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Clayton Cosgrove Maiden Speech

Member of Parliament for Waimakariri
Maiden Speech
Parliament House, Wellington, New Zealand
Tuesday 15 February 2000, approximately 4.40pm

Note: Speech may vary on delivery

Mr Speaker,

Firstly I want to congratulate you on your election as Speaker, I want also to pay tribute to the Mover and Seconder of the Address and Reply and I wish to pay my respects to His Excellency the Governor-General.

Mr Speaker I would have to plead guilty to combing the hallowed files of Hansard for precedents, to this, perhaps the most historically loaded speech any novice MP gets to make.

It has been a daunting journey to make and has often involved the humbling sensation of realising again just how superb some of our past politicians have been as orators.

My search has strengthened the sense of connection with history you get when you join the ranks of those inside Parliament.

It is customary for retiring MPs to leave the chamber with a few historical scars and bruises from the fascinatingly complex process that is politics in action.

It is somewhat rarer for an entry level MP to enter the House with the same interesting and scuffed set of baggage.

Possibly, it is even rarer still for a novice to launch their Parliamentary career with an apology.

A few years before the people of Waimakariri decided to put their trust in me as their MP I was, as some of you on both sides of the House will know, a campaign manager within Labour.

Cat herding, as we call it in the trade, can sometimes be a cruel and gruelling process for all involved.


To all my present colleagues who may have suffered in their time from my untender attention….. You have my apologies. It won't happen again.

To return to more conventional maiden matters I was happy to see that in the past it has not been considered out of order to pay one's respects to the previous incumbent of one's seat.

Both Mike and Yvonne Moore have played a hugely influential role in my life.

I am honoured to follow on from Mike and hope in time I too can leave something like his legacy as a good MP in my electorate.

In virtually every street I visited during the campaign I would meet someone who told me how Mike had fixed some problem for them, without fanfare and without favour.

He just got things done.

I think that is a superb legacy and one I hope eventually to emulate.

I would also have to report that from Geneva Mike, who is secretly very protective about his appearance, takes great exception to the clone comments bandied about in the media.

He has correctly pointed out that I am short of stature and that he is not.

Hopefully that will be an end to the clone comments.

In recent days we have heard maiden speeches that have forcefully reminded me that in this House we have a cross section of gender, race and experience that has led us further toward truly being a house of representatives.

I have been reminded yet again that my own life has been one of relative luxury in material and emotional terms.

I grew up in a loving home with two parents who instilled in me the idea of taking part in family life, of discipline and of the value of working hard to realise one's goals.

In that context, of saluting the value of family I would like to thank my parents for their guidance, support and strength over the years and to my partner Florence for her love and support especially when times got tough.

I would also like to thank my campaign team and the people of Waimakariri, both those who worked with me and those who did not for showing me the wisdom and the utter clarity that the public possesses when it comes to understanding issues.

It is fashionable to blame policy failures on inept communication and lack of comprehension.

My own recent experience was that the problem really is that the public understand with a harsh realism what the problems are that beset our society.

I spent a lot of time last year engaged in that strangest of political activities…..listening to the people.

Waimakariri could fairly be summed up as offering one of the best cross sections of New Zealand conditions available on the political landscape.

It is a mix of urban and rural dwellers, big on mortgage belt concerns and with a strong family focus.

It offers both the voices of the affluent and the struggling.

It is an electorate where an optimist would be inclined to say that many of the problems are the luxury problems of growth.

It is one of the fastest growing areas in New Zealand in terms of housing and increasing population.

We even manage for the South, to have major problems with traffic safety and congestion in places like Belfast, Papanui and Redwood.

In other parts of the electorate we have the peculiar mix of problems one gets when dormitory townships such as Oxford get an increasing population but diminishing levels of services, once seen as part of the rural birthright.

Oxford is alive and has some affluence but the banks have left town.

Elsewhere we have issues that are universal to New Zealand.

The Kaiapoi River where I once rowed with the rowing team from St Bede's is plagued with a pollution problem that would make me very reluctant to risk drinking the water as we did not so long ago.

While I mention St Bede's I can sense a restive stirring amongst a few other Members of this House.

Perhaps long term fugitives from detention or in other cases suddenly reminded of a lesson never delivered!

It has been noted that St Bede's is now something of a factory for the production of MP's.

There is in this House perhaps just the faintest whiff of what Jackie Kennedy used to call the Murphia….the Irish Catholic affinity for politics at play.

I would just like to point out that while our number may be legion I am the first St Bede's alumni to be elected as the College's local Member of Parliament and for that I am honoured.

Waimakariri is also noteworthy as a community that has quite a number of strong individuals amongst its population.

This roster includes Norm Withers who as we know pursued his vision to the point that it became the subject of a referendum last year.

I think Norm initially had a very understandable human response to the horrific attack on his mother, Nan.

This response became super human when he took the view he had formed to the public.

As we know Norm's wish for a clear-cut solution to the problem of violent crime got very strong support from that same public.

It is my wish that we as a Parliament do listen to that view.

The eventual resulting actions may well be different.

That is part of the role of Government, to translate the wishes of the people into workable policy.

But I do humbly ask that we do show some sign we have listened.

Purely personally, I believe that the more robust and committed we can become as a society to effective early intervention programmes the better our chances are of turning potential young offenders around.

However the victims must not be forgotten.

As a very new MP I can make no claim to having all of the answers.

Gaining office has left me with even more questions than I formerly had.

What I do know is that throughout my electorate, across the gulfs of income, education, gender and even political affiliation I kept getting the same call from the public on what they wanted from me and the political process of Parliament.

What I was told over and over again by the public is that what they want from us is almost awe inspiringly simple.

All they want to see and hear is a degree of fairness and common sense.

It would be extremely gratifying for me to enter Parliament and confidently proclaim that I have found the missing link between the government and the governed.

That the great gulf in trust and belief could be effortlessly bridged and that we could again lay claim to some degree of gravitas and sense of vocation as politicians.

Again as a purveyor of questions rather than answers I would have to concede I have not found the missing link.

However, I humbly offer the suggestion that the public may have provided me with the key to again unlocking the door to a space where we can start to re-build the frayed connection between the governing and the governed.

Fairness is a concept that I guess you either instinctively understand or you don't.

As a new MP in a new Government it is pleasing as we stand, metaphorically, at the gates of the dawn to be able to observe that I think this administration has already made giant strides toward restoring some sense of fairness to our society.

Again, speaking metaphorically, I think it fair to say that every time another grossly overpaid Armani suit is seen to be hurled from the parapets of the public service clutching their last snatch of plunder as they go, the public feel that some sense of fairness is returning to our society.

It is a lesson I hope we have learnt well that the public revulsion at the plunder of the public purse by those who often produce complete chaos in the process is absolutely unacceptable to the Kiwi sense of fairness.

I happen to be one of those apparently quaint antiques who believe that there is merit in public service that does not need to be sweetened to the point that common sense taste, finds it nauseating.

Another formerly dated idea that seems to have swung back into favour is that of providing resources to services rather than subjecting them to the death of a thousand cuts.

I am aware that the present Minister of Police, George Hawkins, has been heard muttering darkly that the subject of his first trespass notice is likely to be myself.

I would like to take this opportunity to assure George that thanks to him having got action in my electorate that will allow our local police to be able to work in a degree of space and comfort my persecutions of his good office are at an end, for the moment!

George was able to grasp that asking police officers to work out of what one could charitably call a large broom cupboard is not conducive to effective policing.

I thank him for his rapid response on this utterly practical problem.

The other huge message the voters gave me was a heart felt cry for this Parliament to move back from our historic antipathies and become big enough to pick up a good idea and run with it regardless of its origins.

I think that MMP provides us with the opportunity to work toward that goal, and indeed the way the numbers stack up may even provide us with an incentive to try and attain it.

My own objectives are almost as stark and simple as the messages I have been entrusted to deliver here today.

I was taught that the first and last duty of an MP is to look after and protect the local people.

That will remain my paramount objective.

So too will the tandem aims of trying to apply the maxims of fairness and common sense to my actions in this House.

Canterbury provides the country with a handy barometer for economic trends in no small part because of the ingenuity and enterprise of its small to medium business community.

I want to ensure that I will do whatever I can to make sure we work beside the business community, never above or around their interests. For it is the business community who are the job creators.

Again I can note with some satisfaction that already this administration is moving toward developing measures that will aid regional and small businesses to grow and prosper.

It is a heartening move that is manifestly over due.

Finally, and just to provide proof that I have been peering through the files of Hansard, I would like to invoke holy writ in favour of regional development.

In the Labour Party no tribal totem carries quite the same majestic clout as an utterance from Michael Joseph Savage.

In 1920 Mr Savage had the following to say on the subject of centralisation:

" I want to warn the House against that tendency toward centralisation. You want decentralisation.

" You need to place the Government of this country as close to the firesides of the people as you can - to take it from within four walls out to the homes of the people, and make them acquainted with their responsibility for their own affairs if you are going to get anywhere.''

Government as a partnership between the governing and the governed is then not a new or novel idea.

That does not make it any less valid.

Mr Speaker, I am grateful and humbled that I have been given this chance to try and make that goal a reality.


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