Shearer’s valedictory

David Shearer made his valedictory speech on Tuesday. Some highlights:

The reason for my attachment to the Labour Party is quite heartfelt and very simple: over the past century no other institution has more shaped New Zealand and how we see ourselves as people. We take its boldness and its achievements for granted. But my fascination has always been with what went through the minds of those leaders before their landmark decisions, before they launched into the unknown. How did Michael Joseph Savage feel before pioneering the social safety net for New Zealanders, in a world where it had never existed before? What was Kirk thinking before deciding to send a frigate into Mururoa Atoll? Or those who sought to take a risk to settle Māori grievances right back to 1840? The Waitangi Tribunal is, I want to say, an institution that has been extraordinarily healing our country. It is simultaneously a truth commission, drafts history, acknowledges wrong, and compensates for loss. I actually think we should export it; the world needs it more than anything else.

But those nation-shaping decisions and others relied on courageous people who stood up in spite of what the polls said or the focus groups. They were big and they were visionary and occurred under Labour. They were about being progressive. So if I could make one teeny-weeny, wafer-thin criticism of this Government with such immense political capital: I think it could have been more ambitious.

A reasonable criticism.

I believe in free-trade agreements because we will always have greater opportunities and strategic leverage being connected than being disconnected at the bottom of the Pacific. Free trade can concentrate wealth though, and it is the job of Governments to ensure that prosperity is shared and that inequality is addressed. If there is one thing that Brexit and the US elections have shown us, it is that Governments can no longer sit back in their sort of laissez-faire splendour, as they have done for the last two generations.

One of the few remaining Labour MPs who support free trade agreements.

My daughter, when she was about 11, said to me: “Why are people so nasty and rude to you?”. I said “I think it’s because I’m a politician.”, and she said: “They should remember that you’re a human being, as well.” It is tough for kids to see their parents attacked through the media, and it is impossible to hide it from them. When I came into Parliament, my kids, Vetya and Anastasia, were at school, and today they are young adults, and I am immensely proud of them. My wife, Anuschka, has simply been my rock, and I thank her.

Wise words from the young.

Many years ago, some friends and I followed the Nile River on a boat down to Juba in the south of Sudan, and from there we paid a Somali truck driver to take us for 4 days across the south of Sudan and into Kenya. At one of the stops we were in the back of the truck and we were peeling mangos and throwing the skins and some stale bread we had not eaten over the side, and a dozen kids below us were fighting, we found, over our rubbish. It was probably the only food that they had had that day. It had a profound effect on me. It spurred me into humanitarian work around the world, and I have been privileged to work side by side with some wonderfully dedicated people.

So when I received a call a couple of weeks ago offering a position in the same region, I did not hesitate. It was, in many ways for me, completing the circle. My hope, as always, is that I can make something of a difference.

A dedicated humanitarian who does make a difference.

And, wouldn’t you believe it? When I was in New York last week, I remembered I had a bank account there.

Heh now that is funny.

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