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A Tribute to David Lange

A Tribute to David Lange

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Wednesday 09 November 2005

We in New Zealand First want to pass on our condolences to the Lange family. It is not easy in such times having to share your grief and suffering so publicly, when your loved one is such a beloved public figure.

It is difficult on such an occasion to say something that has not been said already – several times over. Cognisant of the fact that on occasions such as these, we are often lured into long winded platitudes. Not intending to follow that path, we wish to make some pertinent observations.

I first encountered David Lange when he tutored me in Torts at university. He was as witty and informative then as he was to become as a politician.

He then went on to spend some time as a Lawyer in Kaikohe, where his public claims that he was only earning $7000 dollars a year had some mean spirits in the legal profession wanting to see him disbarred.

He was a star at the old Magistrates Court in Auckland.

The North got to see more of him when he contested the seat of Hobson for Labour, albeit unsuccessfully, in the 1975 election.

The next time we would see David Lange was in Parliament from the other side of the chamber.

Those of us who witnessed first hand David Lange’s capacity as a parliamentary debater, will know that in his case all of the superlatives and accolades that have been used over the years to describe his performances are deserved.

It is also worth noting that the quality of his performance was not simply reserved for the big occasions when he was Prime Minister; he was equally passionate and articulate as a backbencher in both opposition and government.

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While there were so many fundamental changes to the New Zealand way of life that occurred during his tenure, and we could all debate the merits or otherwise of these, it is his contribution to our anti-nuclear legislation which will probably be his defining legacy.

I cannot let this occasion pass without noting that David Lange was the Attorney-General and Minister of State outside Cabinet from 14 August 1989 to 2 November 1990.

How novel – a senior ministerial post outside cabinet, who would have thought of that?

Now I want to conclude on this note – it is a tragedy when so many so-called friends dessert you when you leave politics, only to return with your passing.

David Lange deserves to be remembered in a better light than this.

He was a uniquely gifted politician and a proud New Zealander. He will have a permanent place in our political history – and I imagine history will be kind to him.

It was Aristotle who said that “all virtue is summed up in dealing justly”

David Lange was a just man.

ENDS

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