A very amusing valedictory from Maurice Williamson:
I have been given a very stern warning from Foreign Affairs that I am now a diplomat and that I have got to not do any of the things that can cause trouble. When I told that to Sir John Key a few hours ago, he said: “Well, given you never listened to my advice like that for 10 years, why the bloody hell would you listen to them?”. But I am going to try to be diplomatic. I am going to try to make sure that instead of calling somebody a wanker, I will call them an owner-operator, because that is the diplomatic way to go these days.
Not often you see wanker in Hansard 🙂
I have had the same electorate secretary for the entire 30 years, Carla. Carla is up the back of the gallery—Carla Mikkelson; just amazing. I tell you what—30 years. I mean, you get less for murder, Carla. There have been times when I have arrived at the office and she has just stared at me and gone “Oh my God! What have you done now.” Another amazing secretary here in Parliament is Bridie Cooper, up there in the gallery. She was Bridie Wilkinson for most of her life, and got married a couple of years ago. Bridie has just been the—I have worked for her for 30 years. To have one secretary in Wellington and one secretary in Auckland for 30 years means I cannot be as big a bastard as I have been accused in the media from time to time.
That is astonshing loyalty from Carla and Bridie. Both exceptionally good people also.
I set up Pharmac in 1993, trying to implement a really good way of buying drugs without the drug companies being able to game this. I think Pharmac is one of our greatest inventions. I hope it never ever gets taken away.
I didn’t know it was Maurice who established it.
But I had a couple of failures along the way. We tried—really, I am going to make sure—Simon Upton’s view, and I went with it, was that we could charge people for the hotel part of their hospital stay. When they go to hospital they are not at home, so they are not eating meals and they are not in their bed and they are not using electricity. So we could at least just bill them for that bit of it. I tell you, that was about as successful as Lord Mountbatten’s Irish holiday.
In this House in 1999 I got up and I actually tabled the Mahon report about the Erebus crash. I was at Air New Zealand. I was deeply involved in what went on. Justice Mahon got it right. It was so wrong to blame just the pilot. All of the systems failed that pilot, and to blame him alone was wrong. I was so proud to table that report, because it had never been tabled. Sir Robert had refused to have it tabled. It was tabled in this House and it is a formal view of what happened at Erebus. It was a systemic failure, not one error.
SmartGate—Customs. I know there are some Customs—the previous comptroller, the current comptroller, and others—in the audience today. Martyn Dunne was a stunning Comptroller of Customs and Carolyn Tremain as his replacement is also. You are not allowed to have favourites, but Customs was by far my favourite. We have implemented technology, which means we process people in about 18 seconds flat, through the border, and it was what I think was really worthwhile.
I love SmartGate. Has made a huge difference.
I’d forgotten about this until the speech, but it was a huge huge issue. Massive resistance to both it being photo ID and no longer lifetime. Almost brought down the Government, but today is a total non issue.
OK, few regrets—yes, there are a few regrets, and I am going to do only one, or two, or five, or whatever. The one I think is the biggest regret ever is I never, ever was able to persuade my ministerial colleagues that we really should get rid of commercial television. I seriously, seriously do not know why the Government owns a commercial televisions station. Oh, I know—it is so it can promote New Zealand culture and identity. So I had a look at the programme schedule: Masterchef Australia followed by Mrs Brown’s Boys, Emmerdale Farm this afternoon, Coronation Street tonight, Instant Gardener, which I do not know, but it is a British programme of some sort, followed by Four in a Bed—you will be able to tell me more about that, Murray.
LOL. Great call.
You can tell me about it later. And there is The Chase and The Tipping Point—both British. How the hell is that promoting New Zealand culture, for goodness’ sake! And its value when I tried—I pleaded with Jim Bolger about it—its value back then was about four times what it is now and it is now four times what it will be, because nobody, nobody, is going to watch free-to-air ordinary TV in the future.
He is 100% right. We should have sold TVNZ eight years ago. In a few years it will be worth around the same as Solid Energy.
The fibre to the home progranmme has been a huige sucess and I am so so glad we did not do what Labour wanted (and was done in Australia) and only did fibre to the cabinet.
When TV3 drops Campbell Live but brings on some Scout programme about Rachel Glucina and the gossip columnist and I feel I lost the plot here. Something has gone wrong. Vaughan Jones, the top New Zealand mathematician, who has got a Fields Medal gets no mention even though he is the top man in the world, but we now know about Kim Kardashian almost nightly and her $50 million arse—I think his name is Kanye.
So that is it for me. I want to finish with a lovely quote from Edmund Burke, the British politician who said: “Your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgment and he betrays you instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” So I have always held the North Star. I have always held the North Star, which is something to guide you by, which is for navigation: what is right, what is wrong, what matters, what does not, and putting that test on things. For me, it is about freedom of the individual, it is about rewarding individual effort, it is about that libertarian view of “As long as you are of age of consent, and you are not causing damage to any other person, then I believe you’ve got a right to do it.” So I voted on the liberal side of everything. God knows, back in the 80s the attacks we came under for allowing the shops to open on a weekend. Jim Knox said: “It’s the most evil thing and it’ll be the end of families, and if you open the shops on a Saturday, you know it won’t be long before they’re open on a Sunday as well.” And he was dead right. He was a visionary, that Jim Knox.
I recall the unions fighting tooth and nail against Saturday shopping. Yep it once was illegal to open at weekends or in the evenings except one designated evening a week.