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State of the nation speech: David Shearer

State of the nation speech: David Shearer achieves what wasn't supposed to be possible

By Don Franks
January 30, 2013

One alternative to the beach last sunny Sunday afternoon was attending the Wainuiomata rugby club hall, to hear David Shearer read an autocue.

Along with many others, I made do with second hand reports of the event. Initially, these were not encouraging.

Kiwi Blog dismissed the Labour leader's state of the nation speech as: “not a single specific new initiative, just a recital of last year’s announcements”

Stuff Journalist Vernon Small chimed in: “Nowhere was a new policy to be seen”

On reflection, I wonder if these pundits judged too hastily.

A careful reading of Shearer's speech shows the man went beyond mere new policy initiatives, outlining a new political theory, the ongoing ramifications of which may be very significant.

“A book I was given for Christmas”, Shearer began his remarks, “ tells the stories of fifty inspiring New Zealanders – artists, scientists, musicians, business people, some well-known, some less so”

All of these fifty: “share the same passion and pride in their work and in their country. The ambition to be world class.”

“These people never say it’s too hard – we’re not big enough, we’re too isolated, we don’t have enough money.”

“Instead they say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway”.

From such raw data Shearer drew up this theorem:

“New Zealanders have always achieved what wasn’t supposed to be possible.”

Observing that: “From the most famous to the most humble, courage and determination is the common bond.”,

Shearer concluded:

“We’ve always dreamed big and succeeded.”

Challenging stuff when you think about it. Claims of human achievement don’t get much heavier than “Always”. If you’re a New Zealander reading this post - and not some lesser mortal from Poland or Peru or wherever- consider the implications of our extraordinary global position. Unless David Shearer is an idiot or a liar, we New Zealanders are a nation like no other on earth, a country not of disparate individuals and classes but a homogeneous entity of superwomen and men, who have always dreamed big and then succeeded. Always. (The usually accepted histories of Gallipoli and the last Black Cap test series must be faulty).

The very least such eternal achievers deserve then is surely: “a Government that backs their hopes and inspires them to succeed”

However, Shearer warned:

“this Government’s low expectations are holding us back.”

“For four years we’ve been fed skillfully spun excuses for why we can’t get ahead.”

“We are told we have to accept second best.”


“There is always an excuse for why we can’t get ahead”

With this section of David Shearer’s theory I encountered difficulty.

Spinning excuses and lowering expectations is incompatible with dreaming big and succeeding, the hard wired behaviour of our most famous and our most humble.

New Zealand citizens and government personages like John Key and Gerry Brownlee rank among our most famous, with Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley representing the humbled.

How have these bona fide New Zealanders possibly managed, for four years, to deny their achieving DNA destiny and escape our common bond of courage and determination?

Of course, speech transcripts don't reveal everything and it is possible that David Shearer explained this anomaly during question time.

To embrace a strange political theory it helps to be embedded among the diehard party faithful.


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