Will The New Chapter in History Be Worth Reading?
On the eve of this our last election before the new millennium, I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King who said "I have a dream." In the spirit of those words and from my heart, I hope tomorrow as we vote, we think about realising a dream for our country.
It seems to me that a good government is that which most effectively secures the rights of all people and the fruits of their labours, promotes their happiness and does their will.
If that's true, for the future we need to unite as a country and establish what is right or wrong - not who is right or wrong.
New Zealand is not stricken by plague; nature still offers her bounty and our efforts will continue to multiple it. We still have a beautiful country which is worth fighting for.
Yet, I have seen hundreds of New Zealanders, perhaps there are thousands, who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what today we call the necessities of life.
I see families trying to live on incomes so meagre that the threat of family disaster hangs over them every day.
I see people whose daily lives in city and country continue under conditions labelled indecent by a so-called polite society just 30 years ago.
I see our young people denied opportunity to better their lot and the elderly cast aside.
I see families lacking the means to buy the products of our farms and factories and I see food banks because of it.
I see an unacceptable level of our people ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished.
But I hope it is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in the hope of a better future - because the nation, seeing and understanding the injustice of it all, will surely want to paint it out.
We should be determined, from here on in, to make every New Zealander the subject of this country's concern. We should never, ever, regard any person within our beautiful country as superfluous.
Surely, the test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. As a nation don't we have to raise the standard of living far above the level of mere subsistence?
If I understand anything about New Zealanders, overwhelmingly they are men and women of good will; men and women who have warm hearts; men and women who have cool heads and willing hands.
It is time, then, for us to insist that every agency of government uses effective instruments to carry out our will.
We must demand a nation uncorrupted by cancers of injustice and unfairness. In our personal ambitions we are all individualists. But in seeking out economic, social and political progress we all go up, or we all go down, as one people.
It is our recognition, as a first consideration, of our total interdependence on each other. We must realise, as we have never realised before, that we cannot continue to take but we must also give as well; that if we are to go forward as a nation, we must move as a loyal army willing to sacrifice a little for the common good.
Without this, no progress, no leadership can be effective.
Surely, happiness lies not in the mere possession of personal wealth; it lies in the joy of achievement; in the thrill of creative effort.
When we recognise the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success, don't we also recognise that public office and high political position are not to be valued by the standards of pride of place and personal profit?
Throughout history repeated attempts at solving problems without collective government help has consistently left humanity baffled and bewildered. Ultimately, humanity found that it needed practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish people.
I simply will not admit that that we cannot find ways to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we found a way to master epidemics of disease.
I hope tomorrow, as you vote, that you'll refuse to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the cyclones of disaster.
Tomorrow, we will be writing a new chapter in our book of democratic self-government. In a hundred years, will it be worth reading?