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Kevin Hague - Maiden Address to 49th Parliament

11 December 2008

Kevin Hague - Maiden Address to 49th Parliament

Mihi

Ki te whaiao, ki te Ao Marama.

Tihei Mauri Ora!

Ko te mea tuatahi, me mihi ahau ki te Runga Rawa, nana nei nga mea katoa.

Papatuanuku, te Whaea, e takoto nei;
Ranginui, e tu nei;
tena korua.

Ka mihi mo nga mate, ka tangihia a tatau i tenei wa. No reira, e nga mate, haere, haere, haere ki Hawaiki nui, ki Hawaiki roa, ki Hawaiki pamamao. Apiti hono; tatai hono. Te hunga mate ki te hunga mate.

Ki te hunga ora, tena koutou!

Nga mihi ki nga manawhenua o tenei rohe, Te Ati Awa me Ngati Toa Rangatira hoki. Tena koutou.

Nga mihi ki nga tangata whenua o Aotearoa, mai te ika a Maui tai noa ki te Waipounamu, me nga iwi katoa. Tena koutou.

Inaianei ka huri ahau ki te korero e pa ana a te kaupapa o te wa.

Treaty of Waitangi

Mr Speaker, I open in Maori, because I believe my first words in this House should be in the first language of this country. Earlier this week I took up my place in the House declaring allegiance to her Majesty the Queen, but I take this opportunity to also declare my intent to honour the commitment made by her antecedent, the Treaty of Waitangi.

Part in a continuum

I come to this House hoping to make a significant personal contribution to those issues which are important to me, most especially the future of the planet upon which we live and depend, and the type of society that our children and grandchildren will inherit.

It is perhaps fanciful to think of my own individual contribution but more appropriate to instead acknowledge that my role is as one of many - those who have come before and will come after me, and those working today in the very many aspects of the national and international Green movement. I salute you all.

Acknowledgments

Being elected as a list MP perhaps brings a particular awareness that my being here is not the result of my work but that of very many others. I want to particularly acknowledge:

Those in the Gallery today - my father, Chaz Hague, my brother and sister-in-law Stewart and Bronwyn Hague, Green Party staff, members and supporters My partner Ian and my son Thomas who couldn't be here today Fellow Green MPs Those who may be listening or watching in New Zealand and around the world (my wider family and friends, those who worked so hard at this election to increase the Green Party's share of the vote, particularly in West Coast Tasman, and members of the worldwide movement of Green parties).

I want to explicitly acknowledge that I have friends from other parties represented in this House today, and in previous Parliaments. We come to this House with differing personal philosophies but, I hope, a shared commitment to those whom we serve and to future generations. I offer members a commitment to listen to what you have to say - a commitment which I hope you will agree to reciprocate.

Expectations

I am conscious that I come to this parliament bringing with me the hopes and expectations of many cyclists who want to see roads safe and well-engineered for all users, or who see the fantastic potential of a national network of off-road cycling tracks; Those who love wild rivers who hope for a new economics that values intrinsic natural characteristics and recreational use, instead of just easily-measured short term financial gain; Gay men, lesbian women and the wider rainbow family, who demand truly equal rights and equal opportunity; Those who work in public health, who know that the health of a population group is largely a reflection of the power it has over its own circumstances, and the environment surrounding it, and that good health improvement can only result from political will. Let's show that. People who understand that this same formula of empowering communities and creating supportive environments is also the answer for problems in education, social welfare, criminal offending. Indeed these are not separate problems but all in large part manifestations of a common cause - marginalisation. Let's fix that too. Those many New Zealanders who believe that our collective future depends on a relationship between Maori and non-Maori that honours the Treaty; All those who hope for a better future for our kids and for our planet

That's what I call a politics of aspiration. My potential to disappoint is great!

I do not experience these expectations as a crushing or repressive weight, but rather as a surging wave that bears me up and sustains me.

The Problem with Economic Growth

The challenges we face are very great indeed. Our biggest obstacle, as New Scientist recently reported, in a grim edition that pales the international credit crisis into insignificance, is a world economy geared to the sole aim of growth. Growth is not inherently bad, but the indiscriminate approach to growth that sees any type of growth as good is our problem.

Growth based on the increased use of non-renewable resources is by definition unsustainable and occurs at massive and irreversible cost to future generations. Growth achieved through the bubble economics of speculation is exploitation of another sort, where the non-renewable resource is human dignity and happiness.

We must change to an economy of sustainability as a matter of urgency. We know this, but we have not done so because of investment in the status quo - either direct financial literal investment, or emotional investment - fear of the changes that will be necessary to live sustainably.

Personal Philosophy - in line with Green Charter

One of the strengths brought by the Green Party to this House is our commitment to a charter, based on four solid principles: ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision-making, and non-violence.

I absolutely reject the idea that ethical or moral behaviour has its source in religious faith. On the contrary, my personal philosophy presupposes that there is no higher power that has, for some reason, disadvantaged some people and, conversely, privileged others or that will intervene to rectify this disparity or compensate its victims.

In the absence of such external power then the responsibility for determining how we should live together, and for acting to achieve that state, is solely, but collectively, ours.

Only two coherent philosophies are possible: survival of the fittest, with no regard to the effect on any other person, or a world in which we recognise our interdependence and respect for the equal and inalienable rights of every person. I have a passionate allegiance to the second of these belief systems.

Effectively this personal belief of mine is the equivalent of the 'social responsibility' charter principle. It has echoes in 'to each according to their need; from each according to their means' or in my personal motivator "If not me, then who? If not now, then when?" This is, for me, at the heart of my feelings of self-worth - that I have acted in an ethical and honourable way.

What are these inalienable rights that each person is entitled to? Eleanor Roosevelt (driving force behind the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, which we celebrated yesterday) referred to equal justice, equal dignity, and equal opportunity.

I think another valuable right to conceptualise is autonomy, provided that the exercise of that autonomy does not reduce that of another person. For me the opportunity to make decisions affecting one's own life, tempered only by the effect of those decisions on others, is driven directly from this central idea and is exactly the idea captured by the Charter principles of appropriate decision-making, and non-violence.

Appropriate decision-making is exactly the principle that I have attempted to use in my professional life and at a personal level. Better decisions will result from allowing healthy process to take its course.

Ecological wisdom

However, it is the principle of ecological wisdom, which is my greatest motivation for standing here today. In the same way that first principle thinking leads me to a bedrock belief in universal human rights, this thinking also leads me to consider the rest of the natural world not only from the perspective of resources that are necessary for the sustenance of human life, but also from the perspective of the 'rights' or intrinsic value of entities in their natural state.

My personal principle is to take only what resources I need from the natural world and to harm the natural world to the least extent possible. This is the thinking behind my being vegetarian for the past 28 years: if I don't need to kill animals in order to survive and thrive, then it would be wrong for me to do so. But regardless of whether our attitude to the natural world is driven by philosophical underpinnings as mine is, or by the more pragmatic considerations of what is required for human beings to survive, the logical consequence is ecological wisdom.

My sense of urgency comes from the growing unease and certainty that I have that the human race is reaching (or has reached) some fundamental limits to our ability to take from the natural world, but is not yet responding appropriately. Human beings are not well adapted to deal with gradually unfolding risk or dangers that are rare but catastrophic, and our inaction now imperils the human rights of those generations yet to come. As Lester Brown has said:

"We are crossing natural thresholds that we cannot see and violating deadlines that we do not recognise. Nature is the timekeeper, but we cannot see the clock. . . . We are in a race between tipping points in the earth's natural systems and those in the world's political systems. Which will tip first?" In the past we have been saved from the consequences of our inadequate responses by technological advance, and while technology may help us now, its development is not currently sufficiently well-directed, and it will not be enough. Fundamental change is required now, and with a dedication and speed that, as Brown says, we have typically only witnessed in wartime.


Closing remarks

At a time when, across the world, a small flame of hope has been kindled for the future of the human race and for the planet by the election of Barrack Obama, I am reminded of events that are 40 years old. One of my childhood memories is from 1968 in my grandparents' house, a hush upon us all as we listened to the radio, and tears streaming down my mother's face, as we learned of the death of Bobby Kennedy.

At the beginning of this speech I spoke of being part of a continuum, in which each person has a part to play. I am sure that my part will not be as big or as significant as those of Kennedy or Obama, but I commit myself to do my best.

As a new Green Party MP, I am particularly conscious that I'm "standing on the shoulders of giants". When I greeted those who have passed on in my introductory remarks, one of those of whom I particularly thought was, of course, Rod Donald. The other two are my mother and my sister, both of whom also died far too young and never lived to see this day. I dedicate my time in Parliament to them.

The transformational power of action by an individual

I know that some of you will look at the size of the problems we face and see them as insurmountable; that nothing that any one person can do will make any difference at all. Margaret Mead pointed out that, in fact, the actions of individuals are the only thing that ever has done so. My own experience has incorporated many issues where the odds seemed hopeless, but the steadfast application of individuals made all the difference. The most notable of these was the anti-apartheid movement, where the apparently impregnable fortress of apartheid was brought down by the actions of individuals.

In June 1966 Bobby Kennedy spoke in Cape Town to the National Union of South African Students' Day of Affirmation and said this

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, Or acts to improve the lot of others, Or strikes out against injustice, He sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million Different centres of energy and daring, Those ripples build a current that can Sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Let us now cast our pebbles into the pond.

No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, huri noa tena koutou katoa.

ENDS

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