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PM's tribute to former Prime Minister Mike Moore

Prime Minister's tribute to former Prime Minister Mike Moore

I move, That this House place on record its appreciation and thanks for the devoted and distinguished service to New Zealand by the late Rt Hon Michael Kenneth Moore, member of the Order of New Zealand, a member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, an Honorary Member of the Order of Australia, a member of this House of Representatives; representing Mount Eden from 1972 to 1975, Papanui from 1978 to 1981, Christchurch North from 1984 to 1987, and Waimakariri from 1996 to 1999; who held the ministerial portfolios, including Deputy Minister of Finance, Minister of External Relations and Trade, Minister Responsible for the America's Cup, Minister of Tourism, Minister of Sport and Recreation, Minister Responsible for Publicity, Minister of Overseas Trade and Marketing; and served as the 34th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 4 September to 2 November 1990, and as the third Director-General of the World Trade Organization from 1 September 1999 to 1 September 2002; that the House express our sense of loss and our sympathy with his wife, Yvonne, and other relatives, and that the House do now adjourn.

I want to say to all of Mike's loved one, especially Yvonne, that our thoughts and prayers are with you and that we grieve with you. In his valedictory speech, Mike Moore said: "It's nice to see so many people here at my farewell and funeral; if only people had said such supportive things when I was alive." I'm sorry, Mike—you're going to have watch this Chamber once again set aside time to commend your many achievements.

I've read the commentary about Mike since he passed. The word "battler" is often used. Mike fought for people. He fought for what he believed in. He fought for New Zealand's interests around the world, and, as any politician does, he had his share of battles here in Parliament. Despite those battles, Mike loved Parliament and politics—the debate, the policy, the theatre—but, ultimately, he loved all of these things because he loved those he was here to serve. Mike was undeniably a unique man and a unique politician, or, as Sir Geoffrey Palmer put it, a force of nature. He was a kind, caring, and humble man. Where he saw wrong, he tried to right it. He deeply believed politics was ultimately about improving people's lives.

A true working-class Prime Minister, Mike Moore showed all New Zealanders that hard work, initiative, guts, and determination can lead to very big things. He taught everyone to aim for the stars, because that's what he did, via books. Mike left school at the age of 15 for a job in the freezing works, but he was an avid reader. That he made his way to Parliament just eight years later is a testament to his work ethic, his dedication, and his intellect. Through his love of learning and reading, he educated himself, and he was eventually awarded honorary doctorates from Lincoln University, the Auckland University of Technology, and the University of Canterbury, as well as an honorary doctorate from the People's University of China and an honorary doctorate from La Trobe University in Australia.

Mike didn't stop at reading, though. Throughout his life, he was a prolific author and wrote books on economics, New Zealand history, politics, and much, much more. But in all of that, this place remained central to him. He once said, "The Labour Party has been my training college, Parliament my university". He loved the Parliamentary Library, and I'm told, credibly, that he would encourage others to use the library in the way that he did. This place mattered to Mike because of the power and potential that exists here, in the same way that he saw the power and potential of the people that he served in all walks of life.

In the Hansard and his many interviews, we will always be able to remember Mike and hear his totally unique voice, and it's a voice that was consistent. Mike's affinity for the Labour Party developed at a young age. He joined Labour when he was 15 years old and was the first youth representative on the Labour Party executive. He was the vice-president of the International Union of Socialist Youth for two consecutive terms. This dedication to the Labour Party and its cause never diminished, over many decades. As a member of Parliament and as Prime Minister, Mike was passionate about many things, including constitutional change and creating a united New Zealand.

I've spoken to some of his former colleagues, who noted how emotive Mike could be when discussing the history of our nation and his vision for the future of Aotearoa, a New Zealand, in his words "more at peace with itself." It was only fitting when Mike tried to, of course, in his final speech in this place, cheekily table a bill to this House on constitutional change. At the time, Mike said, "A nation is the sum total of its history, its memories, and … experiences. A nation without history is like a man without a memory. It is good that we are confronting our historic ghosts and demons at last."

Mike would've been proud to see the debate and the discussion last week at Waitangi, where we came together to reflect on the past, to challenge our present, and to be hopeful about our future. We must continue to work together to create a nation we can continue to be proud of, building on the call that Mike left to all of us. On the paepae at Waitangi, many people spoke of Mike's passion for New Zealand and the work that he did to bring Kiwis together and promote our country to the world. In fact, some commented that this is where we saw Mike's true potential.

It was unsurprising that Mike took a global leadership role in trade after he left politics. As Minister of Overseas Trade and Marketing, he was involved with the GATT trade round negotiations in their trade missions to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East, Latin America, and across Europe. There aren't many people who can say they led both New Zealand and the world, but Mike is one of them. When he left Parliament to become the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Mike took the same mentality he had as a politician in New Zealand. He approached trade as a way to help those in need, except, this time, he broadened his constituency and had the aim of helping entire nations in need. He saw trade as an opportunity to lift people out of poverty and to help developing countries grow economically. It was a way to help the little guy. Always keeping New Zealand close to his heart, he also saw trade as an opportunity for us to grow international relations and build a stronger economic base. We owe much to his hard work and dedication.

Mike was also a staunch union man. Much like politics, he joined the union movement at a young age and became a member of the Auckland Trades Council when he was 17. Mike always had time for workers because he was one himself. He once said it was rubbish that you do not make real friends in Parliament, before listing his real friends, that include the drivers, messengers, the library staff, the staff at Bellamy's, the security guards, and researchers. It shows us who Mike was. It didn't matter what your role was; Mike was always keen to talk, to listen. He was a man of the people.

I was fortunate enough to see Mike a few days before he passed, and he encouraged me to keep thinking about the vision we hold for the future—not one for small talk. So, Mike, I want to say we will keep aiming high. You led by example and showed what hard work, passion, and care for others can achieve. I'd like to end with a mihi recently penned by a member in this House.

Translated, the mihi reads: "The totara of the political world has fallen. Sir, you travelled the distance, scaled the heights, traversed the seas, now your time is over and you must return. Your Waka awaits [you] on the tides of Matauri, the prow faces the current of farewell, go those who preceded you in the great beyond, sleep in peace chief of deed, of word, of people."

Moe mai rā, Mike, moe mai rā.

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