Chris Finlayson – valedictory statement

“Some people please wherever they go; other people please whenever they go.”

Chris Finlayson, National list MP since 2005 and ex Attorney general, Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, gave his valedictory speech in his last day in Parliament yesterday.

Praise for some (from several parties) – some were to be expected, but of note is a special mention for Nikki Kay’s determination. a few jokes and barbs, and quite a few suggestions – like promoting a four year term. And while he opposes term limits for MPs he suggests a a compulsory sabbatical after five three-year terms or four four-year terms, which “would allow MPs to re-enter the real world and if they are odd enough to want to come back, well, they can do so.”

Finlayson’s speech (with some edits):


Mr Speaker, I have to say, I’m delighted to be leaving. In fact, I would have gone sooner, but I stayed on a few more months for a few reasons. First, Jim Bolger advised me not to go straight after the new Government was formed but to wait until about October, and I always follow the advice of Jim Bolger.

I have to say, secondly, I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie of the caucus, especially getting to know and work with the 2017 intake.

Thirdly, I’ve been very keen to progress reform of the law of contempt, a hugely important topic I had spent many, many years trying to advance, and it’s one of the ironies of politics that I succeeded in Opposition. The recent debate over suppression orders shows why the bill is so very important. It’s now in the Justice Committee, in safe hands, and so I don’t need to stay until the bill is enacted.

Could I begin with the acknowledgments. In no particular hierarchy or order, I want first to acknowledge my opponents. The Labour opponents that I had in Mana and Rongotai, Winnie Laban, Annette King, and Paul Eagle and their spouses, are very, very nice people. I really enjoyed their company. The campaigns were pleasant and issues-focused.

I have to say I have great respect for social democracy, though I prefer liberal conservatism. But I still admire the courage of the 1984-87 Labour Government in the economics area, even if the Labour Party doesn’t. The changes they made were essential and overdue.

Can I say something about the Greens—far from me politically in many areas, but we always got on well. Kennedy Graham is someone I regard as a good friend, a man of principle and courage, and someone who still has a lot to contribute, and I hope that party can look beyond divisions of the past and use his talents.

I also acknowledge James Shaw and, particularly, Teall Crossen, who was the Green candidate in Rongotai in 2017. I think she has a great future, or perhaps she had a great future till I started praising her.

… I now turn to talk about New Zealand First. The most I can say to them is: thank you very much for not choosing the National Party in 2017. As is well-known, I think we dodged a bullet. That decision lays the foundations for a National Government in 2020.

Then, there’s my National Party family, but especially Judy Kirk, whose decency and warmth helped the National Party recover in 2002.

I need to say something about the media, because they are not the enemy and should never be referred to in that way. Their work is essential to our democracy. I promised Tova O’Brien I would say this: I especially acknowledge the young, clever, and classy TV3 team, Audrey Young, who’s the best bush lawyer in Wellington, and I’d better mention Claire Trevett and Barry Soper, otherwise they’ll get snarky.

I’ve almost forgiven Guyon Espiner, who taught me a very good lesson: do not appear on Morning Report just after you’ve woken up. I remember very well the morning he interviewed me and put a proposition to me from Metiria Turei, and I said, “Oh, well that’s what happens when one is dealing with a left-wing loon.”

And he put another proposition to me, and I said, “Well, that’s what happens when one is dealing with a right-wing loon.”, and he said, “Well that commentator was John Key.” The message came down from the ninth floor that if I wanted to be Minister for Consumer Affairs I was on the right track.

‘ve worked for so many iwi over the years, so many people to mention: my old friend O’Regan’s sitting up there from Ngāi Tahu; Vanessa Eparaima from Ngāti Raukawa; the gentleman, kind Tiwha Bell from Maniapoto; the wise Tāmati Kruger from Tūhoe; Kirsti Luke from Tūhoe also of Ngāpuhi, who needs to go to Ngāpuhi to sort out of few of her cousins; and all of my wonderful colleagues in Taranaki. I especially mention my friends in Parihaka, who cannot be here tonight because of their commitment on the 18th of each month. People have said some nice things about me in recent days but these people are the ones who made the settlements happen.

I also acknowledge John Key and Bill English, without whose active support nothing would have been achieved.

I also acknowledge John Key and Bill English, without whose active support nothing would have been achieved. I say to Andrew Little that this is the best job in Government. Don’t worry about setbacks. Just when it seems a negotiation has gone all wrong something very good can and invariably does happen. I mean who knows, Sonny Tau could decide to go and live in Iceland!

Lastly and most importantly, my family: I acknowledge my mother, who is Annette King’s second cousin, a great person.

So that’s the nice warm stuff, and now for the inevitable lecture. Although I cannot wait to leave, I have great respect for the institution of Parliament. I think there are ways to improve our institution, and I outline a few of them now.

How long should the Parliamentary term be? I think it needs to be four years—three years is too short. A longer term will make for an effective Parliament. The proposal to lengthen the term failed in a referendum many years ago. It’s time to revisit the issue.

How long should MPs be permitted to serve? Imposition of term limits as a non-starter, but I think there should be a compulsory sabbatical after five three-year terms or four four-year terms—don’t look at me like that. A break would allow MPs to re-enter the real world and if they are odd enough to want to come back, well, they can do so.

How should parties be funded? A very important question, because generally I think our funding rules work well. But I have become concerned about funding of political parties by non-nationals. That’s why I think both major parties need to work together to review the rules relating to funding. I have a personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to our political parties.

One of the things that amazes me in this place is that there really is a lack of practical understanding of the separation of powers. For example, the Ministry of Justice constantly fails to recognise the judiciary as a separate branch of Government, and sometimes the courts overstep the mark with Parliament when they go too far with Parliamentary privilege, as they did—David Parker knows these things. We passed the Parliamentary Privilege Act. Now, Parliament must deal with the consequences of the prisoner voting case. Parliament could nullify the decision, as we did in 2014, or recognise the court’s jurisdiction, provided Parliament makes it clear that there is no jurisdiction to strike down legislation. This will be an intensely important issue for Parliament in 2019. I shall be watching it with great interest from the sidelines.

Finally, I want to address a few comments to my fellow National MPs—my friends and colleagues for many years, a diverse and a talented bunch, you lot. I’ve said quite a bit over recent times about John Key and Bill English, so my praise for those two great New Zealanders can be taken as read. I have no intention of saying any more nice things about Ian McKelvie. He’s had his quota. But I do want to say something about two MPs I greatly admire.

First, Gerry Brownlee: when the history of the Key Government is written, his work rebuilding a shattered city will be regarded as that Government’s greatest achievement. I witnessed in Cabinet his absolute commitment to and compassion for his fellow Cantabrians. Sometimes I felt that his contribution has been taken for granted—well, not by me, because I think he’s a great New Zealander.

And secondly I want to acknowledge Nikki Kaye, who won Auckland Central in 2008 and has held it since then. Auckland Central is very like Rongotai, except Nikki wins Auckland Central. She was a Minister with a brilliant future and, as we know, was very unwell last year, but she fought that cancer and is doing a tremendous job in Opposition. I strongly support her bill on teaching foreign languages. She’s an example to all of us of grit, of courage, and of determination.

…New Zealand needs a liberal conservative Government in 2020. Some say we have no friends; I think friendship’s overrated—just a joke. But I actually think we’re turning back into a two-party State.

I think the SOE model is past its use-by date; in particular, Landcorp needs to go and its farms need to be sold to iwi. In my nine years as Minister for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations, I regret to say—well, Ron Mark knows these things—I always found Landcorp difficult and uncooperative.

We need to continue to update our constitution. The Senior Courts Act is now law and soon we’re going to have a Parliament Act—I hope. Then we need to review the Treaty of Waitangi Act. There have been some complaints recently that insufficient attention is paid to the tribunal’s recommendations; it would help if they were more practical. The shares plus decision, for example, was described as incoherent and ignoring basic principles of company law. And finally, we need to pass the Te Ture Whenua Bill in the first 100 days of a new administration. The product of a careful review and many years’ consultation, it’s going to provide landowners with a world-class regime of registration and dispute resolution.

When I delivered my maiden speech from this very seat in November 2005, I said the liberal conservative was concerned to govern and the public good and the national interest, confident in the knowledge that this is a great country full of talented and decent people. Other countries have problems; New Zealand has a project—an exciting, sometimes difficult, but nevertheless achievable project. As I give my last speech in the House today in the same place where I started, I stand by those words. I’m very pleased to be going, but grateful I’ve had the opportunity to serve.

Members probably know the old wisecrack, “Some people please wherever they go; other people please whenever they go.”, and I’m sure many will be thinking the second part applies to me—although, I understand, not Mr Robertson. I have it on excellent authority that he’s distraught and is currently undergoing counselling.

In 2005, Michael Collins said in the Address in Reply debate that he wasn’t convinced of “this sort of Latinate habit of everyone kissing each other after every maiden speech”, and I agree. It’s a dreadful habit. I think the same principle applies to valedictories, so Mr Speaker, fellow members of the House, that’s all from me. If anyone needs a lawyer in the future, don’t bother me. All the best. Goodbye.


See also Imminent departure of MP Chris Finlayson

10 Comments

  1. That looks like some sort of praise from a law professor.- it seems to mean “praise and thanksgiving” (Ecclesiastical term – Old Christian chant).

  2. Blazer

     /  19th December 2018

    nice.

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  19th December 2018

    Entertaining.

  4. Whilst Mr Finlayson should be commended for his work on Maori treaty settlements.. I just have two more words to add “Good Riddance” 😀

    • Zedd

       /  19th December 2018

      only 4 downticks sofar.. come on you staunch tories, you need to do better 😀 :/

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  19th December 2018

        I find ignoring silly nasty stuff works better than downticks, Zedd. But usually Robert, not you. Emulating Robert is not an improvement.

        • Zedd

           /  19th December 2018

          gee thx Alan 😀

          btw; just to state the obvious.. ‘RESPECT is two-way street’ & can only earned, not demanded, something.. methinks many on the Right need to yet realise ?! :/

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  19th December 2018

            You obviously didn’t bother to notice no-one demanded respect. I just pointed out your original comment was unworthy of your own self-respect.

    • Zedd

       /  19th December 2018

      just 4 u Chris 😀