Maiden Speech

  • Robyn McDonald
Consumer Affairs

Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Tena koutou e nga matawaka
Ko Mauo te maunga
Ko Tauranga te moana
Ko Ngaiterangi te iwi
Ko Ngaitamawhariua te hapu
Ko Te Rereatukahia te marae
Ko au tenei e tu mai nei
No reira
Tena koutou
Tena koutou
Tena koutou katoa

Mr Speaker, fellow members and visitors

This is a very special moment in my life.

Not only am I realising a personal goal ... but just by being here today ... I become a part of the history of this country ... an MP in the first-ever MMP Parliament.

And to have the incredible opportunity to serve as a minister in that Parliament - that is the most special of privileges

Attendant with that privilege comes an even greater duty ... a duty to every New Zealander ... that I will do my utmost to create a stronger, better and fairer nation.

It is a long list but I want to thank all those who have provided me with the love, the support and the faith ... that allows me to contribute, in a positive fashion, to shaping this country's present and its future.

My family have been my staunchest supporters. They have put up with my ambitions and hopes ... they have shared in my anxieties and fears ... and they have provided me with the security that allows me to pursue this most unusual of vocations.

To my husband Bruce - my most ardent supporter, who is my best friend and whose love and trust sustain me always, to my beautiful children Amy, Rebecca and Samuel ... to my wonderful father Kip Kippenberger who taught me truth and honesty by his example... my deepest love and my thanks for being there when it mattered ... and for supporting me when it really mattered.

Politics can impose some very onerous sacrifices upon family life ... and I thank my family .. and extended family .. for their generosity as well as their love ... in allowing me this unique opportunity.

I want to especially thank ..and remember .. my mother - who died a year ago before seeing her daughter enter Parliament - but whose strength and spirit were with me every step of the way. She is with me today - it is her example, her love and her absolute faith in my abilities that gave me the confidence to begin this journey and to continue it here. She is the wind beneath my wings.

Thanks too to my friends - I have shared my dreams with them - they have been the long suffering sounding boards for my passions and opinions

And to my supporters back in the Coromandel ... my sincere gratitude. That people can give so much support to others ... with no thought of personal reward ... is one of those humbling gifts that can never be adequately repaid.

That many of those supporters are the very Senior Citizens that I now represent will at least allow me to support them in turn.

To Winston Peters - our Leader - whose political performance inspires and delights me, to Doug Wollerton - Party President - whom I am honoured to count as my mentor and friend, to our Maori members who have supported and encouraged me and to all of my caucus colleagues whose talents are many and various and whose friendship is so freely given ... I must express special thanks.

You have provided me with this chance ... and established a party that matches my dreams and aspirations - a party I can feel at home within.

The Fundamental Principles get to the heart of traditional New Zealand values and the unaffected mix of Maori and Pakeha enriches both traditions ... and points the way to harmony and justice for race relations in this country.

The Treaty of Waitangi stands as a talisman to the unique place of Maori within this country - and the need for mutual respect and understanding between our respective cultures.

Our Party honours and upholds that Treaty in word and in deed.

Winston Peters built NZ First from an ideal - a vision for the future. It was formed only three-and-a-half years ago ... and now partners National as the governing administration of this nation. There are 17 NZ First MPs ... nine of them Ministers of the Crown.

To take any organisation from an embryonic thought ... to such influence ... in just over three years ... is a remarkable personal and political feat . I salute Winston for that achievement .. for his drive and determination... and for the opportunities delivered to me and to my colleagues as a consequence. My geographical responsibility, as a NZ First list MP, is for the Coromandel region and its surrounding environs.

The Coromandel is a true wonder of the natural world. A rugged, largely unspoiled wilderness - that freely gives of its beauty to those tens of thousands of domestic and international visitors each year ... Many coming as much to uplift their souls and to gaze upon the magnificence of its creation as to enjoy its recreational pleasures. It is a fragile wonder and needs protection and respect.

I came to my present home via a variety of employments - as a secondary school teacher , dietitian and home economist ... before settling in Katikati as an orchardist and then a private training provider.

So I have lived and raised my young family in Katikati for 14 years and my experience there has enriched my life in the most unexpected fashion.

The area has a rich Maori cultural heritage that lives and breathes in a continuum ... and gifts its unique nature to all those willing to listen, to learn, to trust and to give of themselves. That experience has provided me with deep and abiding friendships but also something much more ... a share in a culture with a strong set of values and ideals that have enriched my own and a whanau that supports me and gives me strength and purpose

And I pay tribute to that because, ultimately, that is the reason I stand in this Chamber today

One of the great crimes of the twentieth century is that we have started to blame the victims of our society for its ills.

If someone is unemployed ... then they are dismissed as a dole bludger.

If someone is mentally ill ... then they are often placed in inadequate community care .... and treated as a nuisance to society or worse - blamed for violent crime.

If someone is old ... then they are taxed for their age ... either through superannuation surcharge or asset and income testing .

And if someone is on the Domestic Purposes Benefit ... then society regards such recipients as somehow careless or even immoral.

Victim blaming has never produced any solutions. It only produces ... more victims.

I was motivated to stand for Parliament because of my experiences in dealing with those benefit recipients - teaching them life skills and giving vocational training to assist them into employment.

This is no easy task. It is not simply a case of providing a training scheme - or even a community work project - and expecting a life change in the attitude or consciousness of the individual recipient.

For too many of our young - welfare is an acceptable lifestyle ... because that is the example that they have been provided with by both their family environment and by their peer group.

These young peoples horizons extend no further than the next benefit payment. There is a pervasive mindset that has robbed them of their independence and any worthwhile dream.

They are not in a position to help themselves. Simply, they are unable to do so.

They are part of a growing underclass in our society who have neither the motivation nor the skills to arrest their decline. And many of those who are at the bottom of this underclass are the young mothers - our ever burgeoning numbers of Domestic Purposes Benefit Beneficiaries

Many children are being born into this underclass in joy for they bring with them increased income for their family or an independent income for the mother. They often also bring with them the first positive recognition afforded to these young mothers by their families since they were infants themselves. And they bring with them love and dependence - as only a newborn can trust and love - often the first unconditional love that that mother - not much more than a child herself - has felt.

Those are the pluses and this is the Career of a DPB Beneficiary It is the only dream - the only vision of the future and ambition that she may have.

But this is the very career that she is not trained for .... having so few skills to achieve it , save the obvious one of actually having that baby.

The role models for parenthood are so often vastly dysfunctional - neglect, violence, abuse of all kinds have shaped these mothers and made them what they are.

That the worst statistics in this country are connected to this group and their children should be no surprise

Appalling health problems exacerbated by poor housing, poor nutrition and neglect .....child mortality ... criminal offending ... welfare dependence ... mental ill-health ... drug and alcohol abuse ... youth suicide ... and the worst part is that this underclass is growing unchecked.

New generations of new entrants in our schools have never seen a book ... they are shipped between various strands of their extended family ... they have levels of disease and health conditions associated with Third World countries ... and their future is already sealed by a mixture of parental ignorance and neglect.

The strength of the human spirit Is NOT indomitable - hopelessness and helplessness so often follow

We can tolerate such statistics no longer because those statistics are people... children .... and those children are our future.

To ignore that is to deny this Parliaments responsibility to act in the best interests of all New Zealanders ... and especially for the weak, the frail, the most vulnerable in our community. Now is the time to think outside the square - for bold State initiatives to ensure that new generations of our young are not robbed of their dreams, choices and opportunities. Give them skills, ideals, role models ..... give them hope.

It is my strong view that the State requires a more active, more compassionate, hands on set of policies ... that admit of our collective failure to give all our young an equal start in life.

That may include special Community Teams - a mixture of government health, education, training and welfare agencies - who establish offices in at risk neighbourhoods and suburbs - and work together in directly assisting local communities.

It may include the linking the payment of benefits to particular targets - for example, compulsory health check-ups for young children each six months.

It can certainly further involve our Senior Citizens - our kaumatua and kuia - using their wisdom and experience to nurture children in schools and community centres.

And, certainly, it means working alongside young mothers and offering a range of post-natal, living, educational and vocational skills that uplift both the mothers expectations ... and that of their children.

I agree wholeheartedly with Donna - for those young women still at school - stay there - give yourselves a life and a future.

But these women have already chosen motherhood as a career - do not forget them - or write them off as an unfortunate statistic - let them do their mothering well and so shape the positive future of their children.

Empower them ... value them so that they may value themselves ...Give them purpose... so that they become positive role models for the new generation.

We ignore them at the peril of the very fabric of our society - this impacts on each and every one of us - If you doubt that heed the spectre of the social future shocks in the larger cities worldwide.

Neighbourhoods riddled with drugs and crime .. where single-parent families are the excessive norm ... where welfare cheques are supplemented by the proceeds of crime ... where gangs terrorise whole communities... where fear is the predominant emotion.

That scenario is beginning to be played out in this country - not just in the cities but in the rural areas - A thriving drug sub-culture ... teenage gangs ... outbreaks of petty crime mixed with violent assaults upon the innocent ... a total disregard for formal education ...intergenerational welfare dependency ... those negative features are with us now.

We must never accept that this problem is too hard We can do better than this. We must do better - we who are in a position to make a difference. We can and must find solutions.

As a government Minister I am now in a position to assist in finding those solutions. I do not profess to have all the answers ... all the right policy mixes and strategies.

But I do know this. Between us all we have to have the answers. Between we 120 Members of Parliament - given our range of race, experiences, talents, enthusiasm and ideals- we can make this better tomorrow.

The public of this country expect this Parliament to adopt a more co-operative ... a more consensus style of decision-making. They voted in a new MMP electoral system to send us that message. We must not fail them ... for to do so would be to fail the democratic process.

Consultation with the people of New Zealand is the other essential ingredient for that process - who better and more appropriate to ask than those most affected by our decisions. They are always our strongest critics but they are our reason for being here.

I look forward to working with all my parliamentary colleagues over the next three years - and, though it may be a cliche ... I look forward to this Parliament becoming part of the solution ... and not a continuing part of the problem.

Tena koutou
Tena koutou
Tena koutou katoa
tena koutou