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Joseph Mooney – Maiden Speech

Mr Speaker, It is with a sense of both pride and humility that I look forward to my first term in the 53rd Parliament as the Member of Parliament for Southland.

The electorate of Southland is a regional economic powerhouse, both in farming, tourism, horticulture, construction and an increasing presence in information technology.

My 11-year-old daughter said to me yesterday as we walked around Parliament that she wouldn’t have believed she would be doing that a year ago, and I replied that I wouldn’t have either.

It has been a tumultuous period in our country’s history that has brought me to this House to serve the people of my electorate and this nation. It was a challenging campaign for the Southland electorate, but they handled it with aplomb, and I particularly want to thank my campaign chair Jeff Grant who stepped up to lead the campaign when I was selected.

I also want to thank each and every member of the campaign team and all of the hard working volunteers, who gave of their time freely because they believe that the National Party will deliver the best for the people of my region and of this country.

I also want to acknowledge and thank the Honourable Judith Collins who stepped up to lead our party and our campaign at short notice, and did a very good job of doing so.

I would like to acknowledge my wife Silvia who is the bedrock of our family. She saw something in me 20-odd years ago when I had nothing to my name and she has stuck by me through thick and thin since. She is an incredible woman and I am very lucky to have her by my side. Her parents will be watching this speech on the internet from Germany and I want to say thank you to them as well for all of their support over the years.

I also want to thank my children Estrella, Moritz and Soleil for all of your support and for being great human beings.

I also wish to acknowledge my mother Bronwen who sits in the gallery tonight and to acknowledge her long and varied and often very challenging journey, which has led tonight to seeing one of her eight children making a maiden speech in Parliament. Who would have thought Mum, eh?

I was motivated to offer to serve because I have vividly experienced the impact of decisions made in this House as a child, and given the challenges facing our country, I will be a voice for pragmatism, of ambition for our nation, but also of caution.

I was a child in the ‘80s when a Labour Government embarked on a radical programme of restructuring the economy. Change was needed, but I can tell this House that change needs to be managed carefully. Those changes in the ‘80s had a huge impact on the rural sector and many farmers lost their farms or experienced significant hardship.

My step-father worked on farms but lost his job during that period and struggled to find more work. I recall my family going hungry during those times and I remember days on end when we had no food to eat, and going to the river to look for blackberries so we had food.

For a variety of reasons my younger brother and I chose to leave home when I was 11 and he was nine. We planned to get to the goldfields in Central Otago, live in old mining huts and make a living panning for gold. We managed to get from Hawke’s Bay to Wellington, but were stymied by Cook Strait, and ended up living for a bit over a week on the streets of Wellington, huddling together for warmth on cold rainy nights in flax bushes while we tried to figure out how to cross the Cook Strait to the South Island.

Let me tell you that Wellington is a cold, hard place when you are a child living on its streets. I remember this every day when I come to this House, and it serves to remind me that while I am here I need to do my best to ensure the policies that go through this House do not have unintended consequences that hurt our country’s children.

I am a Kiwi through and through and very proud of my country. One of my ancestors was a gold miner in Central Otago, my paternal grandfather played cricket for New Zealand and was a successful Wellington businessman, my maternal grandfather was a Captain in the New Zealand Army fighting in North Africa and Greece during the Second World War who suffered severe war injuries but went on to found a successful business in Auckland on his return.

As I look around the walls of this House, I see the names of theatres of war where New Zealanders have served, including Egypt and North Africa where my grandfather served. Walking the corridors in this House I have also come across the photograph of another ancestor I recently learned about, a great-great uncle by the name of the Honourable Bill Fox who served in the cabinet of Walter Nash’s Government.

A number of my forebears were successful in their lives, but this did not carry through to my generation. I say this as a salutary lesson that the success of each generation is the challenge and responsibility of that generation. The same is true for our country, our success in the past is not a guarantee of success tomorrow and we must all work both carefully and ambitiously to continue and grow our country’s success.

I have both a practical and a professional background, and a background in both rural and urban New Zealand.

In my younger days in the Hawke’s Bay, where I was born, I’ve cleaned water troughs, drenched sheep, driven tractors, picked apples, pruned pine trees, picked up thousands of hay bales and driven them around the countryside stacking them into hay sheds.

As a teenager I went to high school in Auckland. I should say that my high school career was ultimately unsuccessful as I left school without university entrance, and spent a number of years in the school of hard knocks.

I was fortunate to have a lot to do with the Māori community growing up and it fostered a deep interest in our country’s history and the Treaty of Waitangi, to the extent that I first came to Parliament as a teenager to interview an MP about its place in New Zealand.

I helped build small companies both in New Zealand and overseas and experienced the challenges of building and managing teams and making sure both the staff and the bills get paid, all the while dealing with seemingly endless regulations while making sure the job got done.

That ultimately prompted me to study law as I realised that law was in effect the DNA of our society. I went to university as an adult student with small children and managed to get an honours degree in law with children climbing on my shoulders while I studied, maybe proving that failure at school doesn’t necessarily mean an absence of academic ability.

While at university (and afterwards) I also volunteered as a firefighter – a rewarding and sometimes challenging role being part of a close knit team being of service to the community, and I have spent time in the Army Reserves. It has emphasised to me the value of volunteers in our communities who do so much to weave the fabric that binds our communities together and makes them work.

I built my own law practice from scratch in Otago and Southland and made it a success.

Mr Speaker, we are seeing a contest of ideas and ideals both globally and nationally, and I strongly believe that the narrative of hard work and self-responsibility being the surest path to success is vital for the future of our country. We all need to do our bit to grow the pie rather than trying to divide it into ever smaller pieces.

I know from my life experience that if parents don’t have jobs, kids go hungry. So it is one of the key responsibilities of government to create a policy framework that empowers businesses, that empowers employers and that empowers employees.

I believe strongly in the success of our primary sector to ensure domestic food security, employment and export earnings.

Tourism is also a hugely important part of our economy. We will need to do all we can to support the industry and its people until the borders can reopen. I would strongly encourage this Government to urgently work on opening the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia, which the scientific experts are telling us can be done safely.

Broader afield we are also witnessing conflicts brewing between big powers that haven’t been seen in a very long time, and they are right on our back doorstep in the Asia-Pacific. I believe we will need to carefully manage our economic and security interests in an increasingly unstable geopolitical environment where nationalism and protectionism seem to be growing apace.

In particular we will need to proactively advocate for the continuation of the rules based multi-lateral trading framework that is crucial to our economic survival as a small trading nation at the bottom of the Pacific.

The Southland electorate is an incredible place – I think it may well be the most incredible electorate in the world.

It has the snowy peaks and deep glacial carved lakes region of Glenorchy and Queenstown, the historic old gold mining regions of Clyde, Alexandra, and Roxburgh that now produce fruit and wine and electricity.

There is some of the Catlins, the southernmost part of the mainland with some of the best big wave surfing in the country at Papatowai and a great community heart in Owaka.

Then there is the heartland of the South, the land of milk and honey that is West Otago from the likes of Clinton, Tapanui, and Moa Flat, through to the central heartland Southland towns of Gore, Mataura and Winton. This is the productive machine of the South with hard working pragmatic folk who get on with things and do an amazing job of both looking after the land and producing products for our country to sell on the world stage.

Out towards Western Southland is the land of big country, big skies, big mountains and big fjords. I am course talking about Te Anau, Manapouri and most of Fiordland including Milford Sound.

It is a breath taking and incredibly diverse region.

But the biggest treasure are the people who are folk with big hearts, are very hard working, and are very sharp, but don’t tend to boast about it to the rest of the world.

And that reminds me of the Maori Whakataukī (proverb).

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world?

It is the people, the people, the people.

I am proud to be a representative of the National Party.

The National Party has a philosophy based on true concern for the needs and aspirations of each individual, and is the party best suited to meet future challenges because its roots and its philosophy is visionary, reformist, purposeful, and based on an understanding of human qualities and aspirations.

A strong and successful country depends on strong and successful communities, and those strong and successful communities in turn depend on strong and successful families – however those are constituted – which, in turn, depend on strong and successful individuals.

The State is not an end in itself, but is a means of helping people achieve their own goals.

If there is one thing we can be sure of it is that the future will be unpredictable. We need to provide the systems of government that enable our individuals, our families, our communities, and ultimately our nation, to be successful.

All citizens are equal before the law and, therefore, all individuals have an equal opportunity to develop their inherent talents and pursue their aspirations.

The National Party also has deep roots in the New Zealand Liberal Party, which was the first organised political party in this country. I raise this because the National Party has a very long history of taking care of the vulnerable while also building the framework for every New Zealander to realise their own aspirations.

The Liberal Government established the basis of the later welfare state with old-age pensions. In 1893 the Liberal Government extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

The Liberal Party was also the party of Sir Āpirana Ngata, who served as the MP for Eastern Māori for nearly 40 years and made a vital contribution to the revival of Māori in the early twentieth century. He used his knowledge of the Pākehā world and his professional skills to assist his people to develop and farm their land while also encouraging Māori to preserve their culture and maintain their own identity.

We are a nation of adventurers, of risk-takers, of nation builders, of dreamers and doers – people who have collectively chosen to make our home under the roof of the Southern skies and its constellation of stars. All of us come with that adventurous DNA, whether it traces back hundreds of years to our ancestors, or whether we personally made that journey to travel to these islands ourselves.

Many of our ancestors navigated their way to these islands looking towards and guided by those stars, and now some of our countrymen and women launch fiery rockets into those starry skies from Mahia Peninsula in the Hawke’s Bay. They embody the sense of vision and ambition that we need to foster and celebrate in this country.

I know Mahia well from surfing the kinetic energy of its ocean swells as a youngster, and it was a remote place then that was about as far removed from space-going rockets as you could get. Now that is where rockets launch satellites regularly into the stars and is a perfect reflection of how the future can quickly become our reality with the right people, ambitious dreams, resources, hard work and the right policy frameworks.

We are a nation, Mr Speaker, that came together and agreed on making sacrifices to eliminate Covid-19 from these shores to the best of our ability. Let us also be a nation that comes together and says we are a place where our children feel valued and welcomed, and can realise incredible opportunities that harness their talents, hopes and dreams.

Let us be a nation where our children get the best start in life by receiving the best education facilitated with the help of cutting-edge technology.

Let us be a nation that comes together and says we can have the best and most effective healthcare services in the world because a healthy population means a successful population.

Let us be a nation where the best and the brightest in the world dare to live, dare to dream, dare to aspire, dare to action those dreams, and dare to be and do their best.

Let us be a nation that encourages the growth of technology, leading the world into the stars, oceans, land, biotech, nanotechnology, fintech and others. For technology is how our species has lifted itself up and achieved its best, and we have the tools and the space in this remote yet hyper-connected nation to be at the forefront of some of the best technology, which can solve our biggest issues, from health, to education, to housing, to climate resilience.

Let us be a nation that is ambitious in its infrastructure development and has a time horizon looking ahead 20 to 30 years, so that the next generation has the tools it needs to be world leaders.

Let us be a nation that comes together and looks to its abundance of land and resources, and enables our people to solve their own housing needs by building many more warm and healthy homes.

Let us be one of the most productive and effective nations and encourage and celebrate the people, businesses and policies that can make that a reality.

Let us be a people who rejoice in our great fortune to be fellow travellers under these southern skies, to celebrate our great collective heart and our practical pragmatic minds, to treasure and celebrate the achievements of our people.

For there is more that binds us together than divides us in this land.

It is with a great deal of optimism and hope that I look towards the future of this great country, and the great region that I am so fortunate to represent in this Parliament.

I look forward to making my contribution in this House by helping bend the arc of history towards the realisation of the vision and ambition that will ensure our people can make the most of their gifts and talents and are motivated to give their very best for themselves, their families, their communities, and our country.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

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