Cunliffe’s valedictory

Some extracts from David Cunliffe’s valedictory speech:

I was fortunate to cut my teeth in the Beehive with Sir Michael Cullen, surely one of New Zealand’s greatest finance Ministers, and under the leadership of Helen Clark. I always thought to work with one of them would have been lucky; to work with a team of two was extraordinary. But it did not take me long to work out that the real job of an Associate Minister is photocopying, which is shorthand for “anything else that senior Ministers either do not have the time or the inclination to do”.

Heh, about right. The worst associate job is associate immigration where you have to decide on all the appeals.

When, after the 2005 election, Helen Clark asked me to take on the ICT portfolio, we started a broad-based stocktake review immediately, and after 6 months of research, it was a compelling business case for pro-competitive regulation. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, we placed high security around all of the paperwork, but that did not stop a Beehive messenger slipping a copy of the Cabinet committee papers to someone from Telecom at a cycle club meeting. The resulting protest from Telecom was, however, too late; Cabinet had already approved the far-reaching package that unbundled and operationally separated Telecom and overhauled the regulator. Taking legal advice, we released the package that very day, and despite the short-term impact on share prices generated by the loss of monopoly rents, as predicted, investment in the sector doubled, retail prices fell, and broadband rollout took off. The current Government has continued that work, and good on it. New Zealanders are now amongst one of the best served telecommunications markets in the world, and Kiwis really did get faster, cheaper broadband.

I thought Cunliffe was an excellent Communications and IT Minister and the operational separation of Telecom was a vitally important reform.

This side of the House makes no apology for fighting inequality, investing in people and smarts, and celebrating all that is good in this beautiful, diverse, and innovative country, and much of that, thank goodness, we all share. That was the message I hoped would resonate with many New Zealanders during my short time as Leader of the Opposition, including some of the missing million who could not be bothered to turn out to vote at all because they could not see the point any more. I could write a book about the 2014 election campaign, but I do not think anyone would believe it, or possibly read it. But, in any case, that campaign was one of the most bizarre the country has ever seen. We had Kim Dotcom, Donghua Liu, and Dirty Politics coming out of our ears, but what the Labour Party did not have enough of was time: time to heal our old wounds, time to raise the money, and time to build the systems to get our message through.

It was a bizarre election. Hopefully 2017 will be a more policy focused election.

I wish David well with his life after politics.

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