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Sue Moroney Maiden Speech

Sue Moroney Maiden Speech

15 November 2005

I second the motion, that a respectful Address be presented to Her Excellency’s speech.

And in doing so, I record my respect for her Excellency, Dame Sylvia Cartwright and her role in representing Queen Elizabeth II.

Congratulations to you, Madame Speaker, on your re-election. From one Waikato woman to another, I celebrate the dignified, and fair but firm way you conduct business in this House. It is personally fulfilling for me to be able to deliver my Maiden speech through you.

Hearty congratulations to the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, on her historic third successive term as Prime Minister – an awesome achievement for a truly awesome leader.

I pay my respects to the Member of Parliament for Ohinemuri from 1905-1925, Hugh Poland, who is the great grandfather of my husband Shane Vugler and therefore the great, great grandfather of our children Quinn and Logan.

In doing so I acknowledge the involvement and support of Shane, Quinn and Logan in all that I do. I am proud to have them here with me today, along with my parents and other members of my family.

I thank the Cambridge Branch of the NZ Labour Party for their hard work, their encouragement and support. After 31 years of chipping away in a part of New Zealand that has not always welcomed their views, this hardy bunch of visionaries now has a Member of Parliament among their ranks and I am privileged and humbled to carry that mantle.

I thank the NZ Trade Union movement, particularly my colleagues in the Waikato for their mentorship and support.

Being a List Member of Parliament allows me some latitude in deciding who my predecessor is. I choose to acknowledge Former Labour List Member, Helen Duncan, in this regard. Helen worked tirelessly in this House under the most difficult of circumstances with her health to ensure that the voice of working women was heard here. In particular I acknowledge her involvement in supporting the introduction and review of the Employment Relations Act, 2000.

I applaud her courage in deciding that the time was right to leave this House to focus on spending time with family and friends, and I wish her well.

It pleases me to have contributed to this Parliament returning a higher proportion of women members than ever before - women now make up 32% of this House. However, given that women are 51% of this country’s population, we have some way to go before this house can live up to its claim of being truly “representative.”

I note that the NZ Labour Party is doing better than most with 38% of Members being women and I stress the importance of women being elected to Parliament who will stand up for the rights of women and children. The important contribution that we make to this House, is that we do bring a woman’s perspective and we must work to protect and enhance that.

Madame Speaker, there are three key defining experiences in my life that form the foundation of my principles and beliefs.

The first was not unusual for a New Zealand child – it was the experience of growing up in a small rural community. For me, that was the Waikato community of Walton, where I lived next door to two sets of cousins who, along with my four siblings, made up a fair chunk of the roll at Walton Primary School.
Like my colleague, Lynne Pillay MP, our family never had Michael Joseph Savage on our wall, but we did have a very tasteful mural of a horse race over our fireplace.

My Mum and Dad were dairy farmers and the 80 acres provided our family of seven with the means to get by. While it was not always easy for my parents to make ends meet, as children we enjoyed a carefree existence in a loving and supportive family.

It was in this setting that I learnt the importance of working together, of valuing each other’s strengths and accommodating weaknesses. For in small communities, neighbours draw on each other’s resources all of the time. It is how we get by.

Nothing is more devastating for small communities than in-fighting and bickering. Energy spent on these destructive forces soon makes small communities dysfunctional.

New Zealand, Aotearoa, is a small community. There is no doubt that we do best when we draw on each other’s strengths and value diversity. We have witnessed how successful we can be when this approach is taken as it has been in the past six years. When we pull together, we are unbeatable.

Which brings me to the second defining experience in my life so far. Again, not unusual for a New Zealander of my generation – the big O.E.
I headed off overseas by myself a little earlier than most, at the tender age of 18. In my naivety, I packed an overnight bag to take away with me. Inside were two sets of clothes, a sleeping bag and my most important cargo – as many cassettes-full of Kiwi music as the bag could handle.
What I brought back with me two years later was a deep love and appreciation of New Zealand and its people and a head full of what I now know to be political awakenings.

Two things struck me in particular. Having spent much time travelling in Ireland, Britain and the Middle East during the early ‘80s I saw the close connection between intolerance and oppression. Coming from New Zealand, it never occurred to me that intolerance of other’s religious or cultural beliefs would be used for an excuse for so much bloodshed, just so one group could gain power over the other. It caused me to reflect on how vital it is for New Zealand to foster tolerance and understanding. We are a shining beacon of light in a World dimmed with hatred, suspicion and fear. We must work hard to retain our stance on this.

My other lasting impression from that defining experience is the unique gift we have in our tangata whenua. That Maori are our tangata whenua gives us a perspective on life that no other country has. And yet, while my life was partly defined by this fact, I had never set foot on a marae until I was in my early 20’s. In fact, I had been the editor of a community newspaper before I had engaged with Maori in their place, in that unique and thought-provoking way. When I look back, I find it disturbing that I was in that position where the newspaper I edited and partially wrote purported to be the “voice of the community” without a good understanding of Maori within that community.

But here’s the good news. Our two sons, aged 6 and 7, have already been onto a marae because their state-funded kindergarten took them there. And because of what they hear and are taught at home and at school, they both have the most natural pronunciation of the beautiful Maori language. For them, it is already part of being Kiwi and they don’t have to go overseas to find out about it. So this is progress and it bodes well for our future.

So if that is what I came back with, what did I leave behind? All that great Kiwi music was left with overseas acquaintances who got a head start on the rest of the world in appreciating our unique creativity. Th’ Dudes, Dragon, Herbs, Split Enz, Sharon O’Neil and Hello Sailor were all great ambassadors.

So, to my third defining experience. It was the one that drew on all of my other experiences and put them into context. It is my involvement over the past 18 years in the trade union movement.

At this point I wish to acknowledge the direct and lasting impact on my life of unionists James Ritchie, Hon. Mark Gosche and Carol Gosche, Dr. Linda Sissons, Steph Breen, Stephanie Doyle, Linda Holt, Carol Beaumont and a group of wise Waikato union women who are too numerous to mention individually. It is through the many experiences and discussions I have had with these people, union delegates and union members I have worked with, that gives me the strength of my convictions.

It is through the trade union movement that I learnt once again, the power of working together, the empowerment in valuing diversity, the futility of feeling threatened through ignorance and the wisdom of collective decision-making.

It was here that I learned the art of advocacy, the importance of strategy and the satisfaction in standing up for what you believe in.

I learned that you win some, and you lose some but you never, ever give up – you just regroup and develop a better plan.

And another lesson from the farm was reinforced during my time in the trade union movement. It goes something like this – if you want to know how best to get the job done, ask the people who do the job. Sounds simple enough, but time and time again I have seen bad management decisions being made because the actual workers never had a say or were not listened to. The health system of the 1990s was a particularly bad example of this and the damaging effects remain with us today.

I represented the predominantly women members of the NZ Nurses Organisation through the harsh industrial climate of the Employment Contract Act and I learnt how quickly things can be torn apart and how much longer it takes to rebuild them. National Awards that had been negotiated by that union for decades were decimated within 18 months of the ECA being enacted, because that legislation made it illegal for workers to strike for agreements that bound more than one employer.

However, even after Labour introduced the Employment Relations Act promoting collective bargaining and giving workers back the right to strike over multi employer collective agreements, it has taken five years to get a national agreement back for nurses in the public sector. The disparity that had taken place over the 1990s for workers doing the same job, was so large that national consistency had to be put back together piece by painstaking piece.

Most New Zealand workers are still nowhere near getting back the type of agreements they lost under the ECA. It is much easier and faster to tear things apart, than to rebuild them.

Madame Speaker, because of these three defining experiences and all of life’s other lessons in between I am extremely proud to be a Member of this fifth Labour Government.

Anyone can rule the roost by using the tactics of “divide and rule.” The plan is to attack the most vulnerable or anyone who is a little different and then the rest will want to be in ‘your gang’. You can witness this style of “leadership” in any school yard.

What takes real skill, intelligence and determination and results in a better place for everyone to live in is the ability to lead by inclusion, to involve everyone and to harness the benefits of diversity. These are the leadership qualities that I most admire in Helen Clark and the factors that have lead to New Zealand’s success in recent years.

Understanding the difference in the two leadership styles I have just outlined puts the political correctness debate into context. Some have struggled to define what political correctness is. It appears that anything not believed or accepted by the majority is politically correct and therefore must be eradicated.

However, I’m going to stick with the literal meaning. Strictly speaking, the term political correctness means the correcting of power. Power is corrected when rights and recognition are given to those who previously didn’t have them and this has the effect of taking power out of the hands of the few and putting it in the hands of the many. Therefore, when I hear people complaining about something being “politically correct” I know that they are worried it will pass some power onto another group. It’s called power sharing and I’m all for it.

Following the recent election, the media has focussed on divisions within New Zealand – however, what I see are significant areas of consensus that create opportunities to keep moving forward.

For example, during the election campaign, everyone agreed that wages are too low in New Zealand. Well, lets get on and get that sorted.

Another area of general agreement was the need to build a sustainable future for New Zealand, including how we plan for our energy needs, how we invest in infrastructure and how we invest in skills development. These issues won’t wait.

And I believe the timing is right to improve the balance between people’s lives and their paid employment. Surely the whole point of having growth in the economy, is to improve our lifestyles. Why else would we strive for economic growth?

Several pieces of research now point to us working some of the longest hours in the developed world. This does not make us more productive – on the contrary, it adversely affects our productivity as fatigue sets in and the risk of making a mistake or having an accident increases.

It also has a significant social impact as families miss out on spending valuable time together. That’s why I welcome a minimum of four weeks’ annual leave for all workers from 2007. It’s why I want to work on other initiatives that address these issues.

As a new Member of Parliament, I feel I am about to have my fourth defining experience and I expect it will build on my previous three.

Madame speaker, I have nearly completed my Maiden speech and have only mentioned horse-racing once. For those who appreciate the subtleties in life, please note that the light blue silks, black sleeves and red cap are very much in the house today.

For those who have no idea what I am talking about, it doesn’t matter. Because getting horses to run very fast is one thing – and it is very exciting – but helping to improve people’s lives, well that’s something else. That’s what I’ve come to Parliament to do and with the love and support of those who share this vision, I will do my best to achieve that.

Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou Katoa.

ENDS

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