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Sharples: Adjournment Debate

Adjournment Debate: Maori Party
Hon Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader of the Maori Party
Thursday 18 December 2008; 4pm

Last Saturday night, we celebrated the Maori Sports Award in Rotorua, a golden-haired young man took the stage, and was awarded ‘disabled Maori sportsperson of the year’.

Eighteen-year old Ngapuhi man, Cameron Leslie, stunned us all with his gold-medal swim at the Beijing Paralympics a few months ago. Cameron has a quadruple limb deficiency – missing both legs below the knee – so relies completely on his upper body strength to do the laps. But impossible is not a word in his vocabulary.

In accepting his award, Cameron said

“I may not look the most Maori here but if it wasn’t for the Maori in me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today”.

It was a wonderful moment, when the skills, the success, and the whakapapa of this young paralympian was truly a moment of pride for us all. Pride that knowing who one is, the cultural strength of one’s identities, is to be cherished as a foundation for our life.

It is the inspiration of stories like this, that sustain us in this House, with the determination to make a difference.

Make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders so that they can achieve their aspirations, so they can experience the sweet taste of success, so they can be assured that their hard work can and will reap rewards.

The Adjournment Debate is a time to acknowledge the toil of those who take up the seats in this chamber.

I start first by acknowledging you Mr Speaker, the boy from Matakohe Primary who has become the highest officer elected by the House of Representatives. The role of the Speaker is vital in progressing the programme of Parliament, and implicit within that is the need to command the respect of the House. You, Sir, have made a very good start to the term, and we look forward to your leadership in the debates to come.

We acknowledge too, the calibre of your deputy and assistant speakers; the expertise of Mary Harris as Clerk of the House, tena koe Mary, the Office of the Clerk, those who assist us in the chamber, Hansard services, tena korua, the Tables Office, legislative counsel, the incredible team of librarians and all of the staff who help to make our work in this House so efficient.

The last month has also meant an avalanche of work for those involved in relocating MPs and the staff to new offices - the furniture, the phones, the computers and photocopiers. We wish to thank them for taking such good care of us and our taonga in the move.

The Maori Party wants to pay particular tribute to our interpreters who assist in bringing te reo rangatira to the floor. Nga mihi ki a koutou. In fact everyone involved in ensuring that we can do our jobs, including the cleaners who come daily to our rooms.

2008 was the year in which we lost Rangitihi Rangiwaiata Tahuparae, the first officially appointed Kaumatua o te Whare Paremata. We will all greatly miss Tahu – his knowledge of whakapapa; his mastery of spiritual, cultural and historical dimensions, and his capacity to provoke thought was legendary, and has contributed greatly to our reputation as a Parliament.

Tahu used to say, ‘never let anyone finish your words’ and it is a statement we could well remember in the debates in this House.

We acknowledge our respect for all those who serve as Members of Parliament, including those who have not returned to this House. The sacrifice that they each made on behalf of New Zealanders is enormous, and we appreciate the dedication they gave to their role in the chamber, on select committees, on reviews, in Ministerial Offices, and even on the rugby field as part of the Parliamentary team.

In particular we recognise the person who we regarded as the elder statesman of the House, Winston Peters, who has been such an influential figure in politics for well over thirty years.

We have a saying, Mate atu he tetekura, ara mai ra he tetekura, when one fern frond falls, another rises.

The last fortnight of maiden speeches has stunned us all with the vivacious energy of the youth, the rich fabric of people nurtured in their culture, the impressive and diverse range of skills that have already been introduced into the Hansard record.

But there was one commonality that stood out for me in those speeches– the profound respect and gratitude that each member expressed for the enduring loyalty of their loved ones, their partner, their children, their parents, and those who have passed on but will forever provide a guiding light to the Members of the House.

We must always stay strong to our pledge to our families – that whanau ora remains uppermost in our actions for all New Zealanders, including our own nearest and dearest.

Whanau ora is the culmination of all we would want for our families – to be living life to the fullest, free of any form of violence, educated for every challenge, thriving not just surviving.

It was the commitment to whanau ora, to eliminating poverty, to social justice and to advancing Maori social, cultural, economic and community development that gives us every confidence in our relationship agreement with the National Party.

We have signed up to a relationship in which we trust there will be every opportunity for the aspirations of our people to be heard.

We acknowledge there will be challenges – this first fortnight has already brought some of these to the fore – but we also recognise and respect the leadership exhibited by the Prime Minister in inviting us to participate in the decision-making process.

We are sure that there will be many opportunities for us to consider the ‘agree to disagree’ provisions, and we thank John Key for helping to make this happen.

The ministerial pathway feels like a steep learning curve for us at this point, but one which we are absolutely committed to, in our passion to serve our people well in Maori Affairs, Education, Health, Community and Voluntary Sector, Justice and Social Development.

I want to just take a moment to acknowledge Tariana Turia, Hone Harawira, Te Ururoa Flavell and Rahui Katene for their constant dedication and sacrifice on behalf of the Maori Party.

They, in turn, know their strength is found in the commitment from their staff here in Parliament, their electorate staff, and of course the 23,500 workers of the Maori Party, who this year, gave so much for the kaupapa of a strong and independent Maori voice in Parliament.

The Maori Party in Parliament appreciates each and every person that walks in through those rubber doors – the messengers and security who watch out for us, the Copperfields and Bellamy’s staff who feed us, the Ministerial and Parliamentary service staff who pay us – and keep us happy, our every need met.

Hei korero whakamutunga matau.

Ka mihi au ki a John Key me tona tiima. Na koutou te tatau i huakina – kia riro kia matau te Paati Maori etahi turanga mahi minita – tena koutou, tena e John Key.

Atu ki tena ka mihi ahau ki a Helen Clark raua ko Michael Cullen. Kua oti pai a koutou mahi i nga tau kua pahure ake – e Helen, tena koe. Helen Clark, you have done our country proud, thank you.

Ki nga mema katoa o te whare nei tenei taha o te whare, tena taha o te whare, ki nga mea katoa. Kia pai a koutou ra Kirihimete. Ko te tumanako ka noho whanau koutou katoa.

I would like to acknowledge all members of the House, on this side and that side, and wish you all a very merry Christmas.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


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