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Rt Hon Mike Moore's Valedictory Speech

Mike Moore issued his valedictory speech in Parliament on Tuesday. Scoop is proud to today bring readers the full text of the speech.

Rt Hon Mike Moore's Valedictory Speech

Source - Hansard

Rt Hon. MIKE MOORE (NZ Labour--Waimakariri): Mr Speaker, I wish first to pay tribute to you, my opponent and colleague, and your office and staff, and to thank you and your staff for your courtesy and assistance over many years.

It is nice to see so many people here at my farewell and funeral. If only people had said such supportive things when I was alive! I have no illusions. When Frederick George Young, a bit of a villain from the trade union movement, died, a number of his opponents stood by his grave. His real friends asked his tormentors why they were there, as they were his enemies. They replied: ``We're just here to make sure the old bastard's dead and really is going.'' I do not know whether this story is true, but I am told that when Fintan Patrick Walsh died, several members put a cement mixer on the back of a truck and drove in the funeral procession, just to make sure. What an honour! I thank those who are here today, whatever the reason they are here.

I want to thank Yvonne, my wife and best friend. No MP's or party leader's wife ever worked as hard as she did. You did more than your share. I remember campaign meetings where children would rush towards you. We were mocked for that, but you still get poems and letters sent to you. Thank you. I was always bewildered as to why you suffered so much abuse from some who should have known better, and why some of the sisters did not reach out to help you. I am still confused about that. You deserved better.

People say you do not make real friends in Parliament. That is rubbish. I want to thank the drivers, the messengers, the library staff, Bellamy's, the police, the security people, and the researchers. Of all the honours I have received, the greatest was from some members of the Diplomatic Protection Squad who in 1993, out of their own pockets, flew down to Christchurch to help us.

I owe so much to the staunch people of my electorate. When other seats fell they nourished us and comforted us. They are the best. Anything I have managed to do I have been able to do because of them. I wish I could have done more for them. They are the real battlers, who want to own their own homes, who, in the main, look after their kids, run the netball teams, and wash other people's children's football jerseys. They are the cream. They do not want a Government to tell them what to eat, who to meet, and how to greet. They simply seek the gift of opportunity, and that their children have a better life than themselves. As Norman Kirk, who represented Kaiapoi as mayor, said: ``They don't ask much: someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work, and something to hope for.'' To serve them has been the highlight of my life. To be asked to hold hands at a hospice, to join in a family christening, and to share their hopes and represent them--that is the privilege. Whenever I have flown home, as soon as I see the silver water of the Waimakariri River I feel that much safer and that much happier. We are still getting phone calls from women crying and saying ``Don't go!''--and that is only Yvonne!

The highest honour a democracy can afford a citizen in a free nation is to be an elected member of Parliament. Every day it has been an honour, and every hour it has been a privilege. Parliament has been my university, my training college, and I respect it so. I owe many debts of honour to many people, many mentors, and I sense their ghosts here today--people like Mat Rata, Joe Walding, Hughie Watt, my friend Fraser Coleman, and Norman Kirk. He had fingers like sausages. When he was angry at you, you knew it.

I used to be a prison visitor, and my heart aches to hear a decent speech about prison reform. I helped this bloke get out of prison. He had killed a couple of people. Truth found out about it and printed an article about Mike Moore and the killers. There were enough copies to be delivered door-to-door in Epsom, and enough posters to be put up around the electorate. Kirk, with his huge fingers, came down to see me in my office, saying that I was X, that I was stupid, and what the hell was I doing. I said that I was doing the socialist thing. I thought I was right. It took me about 10 years to work out that he was right. He said that I had no right to endanger a fragile Government by doing such a thing. It would be nice to hear some prison reform speeches. I do not know anybody who has ever become better for going to Parliament or to prison.

It was a bloke called John Stewart who first suggested I stand for Parliament in Eden. We won that seat in 1972. They should have made me Prime Minister then. I knew everything. It is a curious fact of political life that the longer you are here the less you know. I lost that seat in 1975, which incidentally was my best election result ever. If the swing had been consistent, we would have held on to Government in 1975. But when I won in 1972, it was all my own work of course. It did not even cross my mind that Norman Kirk or the swing to Labour had anything to do with it.

John Stewart took me aside and said: ``I've got a few words of advice.'' I thought: ``Oh no, what's it going to be? Nationalise the meat industry, ban nuclear testing, increase the minimum wage? What's he going to put on me?''. He suggested three things, and I make these points to Clayton Cosgrove, who I hope will follow me in this Parliament. He said: ``Always thank the people who make the tea; never swap old friends for new friends; and never mention the names of people when you are giving speeches of thanks, because the only people who remember are the ones you forget to mention.'' John, you are not with us now. I have done my best, but there are some people I must thank.

I want to thank the long-haired radicals in Eden who thought I was too conservative. I have always been an extreme moderate. I thank those ``lefties'' who worked till they dropped--people like Jack Elder and Phil Goff. I remember election night 1972. You were not there, Jack, but I thought, knowing everything, that the appropriate thing to do was not to thank the committee for its work but to convene a meeting of the committee to pass a resolution to send to the Prime Minister elect, Norman Kirk. We did that. We sent a telegram telling the Prime Minister to get out of Vietnam, to get rid of compulsory military training, to save Manapouri, to stop nuclear testing, to recognise China, and to do it forthwith! I took a Trekka down to the phone box--I ran out of petrol--to send a telegram on behalf of the Mount Eden committee. We should have done it in 1984, because everything we said in that telegram that Government actually did.

In Christchurch I have always been blessed with the best people, people who have looked after others as well as Yvonne and me. With the Shaughnessy tribe, if you get one you get 100. There is Brian Gargiulo, Roger Pike, Sally Thompson, Denis Hills, and so many others.

A good reputation is hard to lose. I have done my best over the last 6 years. So I must thank my staff in Wellington, Maree and Yvonna, and Hine and Linda at home in Christchurch, who have covered up for me for the last few years. I have had many loyal staff and I want to pay tribute to them. I refer to the so-called Beagle Boys--and those who follow will be offended by that title. They worked 18 hours a day, and were criticised by people who could not come to work for 8 hours a day. I thank them.

It is not true that power corrupts; it is the absence of power that corrupts, and what one has to do to get power--the promises one is driven to make because of opinion polls and sound bites, such as no student fees, etc. Members know what I am saying.

I leave disappointed. There is lots more I would like to have done for New Zealand. We ought to celebrate some of the best things about our country, because sometimes we forget. We have an honest Public Service, although the concept of public service is changing. Some public servants now think they are corporate leaders or rock stars. They should realise that the corporate sector has not acted like that since the crash. We ought to acknowledge how well this nation is served by the men and women in uniform who stand guard to protect us, and who are not with their families at Christmas because they are serving in Bougainville or in the Sinai, or on street corners in our confused cities so that we can sleep in peace; and those who nurse us when we are sick then walk home in the dark. They serve us and we should serve them.

I am off to Geneva, where many political exiles end up. I see my job at the World Trade Organization as an extension of public service, and I will give it everything I have got. I have to say that this World Trade Organization venture is the first time I have ever had the total, unanimous commitment of the Labour caucus behind me!

I am obliged to, and want to thank, the Prime Minister for her support. As I told her, no good turn ever goes unpunished in politics. I thank her Ministers for their support, especially Lockwood Smith. Jim Bolger was terrific, I must say; he worked hard.

And Paul East was great. One person who has been very supportive, ringing Yvonne and leaving messages, is Philip Burdon. I want to thank Philip publicly for his friendship. Mention should be made, too, of Winston Peters, who, when Treasurer, assisted. I thank him and our go-between and interlocutor, Mr Johnnie Walker, and Ms Gilbey. The staff at the department have been professional and supportive, and I thank them.

The strategy that won through at the World Trade Organization was difficult. If members do not understand what was happening, it proves they have been relying on the New Zealand media. It was fascinating going for this position, meeting with Presidents, Ministers, ambassadors, and World Bank and IMF leaders. There were rows of economists lined up. It was quite intimidating, but I soon put them at ease, made them feel comfortable, and treated them as equals.

I want to wish Don McKinnon well. I guess if my capitalist credentials can get me into the World Trade Organization, his anti-apartheid and antinuclear credentials will get him into the Commonwealth club. Don will do a superb job for the Commonwealth and for the country.

I have seen a lot of change. I have opposed a helluva lot of it, too. I have seen the National Party, once the party of the landed gentry, become the party of the land agent. When I first came to Parliament I was in awe of some of the National Party leaders--and I offer no personal disrespect to members opposite. Those of that generation were soldiers, they were decorated, and many had served their country--MacIntyre, Muldoon, Marshall. I mean them no disrespect by not giving them their titles. They were a remarkable generation.

My own party has changed, of course, as it must. It is the success of the welfare State that has changed my party. The sons and daughters of cleaners and carpenters can now become university lecturers, professors, or whatever. That is a good thing. I know I have always been a bit of a dinosaur. The movement has been good to me. Without the movement I would just be another overweight, unemployed, white-trash freezing worker in the far north. It was Nye Bevan--some of my colleagues will not even know who Nye Bevan was--who said that Labour used to be the cream of the working class, and now it is an intellectual spittoon for the middle class.

I say Labour is doomed to win the next election--and I hope it does. Helen, I hope you do form the next Government. I did my best last time to stitch up a deal. When I lost the Labour Party leadership--at the time I preferred to think I had mislaid it--things got pretty grim. But I am tribal, and Labour made me a life member the other day. Nowadays head office sends one the bill--talk about cost recovery! That means, of course, that I cannot be expelled from the Labour Party.

If I was asked what was the most important social change in my time, I would say it was the treatment of women as partners. When I was first an MP a married woman who did not work in the workforce, who stayed at home, found that if her husband kicked her out she had no claim on the family home or assets. Those women would stand outside one's office with only the clothes they stood in and a suitcase. That was barbaric.

The worst social change? I hate it when constituents, always male, ring up and argue about family support, and are not prepared to pay $20 per week for their own kids, and therefore expect their neighbours to pay. They threaten one on the phone as the local member: ``Well, I'd be better off if I went on the benefit, and then you would have to pay the lot.'' There is some sort of truth in that. Are these connected? I do not think so.

My biggest disappointment is the fact that we still do not have a compulsory savings scheme, as envisaged by Norman Kirk, Roger Douglas, and, later, Winston Peters. When Bismarck put up the first pension, less than 3 percent of the population was covered. Within 20 years it will be 25 percent. No nation or family can long prosper and survive, or even be independent, if it is not living on its own savings, and is sucking money in from other countries and living off other people's savings. That is something we will have to address, and something I was unable to do much about.

I never thought that New Zealand was just another country, just an average, normal place. I thought we could build here--and we can build here--and enjoy a different destiny inspired by all the cultures that make up our nation. But we are a society in danger of going rotten before we are ripe. We are a land of unlimited opportunities. We make it so complicated when in fact it is so simple.

I think the defining issue of our age--against which we will measure our progress as a civilised society--is race relations and treaty issues. Of course, I do not expect all members to agree with me, but race relations have been the stone in New Zealand's shoe. We could get everything right here--I doubt it, but we could--inflation, employment, health policies, and debt. But if we fail on this issue we fail at everything. We keep talking about the Crown and Maori at Waitangi. I do wish we would substitute the words ``New Zealand Government'', ``New Zealand people'', and ``New Zealand taxpayer'' for ``Crown'', and I would like us to stop using the word ``beneficiary'' when we speak of Maori claims, and instead talk of ``owner'' and ``stakeholder''.

Let us think of that fateful morning at Waitangi. There on the lawn were assembled Maori and representatives of the British Government. Was that the deal? Not entirely. There was a third partner--the church, God, the missionaries. It was the missionaries whose mana and prestige gave confidence to the partners. Remember, this was 1840 not 1640. It was not America or Africa, where the church was the villain. Europe had gone through the age of reason and enlightenment. The church had a moral mandate based on the principle that we are all created in God's likeness, therefore we are all the children of God, and therefore we must be equal. That is the moral basis of democracy. That is the force of the democratic impulse. Those are the core values that have driven civilised society.

That is why I get uneasy when people say that partnership could mean Maori having 50 percent of the seats in Parliament, or could mean having a State within a State.

Sometimes I do fear for our country. We are in danger of dividing ourselves. Any nation that bases its law and destiny on the colour of skin will perish, and so it should. When faced with a hostile Congress because of the slavery issue, President Lincoln said these words. He had a civil war on his hands, and he knew that the Union could be over, that it was in peril. He said: ``We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.'' The better angels of our nature can win through. The better angels of our nature have worked in the new constitutions in Fiji and in South Africa.

I am not being defeatist. We have a lot to be proud of. The young people are better than my generation. The young people are better on just about every issue--the environment, gender issues, and race issues. They are more generous. We should acknowledge that the National Party in Government performs so much better on these issues than the National Party in Opposition. The Government has tried, and I respect it for it. On any objective scale throughout the world, New Zealand must be among the best nations. We are trying hard. We may be wrong but we are trying to get there. The worst have to be Rwanda or the Balkans. This country is trying. It is time, I think, eventually, for us to consider what kind of nation we will become and what constitutional provisions there should be.

In the last couple of years I have bored members and bombarded them with memos and copies of a member's Bill. I have improved it, shaped it, and stretched it, I have taken out MMP, and I have done all sorts of things, because I think it is time that Parliament and this country focused. I do regret going now, because I would have liked to do more in this area. I am halfway through a book on the issue. If it had not been for this Geneva thing, I would have finished it. I am going to take the unusual and almost unique liberty of seeking leave at the end of my speech for the Constitution Convention Bill to be introduced and read a third time--that is, a first time; I would not get away with a third reading, and I will be lucky to get away with a first reading, but I will try--and referred to the Justice and Law Reform Committee for consideration.

Change ought not to be rushed or hurried. Change ought to be entered into only after deliberate, detailed, and sober consideration and reflection. We have to establish a profound and convincing case before we make changes to what we are about. There has to be a more comprehensive approach to this issue. The present direction is leaderless, dangerously ad hoc, and confusing. I say, with respect, that we ought not to be sidelined by debate on the republic issue.

How we choose our head of State is a different issue. But I suspect that, because of the referendum in Australia on the republic issue, everyone will want to talk about a republic, and will not get down to what the core issues are.

It is good that political parties have not polarised on this issue yet. But it is ad hoc. We have a sort of New Zealand style of honours, which is good. Some Ministers say they want to abolish New Zealanders' final right of appeal to the Privy Council. Why should Maori fall for that? They will not and they should not. We need to think of what we are doing. This Parliament has passed legislation-and I have been guilty of this--without really knowing what it means. I am not quite sure what ``taking into regard the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi'' means, but let us do it, anyway. We are painting by numbers. We have no clear picture and vision of where we are going. Therefore we are surrendering the rights and prerogatives of Parliament. Because we do not know what it means, we expect a court or some commission to determine what it means.

Good friends on several sides have said: ``Look, taihoa, wait on. Let's finish more claims before we move this way. It will take 10 years.'' I say: ``You're right. It will take 10 years. That's why we should start today. We haven't much time to lose.'' There are people with different views. There are those who believe that the treaty should be the constitution. There are those who do not believe that the treaty should exist at all. My Bill is about a process to take us through this problem.

We ought not to make quick decisions because of some temporary fashion or fad, or because the Aussies are doing something, or because we have a grievance and do not like the Government of the day. We ought to think desperately about what we are doing. New Zealand is no longer an Anglo-Celtic and Maori society. We do not even have a Westminster system of Government any more. When we think of how we do restrict the powers of temporary politicians, we ought to think of how we can move this issue over a decade.

Perhaps we should be inspired by the preamble of the new South African constitution. I will read it to members, because every sentence and every word resonates and has meaning. Who would have thought we would learn from the South African constitution? ``We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.'' As Nelson Mandela said, there are no white South Africans and there are no black South Africans; there can only be South Africans. When we read the South African constitution we can see how cultures and different groups could be respected and enshrined, and therefore would not feel threatened if the Privy Council powers were taken from them.

People talk of New Zealand as being a young nation. I have never seen it that way. Our people reflect the many waves of migration. We were all boat people at one time. Whether people came 1,000 years ago or more, in a waka, or 1,000 hours ago in a Boeing, nobody arrives here without a memory. It is our collective memories that build up a society. This collective memory reflects the English with their history of respect for institutions and law; the agony of the Irish and their experience as the first colony of Britain; and the Welsh, the Scots, the Croatians, the Indians, the Dutch, the Chinese, and the new arrivals from the Pacific. All those memories actually bind us together. We did not just start 1,000 years ago. We can reach back to pre-Bible times. Those are our memories. Those are the thoughts that create a society. The Magna Carta, the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights, the science and the poems of the old world, and the inspiration of Mandela or Lincoln; those words of freedom are part of our culture.

While we have been a lonely country geographically, spiritually and intellectually we have always been part of a wider world. New Zealanders have always been proud, but not vain or nasty, ultra-nationalists. We are also internationalists. We have had to be. We like international engagement. We must, because New Zealanders realise that our peace and our progress are actually based on the peace and progress of people everywhere. Therefore we have always supported international engagement in treaties, and the rule of international law and institutions to achieve that end.

Our progress, our wealth, and our future are not just based on domestic, indigenous abilities. The cow, the sheep, the radiata pine, and even rugby are not indigenous. We simply improved on them. We are not just a Polynesian country, although we have the largest Polynesian population in the world. We are not just of European extraction. Nor do we slavishly follow European traditions, even if those traditions have been central to our success as a liberal democracy based on the rule of law, with living standards now placing us amongst the front rank of nations. In 150 years we have brought most of us to the front row of nations. We are disappointed when we cannot provide our people with the same health care as Norway or Oregon provides. We compare ourselves with the best, and so we should, because we are better than the best.

My Bill would establish a process. It ought not be an experiment or an act of defiance. Even less ought it be a quarrel with the past or a Bill of grievance. It is a binding, evolutionary process. Well, a framework is there, and I will remind members what would happen. There would be a leadership council after the election, made up of all the political leaders. That leadership council would produce an eminent persons group with the powers of a royal commission. That eminent persons group then, over a maximum of 7 years, must talk about these issues, work through them, listen, ask, and evolve. Then a constitutional convention would be held in Parliament, of delegates appointed at large and some from Parliament. That eminent persons group would report to them and say: ``These are the options.'' or

``We shouldn't touch it at all.'' Then, if the constitutional convention--the majority of which would be elected at large, with the rest coming from Parliament--thinks a constitution is right, there would be a plebescite and a referendum.

A nation is the sum total of its history, its memories, and its experiences. A nation without a history is like a man without a memory. It is good that we are confronting our historic ghosts and demons at last. Too late, many friends would say, but it is happening. But I do sense a deep yearning and hunger in this country not only to settle differences, because they ought to be settled, but to move ahead. Are we not lucky and unique to have a Treaty of Waitangi? Without it, we would have to invent it--a treaty where order, laws, and rights were established by agreement. Alas, the principles of the treaty were violated by bayonet, batten, and bank manager, and I think the bank manager was the most violent.

This Bill, if it is not accepted today, I hope will be taken up by some other colleagues, and I have had a talk to some dear friends about that. Would it not be a splendid thing if we could pass on to the next generation a nation more at peace with itself, then emerge into the light of the new century with more respect for our past and more hope for our future, in a confident and resolute way? Because we can build God's own country on these pleasant, lonely, lovely shores.

Mr Speaker, you have my letter of resignation, which is effective from 31 August. On that day 25 years ago Norman Kirk died. On Waitangi Day in 1974 he asked this question, and it needs to be asked again: ``Are we a completed nation? Have we yet achieved a true New Zealand civilisation? Not yet.'' He made Waitangi Day New Zealand Day, and he called it not a memorial but a milestone. Think about it.

I spoke earlier of New Zealand being a land of unlimited opportunities, and how we can build a nation. I wish to conclude with words from a poem written last century. The politically correct will have to forgive me if I use the word ``man''. Actually, there are not enough men in politics; there are plenty of males, but so few men. A poem written last century states:

Give me men to match my mountains

Give me men to match my plains

Men with freedom in their vision

And creation in their brain.

I seek leave for the Constitution Convention Bill to be introduced and read a first time, and to be referred to the Justice and Law Reform Committee for consideration.

Waiata, ``Pokare Kare Ana''

Mr SPEAKER: The member has sought leave for the Constitution Convention Bill to be introduced and read a first time, and to be referred to the Justice and Law Reform Committee for consideration. Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is objection.

ENDS

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