Thursday, 3 March 2005
The House met at 2 p.m.
- The Clerk at the Table (David Graham McGee CNZM, QC) informed the House that the office of Speaker was vacant.
Election of Speaker
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House)
: I am requested by Her Excellency the Governor-General to inform the House that it is Her Excellency’s desire that the House should proceed to choose one of its members as its Speaker, and, in accordance with section 12 of the Constitution Act 1986, present that person at Government House at 4 p.m. today for Her Excellency’s confirmation.
MARGARET WILSON (Labour)
: I declare my nomination for election as Speaker.
Hon CLEM SIMICH (National—Tamaki)
: I declare my nomination for the office of Speaker.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT)
: I declare my nomination for Speaker.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: In the interest of a democratic selection, perhaps we could have a 10-minute speech from each of the candidates, so that we might have some remote idea as to whether they are qualified or not. I seek leave.
The CLERK: I am the Chair for the election of the Speaker, and as that matter relates to the election of the Speaker I will put it to the House. Is there leave granted? There is not.
The Clerk conducted a vote on the question of the election of the Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 19.
Hon Ken Shirley
Hon Clem Simich
||Peters J||te Heuheu
Margaret Wilson was elected as Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER-ELECT: Honourable members of the House of Representatives, may I thank you very sincerely for the honour and the privilege of electing me as Speaker. As I am sure most of you are aware, the role of Speaker can be traced back to 1258, in what was then called the “Mad Parliament”, from which emerged a plan of reform designed to ensure that Parliament controlled the executive power of the King. Since that time, of course, Parliament has evolved into the democratic institution that we have today, and with it emerged the role of Speaker. Originally, of course, the Speaker was the person who communicated the views of the Parliament to the King, and on occasions lost his head for doing so. Today, however, the Speaker ensures all those represented within Parliament are heard and dealt with fairly and impartially, according to the rules agreed to by the members. I undertake to exercise the functions and powers of the office in a fair and an impartial way.
Parliament is the heart of our democracy. The health and well-being of our democracy is measured in many ways, but one of the most visible is whether the business of Parliament is conducted in an orderly manner. It is the role of the Speaker to ensure that balance is achieved between robust debate and getting the business of Parliament done. I undertake to apply the rules fairly and justly, to achieve that balance. I know I follow in the footsteps of many distinguished Speakers. They have bequeathed me much wisdom in the
Speakers’ Rulings, amongst which I have found two cards—one yellow, one red—and, as a keen follower of competitive sport, I know their function. As one who has a growing sympathy and respect for the role of referee, I will use them with judgment.
As the Speaker-Elect I will now obey the instruction and go to the Governor-General at 4 p.m., and I hope some of you will accompany me there. Thank you.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, I rise on behalf of the Labour Party in the House to congratulate you on your election today and to wish you well for your term of office as Speaker. Later this afternoon you will, as you said, go to visit the Governor-General at Government House, and you will make three requests of her. The first is to be confirmed by her in your new office as Speaker, the second is to ask for the right of all members for free speech in Parliament, and the third is to ask for a favourable construction to be put on the proceedings of the House. These are very important elements of our constitutional framework.
In the House of Commons, from which we derive so many of our parliamentary traditions, members fought for the right to free speech, with the Speaker often at the forefront of those struggles, and Speakers did on occasion encounter difficulties when they conveyed the views of Parliament to the monarch—such difficulties that history records that seven serving Speakers were actually beheaded, and another was murdered. Eventually, Cromwell, backed by Parliament, ordered the execution of the King himself. No such blood has been spilt since. Nor do we expect any here, although the occasional eviction from the Chamber is expected. In respect of the request for a favourable construction being placed on the proceedings of the House, this too lies at the heart of the convention and practice of parliamentary sovereignty in New Zealand.
Madam Speaker-Elect, your career has taken you from the law schools of Auckland and Waikato universities to the Law Commission, to the office of chief of staff in the office of the Prime Minister, to the board of the Reserve Bank, to association with many other organisations prior to your appointment as Attorney-General, Minister of Labour, Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, and many other portfolio responsibilities, and now to your election as Speaker today.
You are this country’s first woman Speaker in a nation where there are not many more firsts for women to achieve. You have been a pioneer for women in the law, in education, and in Government office, and you have achieved every position you have ever held on merit and because of your tenacity and determination to succeed in whatever you undertake to do. I have no doubt that those same characteristics will serve you well in this job as you rule in a way that is firm but fair, uphold the privileges and freedoms of Parliament, and protect the rights of minorities in the House.
I suspect also that many members are about to find out that you have a particularly strong and keen sense of humour.
No doubt there will be a settling in period as members test both your limits and your patience. It has been ever thus—and not only in settling-in periods for Speakers. But I have no doubt of your capacity to deal with these challenges, as you have with every other challenge that has presented itself in your life. I wish you all the best in your term as Speaker.
Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, may I, on behalf of the National Party, also offer warm congratulations to you on your elevation to this important role. Today you have become Parliament’s person and, as the Prime Minister has said, you will shortly go to the Governor-General to seek from her the privileges of Parliament, and you have our unconditional support in doing that. Parliament is a place of robust and sometimes provocative debate, within and sometimes at the very edge of the Standing Orders, and that is the nature of our democracy. We hope and expect that you will have oversight over that role and ensure that that debate is well conducted.
You come to this role with broad ministerial experience, although not having experienced the joy of being a back-bencher—or perhaps the joy of being on the Opposition benches—but with your distinguished legal background, we have no doubt at all that you will exercise your judgment and your authority without fear or favour. Perhaps uniquely in this House, I myself have been subject to your guidance when you were on the board of the Reserve Bank, and I can testify to your objectivity and perspicacity.
Today you also achieve the trifecta in being the third woman in the order of precedence. We have a Governor-General who is a woman, we have a Prime Minister who is a woman, and we now have a Speaker who is a woman, and I think that those three take priority in the order of precedence. I am not quite sure what the fourth equivalent of a trifecta is, but Her Majesty the Queen is also in that line, so we have an extraordinary list of prominent women in our democracy.
I congratulate you, Madam Speaker-Elect, on being the first woman in this role. More generally, I conclude by adding our congratulations to those of the Prime Minister, and we wish you every success in your new role.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, we in New Zealand First wish to congratulate you on your successful election today, and we want to wish you well in your new role and all the best in your new role. We want to sort out some misconceptions, with the passing of one of our longest serving MPs as the previous Speaker, right now. According to the authority of John Parker, who wrote a book called
Father of the House: Fifty Years in Politics, the role of mother of the House now passes to one Helen Clark, that being the first person to nominate with an unbroken record—and we wish her that title, as well! Richard Prebble and I were saying the same thing to ourselves: “Thank heavens for that!”.
Madam Speaker-Elect, we expect that your performance in your new role will be a model of independence and neutrality: forsaking the former party role that you once held, and upholding the privileges and the rights of Parliament and, above all, the rights of parliamentary minorities, for democracy is what is at stake here. We wish to indicate straight away that you will have every cooperation from New Zealand First and, in particular, its leader.
Government Members: Yeah, right!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I mean that. To use a cliché, but it is true, I mean that most sincerely. It is simply not in our interests to do otherwise. It will be a very, very difficult job following on from an excellent Speaker with a long record of experience—a lot of which you also bring yourself—and we will not make it harder. So we in New Zealand First wish you all the best.
RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, I rise on behalf of the ACT party to congratulate you on your election. It is no mean feat to be elected Speaker. It is a proud day for New Zealand in the sense that we now have women who have succeeded in the top three posts in our country: Governor-General, Prime Minister, and now Speaker, and that is something that we should all be very proud of.
I hope that you will still see a place for men in this House, but we certainly realise that you have got here on merit. We on this side of the House are pleased that you have promised to apply the rules and to be fair. In doing so, I am afraid that you will have to leave your friendships and colleagues behind. No longer will you get the sense that you are on that side, protecting the Government from the sometimes trivial, sometimes zany, but oftentimes serious questions of the Opposition MPs.
Parliament is, as the Prime Minister said, the heart of our democracy. The executive has to come to the Chamber and answer to Parliament and, in that way, to the representatives of the people. That is a huge check and balance on the use of Government power and taxpayers’ money. I hope you will remember all the back-bench MPs, all the Opposition parties, and especially the smaller parties that have brought so much colour to this Parliament and, may I say on behalf of us all, so much insight.
I believe that you have a good model to follow in the previous Speaker, the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, in the sense that he applied the rules, and he applied them fairly. We often had cause to object, but we know now, with your observance of the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt and our questioning of him, that you will go further down the track of supporting Opposition MPs in their questioning of Ministers. I think that this, in particular, is an opportunity to thank the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt for his contribution and, most important, for his love of Parliament, his support of all MPs, and his great sense of humour. I know that you bring those qualities to the Chair, as well. On behalf of the ACT party, I would like you to remember always that each and every one of us views you as Parliament’s lady, and we are here to help.
ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, on behalf of the Green Party I would like to add our congratulations to those of other party leaders. Your election as this Parliament’s first woman Speaker is a milestone in our evolution as a democracy, and will, I hope, encourage even more women to participate in the democratic process.
Although Jonathan Hunt has been a list MP in recent years, your election also marks the beginning of a new era as you are our first truly MMP Speaker. We look forward to your bringing your sharp legal mind, your sense of humour, and your strong commitment to good parliamentary process to the job at hand.
You have some big challenges ahead of you. I hope you will help MPs to significantly improve our standard of behaviour in this Chamber, and lead us in restoring respect for Parliament to the level this institution deserves. I am confident that, as a former university lecturer and as president of the Labour Party during turbulent times, you will keep us under control and focused on debating the substance of the issues before us, instead of indulging in personality politics.
I also look forward to your energetic chairing of the Business Committee, the Standing Orders Committee, and the Parliamentary Service Commission, all vital roles that ensure Parliament effectively represents the people of New Zealand. May you do well in your time as Speaker.
Thank you also to the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt for his time as Speaker. As I have said publicly, he was very helpful to us as a new political party in 1999 with many new MPs, and we are forever grateful for that.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, on behalf of United Future I want to extend our congratulations to you on your election. I want also to bring you our best wishes for the difficult role that lies ahead. You start with some extraordinary natural advantages: your background in the law, your time in this House, but particularly, I think, your time as the president of the Labour Party, because you were remarkably successful in that role at a very difficult time. If you were able to keep the factions there under control, I think you will do extremely well in managing less difficult forces in this House.
You made an observation in your opening remarks about your love of competitive sport and your increasing empathy with referees. I make the return observation that there are, as you well know, two types of referees. There is the referee who sees the role being one of allowing the game to flow—enforcing the rules, but making sure the game flows effectively, with minimal interruption but nonetheless with discipline and strength. And then there is the referee who has to blow up at everything—who has to intrude so much into the affairs of the game that nothing ever happens. Madam Speaker-Elect, I plead with you to be in the former category: firm, forceful, and fair, but essentially an arbiter, or referee, who allows the game to flow and the various sides to make their moves and take their tackles and their hits as the circumstances permit.
Much has been said about the fact that you complete what some would regard as a very skilful takeover of our society by women in recent years. I note, by the way, that in the various combinations that have been mentioned, reference to the Chief Justice has been curiously absent; I will leave members to draw conclusions about that. But I am sure, Madam Speaker-Elect, that as we look upon you as Parliament’s person and our presiding officer, issues of gender will be secondary to issues of competence and ability. Your razor-keen mind is known to many of us. Your dry sense of humour has been observed by a significant number of us in this House. I look forward to the combination of your intellect and your wit, your style and your grace, as you preside over our proceedings and demonstrate that you are truly Parliament’s person and a Speaker-Elect of whom we can be very proud.
I conclude with a reference to your predecessor. I thought it was unfortunate that one of the earlier speakers somewhat unwittingly referred to his “passing”. I think that is somewhat premature
Hon David Cunliffe: Very premature!
Hon PETER DUNNE: It is very premature, a member interjects. Madam Speaker-Elect, Mr Hunt set a standard for you and your predecessors that will be extremely challenging and hard to follow. He was a great Speaker of this Parliament, and a man whose love of the institution and whose knowledge of its procedures were unparalleled. I am sure that in the time he remains a member of this House he will, if you seek it, offer counsel. But I am equally sure, knowing his extraordinary modesty, that he will not offer that counsel unless it is sought from him. That is a mark of greatness.
Madam Speaker, I wish you well.
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, the Progressive Party also congratulates you on your election to this high office. I myself believe, knowing you as well as I do, that you bring to the office the same respect for the affairs of Parliament as your predecessor, Jonathan Hunt, did. I, too, noted with a slightly sinking feeling of inferiority that it is not just the top three constitutional positions that are occupied by women; it is now the top four. That is something for the males of the species in here to contemplate. My only comment in congratulating you on your well-deserved success in receiving majority support from the House today to become the first woman Speaker of New Zealand’s Parliament concerns the suggestion by some that you may not have the experience needed to chair the affairs of this House. Those who say that have obviously never experienced the chairing of a Labour Party conference in the 1980s. As the only other member of Parliament here today who has shared that honour, I would say—and my experience will attest to the fact—that chairing Parliament will be an absolute piece of cake by comparison. We wish you well.
Rt Hon JONATHAN HUNT (Labour)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, I want to make a very small contribution to congratulate you most sincerely on your election. I would like to thank those of my parliamentary colleagues who made kind comments about me. That is history; this is the present.
I think the job of Speaker is to chair Parliament, and to chair it so that all 120 members can have their say. Everyone in this House is democratically and properly elected, and we should never forget that and never forget that this Parliament is a dedication to people who lost their lives to ensure that we today can be in our democracy.
Madam Speaker-Elect, I share the view of those who respect you for your intellect, your very good and dry sense of humour, and also for your ability to sum up an issue and to adjudicate reasonably quickly. The only other point I would like to make is that I do not regard as important the fact that the first four people in our precedence list are women. They are all New Zealanders, and that is something we should be very proud of. I wish you all the very best for the future.
Hon CLEM SIMICH (National—Tamaki)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, congratulations on your election to the Speakership. I look forward very much to working with you and for the members of Parliament.
I want to thank all members for giving me the opportunity to be in the contest for Speaker. I am humbled by the process, but I think all members have found it an important event. To be here in the Chamber to see that process, and see the Speaker elected, is very important for all of us. It shows to others the better face of this Chamber.
Madam Speaker-Elect, congratulations and best wishes in your role. I look forward to supporting you. I want to say to your predecessor, the Rt Hon Jonathon Hunt, that I in particular have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. I could not have had a better mentor and, indeed, a better friend over the time that I have been one of his workers. I also thank all members of the Chamber, again, for that opportunity.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT)
: Madam Speaker-Elect, as a fellow contestant in the vote for Speaker and one who was always extremely fearful of coming through the middle on a split vote, it is with extreme relief that I warmly congratulate you on your election and wish you every success and enjoyment in the role of Speaker of our House.
Madam SPEAKER-ELECT: I wish to thank all members for their very generous comments, and to assure them that the game will be allowed to flow, as long as the odd goal is scored from time to time. I did not think it was necessary to do so, but I assure everyone that from my perspective the role of Speaker is gender-neutral. But if the leader of the ACT party has any concerns, I can reassure him that he is directly in the line of sight of the Speaker.