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Maori party On Appointment of Chief Ombudsman

Notice of Motion: That Beverley Anne Wakem be appointed as the Chief Ombudsman.

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki and Party Whip

Thursday 17 April 2008; 3.30pm

Three years ago, Beverley Wakem addressed a ceremony in Wellington with these words,

"You will need to be well-informed, develop a sense of perspective (what is the history of this or that, what is going on behind what is going on in front, what is the cause of this), be curious, be sceptical and don't be side-tracked by 'political spin', and be alert to the large responsibility you have in seeking the truth.

And remember, in the welter of technology which surrounds you, that the most simple means of communication is still the best - people talking directly to people."

Madam Speaker, the occasion was the presentation of the 2005 Churches Broadcasting Commission scholarships but it could just as easily have applied to the role of the Ombudsman.

The Maori Party has enormous respect for these people who fill the shoes of the Ombudsman role. Their job as other members have said is pretty difficult- investigating complaints about the decisions of central and local government agencies, of Ministers of the Crown, doing the leg work to seek out the truth.

The list of complaints that can be received is substantial from what I can see - benefit payments, housing, health, immigration, passports, accident compensation, prisons, education, taxation, child support and on and on it goes.

To be able to respond to the demands of this position takes a special type of person, a particular set of skills.

We, in this House, all appreciate just how unique these people are through our association with the former clerk of the House David McGee, who after 34 years in this place - when others would be thinking of a good holiday - took on the challenge of the Ombudsman role.

The Maori Party is happy to support the appointment of Beverley Wakem as the Chief Ombudsman.

As I noted earlier, it takes a person of distinctive qualities to take up such a challenging role. In many of these agencies - and I am thinking particularly of the prisons, of police, of Child, Youth and Family - our whanau feel as if they are caught in a context where they will either sink, swim or suffer.

The Ombudsman helps them to swim; to restore confidence that if there is an injustice occurring, then the independent scrutiny of the Ombudsman will help to right the wrongs.

Beverley Wakem is no stranger to challenge.

Beverley brings a remarkable reputation to the role - having significant management and governance experience across a range of performing arts institutes; insurance, savings and remuneration bodies; General Manager of Wrightson Ltd, of Hill and Knowlton, and an associate member of the Institute of Directors.

But she has also made her mark on the national scene by being unafraid to ask the hard questions, to search out for the truth, or at least a more positive outcome.

As Chief Executive of Radio New Zealand she engaged in a public fight over gender issues when she banned a list of 140 sexist terms of abuse from news and advertising.

In that same role, in 1986 she appeared before the Waitangi Tribunal and impressed its members with what they described an impressive "diligence and care" in describing the impact that broadcasting media have on Maori interests.

Madam Speaker, in 2002, she was a member of the Change Implementation Advisory Group set up by the State Services Commission which produced a report, 'Turning the face of the system towards citizens'.

The focus of this group was to encourage and indeed provoke public officials to see citizens in a much broader frame, to be willing to engage in new ways of thinking and relating.

All of these qualities will stand Beverley in great stead for this very significant role as Chief Ombudsman.

We wish her great courage in continuing to tackle the truth, to be curious, to be sceptical, and not to be side-tracked by the political spin.

Kia ora tatou.

ENDS

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