Buddle Findlay Public Law Function

  • Tau Henare
Associate Corrections

The BNZ Centre, 1 Willis Street, Wellington


i'm pleased to be here this evening.

when i got an invitation to talk here tonight i was surprised the organisers had given me twenty minutes to talk on any topic i liked.

twenty minutes is a lot of rope to give anyone to hang themselves on - especially me.

i thought i'd talk about leadership (is winston around?) nah! tomorrow's headlines would read i'm planning a leadership coup. sound familiar?

then i thought rau williams, but i've said just about as much as i should about rau. as one last gesture i've pledged to continue to look for answers to the real reasons why rau couldn't get the treatment, i believe, he richly deserved and to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen again - to anyone. all i wish to say here tonight about rau is: moe, moe, haere atu ra te rangatira o awhero.

which brings me to another completely unrelated health topic, but a topic i'd like to talk about tonight, and that is alzeihmers.

i'll call it coalition alzeihmers.

but first of all can i tell you a little story... an elderly gentleman goes to his doctor to get the report on the physical he took last week. the doctor is looking very serious and says, "i'm afraid i have bad news and worse news." "oh my god, what is it?" asks the old man. "you have cancer' says the doctor. "and the worse news?" "you also have alzheimer's disease." "well, at least i don't have cancer."

last year we sat around the table with the nats and drew up the foundation on what this country's first coalition government was to be based on. it was called the coalition agreement.

in it we named key strategic assets like television new zealand and said these would not be sold. as far as i'm concerned that's still the position.

the coalition agreement uses a number of terms, phraseology if you like, but the essence of what the coalition agreement is all about is governance in partnership.

believe me as a maori i like to think i know what partnership is all about. god knows as a people maori have been searching for a meaningful partnership with their colonial partner

so believe me, i know what partnership is - ideologically, philosophically, realistically and practically.

the partnership i signed up to with national meant to me despite being the so-called junior partner we were, never-the-less, a partner, not a part-partner, not a junior partner, a partner. our name, new zealand first, was up there on the door alongside national in the same sized letters and we sealed the partnership with a contract, like all good business deals. that contract is of course the coalition agreement.

like it or not we have a contract with the nats and i'm sticking to it for better or worse.

that contract also says tv one is a strategic asset and is not to be sold...and tv two would be retained in public ownership.

during coalition talks we made it clear tvnz was not for sale.

on the campaign trail we pledged to retain state-owned assets in local hands, not foreign control.

tvnz was identified as a key strategic asset by new zealand first. we believed it was crucial not only because of the dividend it returned, but because we believed in the power of the medium and its ability to deliver key messages about this country, the people in it and all its beauty, diversity of culture and just simply the things that make new zealand unique in the world.

television could deliver that, especially state-owned television. we signalled all these things in the coalition agreement because of the new zealand first philosophy that tvnz wasn't reflecting new zealand or its people.

i haven't seen anything on mainstream television, particularly the tvnz-owned channels, to convince me tvnz are likely to change.

but to my way of thinking, and this is only my personal point-of-view, we, the government, still need to be involved in the ownership of television to ensure that new zealand culture in all its diversity and dynamics continues to be portrayed on the predominant medium, and that is television, and that ordinary people have access to it.

another source of concern for me personally about selling off tvnz is the signal it sends to maori - especially those who have been fighting for years for the protection of the maori language. they believe, and i'll agree with them to a point, that television has a crucial role to play in that regard.

i tend to think if there's a problem with the management of the asset, if the people managing the asset on behalf of the government are not doing the job we put them for, you change the team.

sure there's advantages to reform. you just need to look to the health reforms and the effect it's had on maori participation to see that.

but i'm not convinced that the government or more importantly the people of new zealand will gain anything by severing its ties with tvnz.

this government can ill-afford to continue the sale of state-owned assets initiated by a labour government in decline. should it continue, we'll soon have nothing left to fall back on.

we'll become like those people who pawn goods off to pawn dealers and then have to keep going back.

all the government's income streams could be exhausted and we'll become solely dependent on the revenue we take from taxes.

sure the sales bring short-term gain in terms of revenue, which has the spin-off of increasing the surplus, but sooner or later if we continue this programme, we're going to have to start eating into that carefully built up surplus.

i suppose what i'm saying is there's got to be another way and as a government, as coalition partners we have to work out those decisions together. not find out about them on the news.

i got into an arguement with a colleague who suggested to me that selling a pencil with a state name on it is selling a state-owned asset.

i argued there's a significant difference between a pencil and an entire incorporation. this colleague tried to convince me the principle was the same though... sorry! i'm not convinced and won't be.

tomorrow i know my name is going to be mud. my talk tonight is going to be painted as another example of ill-discipline, the cause of another rift in the coalition... and so on, and so on.

i believe open debate is healthy for the coalition. if there's anything to be learnt from mmp and the sort of politics its delivered, i believe its paved the way for more open debate.

despite the fact my name will be muddied by the time people wake up in the morning, i believe this coalition is in good heart. and i mean that wholeheartedly.

though the pollsters will tell you something else. polls that last night gave us, new zealand first, four-and-a-half percent voter support, according to tv3; that gave us one point seven percent, according to the herald's digipoll yesterday; and tvnz gave us some other rating last week.

the polls confound me, they're also a source of amusement.

the poll results it reminds me of something i heard in melbourne last week about journalists: make it brief, make it juicy, make it up. i'll leave it to you to decide.

i've gotta say it's been a hectic year in government. we hit the ground running and haven't stopped.

as a government we've dominated the headlines like none i can recall in our modern history.

but behind the headlines we've remained committed to some of the basic principles upon which this coalition government was founded.

we're committed to a spending programme of an extra five billion dollars over the next three years.

that spending will see extra resources channelled into key areas like health and education, housing and welfare, but at the same time maintaining a sense of fiscal discipline.

this year's budget committed five hundred million dollars of additional operational spending in education over the next three years with more expected in following budgets.

in employment we've committed nearly twenty-two million dollars this year alone on a new employment strategy.

in health this government implemented free doctors visits and prescriptions for under sixes and an extra fifteen million dollars per annum to address major issues in the delivery of mental health.

an additional fifty-eight million dollars was allocated for housing assistance in this year's budget, taking spending on accommodation supplements alone to a record seven hundred and sixty million dollars.

these are just a few examples of a government doing the job of governing, and that's despite the frenzied attacks we've had to endure from all quarters.

i have every confidence that this administration will see out its three year term.

i remain committed to the principles that got us elected to power in the first place. i also stand by the new zealand first constitution's number one rule: constituents first.

i must also say though that i didn't come to parliament to continue the state-owned assets sale programme.

local control of key state-owned assets must be maintained, unless it can be proven, and proven decisively, there is some sort of benefit to the general public on whose behalf i believe these things are being held for.

i'm just as determined as the next to make this coalition work, and work well.

quietly we've demonstrated we can do that.

when i came into this job i did so fully knowing i didn't, nr should i expect, to have a job for life.

i've seen the hardship, felt in a personal sense the sorts of hardship people at the lower end of the scale talk about.

i try to do my best for them and the people who elected me it. if they don't like what i'm doing i'm sure they'll say so come 1999.

thank you for your time tonight.