to sign paintings that others painted. Her career has been marked by a refusal to say sorry and to blame everyone else.

I think she owed it to Labour to show a little contrition about the election defeat.

Clark sticks to the line that New Zealanders only voted National because they felt they could have the same policies with a new face. With that statement there is the underlying belief that before too long voters will realise the grave mistake they made in throwing her out.

The Dim-Post has a shorter version of the Clark speech:

‘I’ve been a very great Prime Minister and I’m proud of that.’

I think Clark was a very, very good Prime Minister, but her massive ego and unshakable faith in her own historical awesomeness is one of the main reasons she was not a great one.

If this seems harsh then I guess it’s because the endless, pointless debacles of her third term government are still fresh in my mind – and most of them seemed to be driven by Clark’s belief in her own infallibility and her parties blind worship of same.

A valedictory speech for a politician like Clark is obviously a time to celebrate an impressive career, but in the wake of a devastating loss it’s also, one would have thought a time for self-deprecation and also an opportunity, a chance to signal to the party and the public that mistakes were made, lessons were learned, a corner has been turned, the torch passed to a new leadership etc. But not a flicker of self-reproof seems to trouble Clark’s astonishing mind: the public rejected her for reasons that remain mysterious but are probably to do with their own fickleness and stupidity, and also Crosby-Textor.

I’ve listened to valedictory speeches from six Prime Ministers, and Clark’s was the only one which did not touch on regrets. You would have thought it was the speech of someone who had won a fourth term, not someone who had been decisively thrown out of office.

The more I think about it she also glossed over stuff such as the 4th Labour Government, the relationship with David Lange, how she became Leader. It was rather opaque.

Labour supporters, rather like Clark, seem more focused on defending her legacy, than a serious analysis of where they went wrong. Indeed some of them do seriously blame it all on Crosby-Textor and a gullible public.

Clark and Cullen’s departure provide Goff with a real opportunity to stamp his own leadership on the party. His first challenge will be the Mt Albert selection. Goff knows having Tizard back in Parliament will be a nightmare for him. Does he place her in the shadow cabinet? What portfolios does he give her? How do they deal with s92A when its architect is in caucus insisting it is perfect and should remain intact. If she gets back in, then do they stand her again in Auckland Central? If not, what electorates should she shadow?

Goff’s instincts have been very sound in the past. It will be interesting to see him now able to put them to work. Key won, by following his instincts. Goff, to be viable, needs to also make changes and do what he thinks is right – not necessarily what Labour has done in the past.

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Helen Clark valedictory speech

April 8th, 2009 at 2:27 pm by David Farrar

Clark’s valedictory speech is at aroudn 5 pm today, and viewable on Parliament TV, and through the Parliament website.

I have watched (either in person or via TV) every former PM’s valedictory speech from Muldoon onwards – except for Geoffrey Palmer. All very different styles. Muldoon was sad yet powerful. Lange was hilarious. Bolger was excellent talking of prides and regrets and had a farewell from the Maori MPs at the end of it.

Moore was funny but with some bitterness. Shipley was dignified and optimistic.

For those who can’t watch it, I’ll probably live blog any noticeable parts.


Starting now. I note Jonathan Hunt is in the House, next to the Speaker’s Chair. Clark says she has mixed emotions. Enrolled at Auckland Uni in 1968. Talking of big issues in 1968 such as Vietnam War, nuclear testing, South Africa.

Says Kirk’s independent foreign policy inspired her. Referred to Radio Hauraki breaking state radio monopoly by broadcasting from a boat in Hauraki Gulf.

Never imagined being PM when young, as senior politicians were all elderly men. Now paying tribute to Hunt and Anderton for getting her involved, plus Kirk again. She was foot solider in 1972.

Grew up on a farm in Waikato. Wider family had many political allegiances. Parents initially surprised by her political direction, but always personally supportive and now fully politically supportive. Mum too ill to be hear but 87 year old Dad is in gallery. Pays tribute to them both. Lots of clapping.

Stood in 1975 in Piako against Gentleman Jack Luxton and he was a Gentleman. Advice to young people in politics is to start off by running in a seat they probably won’t win as you learn a lot. Success is seldom instant, and quick wins can fade quickly.

Referred to how Muldoon said in his valedictory was how many more women were now in Parliament and how he found them somewhat frightening. Clark says it was mutual – especially if you tried to interject him :-)

Attracted to politics by desire to make a difference. Has a sense of gratitude for opportunities NZ has given her. NZ was an escape for many from the class bound order of the UK. Detests social distinction and snobbery. Hence dislikes titular honours.

Focused in first six years on Mt Albert. Grateful to them. Chaired Foreign Affairs Select Committee and highlight was anti-nuclear law. Now talking about various Ministerial things she did. Helped bring in seven day trading (yay).

Plague on both your houses (National and Labour) in 1992 and 1993 saw MMP introduced. Lots of defections to minor parties in mid 1990s. Labour lost support to NZ First and Alliance and in mid 90s a poll had Labour on 14% and Clark on 2% as Preferred PM. In hindsight surprised concerned delegations to her door did not occur more often.

1999 saw Labour/Alliance Government with Green support. Believes they have made life better for many New Zealanders.

In last term in particular big focus was sustainability and believes it is vital for our international credibility. Jewel in crown was transfer of Molesworth Station to DOC to preserve for all NZers.

Talking about heritage projects like Te Ara.

NZers now very familiar with settlement of historical grievances and important they continue to be settled. Also apology to Samoa was important as was apology to Vietnam Veterans for what they endured in lack of recognition and support.

Proud that Maori are now significant economic stakeholders in NZ. Has enjoyed engagement with all the ethnic communities. Says it is inevitable that we will become a republic – not if, but when.

Pleased we stayed out of Iraq War but also that have rebuilt relationship with US. Big commitment to peace keeping.

Regards selection as UNDP Administrator as reflection on not just her, but NZ’s record internationally.

No regrets but it is time to go and let others lead. 2008 result was disappointing but in a democracy must respect the people’s will.

Never a solo act in politics. So many people have supported her. Her parents gave best possible start. Her sisters and their families always supportive of Peter and her. Peter has been a staunch supporter of her career, no matter how unpleasant it got. Lots of clapping from all sides.

Mt Albert backed her for 10 elections. Thanks to all those, esp Mt Albert electorate committee. Also electorate office staff – esp Joan Caulfield.

Thanks to all in Labour at all levels. Special thanks to Cullen. Friendships will be life long. Expects many texts and even the occassional tweet. Very well timed joke.

Thanks Jim A. Then Jeanette from Greens. Also honourable relationships with Dunne and Peters based on common interests. Also acknowledge Turia and thank her.

Relationships with National and ACT less significant. But acknowldge Key and Hide for their courtesy, especially recently. And previous MPs such as Paul East. Also talks to Bolger, Palmer and Moore.

Thanks DPMC CEOs and Cabinet Secretaries by name.  Also thanks MCH and Ministerial Services. Enjoyed work with SIS and GCSB. Trusts them and their staff. They work in the interests of NZ.

Also thanks MFAT for support on so many issues and summits and visits. Privilege to support NZ Defence Force and seeing their work overseas.

Thanking PM’s Office – Heather Simpson, Alec McLean and others. Also Police/DPS for keeping her alive! They are unsung heroes. Also kudos to VIP Drivers (I agree they rock). Privileged to continue using them, so not an end.

27 years since her maiden speech at 32. Said greatish wish was to have contributed ot making NZ a better place for peopel to live in. She thinks she has played her part – has been a privilege and an honour. Wishes Goff and Labour best for the next election and NZ the best for challenging times ahead.

All over. Clapping and hugs. Key gave a cheek kiss. Now given a Maori cloak by Nanaia.

Speech was very good. Covered the whole life, not just the achievements as PM, which makes it more interesting. No masively stand out moments, but nothing you can fault either. No bitterness or sniping, and no defensiveness.

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More valedictories

September 26th, 2008 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

From Stuff:

  1. Paul Swain
  2. Tim Barnett
  3. Margaret Wilson
  4. Marian Hobbs
  5. David Benson-Pope
  6. Steve Maharey

Paul Swain’s was very funny. MPs who have served as Minister of Corrections always get some good stories to tell. Benson-Pope’s was ugly and partisan, as one expects from him.

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Yates retires

March 20th, 2008 at 1:50 pm by David Farrar

NZPA reports on the valedictory speech of Di Yates.

Yates stood for the Hamilton City Council in October last year. Despite having been an MP for 15 years she failed to get elected to the Council, coming 7th in her ward.

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