Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. Poor old Bill English! He is the classic English patient. Last week he was feeling a bit crook. Today he is on life support, and the medical reports coming out from the hospital are not all that good. The fact of the matter is that Bill English ain’t got it, never had it, and now is dog tucker. Mark our words; he is dog tucker. We have only to go to the Tremain cartoon in the
Otago Daily Times to see a drawing of a teacher in front of a class, saying: “Right class, what’s it to be today, English or History?”. From the back of the room, out of sight, comes: “English is history.” The teacher says: “Who said that?” “Donald Brash, sir.” said one of the children, and from the back of the room, out of sight, comes: “I never did.”
When one becomes the subject of cartoons, it is time to go. We have only to ask some people who know Bill English, like Max Bradford, a former member of the National Party, who says: “Mr English always seems a bit of a fence sitter. He suffers from a fear of taking any position that could alienate anybody.” If we need an example of that, how about the article in the
Sunday Star Times in which Mr English told the press yesterday that although the poll was not good news, it vindicated his belief that National should not have taken a strong stance supporting the allied war in Iraq. Mr English told the press that while the poll was not good news—
Mr SPEAKER: An interjection has been made that brought me into the debate. The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise for that interjection.
David Benson-Pope: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the member who is talking while I am on my feet that he will be leaving the House if he does that. He should know not to. The debate will carry on. I also warn the member who is speaking that members have to be called by their Christian names and surnames, or Mr, or Mrs, or whatever.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Mr English was asked whether he personally agreed with the stance taken by National, and he said he supported his caucus decision. He said: “That’s how it works. You work through it, and you get your position. You don’t change it. There’s no distinction between my personal view and the one I’m now espousing.” If anyone can understand what that means, then he or she is a better person than most in this House. Then, on Saturday night, in his article in the
Clutha Leader—that great clarion call of truth from the South Island—he said: “The other night I was watching TV with some of my children, when we heard a loud, bad word.” I wonder what that loud, bad word might be. Maybe it was “Brash” or “Brownlee”. What about “coup”, or was that loud, bad word “caucus”? What about “backstab”, “numbers”, “signatures”, “roll”, “disloyal”, “loser”, or “fence sitter”? “Why bother, Bill” might have been another. There are heaps of loud, bad words that that member would have heard just recently. We know that he is dog tucker.
Now we come to the new National Party. I think it is fair to say that the leadership torch in the National Party is being handed on to the older generation. If Don Brash is the answer, Lord knows what the question is. The
National Business Review states: “Don Brash has the ability to make Sir Geoffrey Palmer look like a tub-thumping populist and matinee idol.” I would agree with that. Then we go to the line-up. Of course, Bill English is gone in history. When one looks at the new line-up—all 13 of them—the first thing we notice is that there is no Tony Ryall, no Roger Sowry, and no Nick Smith. After the next reshuffle, those three will be out in the lobby. That is how far away from the front bench they will be. The rest of the line-up is Don Brash, Gerry Brownlee, and No. 3 is Wayne Mapp. We on this side shudder, knowing that the old bumbler himself is No. 3. A sense of duty brings Bill English in at No. 8 as the Minister of Health. Bill English is gone, and the whole lot of them are dog tucker.
PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First)
: If it were question time, I would be asking that member if he wanted some Valium. Question time in this House yesterday afternoon was an absolute farce. The Prime Minister was asked about her comments on President Bush, Al Gore, and the Iraq war, and she evaded the issue like nothing else. Today was a little better—we got a little bit of information, but it was like drawing teeth to get that information. Some will say that it was a good performance—a brilliant performance—by the Prime Minister. Others will say that it was a disgrace.
As members are well aware, I was recently in London, and I witnessed the British Prime Minister’s half-hour question time. For members’ information, in that half-hour the Prime Minister faced some really tough questions. The House was full with over 400 members—although there are 659 members, the House only accommodates 400. Only once did the Speaker have to intervene on a point of order. The questions were tough and penetrating, both from the Opposition and from the Labour Party. Members might like to know that over the war in Iraq 122 Labour Party members voted against their Prime Minister on one occasion, and on a latter occasion, 139 voted against him. But Prime Minister Blair’s performance was absolutely straight up. He addressed the issue straight up, and we could do with a little bit more of that in this House. That is what we are here for—to ask the hard questions and get them answered. The member over there who is interjecting should get a video of Tony Blair. He stands for one half-hour per week and answers the toughest questions that anybody can put to him, but here we get evasion and fob-offs. He answers those questions thoroughly. I do not necessarily believe that Tony Blair has more ability than our Prime Minister, but the attitude is far removed. Mr Blair takes the world on, whether one agrees or disagrees with him. He takes the questions and gives the answers.
Before I left here, my impression was that had there been what is known as the second United Nations resolution, we would have been in war; we would have been
over there. Labour members might contradict that, but at that point in time our Prime Minister was saying that we needed to get the second resolution, and gave the impression that New Zealanders would make a commitment to the war in Iraq if that had been obtained. Had Tony Blair obtained that second resolution—which, as we all know, the French vetoed, and announced that they would veto from day one—I would have been a firm supporter of New Zealand standing toe-to-toe with the British and the Americans in the war in Iraq.
But I come back to the way we operate in this House. I believe that we should take an overview of how we do things here. It simply is not good enough. This country will go through a period of economic downturn if we are not careful, and some tough questions will need answering, and they will need to be answered forthrightly and honestly.
Jill Pettis: When will that member be the leader?
PETER BROWN: I cannot hear what the member over there is saying.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is a bit early in the day for Winston.
PETER BROWN: I do not know whether those comments are called for, but I will answer the member’s question. Mr Peters is much in demand in this country, and he has gone somewhere where they appreciate frank and straight answers. By and large, that is something that that Government over there does not even know how to approach. The answering of questions in this House is a good deal less than competent. It is about time that Ministers took stock of their own attempts at answering questions, and maybe, as I said earlier, get a video of Tony Blair and look at it 100 times a day.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education)
: What a great week to be a Government! During the late 1980s, I was the junior, and then the senior, Government whip, as we worked our way through leaders. It was an appalling situation to be in. We could see the polls going down. We would try one leader, and they would go down again. We would have a crack at a third leader within a bit over a year. We knew that whatever we did, we would lose. [Interruption] We knew. The Speaker did actually know at the time.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not to be brought into the debate.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Without bringing the Speaker into the debate, the then member for somewhere out west Auckland certainly knew at the time that whatever change was made, we were going to lose. We can just see it on the face of the Opposition. We can see the brat pack with their mouths down-turned. They know now that they moved too quickly on Jenny Shipley. They are all saying: “Why did we do it? We knew that we would lose anyway. Why didn’t we let Mr English come in afterwards?”
Hon Steve Maharey: No patience!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That brat pack had no patience at all. Who has been the big loser this week? It was not Bill English, not Don Brash, but Mr Brownlee. It became clear during this week that he does not know where the second vote is coming from—very much like a local authority person quite close to me who ran for Cabinet at one stage. The only person in the National Party to support Mr Brownlee is Mr Brownlee. They were quietly putting their hands up around the place for Mr Brash or Mr English, but who sank without a trace? Mr Brownlee sinking without a trace is a bit of a contradiction, but I think members know what I mean. It was quite clear that he could not make any progress at all.
What a pathetic character Bill English is. A group of students from a rural area was outside, which gave him a wonderful opportunity to stride out and face up to the media. What did he do? He scuttled away and hid. He had a wonderful opportunity to take the lead for the National Party in the debate today. What has he done? He has scuttled away
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot refer to the presence or absence of any member.
Jill Pettis: He failed to maximise the opportunities.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: He certainly did fail to maximise the opportunity, although I think he has maximised his opportunity and failed. What has become clear is that he is blaming two sets of people—one being Maurice Williamson. He did not apologise to Maurice Williamson. We did not expect it; Maurice Williamson did not expect it, but everyone around here knew that not only was Maurice Williamson running him down, a whole pile of others were running him down as well.
Fancy blaming the Auckland business community! Those are the people who put money into the pockets of the National Party, who have funded its campaigns for years and years. Even if Bill English knew it was them who were calling for a change, would it not have been the brightest thing just to shut up and be quiet, rather than run the long-term mates of the party down? Don Brash has looked a bit silly, because he has signalled that he wants to take over in a month or two. It was not the brightest thing to do, and it will not help him with the leadership.
Mr Brownlee can get only one vote, and the Leader of the Opposition is clearly permanently disabled. We knew from the time of that first vote on David Lange that eventually he would go, but a lot of us worked hard at deferring it. Bill English will go. He will not be leader for the next election. All I can see is that one person is doing really well out of this. He is sitting in the front bench of the National Party now—Mr Power. He is the only one who has not made a fool of himself; he knows when to shut up. My prediction is that in a few weeks’ time he will be sitting up here.
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam)
: We know that a Government is in severe trouble and on its way out the door when its members come down to the House on a Wednesday with a second-rate B team like that to try to smack the Opposition around. A proud Government that is supposed to have a proud record spends all its time talking about the Opposition. We know then that its time is up, and it is on its way out. First, the junior Minister, Paul Swain, stood up, after having a whole morning—he does nothing else—to prepare a speech. He treated the House to the biggest load of irrelevance we have ever heard. Then we heard Trevor Mallard try to give us a lesson in how to instil unity in a caucus.
The Labour Party has a big problem, and it can basically be summed up by saying that this country is being led by a Prime Minister who is slippery, devious, and—to say the least—frequently reckless with the truth. This is a Prime Minister who behaves in an imperious manner, sets herself as being aloof from normal people, and wants to portray an image of being quite infallible. She is a Prime Minister who only apologises when she is caught. What a long list of incidents we now have where the Prime Minister has been caught! Let us go back to the “paintergate” scandal last year.
Simon Power: That went well.
GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, that went well. The Prime Minister claimed that she had painted a painting that she had never been anywhere near. The Prime Minister then took what is commonly known as the “Homer Simpson” defence: “It wasn’t me, I wasn’t there, and it didn’t happen.” Did that work? No, sooner or later, she was found out. Then what did we get? Every MP was blamed for that sort of behaviour, until that was proved wrong—right down to: “Perhaps one might have done it in the past”, and then finally: “Well, I have done it five times before and got away with it.” For someone who holds such a lead, the Prime Minister is racking up a considerable amount of embarrassment for this country. There was the issue over the Alliance poll background. I do not want to go into that, because I do not have a lot of time. I will go straight on to
Ms Clark misleading the House over the Historic Places Trust. Other speakers might want to elaborate on that issue in a few minutes; I do not. There is the Clark apology for defaming the surgeon with my name, Mr Joe Brownlee—a great fellow. She took him to bits, refusing for a long time to acknowledge that what she had said was defamatory, and was finally caught having to say that she was sorry.
Then there is the genetic engineering inquiry into “corngate”—and what an amazing revelation the House received today. The Prime Minister who said, “I will set new standards of accountability and appropriate behaviour from Government members”, came into the House and said that her member, Mr Cunliffe, had behaved with a great deal of integrity by finally resigning from the select committee—where there might be a conflict of interest—6 months after the inquiry had begun. That is 6 months after he had been very active in preventing the public of this country from knowing the truth about that incident, and 6 months since he had begun protecting the Prime Minister’s tail and trying not to allow any focus on the original letter. Do members remember the original letter the Prime Minister wrote? It was the letter that was apparently a mistake, and for which she had to apologise—although officials got the blame.
It seems to us that this Prime Minister is prepared to genuinely apologise only when it is for other people’s mistakes. That is why she gave an apology to the Chinese community for the poll tax. There was no problem there, because it was nothing to do with her. It is also why she gave an apology to the Samoan community for the flu epidemic of the 1920s—that was nothing to do with her; she was not even born then. Then there was the apology to the gay community—and it is best if nothing is said about that.
Let us move on to the issue of the day, which is the Clark apology to the United States. It is an absolute embarrassment for a Prime Minister to start expressing opinions about what the internal politics of another nation might have looked like had there been a different result. That was a disgrace.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce)
: I think we should look at what Don Brash actually said yesterday when he emerged from the National Party caucus room. He said he wanted to make three comments. His first comment was that he went into politics with the intention of becoming the next Minister of Finance, and that was still his primary objective. This is a man who is economical with words, and who chooses his words very, very carefully. There is an extra word in that statement that I want us to focus on this afternoon, and that word is “primary”. He went into politics with a primary objective, and in that sense “primary” means the “principal” objective, and it is not his only objective by any means. It is also not to say that his secondary objective will succeed, or not succeed, over the primary objective—unless we accept the
National Business Review shadow Cabinet line-up, which lists Don Brash as leader and shadow Minister of Finance. We have had that before in this country, have we not? Who was the leader of the country and the Minister of Finance at the same time? As I recall, it was Mr Muldoon, and that is the gentle little irony coming from that statement, because we know what Muldoon thought of Mr Brash, and vice versa. I think it would make for a gentle irony if the two of them were to covet the two top jobs at the one time.
The second comment Mr Brash made when he came out of the caucus is that he had not been gathering signatures, and that he was still not doing that. We heard all about the gathering of signatures on the radio this morning, and we know that gathering signatures is the last step in the process: it occurs right before one fronts up with the letter to the leader to say that his or her time is up, and that the party has the numbers for that leader to go. The point is that although everyone within the caucus has been quietly talking to the media about what is going on over there, nobody has been doing
the real work, which is counting the numbers. They do not have the numbers for the roll-on to happen. When Mr Brash said he did not know a single MP who would not turn down an offer to be the leader of the caucus, we knew that all he is waiting for is for somebody to present him with the numbers and signatures on a piece of paper. I have made this point more than once now, and I will make it again: if the National Party caucus wants to install Don Brash as its leader, then it had better do it very quickly, before rigor mortis finally sets in.
The third comment Mr Brash made was really ominous—it was the biggie. He said that as the duly elected leader of the National Party, Bill English had his full support. We on this side of the House call that the kiss-of-death statement of support. We know that what it really means is that he does not have the support to remain the duly elected leader, but we will not be hearing that from Don Brash. I remember Bill English using almost precisely those same words a week before they rolled Jenny Shipley. He said: “It wasn’t me; I didn’t vote against Jenny Shipley. I didn’t topple her from that role—others did it for me. When I was called upon, I was there.” He had nothing to do with it, and that seems to be Dr Brash’s exact approach. We can see him humbly standing there, doing his “Who me?” speech, saying: “Do you really want me to be your leader?” As Gerry Brownlee knows, many are called, but few are chosen. On this occasion, we can see Don Brash very humbly saying to his caucus: “Yes, you have asked me to be your leader, and I will lead you further down the polls than you believed we could ever go.”
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First)
: My colleague Peter Brown is promoting the Death with Dignity Bill. Members will know that, but I just want to make sure that they also know about a significant provision in that bill that means that even if the bill is passed by this House, it will not become law until it is agreed to by a majority of New Zealanders through a referendum. In a sense, that reflects New Zealand First’s belief in the power of the people. But I do not want to talk about Mr Brown’s bill today, because after the leadership fiasco of last week I have concluded that what this House should be debating or passing is a “Death with Dignity For Once-great Political Parties Bill”.
The events over the last week have demonstrated conclusively that National is in its death throes. As a party, it has a terminal illness, and it is sad to watch it going through the agonies of its certain demise. That is sad, because National is a party with a proud heritage that stretches all the way back to 1890, to the first-ever political party in this country, the Liberal Party. That party brought in world-leading legislation for political and social justice, and in the field of industrial relations. National is also directly descended from the Reform Party, which set the framework that ensured that agriculture would be the economic backbone of this country—that is also in National’s bloodline. Under its present name, National presided over the glory days of the 1950s and 1960s, when full employment was not only the norm but the expectation.
National is now like a ringbarked tōtara, withering inexorably towards its inevitable demise. The first peal of the death knell was publicly heard in the early 1990s, when National refused to listen to the warnings of its own caucus member, Winston Peters. He issued a warning that National was turning its back on its heritage and rejecting its inherent values, and that breaking the promises it had made to people at the time of the election in order to look after rich kids, and to save their backsides, was not a principle of the old National Party.
But National rejected those warnings, and it ejected the only member of its caucus who was prepared to fight for the principles and values of the old National Party. That member was a man who would not sell his soul for the trappings of power. And so it was that New Zealand First was born to fill the vacuum in the political spectrum that had been created by National. The very name of the National Party is a misnomer. It is New Zealand First that believes that policy positions should be first and foremost in the
national interest. National should rename itself the “International Party”; it is not a national party because national interests are no longer its first concern.
There is only one magic elixir that National could use to save itself, and that would be to go down on bended knee to Winston Peters, say it is sorry, admit he was right and National got it wrong, and ask him to please come back and lead it to the promised land. But National will not do that, because of inflated egos and deflated capabilities. National is dying because the blood of Ruth Richardson is still flowing through its veins. We all know that what flowed through Ruth Richardson’s veins was largely made up of ice particles, and it is the ice that is still flowing through the veins and arteries of National that is killing it.
New Zealand First believes in free enterprise; free enterprise is the economic driver of the nation. However, it is free enterprise with a social conscience that we believe in. National once believed in that. But like the pigs in
Animal Farm, it allowed the bit about the social conscience to be conveniently deleted. New Zealand First believes in the efficacy of the market in its right place, but does not believe that market mechanisms can be used to deliver social objectives. New Zealand First believes in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. It looks to a replication of the previous legislation on that—the repealed Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. New Zealand First believes in education as an investment in the future of this country, not as a commodity, and it believes that the quantity and nature of that investment should be determined by the outcomes, not by the vested interests of the lobby groups, which I must admit that the present Labour Government is more concerned about. But New Zealand first is concerned with the quality of that investment.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health)
: Do members remember the song “Nobody Does it Better”?
Hon Steve Maharey: Yes.
Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, nobody does it better than Dame Thea Muldoon, when it comes to describing the leadership of the National Party. She said this of Bill English 7 months ago: “He hasn’t got that extra leadership ability ... Possibly he’s trying to be nice … If you are nice, you fall by the wayside.” Well, if anyone would know that Dame Thea would, because no one could never accuse Rob Muldoon of being too nice. She also said: “I think he’s got to just chin-up and hang in there and eventually someone really good will come along.” That is what Dame Thea said about Bill English: “ … eventually someone really good will come along.” She said Bill English should just keep his chin up so that he can keep getting punched on it, because eventually someone really, really good will come along.
Well, someone really, really good has come along and his name is Don Brash, the wily fox of the National Party. He has obviously been planning that ever since he decided to join the National Party. He is now the “Basil Brash” of the National Party. He said: “Boom, boom, I would be happy to be the Minister of Finance, but hang on, if there’s another job, a bigger job, and I will have that one too, but I’m not allowed to tell anybody that. I’m not allowed to say that out loud.” A former National MP described Mr Brash as: “An inoffensive if elderly man lacking either constituency or charisma.” That was said by one of National’s own, who is now a commentator in a Sunday paper. I thought that sounded really good, because this is a man who lacks constituency or charisma. He is not offensive and he is slightly elderly, but he is to become the new face of the National Party.
Last week it was very exciting to be in Parliament and to see the change swirling all around us—the meetings in the corridors, the scurrying around, the counting of the numbers, and the numbers being counted again and again and still being wrong. In fact, I saw my good friend John Carter walking up the corridor. I asked him what all the talk
of a leadership spill was about, and he said it was nothing but a media beat-up. I have to ask, if it was a media beat-up, who primed up the media?
I think it was Audrey Young who said last week that after a week of frenetic activity, some very, very spooky omens were pointing to Bill English’s demise. The first omen was that he was introduced at a public meeting in Tauranga by the local undertaker. The local undertaker knew a thing or two—it was a case of cutting out the middleman, the caucus, and going straight for the burial. She said that the second omen was that there was a whispering campaign started in the caucus: would it be Don Brash or would it be Gerry Brownlee, now known as the Billy T. James of the National Party, who would become leader? National members could not even make up their minds whether their new leader would be Don Brash or whether it would be Gerry Brownlee. The third omen that Audrey Young pointed out was the slap in the face to Bill English when his own Auckland party office holders made it clear that they would prefer Maurice Williamson to Bill English as leader.
Then one has to look at who is supporting poor old Bill English: the fast-fading four. Roger Sowry, his loyal lieutenant, is considered to be the Bill Birch of the National Party these days. Whether as “Mr Fix-it”, “Mr Intolerant”, or “Mr Nasty”, Roger Sowry is the bad cop to Bill English’s good cop. But no one in caucus can stand him. Roger Sowry is known as “Napoleon” by National’s own members. As a list member of Parliament, his career is over. Roger Sowry is backed up by his close political ally, Lynda Scott. Her days are numbered because last week Dr Paul Hutchison, who is in the Brash camp, asked me 14 questions on health. I read in the paper this week that Bill English has said that his members of Parliament should not be treading on their colleague’s portfolios. So Dr Paul Hutchison has his eye on the health portfolio. When the change comes he will be there lining up for health. Then there is Tony Ryall. He knew his career was over when his own friend Bill English demoted him. Of course, that man has remained bitter and twisted ever since.
SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei)
: It is a sad day for the Opposition when one sits down here in the House awaiting the big heavyweights of the Labour Party to come and give one a bit of a serve over what has been a difficult 7 days, and who did we get? We got Paul Swain, the “Junior Minister for Lunches”. He kicked off the offensive for the Labour Party. That was a sad, sad attempt. Then we had Trevor Mallard, who is half the man he used to be. Trevor Mallard is stuck in the corner of the Chamber under the eaves, where he yells away. He was done over by the G3s and the Post Primary Teachers Association. He is half the man he used to be, with nowhere near the previous firepower. And then there is Lianne Dalziel. She is nice, but sad. Lianne Dalziel came here to speak on how not to get ahead in the leadership. She will never appear on the front page of
She keeps her ambitions to herself.
Brian Donnelly of New Zealand First leapt to his feet to get a piece of the action—that from a member of the political party that, during the Committee stage of the Motor Vehicle Sales Bill, voted for the title and against the rest of the bill. That was from a party that liked the title to the bill, and then voted against the entire rest of the bill! I was expecting the men in the coats that buckle at the back to walk in and carry him out halfway through his speech. What a sad, sad attempt that was by Brian Donnelly. We do not want Winston Peters back here; we have no need for him. The biggest problem that New Zealand First has is trying to find the man at the present time.
Who did we get next? We got Annette King, who is clearly worried about the health portfolio.
Hon Member: She’s got a good reason.
SIMON POWER: She has very good reason. She had to pick on poor Dr Hutchison who, as a medical doctor, was quite rightly doing his job by asking searching questions.
During all of that we missed out on what was going on in the real Shakespearean comedy “The Apologies of Helen”. Helen Clark is a woman who prides herself on detail, and who knows every little thing that is going on in her Government every moment of the day. What are those phrases that we hear so often? They are: “I do not recall.”, or “Not to my recollection.” As my colleague Gerry Brownlee said, she is quite happy to apologise for things that she did not do. But we do not, in this House, hear an apology for the things that the Prime Minister did do. She is quite happy to apologise to the Samoan community for a flu epidemic and to the gay community for discrimination, but is reluctant to apologise where she alone has made a mistake.
Now, of course, it is foreign affairs officials who are to blame for the apology to the US. Helen Clark did not see it—it had nothing to do with her. We are supposed to believe that the Prime Minister, who prides herself on her attention to detail, had nothing to do with that apology and had not seen it. Let us remember that Helen Clark is the woman who followed the emails of Kit Richards—and now we are supposed to believe that she did not see an apology that was sent to the US! I just do not believe that—not for one second.
Members should look at where we have been when we have been unable to grapple and grasp with an apology. The OECD goal that never was—do members remember that? We are not going to get into the top half of the OECD by 2011, though we were going to until that did not suit the Government any more. Or let us look at “paintergate”, which my colleague Gerry Brownlee has already referred to. The Prime Minister forgot that she had signed a painting, but was not clever enough to use Jim Anderton’s line, which would have been that she had not signed it but had autographed it. She did not get that line out early enough, and thus had to deal with the responsibility of having put her “John Hancock” on that painting. We have seen today, through the Hon Dr Nick Smith’s contribution in question time, that “corngate” has opened itself up again. We will see a lot more action on that particular point over the next few days.
I worry about the massive damage that has been done by the Prime Minister to our long-term relationship with the United States. It would seem as though we are no longer very, very, very close friends with the US. In fact, we are well and truly in the dog box. The US Embassy was forced to regard and comment on the Prime Minister’s comments as “regrettable”. In “diplo-speak” that is a very serious matter, indeed. What concerns me most is the fact that Ministers and members of that Government simply move where the moment goes, with no consideration whatsoever for the long-term implications of the statements they make on behalf of this country. That is a disgrace.
IAN EWEN-STREET (Green)
: I want the Minister for Biosecurity to do me a favour. I want him and some of his officials to go to Auckland, and when they are in Auckland I want them to conduct a clinic for those people who have been affected by the spray for the painted apple moth. Instead of making flippant remarks about them suffering a temporary inconvenience for the good of the country, I want him to sit down and listen—not speak to, but listen—to the people who have been affected.
I want the Minister for Biosecurity to listen to the schoolteachers who are deeply concerned about their students. They are concerned that some of their students may die. I want him to hear the professionalism of those teachers, and to know that they are not being hysterical. I want him to listen to pregnant women and new mothers. For them, this spray is a terrifying ordeal. I want him to hear first hand what their fears are for their children. I want him to see the faces of those people whose existence has become a nightmare of motel rooms, of worrying about their kids at school, and of worrying about sealing up their houses by plugging up the cracks in their windows, their doors, and their chimneys. They come home and wash down their cars, their vegetables, and their kids.
I want the Minister for Biosecurity to hear the consistent stories of people who have developed asthma and other allergies as a response to that spray. I particularly want him to hear the consistent stories from people all over the spray zone who have been to their doctors with their health concerns. I want to hear the Minister explain to them why it is that when people go to a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry doctor, they are told that their symptoms have nothing to do with the spray—and those people are therefore not included in the statistics. But when people go to their own doctors, the doctors say that the symptoms are to do with the spray. Yet their symptoms are still not included in the statistics, because the people concerned have not been to a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry doctor.
I want the reassurance of the Minister that that is not a cover-up. The people of west Auckland feel that they are part of a gigantic experiment with their health. The true human cost of what is happening in Auckland is being covered up by a statistical catch-22. A person is not part of the statistics if he or she goes to a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry doctor because the symptoms are not deemed to have been caused by the spray, but if a person goes to his or her own doctor and the symptoms are deemed to have been caused by the spray, that person is not included in the statistics anyway, because the doctor was not a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry doctor.
I also want to hear why the Minister continues to advocate fanatically for free trade, and to make excuses as to why we cannot close the gaping holes in our biosecurity defences that allow these alien species into the country in the first place. The main pathway at the moment for invasive pests is, of course, sea containers. By its own statistics, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry currently inspects 24 percent of sea containers coming into the country, even though it knows that 39 percent of them are actually contaminated. When one realises that there are 400,000 containers per year coming over our wharves, one understands that that 15 percent represents 60,000 contaminated containers that are opened without inspection. It is no wonder that we have a problem. I want to know why the Minister thinks it is acceptable to spend $90 million on bombarding the residents of Auckland with poison, when he has not moved to minimise the entry pathways for those pests. I want to know why the Minister thinks the needs of the importers of foreign goods are more important than the health needs of the people of Auckland.
I want to know why the Minister for Biosecurity thinks that the intellectual property rights to Foray 48B outweigh the rights of the public to know what they are being sprayed with. Most of all, I want the Minister to go to Auckland, to have a clinic, and to listen to the teachers and the pregnant women. Their faces and their stories are something that I cannot forget, and I am sure that if he plucks up the courage to front up, the Minister will not forget them, either.
PAUL ADAMS (United Future)
: I would like to speak on our welfare state, a subject that many New Zealanders are vitally interested in, for a variety of reasons. I commend the Government for its compassionate heart towards the less fortunate in New Zealand. United Future is also concerned for those people. However, I also commend Opposition parties for their stance on, and support of, those who produce the wealth in this country. United Future agrees that those people will need greater encouragement. They are producers of our wealth, and it pays never to bite the hand that feeds one. United Future will continue to press for tax cuts for the people who do the work in our country.
We need to learn to celebrate our income-producing successes, just as we do our sporting successes. As the Government earns no money through its own means, it can spend only money that other people have had to work very hard to earn. United Future acknowledges those who pay their taxes and thanks them for the hard work they have
done. The Government carries a huge responsibility to spend wisely the taxes that have been collected from those who work in our land. Members should make no mistake: the Government hands out no money of its own; it gives to others only money that somebody else has laboured long and hard to earn. Once we understand that principle, it gives us a greater appreciation for the workers in our land.
With regard to our welfare state, it concerns me that some in this House have the misconception that giving money to the poor will solve all their problems. That simply is not true. The only way out of poverty is to provide opportunity and to teach people to work. Success is not something one chases; it is something one has constantly to put forth the effort for. It will then come when one least expects it. Sadly, most people do not understand that.
A great proverb states that there is much food in the fallow ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste. The Suzuki method of learning music brings some understanding as to what that proverb means. Suzuki understood the principle that a child learns far more quickly by observation than by instruction. Therefore, children can learn to play a musical instrument long before they can understand, or read, a note of music. Yet in many homes around our country, children are growing up with no role model to teach them how to work. Therefore, injustice is robbing them of the skills and ability to learn how to work and, consequently, obtain the skills that, if applied, would take them out of the poverty trap.
In my own life, I have discovered that the only place reward comes before work is in the dictionary. The “haves” and the “have-nots” can normally be traced back to the “dids” and the “did-nots”. Success is neither magical nor mysterious; it is the natural consequence of applying life’s basic fundamentals. My concern with the expansion of the welfare state and the breakdown of the family is about where the role models and examples are that we so desperately need to show our young ones, by example, the way to lead a successful and fulfilling life. Positive habits are learnt in the same way as negative habits—through practice. Yet what example do many see? I am concerned about the habits we are forcing people to practice if we continue to pay people to do nothing. People may forget what we said, but they never forget how we make them feel. I want to be part of building a nation of workers, not a nation dependent on welfare, because I know people feel good after a good day’s work.
I trust that over the years that lie ahead of us we will work together, with a heart of compassion for the less fortunate yet never lose sight of the responsibility we have to train people in their younger years in the way they should go, so that when they are older they will not have forgotten but, rather, will have the ability to pass on skills to others so that New Zealand will be recognised again as the greatest place in the world to live and to raise a family. That is why United Future will always labour with others with a common vision for a great future for our nation.
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture)
: One hundred years ago last month, a 25-year-old farmer in Waitohi, Richard Pearse, took to the air in a flying machine built by himself in his farm shed. It had a boxer motor he had built without engineering advice, and he built it at a time when there was thought to be only one motorcar in the whole of South Canterbury. It was a monoplane that had a tricycle undercarriage and a variable pitch propeller. It was not unlike a modern microlight. He was the first in the world to take to the air.
A short time later the Wright brothers in the United States took to the air. They claimed they were the first to take to the air. They had the resources of an engineering nation behind them. They launched their machine from rails, unlike Richard Pearse, who took off under his own power. The Wright brothers said they were the first to fly because their flight was under control, whereas Richard Pearse’s first flight ended up in
a gorse hedge—truly a New Zealand icon in every respect.
Members will be delighted to learn that a replica of Richard Pearse’s plane, built by the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland, has successfully taken to the air. That has attached a credibility that has been in doubt for a century. No newspaper or other reporter was present at the first flight, so it was all hearsay. However, I think that there will be very little doubt now. It has been thoroughly researched in recent times that Richard Pearse was the first human being to take to the air in a heavier-than-air flying machine, and I think that is an absolutely wonderful thing. Perhaps one reason it was not widely recognised is that, I understand, the Smithsonian Institution—the repository of much technological history—has a contract with the Wright family that gives the institution the sole right to display many of the memorabilia of the Wrights, but in return for that right it has agreed not to give any publicity or credence to people with claims to beating the Wrights into the air. However, 100 years ago Richard Pearse gave us a demonstration of rural talent that we are still proud of in this country today, and I want to put that on the record.
Now I want to talk about the National Party. National members should learn from the example of the organic farming sector. Yesterday I raised in the House the organic industry’s 20-year strategic plan. The National Party could do with one itself. The organic sector is made up of many small groups, which makes it difficult at national level to present a clear vision and strong leadership on behalf of all of its stakeholders. Does that not sound like a certain Opposition political party—no clear vision, no strong leadership? The strategy of the organic sector will enable those people to pull together, build their capacity, and achieve their potential. The organic sector is looking at doing that by 2013. But theirs is a relatively straightforward challenge—I suggest it might take a little longer for the National Party. But even if it takes National members 20 years, they are not without hope. They have a proud history.
However, I must say that I was gobsmacked to hear that the most recent coup attempt was engineered by the National Party’s agriculture spokesperson. Agricultural spokespeople are usually so loyal. It is such a plum job in the National caucus to be agriculture spokesperson that normally there is a lifetime guarantee of loyalty to the leader who appoints that person. But, no, it is reported in the
Independent that David Carter MP, National’s spokesman on agriculture, kicked off the latest coup speculation during a visit to Federated Farmers 2 weeks ago, and now he is lying low. I am not surprised he is lying low. He was backed by Dr Lockwood Smith—we were talking about the Smithsonian Institution just a little while ago—who usually gets one vote in every National Party leadership ballot.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (NZ National—Rodney)
: I have just listened to the Hon Jim Sutton’s weak attempt at humour. I thought he might have tried to justify why he has achieved nothing as this country’s trade Minister—not a thing. The one thing that has been achieved is the signing of the free-trade agreement with Singapore, but I signed the heads of agreement on that. Labour tried to do a trade agreement with Hong Kong but failed. Where is the Doha trade round at the moment? It is absolutely stalled. I ask Jim Sutton where is our trade relationship with the United States right now? What does the 2003 US trade agenda say about New Zealand and our attempt for a bilateral free-trade agreement? Why does Jim Sutton not get to his feet and tell the truth, just like the Prime Minister so often tells the truth.
Mr SPEAKER: That is an implication that a member is telling a lie. It will have to be withdrawn.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH: I withdraw on your insistence, Mr Speaker, but if I am not allowed to say—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will just withdraw, and that is the end of the
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH: I withdraw, and I do not want to waste further time on that. However, I do want to tell Mr Sutton that if he examines the pages of the US trade agenda for 2003, he will find that, right now, the US is planning bilateral free-trade agreements with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Vietnam—Vietnam is on the list of possibilities.
Do members know that New Zealand is mentioned once in dozens and dozens and dozens of pages of that trade agenda where the US talks of liberalising trade with 100 countries? New Zealand is mentioned once, and that is only to complain about our pharmaceutical purchases, our parallel importing, and our quarantine services. Not one word was mentioned about the possibility of a free-trade agreement with New Zealand when the US talked about liberalising trade with 100 other countries. Yet Jim Sutton has the temerity to talk garbage in this House, when he should be standing up and apologising for taking New Zealand from being at the vanguard of trade development with the United States to now not rating a mention amongst 100 nations.
What does Jim Sutton’s leader do? What does Helen Clark do? She makes it worse. The comment about Al Gore was not just a loose comment. She mentioned Al Gore on 24 March on the TV1
Breakfast show. On 30 March, 6 days later, she repeated it. On 1 April she repeated similar comments. When she was told on 2 April, 9 days later, that she might have been damaging New Zealand’s international relationships, she said she thought her comments were “bleedingly obvious”. Has Helen Clark now apologised for those objectionable comments? One might have thought she would have the integrity to apologise fully for the comments. However, she has made it clear to this House that she has apologised only for any offence that might have been taken for her bleedingly obvious comments. Does Prime Minister, Helen Clark, think that the United States will not be offended again when she refuses to withdraw and apologise for her comments and apologises only for offence taken for her bleedingly obvious comments? She insults the United States administration again.
I say to Helen Clark that in March—before her insulting comments—New Zealand did not rate a mention among 100 nations on the United States trade agenda for 2003 in respect of trade liberalisation work. Following her comments, we will be further out the back door. She should apologise to New Zealanders, as well as to the United States.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.