Valedictory Statement - Don Mckinnon
Rt Hon. DON McKINNON (NZ National): Thank you very much. This is but a temporary relocation to the front bench. First Mr Speaker, I congratulate you on being appointed to that office. I know you will do an excellent job as the one person in the House who probably knows Standing Orders better than anyone, and that is always distinct advantage. My thanks to the Business Committee too, of course, for allowing this time to be taken. It is probably rather unusual to have a valedictory address immediately after maiden speeches. I may well go down in history as the shortest serving member of Parliament in the 21st century. Nevertheless, I listened to many of the maiden speeches. I have to say that they are probably more refreshing than those I heard in 1978 when I arrived. One factor that emerged is that there is probably a lot more enthusiasm, very much, I think, as the result of the multi-representation in the House. When I came here in 1978 this was a very, very male institution. As one who had been through a boys' boarding school, 4 months compulsory training in the New Zealand Army, and worked part time* in Paremoremo prison, to come to Parliament was not very unusual. They had a lot of similarities between them. This is what we have, the MMP Parliamentwhether or not the public will stay with it is not an issue I will bother about tonight. Nevertheless I do want to say that it has been a tremendous privilege to represent so many people over the 21 years that I have been able to be in this House. I have spent 18 years as a constituency MP-the Hibiscus Coast* on Auckland's North Shore was my centre, the seats of Albany, to Rodney, and back to Albany and then on to the list. Through boundary changesand as North Shore members know that happened very regularlyI have represented people from the bottom of Northcote to Te Hana* north of Wellsford, from the TiriTiri lighthouse to South Kaipara Head on the Tasman Sea, and down from Massey. Obviously, there are a tremendous number of people to thank because no member of Parliament ever stands alone. There are almost plenty of people there that you need who provide lots of support. Of course, that is principally from family and I do appreciate my wife Claire being in the gallery tonight with our little son James; my older children, who have come down from Auckland; the sort-of extended family, my parents-in-law, brothers, sister, the extended family, and others. One thing you learn very much in politics is that you always need a very strong support base, which is principally family and friends, because when you really step into a big hole they are the only ones who will stick beside you. To the National Party, which made it very possible for me to be here, I thank the party both singly and collectively for; three very good electorate chairmen over some 18 years; many branch chairmen; many secretaries, treasurers, foot soldiers, and those formidable National Party people who just make the cups of tea and keep members of Parliament in line. None of them are party hacks they are all party thoroughbreds. Also, of course, I thank my staff. We used to call them secretary-typists; they are now called executive assistants. They always were executive assistants but nevertheless with the staff I have had, as a back-bencher* and as a Minister, they have always been very, very supportive and very, very helpful. When representing an electorate north of the Harbour Bridge the one predominant factor all the time is growth. Growth is just ongoing, and often becomes one of the problems. I know my southern colleagues used to envy this: where is the next school going to go, where is this going to go? They would never think of school closures, and certainly in the time I have been in that area I have participated in the opening of seven new primary schools. We promised the elimination of tolls off the Harbour Bridge; we achieved that: we promised to eliminate toll calling between the Hibiscus Coast* and Auckland; we did not achieve that but I can blame it on the Labour Government because it privatised Telecom and I had no further responsibility for it. Twenty-one* years ago I promised the citizens of Orewa that I would get them a bypass: 21 years later the bypass finally appeared, thank goodnessit opened last Christmas. Coming to Wellington as a member of Parliament was not quite an alien experience to me because I had been here in my childhood. My family had been here, my mother's family came here many, many, many years ago. I was intrigued by the recent debate about the Wellington City Council variation 17, which, of course, is all on reclaimed land. My great, great grandfather set up a little business on the corner of Willis Street and Lambton Quay in 1841. It was a good business. To attract sea traffic he built a wharf out 100 metres, and then, of course proceeded to make sure that he filled in either side of the wharf to give himself that much more landand he did all that without the Resource Management Act. This what Wellingtonians are arguing about now, how we should deal with this land. But he made one other mistake. He sold a piece of land to a Wellington company that opened up a newspaper called the Dominion. Within a couple of years of coming here I became a whip. I do not think anyone comes to Parliament for the purpose of being a whip, but nevertheless one's colleagues seem to take this into their hands and decide that you are the person they would like to have there, and so it came to be. In retrospect I have to say that being a whip for 7 years probably is not a very healthy way of living in this place. But nevertheless I seem to have survived that 7 years, but then went on to become deputy leader. When you are a deputy leader you are carrying out many of the similar duties of a whip. If you count up about 17 years in that sort of people-management responsibility area you then have to ask yourself: what did you really come to Parliament for if this was the whole exercise? If there is one thing that whips always realise it is that they do not have the luxury of taking an extreme position on any subject. They have to stay pretty much in the centre in order to maintain that degree of credibility. That was all right and one seemed to survive that whole exercise. It was certainly a testing time for me at a very early stage. There was that certain night in June 1984 when suddenly we realised we did not have a majority.
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Continuation Line [After long discuss. our leader Muldoon]
After long discussions with our then leader, Rob Muldoon, and many discussions with a lot of other people, it was decided that we would have to go to the country. Well, I thought that was a pretty simple sort of decision to make and that it was just a question of us coming back the next day and sorting out a great battle plan for the campaign. I did not realise then that Rob Muldoon decided he had to talk to a few people around the building. I thought: ``No, it would actually be a damned good idea to get you home, Sir Robert.'' We started heading towards the basement, where I knew his car was, and we ran into a great loquacious member, Bob Bell, who said: ``Ah, Rob, come and have another drink.'' So we went into Bob Bell's office, and after Rob had shaken everyone's hands and had a drink with everyone there, finally I knew we really had a problem on our hands, and, of course, I knew that Rob Muldoon had a fixation with driving home in a blue Triumph. I did not think it was a very good idea going into a general election without a leader
Hon. Phil Goff: I don't know. It might have helped!
Rt Hon. DON McKINNON: Many people have raised that since that time, but maybe we should not have done what we did. Anyway, I rang a couple of people and walked on down to the basement, just praying that that tyre was going to be flat by the time we got there. We turned the corner and saw the blue Triumph slightly tilted on one side. I thought: ``Whew!''. John Hatly, the old driver, was standing alongside the Crown limo holding the door open, just wishing Rob to jump in so they could go home. Rob came up, looked at the blue Triumph, and said: ``Yeah, yeah.'' I said: ``Well, John Hately's ready to take you home.'' He said: ``Well, I usually go home in this, y'know.'' ``Well'' I said, ``Oh damn, a flat tyre!'' He looked at that flat tyre for so long that I almost thought it was going to reflate itself! Anyway, we got him into the Crown car, and another crisis passed. He would always say: ``Another crisis has passed.'' The crisis was just beginning. But that is what it was all about, and these are the kinds of things that I suppose test us all from time to time. One learns much in the back benches, I think more particularly by one's mistakes. And if there is one mistake that I committed that I learnt a lot fromand I give it to every member of Parliamentit is: do not judge any contest. Never judge a contest. Offer to hand out the prizes, but never be the judge. I went to the *Albany School fair one year and was asked: ``Would you judge the kids' fancy dress*?'' There were about 25 kids all in fancy dress. I said: ``Sure, sure.''anything to be noticed as a fresh, young back-bencher*. So all these kids walked around in a big circle and I picked the winners``That one's number one; that one's number two; that one's number three; and that one's number four.'' I handed these on to the organiser of the function, who then read out the names of all the kids who were winners. And the four kids who got prizes all came out of Centrepoint* commune. Now can you imagine what the rest of the community thought about that! I think my vote in Albany dropped by about 500 next time round. Never ever* judgejust hand out the prizes. In 1990 we came into Government, and this was all a major exercise. The funniest thing was actually the night after. Four of us who were living in a flat up in Salamanca Road all became Ministers, and we used to take this clapped-out old Holden back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Then, suddenly, the day after we became Ministers here were these four big Crown limos sitting outside the old flat, and people peering``What is going on here? Is this some sort of military *takeover? But, anyway, we were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, the Leader of the House, and the Deputy Prime Minister. I look back on that now and think: ``Well, that is actually quite a load, and there's quite a lot in conflict there.'' Nevertheless, you just get on and do the job. In fact, I said to Phil Goff the other day: ``Look, Phil, if you've got leadership aspirations, don't become foreign Minister.'' He said Helen Clark really wanted him there! You do have to remind yourself from time to time that it is a very real privilege to serve in the New Zealand Parliament. We all take it too lightly quite a lot of the time, especially if you have been here a long time. But you do have to remind yourself that you have been specially singled out by your party or by the people, and it is something you should not forget. On top of that, I would have to say that it is an absolute honour to be the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs, because you are carrying the label of the country outside the countrynot quite up there with the All Blacks or Silver Ferns, but sort of heading in that direction. I have been very lucky in that time. I have clearly a very good department, under Graham Ansell, Dick Nottage up there, and, of course, now Neil Walter. They are very highly competent people in that department, and it is probably one of the last career departments in the country. I hope that a lot of what they have, that institutional memory, does not get lost but is retained in the way that a career department can do so. If I have made a contribution as foreign Minister, I would like to think it was saying to the ministry to look a bit outside the square, to think a little a bit outside the very core activities it is responsible to. That really resulted, I believe, in the establishment of the *Asia 2000 foundation, the Centre for Strategic Studies*, and a very full, open campaign to win a seat on the Security Council, and I have to say that I think the advice from the ministry is: ``I think we should play it low key, Minister, in case we lose.'' Well, in politics, if you are going to win something you just have to go all out. It is win or bust. Also, I instigated the trips around the South Pacific, I think in about 1993, taking members of Parliament, taking ``NGOs'', defence people, and school kids. They have had a great impact on the island states we visit. To me, it is so important that every New Zealand member of Parliament must have some knowledge of the Pacific Islands. Most of us kind of fly over them to go to North America or to East Asia. It is very important that every member of Parliament does have an understanding of that. I encouraged pushing ambassadors out on to the lecture circuit when they get homeand before they get absorbed back into the ministrybecause they all have very good stories to tell about New Zealand in the rest of the world; and pushing the new foreign affairs recruits out for a day with members of Parliament.
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Continuation Line [I still get very interesting]
I still get very interesting comments from those new recruits who either spent a day with John Banks or someone and thoroughly enjoyed it. They saw a whole side of New Zealandnot just John Banksthat they would otherwise not have seen. A tremendous amount of travel is involved in the exercise. I have certainly been to more than 100 countries, and to many of them more than once. I have had thousands of meetings with foreign Ministers, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings, and Queens. Most of these visits are referred to my friends up here as ``overseas junkets''. I want the media to just think about another test. The test should be that if the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Trade Negotiations each cannot do 100 days outside the country in the course of the year, then they are not doing their job. When they have done 100 days, then members of the media can start to criticism them, but they should not criticism them for the first 100 days. It is an absolute requirement. We have to keep knocking on the doors. We have to keep on ensuring that the New Zealand file is dusted off, because most countries have 180 other countries' files there and we are just one of them. We have to work hard at that all the time. Clearly, I have certainly developed a very strong attachment to the island of Bougainville. I probably get a lot more credit for what is happening there than what I deserve. It has been a case of working with very good peoplepeople who are clearly motivated to see something happen there, and people who have very iron constitutions to see it through. We found out very early in the piece that when we are dealing with our Polynesian and Melanesian friends we do not stick to the normal clock. We do not start at 9 in the morning and have it wrapped up by 5 in the afternoon. We might start this year and wrap up in 5 years' time, but we have to keep working at it. Certainly, the defence people who have been involved in these exercises have also been just tremendous. There has always been a slight degree of semi-professional tension between defence people and foreign affairs people. I would like to think that I might have got the best out both of them in a case like Bougainville, because we all worked together. In other words, the defence people were invited to comment on the foreign policy issues and the diplomats were invited to comment on the defence issues. We kept the whole show moving along. We have to be tremendously proud of the peacekeepers* who we have sent from this country. They are just excellent. Having sent them into activities in the Gulf war, into Kuwait, Somalia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola, Laos, East Timor, and Bougainville, we can be very proud of what these people can achieve. Wherever they go they just fit in to the local community. They adapt to the local conditions. We should remember that these are first and foremost highly trained combat soldiers. People often think of peacekeepers as wearing a cardigan and jandals and carrying a peace banner. A peacekeeper is a highly trained combat soldier who has been trained up to be a peacekeeper. It is extra training. But first and foremost that person has to be good. Peacekeepers have to have the support behind them all of the time. It is not enough just to say: ``Well, you're the army, you can do it alone.'' I know that this debate is going on at the present time, but peacekeepers knowing that they have a navy, an air force, a navy, and an army behind is just so importanta comprehensive defence force. I was tremendously glad, and it is not the sort of thing that we talked about all the time, but when we got the hostages off Bougainville, which is part of the original Burnham agreement, we had a well-armed naval ship off Bougainville. I made it very clear to certain recalcitrant people on Bougainville that that was a very heavily armed ship and that they should not mess with us. It might be used only as a deterrent, but it gives me or the Minister of Defence a lot more confidence when we are doing something. It is very risky, and people's lives could be lost when one can display that level of strength. This process in Bougainville will probably go on for a couple of years yet. I know that some people think that can be wound up sooner, but, nevertheless, it is still moving in the right direction. I was really brought down to earth once when I was talking to a bunch of school kids here in Parliament about Bougainville. They wanted to know what I had been doing. One lovely, young, innocent 8 or 9 year-old put up his hand and said: ``Mr McKinnon, you have been to Bougainville. You should come to Naenae, there's lost of `Bougains' there, too.'' I was going to leave that for the local member of Parliament but I could not remember whether it was Trevor Mallard or Paul Swain. The role of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade is all about protecting New Zealand's interests and projecting New Zealand's interests. There is always something of a natural conflict between what the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade will want to say, whether one is saying something for domestic consumption, something for a home audience, or even something just to make oneself feel pretty good, as opposed to something one wants to say that is getting a message out there. Most message one wants to put out as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade really have to be what one wants the other country to hear. That conflict is something that all Ministers have to grapple with. Invariably, they will be told that they should be saying a lot more about a subject. At the end of the day, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and trade, one is sometimes inclined to say: ``Well, one of your other ministerial colleagues can say, but I am more concerned about a long-term relationship with another country and that's the way it will be.'' As a nation, the nation of New Zealand, we want to be heard, to be listened to, to be taken seriously, we do want what we say to be acted on, and we want to have credibility. I believe in the kind of activities that we have pursued over the last 9 years. We have achieved what Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday at our luncheon meeting: ``New Zealand definitely punches above its weight.'' I often get thrown at me: ``Why are you following this country or that country? Why can't New Zealand have an independent foreign policy?'' That is not the question. The question should be: ``What are you doing that is good for New Zealand?'' It does not matter whether it is dependent or independent. Is it good for New Zealand? We could have a fantastically independent foreign policy and drive this country into bankruptcy. We could do the same with a fantastically dependent policydrive it into bankruptcy. We do what is good for New Zealand at the timewhat is advancing New Zealand's interest and what is building up credits out there. There are times when we want to draw upon those credits. We should remember that 3,800,000 people do not quite swing the same weight as the United States, Europe, or even Australia, which is next door to us.
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Continuation Line [So we have to work hard]
So we have to work hard at that, knowing from time to time that we will, naturally, draw down on those credits. I hope in my absence, of course, the credits are not drawn down too rapidly, but one will be watching this very, very closely. But credibility is what it is all about. I say this quite carefully. There is no use saying that I do not want to pass this message beyond the House, but since I have been in oppositionthere are three parties in GovernmentI have not heard one word on the issue of genocide in Chechnya from any of those three Government parties. Now that is where our credibility gets questioned. Hammer away at East Timor, that is fine. But watch those issues wherever they are happening. The last statement made about Chechnya was made by myself as Minister on 9 December.
Hon. Phil Goff: At my request Don.
Rt Hon. DON McKINNON: And we have not heard from the member since Philip, have we? Here I am laying the ground for the member. So we have to watch that situation. Foreign policy debate in New Zealand is pretty thin. My one message to the medianot the journalists, the media ownersis that there are 20 journalists in Asia working for the Australian media. They are filing stories all the time. Australian audiences are well informed about what is happening. There are no journalists from New Zealand. The odd stringer does something. But if a salaried person in Asia is sending back stories to New Zealand newspapers they will get printed, and they will get read. The New Zealand media ownership "particularly the print media" are just too mean. They will not print this tomorrow, I know. I have raised this issue with them once before. We will not get mature public debate in New Zealand if we do not get the broad range of stories that come out of that area. I am leaving for another part of the world, and I am an incredibly lucky person to be doing so with Clare and my young son. I want to thank Jenny Shipley for giving me fulsome support through the campaign, as did her predecessor, Jim Bolger.
I want to thank Helen Clark for coming out very early in the peace and supporting me, as did Jim Anderton and other political leaders. It is a great challenge, and it will be fascinating for me. The one little pleasure I get is that a number of people, both journalists and academics who wrote me off about 7 years ago as being useless, are now writing to me and saying: ``Don, you have done such a good job that I would like to come and work with you in the commonwealth secretariat because you are such a good sort of person. Well, they were not writing that about 7 or 8 years ago. Well, that is the way things happen. John Carter is not here now, but he asked me about what changes I was going to make, and whether I was going to stick with the Secretary-General's current limousine. Would it not be more appropriate if I took his HQ Holden to London as a true replica of New Zealand? Mr Speaker, fellow parliamentarians, for me it has been a tremendous privilege, and an honour to serve New Zealand for more than 21 years.