Alliance Leader's speech during the 1999 Adjournment Debate

  • Sandra Lee

This is a very important debate, not only because it is the closure motion for this year but also because it is the last debate that Parliament will have this millennium.
May I open by wishing every single member of the House a very Merry Christmas, and in particular their families.
Whatever our political parties, there is not a person who sits in this House who does not know very well the sacrifices our partners, our children, our parents, and others make so that we can pursue our political careers
When I was told belatedly by my whip that I would be giving this speech, I attempted to look through Hansard since the turn of the century for some inspiration.
There is just too much to say in a 10-minute speech.
What an important century it has been! It was heralded by World War I, then the Great Depression, which every parliamentarian's family has knowledge of and a story about.
In the 1940s there was another major war in which New Zealand played a key role.
In 1951 there were debates in Parliament about the waterfront lockout, which affected my family; the introduction of aerial topdressing; and native forest destruction.
In the 1960s Parliament debated the Vietnam War.
When I was a young woman I marched against it.
We saw more pine trees being planted yet again, renewed activism in terms of Maori politics, and a new call for ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi. If members look in Hansard, they will see that in the 1970s we tended to export our critique.
We talked about things like apartheid, Vietnam, and other countries, while all the while our environment continued to be degraded, and our multicultural and bicultural responsibilities were largely ignored.
If members look in Hansard for that time, they will see that Matiu Rata introduced an important piece of legislation that related to the Treaty of Waitangi.
During the last election, and even tonight when we listen to Richard Prebble, people have still been arguing about whether it was a candle or a bush fire.
I hold to the view that it was a great thing.
If members look back to the 1980s, they will see it was a time when we saw the introduction of a thing called Rogernomics, which the ACT party is cheerleader for.
There were debates about a new unemployment, the closure of hospitals, the closure of post offices, and the sale of crucial State-owned assets, which remains a problem to this day as this new Government tries to restore social servicing for the people in this nation.
More important, perhaps, for me as I take on my new position as Minister of Conservation, we should reflect, as we speak in this last sitting of the last Parliament of this century and this millennium, on the fact that although human beings have been on these small islands for maybe 1,000 or 2,000 years and we are even arguing about that they have actually existed for 80 million years.
Those years were pretty good years for the natural environment, until we happened along in our various guises.
When I arrived in this House in 1993, after cleaning out Richard Prebble and his policies from Parliament, I quoted a scientist, Dr Jared Diamond, who had been cited in the New Scientist magazine.
He described New Zealand as the closest approximation to examining life on another planet as one could get. Sometimes when we listen to Parliament we can understand that perhaps he was talking about not just the natural environment but the human environment as well.
We have a very bad track record when it comes to the natural environment of this country, and we have a great deal to do.
Huia have gone for all time, and they were here for much longer than us, along with piopio, moa, and the giant eagle.
One of my very first tasks as the new Minister of Conservation was to declare one of our most important marine mammals, the Hector's dolphin, a threatened species.
That is not something to celebrate.
Men of wise minds would rather debate important issues like that in this House at this time, than personal animosities.
That mammal now joins the list of many others that are struggling for survival in the place I am returning home to, the Hauraki Gulf, after tonight.
The kakapo is making its last stand, as is the kokako, in the bush in the north and other places.
As I said last night, even our national icon, the kiwi, is soon to become but a piece of tapestry because it is about to become extinct from the mainland of New Zealand, unless all parliamentarians buy in to the obligation that we must think bigger than this.
The challenge, therefore, for all parties in this Parliament is that we work to apply our power in the best possible way, as if we human beings intend to be here for another 1,000 years, and intend to ensure that the native species of these islands are entitled to be here, too.
If this Government and this Parliament do not take urgent action, then all those special species not only will be threatened but will join the many others that have been lost.
We are doing too little about that.
We see the continuation of the impact of invasive pests.
I know that the Opposition is fixated about a contretemps that we are investigating as I stand.
I will stand in this Parliament when we return, and I will put my hand up if in fact there is anybody to bring to account, any wrongdoing.
That is my pledge to Parliament.
But more important, if one watched the news tonight, one also would have seen that the real ramifications and impact of genetic engineering are being brought home in the very heartland that Mr Prebble referred to before, in a very important way.
Yet the people who had power but a short time ago chose to ignore that issue.
It is an indictment on our nation that even our sovereign rights and responsibilities over these important things are still being litigated. Treaty claim Wai 262, led by Del Wihongi, one of the longest claims, is yet to be resolved, yet it addresses the very issues that impact on genetic engineering and the loss of important species.
I too would like to join the Leader of the Opposition in thanking all those people who have serviced Parliament so very well, not only over the last year but over the last 3 years.
Indeed, I thank their predecessors over all of the century.
They are truly remarkable people.
Even in the last few weeks, as we have worked through a transition, a change of Government, they have been ever professional, and we are very lucky people indeed to be so well served.
There is good news none the less as we return to our various different places, and I acknowledge the previous Minister of Conservation in saying this.
We have the conservation estate to go to, which is a legacy for us all and which we all own. It is a place we can all go to remind ourselves of those things that connect us as opposed to disconnecting us.
My challenge to all my parliamentary colleagues this summer is to take part in that wonderful legacy that has been created by many politicians and political parties.
It has been managed well by many devoted Ministers over many years, and it provides our future generations with a reason to claim that they are New Zealanders with a place to be and a right to smell the soil.
My challenge to this Parliament is that we can all do better in many ways in this House.
In terms of the challenge I tell Mr Prebble that if he puts a challenge down, I will pick it up; clearly there is a matter of concern.
It will be investigated, it is being investigated as we speak, and we are happy to front up to this Parliament and account for any actions that may represent wrongdoing, if that is the case.
May I finally conclude, Mr Speaker, by wishing you and all in this House well. The Alliance, as part of the coalition Government, looks forward to seeing them next year.