Power’s Valedictory

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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