Amy Adams Maiden Speech

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 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.

Indeed.

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!

Absolutely.

The full speech is over the break.

Mr Speaker, It is with a great deal of respect that I rise to present my in this Chamber and I offer my congratulations to you sir, on your election.

I stand before this house as the representative for the newly formed Canterbury seat of Selwyn and I am conscious of the great debt I owe to the people of my electorate for the faith they have shown in me. I would like to begin today by pledging to them my commitment to work in their interests and for their advancement over the time that I am here.

I would also like to pay a personal tribute to the Prime Minister, the Honorable John Key.

Our Prime Minister is a man of great honour, real charisma and a man with a heartfelt empathy for the people of New Zealand. He has been an inspiration to me, my electorate and to all New Zealanders and I am especially honoured to be serving in his Government.
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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.

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.”

“A clever ready-tongued political adventurer” he said “may cajole a set of dull-witted men, but if he has to pose before a number of women they will see right through his real character. It will be of no use trying to get around them with blarney and humbug; they will soon discover whether he is the unselfish patriot he professes to be or a selfish hypocrite who wishes to make use of the people for his own benefit. Women’s intellect would be a surer guide in cases of this kind, Sir John said, than that of the majority of men.”

One hundred and fifteen years since that pivotal moment in our history, I am extremely proud to represent the new Selwyn electorate and I wish to acknowledge the many notable members of this House from the area who have come before me including two former prime ministers; the Rt Hon Sidney Holland and the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley.
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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.

Her job working with some of the most unfortunate families meant we grew up all over the place… Ngaurawhaia, Hamilton, Wellington, and eventually Auckland.

Compared to many Kiwi kids though, I was fortunate because I came from a family of self-starters who believed that anything was possible if you worked hard enough.

One of my grandfathers was an engineer and inventor, who started a factory in his Wellington garage that employed many people for decades. My other grandfather is a well-respected accountant in Motueka, who again built his own business from the ground up – a business which has strong roots in the agricultural and farming communities in the Tasman region.

For myself it was while I was at Canterbury University and met my husband Don that I began my relationship with farming and the rural sector.

Back in Sir John Hall’s day, New Zealand was a young country building its fortunes on the sheep’s back, an agricultural economy with a bright future.

Today agriculture is still the backbone of our export based economy. It was our past and it remains our future. It is the primary sector that will help us as a country find our way through these troubled financial times. However the farming sector is under threat from all sides. And the threats facing the rural sector in New Zealand are serious and will need commitment and innovation to find solutions.

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.
Environmentally we must find a workable balance between the needs of the environment and those of the rural sector as well as other stakeholders. But when we talk about sustainability, as we must, let us not forget the need to also be economically sustainable in the international marketplace. While the issues we face will be challenging and at times contentious, I’m confident that if all sides can approach the issues collaboratively, solutions can be found and implemented.

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.
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Mr Speaker, the management of water and in particular the need for large scale water storage facilities in Canterbury is one of the most difficult, but also most important, matters facing my electorate. Water is life and no where is that more true than on the farm. In rural homes throughout the country the amount of rain that has fallen and the forecasts from the rain radar are more than just small talk, they can mean the difference each year between survival and foreclosure.

To resolve the matter we must look for the optimal solution and then ensure the law enables it to be achieved. Decisions shouldn’t be driven by who got in first or which option is most expedient under the Resource Management Act. Rather a macro analysis of long term outcomes and community needs must be the central consideration. We as politicians must ensure the law supports, rather than hinders, such an approach.

Which brings me to infrastructure.

For too long politicians have dodged the issue of infrastructure development. Time and time again infrastructure has been shunted into the too-hard basket. Infrastructure requires long term thinking, long-term funding and long-term commitment.

I have no doubt that short term thinking has already cost this country considerably. We have to start thinking as a nation, not as individuals. It really is a case of doing it for the greater good. And it’s not just the economic cost – communities suffer when schools, roads, libraries, broadband services and the like don’t keep pace with local growth. The lack of community infrastructure is a major issue for many parts of Selwyn. I don’t want our communities to be nothing more than a place where the locals sleep. For communities to support their people, we must first support our communities.
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For New Zealand to succeed, we can’t keep saying no to infrastructure projects because they involve change. The process should instead focus on fairly balancing all competing interests, including wider public needs. To build New Zealand’s productivity we need to get innovative, take some risks and do it fast.

15 years as a commercial lawyer has taught me that there already are hugely innovative and talented people in our business communities. But we are making it very hard for them to succeed both locally and on a world stage.

All over the country these businesspeople are telling me that one of the biggest challenges is getting a straight answer from central and local Government. People are generally happy to work within the rules, they just want to be told definitively what the rules are. Businesses need to have certainty and to be able to plan ahead – confident that the playing field won’t change every few years.

And being told by central or local government that the system means it will take months or even years, and often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultants and legal fees, to work out if something can be done, is not OK. It’s a huge drain on business. It’s pouring productivity down the plughole.

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.

Here’s an example. A farmer in my electorate was building two sheds, exactly the same, a few paddocks apart on his farm. One council; two building applications; two different council officers. The approval for the first shed took just a few weeks and was issued without the need for further information. The second identical shed, took months and required the furnishing of considerable further information and reports and of course extra costs.

How is that right?

Of course we must have regulation but let’s think very carefully about what any restriction on people’s freedom actually gives to society. If the benefit is minimal and the compliance or productivity cost is high, let’s not do it.

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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?
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And it’s the same situation in the social sector. We need some long-term thinking, focused on early-intervention initiatives that can make a real difference.

We’ve got serious social issues to confront as a nation and while there are some outstanding programmes in place we need more. We need major attitudinal change right across this country.

I believe that the key is fostering a strong sense of individual responsibility. And as a parent I can tell you there is only one way to teach responsibility – that’s for there to be clear and consistent consequences for your actions.

If three-year olds can get it, I think other Kiwis can get it too.

And that means that to be part of the very special community which is New Zealand, we expect people to take responsibility for themselves and their families. 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!
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Mr Speaker I want to take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge my husband and my two wonderful children who are here today for their unending love and support and for making sure my feet stay firmly on the ground. Don, Thomas and Lucy, you are the reason for everything that I do and I love you deeply.

Thanks must also go to my wider family, my parents and my sister Belinda in particular, and to my new Selwyn electorate family for all their tireless work supporting me over the past year. There are simply too many of you to name but you know who you are. My thanks also to the National party, its president Judy Kirk, our regional chairman Roger Bridge and my caucus colleagues for your unfailing support and guidance.

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I want to conclude by saying that in my view, for most of the past decade New Zealand has been heading down a no-exit street…. economically, socially and psychologically.

We’ve been penalizing the hardworking families struggling to keep their heads above water, loading them with higher costs and higher taxes.

We’ve been strangling businesses with red tape, making it hard for them to hire staff and bogging them down in a mire of regulatory uncertainty.

We’ve been downgrading the education system, creating meaningless qualifications, giving kids poor work habits, and loading teachers with responsibilities that should really rest with families.

For too long we have had a culture where the state thinks it knows what’s right for every family and every business.

A culture where every social problem is renamed a ‘condition’ that people shouldn’t be held responsible for.

A culture where violent offenders seem to have greater rights than their victims.

Well that’s not OK with me. I have higher aspirations for this country, and I have a strong belief that we can achieve them.

I’d like to finish back in 1890 with the words of Sir John Hall. “We cannot afford as a nation for [our politicians] to stand aside from the work of the nation: we need all their spirit of duty, their patience, and their energy in combating the sorrow, and sin, and want that is around us.”

Mr Speaker. I look forward to serving the people of Selwyn and of Aotearoa for as long as they allow me the privilege of representing them.

I thank you.

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