Maurice’s valedictory

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.

Ouch.

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.

Yep.

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.

Probably my—what I think—greatest success in getting something done, but was hated beyond your wildest belief, was bringing in the photo driver’s licence. I thank very much Harry Duynhoven, who I think was here earlier—he might have gone off for drinks now. But he and about eight other Labour members crossed the floor to give me the numbers on it, because we had some of ours who were not prepared to vote.

I tell you Leighton Smith waged war against me, daily. This was evil, this was Big Brother, this was the identity card start-up and you would never—my wife, Raewyn, used to say to me “Why don’t you just give it up? I can’t get in the car without hearing them tearing you to shreds.” Well, we did it. It had the biggest drop in our road toll ever and I have never heard it raised again. That is what you have to do around this place. If it is right, you do it, you stand your ground, and, at the end of it, if it was right it will be proved to be right, and I am really pleased.

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 BoysEmmerdale 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.

I went to John Key in 2006 after having worked very, very closely with Ron Woodrow. I mentioned Ron before—where he was a bastion I would go and hide in it—but the guy was so forward thinking in technology he rolled out CityLink, which was the big fibre optic loop in the CBD here in Wellington. He did it himself with his own money and then sold it, so he was always on about how fibre was the future. I remember talking to John and he said “Oh, you know, the budgets are tight and I don’t think you’d get it through.” So I went to some of the policy meetings and I don’t think Bill was pretty keen on it either.

Every time I went it was just struggle, struggle trying to take fibre to the premises. It was unheard of; even the Australians were only going to go fibre to the cabinet. It was just the old Russian water drip – Chinese torture. I tried to get some people from the private sector involved. One who I thought would be involved just said it was a nonsense, that it would not happen, and “You’re dreaming.”—and now he actually is a board member of Crown Fibre Holdings, so that is quite interesting. But in the end I think John Key—and I think he might admit it—and Bill English, finally, just gave in to get me to shut up. We finally put together the ultra-fast broadband package to roll out fibre, and I think it is the greatest enabler, the greatest economic enabler, that this country will have.

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.

Heh.

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.

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