Forty years since “not a monotonous garden” Winston Peters’ maiden speech

I think it’s fair to ask whether Winston Peters is past his ‘best before’ date, but it would be an interesting to consider when he has been at his best in Parliament.

This week marked forty years since his maiden speech in Parliament.

He has become a bit monotonous over the years, but has had a varied and at times successful political career.

Peters was born on 11 April 1945, just before World War 2 ended, 19 days before Hitler died.

He stood for National in the Northern Maori seat but was never going to come close to winning that. It was effectively a practice run.

He stood in Hunua in the 1978 election and lost on the initial result, but this was overturned after an electoral petition. He entered parliament 6 months after the election, on 24 May 1979.

Hitting out against critics and opponents has been a frequent occurrence.

His  first stint in Parliament was short, losing the seat in the 1981 election. He stood in Tauranga and won in 1984, holding that until 2005, when he became a list MP, He and NZ First dropped out of Parliament altogether in 2008, but both Peters and his party got back in in 2011.

So while it is forty years since Peters first entered Parliament he has been an MP for 34 years.

 

On Chloe Swarbrick’s maiden speech

The youngest MP in Parliament is Green Chloe Swarbrick.It is very early days in her political career, she has a lot to learn and perhaps a lot to achieve.

Here is her maiden speech in Parliament.

Transcript: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1711/S00099/chloe-swarbrick-maiden-speech.htm

Some responses to this from Reddit, which includes references to Golriz Ghahraman.

ProVagrant:

The message I took was more like “I want to change politicians’ awareness of people” – or something along that vein. Have I misread?

I found the speech meandered quite a bit. Too many unconnected anecdotes. I have kids in intermediate school so I’m familiar with this style of writing being the designated proofreader 🙂

It will be interesting to see how she will influence parliament, and vice-versa.

The Zizekiest:

To be fair the speech itself was a little bit too over the place to have a clear, coherent, single message.

I think the take away is this:

  1. Politicians are too distanced from the reality of issues they deal with
  2. This needs to change
  3. The way to change this is for ordinary people to get more involved in politics
  4. To get more people involved in politics we need to change their perception of what politics is

So, in a way, the speech was saying “we need to change people’s awareness of what politics is, so that we can change politicians’ awareness of people.”

IDK, all I can say is I hope the Green party don’t pay for speech writers.

burgercake:

cool if you could point out the examples of progressive policy change where New Zealand has led or followed fast (universal suffrage, recognition of indigenous rights, legalisation of homosexuality, marriage equality being good examples) have progressed without some level of discomfort particularly from the swathes of people who turn out to oppose them I’ll be waiting, but I suspect I’ll be waiting for a while

scatteringlargesse:

What is awful is her statement that “we’ve been ahead of the policy curve – leading where all others eventually follow”.

Even apart from the sadly typical “holier than thou” Green attitude it’s just wrong. I don’t see everyone following their policy to outlaw and not even consider GM foods. I don’t see everyone following their policy to not regulate alternative medicine. I don’t see everyone following their policy to impose tourism levies. I don’t see everyone following their policies to impose capital gains tax.

xxihostile:

Watched her entire speech, it was incredibly moving and she is such an eloquent person. So glad that she is in parliament.

burnt_out_dude:

I must be one of the few people that isn’t really a fan of Chloe or Golriz. Both seem to be stereotypical social justice warriors that are out of touch with reality. Rather than focus on real problems in NZ Golriz seems obsessed with Manus Island – there are hundreds of millions of people around the world in much worse situations than them.

Also does she ever open her mouth without playing up the refugee angle. Apparently her parents were middle class Iranians – certainly not persecuted dissidents or refugees struggling to survive. When they fled to NZ the war with Iraq had already been over for several years.

Chloe used to make more sense with her focus on actual issues – now she is all over the place complaining about white male privilege etc. If white male privilege exists I’m still waiting to benefit from it. Next time I’m living out of my car I hope white male privilege helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Seriously why are there so many wackos on the left and right. I’d settle for some politicians that focused on real problems in NZ with some decent evidence based policies. (Sadly it seems like Gareth Morgan is not going to be that person).

AristocratesSR:

She’s not saying that all men are better off than all woman. It’s a topic of averages, and the simple fact is that on average women face more discrimination for their gender than men. The wage-gap, sexual assault – even look at our female leaders. How many times is Jacinda Ardern called a horse? Paula Bennett, a pig? Helen Clark a number of things all pertaining to a looks, which men rarely suffer from.

Primus81:

You got any links/source on the white male privliege thing? I’m curious because I haven’t seen those arguments been made.

I’ve found her complaining seen middle/old white men being over represented in parliament, which I don’t think anyone would disagree with somewhat

although myself I think part of that issue is because of the ‘age’ and the ‘male’ demographic, since younger people and females are under represented. With other ethnicities besides Maori having only grown significantly in the last 20 or 30 years and being made up alot by recent immigrants, you can’t expect them to all have representation as fast as they immigratel. it also has the issue if these ethnicities are only located in very few city electorates, and not widespread around the country it’s hard to sell to the public for voting, that they represent NZ.

chajman:

Last year Chloe Swarbrick was running for mayor in Auckland. She had a number of sound policies (that she developed in collaboration with various experts and ordinary Aucklanders), including a reform of the rating system and several other proposals that were capable of attracting people from across the wider political spectrum. She focused on uniting, rather than dividing people.

It is a bit disappointing to see that over the last year she has become much more of a partisan social justice warrior and a walking megaphone shouting empty or polarising slogans than someone interested in building bridges, stimulating calm debates and proposing reason-based solutions.

She used to propose real reforms. Today she runs much more murky crusades, fights (via empty slogans) against “white privilege”, “patriarchy” etc. Maybe her voters like this kind of stuff, but it’s pretty clear (at least to me) that her strength and attractiveness during the mayoral campaign was in policies that went beyond these polarising ideological battles.

justpeachy42:

i mean they’ve literally joined a political party for the purpose of trying to put in place workable solutions to solve real problems facing nzers – whether you agree with their politics or not, you cannot deny that the green party has not, in the past, passed and assisted to pass a large amount of legislation that has done exactly that. now they’re a part of that, so what exactly is your issue?

they’re legislators now, does it get any better than for actually being able to create systemic change for nzers? what would you rather they spent their time doing if you hate them being in parliament so much but still insist that they come up with workable solutions to change nzers lives?

also, maiden speeches are not policy speeches – they’re to introduce yourself to parliament and to nz. it’s common practice that you talk about yourself and your life, and what motivated you to get into politics so that people get a feel for who you are. nobody uses their maiden speech to set out their plan for their next members bill in detail.

There are a lot more comments than that, this is just a bunch of discussion prompters.

Swarbrick may be a new generation politician – a different generation even to Jacinda Ardern, but she has to learn how to work in Parliament, with with her constituency and with MPs from other parties.

Maiden speech – Golriz Ghahraman

A big maiden speech from Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, with strong references to immigration and patriotism and refugees.

She talks of hardships involving war that most of us who have always lived in New Zealand have very fortunately not had to experience or suffer.

My parents.

Both strong, Iranian feminists. You lost everything. You lost your friends, your family, your professions and your language, because you weren’t willing to raise a little girl in oppression.

Thank you.

Closing comments:

Mr Speaker.

I stand here as a child of revolutionaries, as a child asylum seeker, as a international human rights lawyer, as an activist, and as a Green, and my standing here proves New Zealand is a place where a nine-year-old asylum seeker, a refugee, a girl from the Middle East can grow up to one day enter Parliament.

It proves the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values.

We all should be grateful and proud that Golriz can become an MP in New Zealand, and speak openly and passionately about her past and about her passion to bring about positive change.

Full draft transcript:


Mr Speaker, I congratulate you, and I look forward to your guidance in this House. I acknowledge also that we stand on land that was neve ceded, so I have acknowledged tangata whenua.

I begin by acknowledging what a breathtaking honour it is to sit among this Green caucus. It’s a dream. I also acknowledge those who’ve sat among you before now, in particular Catherine Delahunty and Keith Locke—you spoke to injustice wherever it happened, and, to someone like me, that meant a lot. Mojo Mathers, you taught me and us all that we are far more than our labels. And Metiria Turei, for baring your scars to highlight the pain of others, I thank you.

But today I also want to acknowledge those who tell me every day that I don’t belong here, that I should go home where I came from, that I should have been left to die, or that I have no right to criticise any politician in the country or take part in public life, because this isn’t my home. Some of them call for rifles to be loaded—it gets frightening.

I’m numb to it because that actually is the reality for those of us in this country from minority backgrounds if we do stand up and become visible. I want it noted that it’s also the consequence every time someone in this House scapegoats migrants, every time a TV presenter is allowed to ask the Prime Minister when our Governor General is going to look like a Kiwi and sound like a Kiwi and that Prime Minister just laughs, every time we call refugees “the leftovers from terrorist nations” for our political gain. We feel it on the streets; we can’t shed our skin.

Patriotism that seeks to quash dissent and divide us is archaic. It’s dangerous for our democracy. We can’t tolerate that. It’s antithetical to our culture. I love this country, but a love of this country—patriotism—means expecting the very best for her. It means fighting for the country we know is possible. So I criticise leaders who fall short, I protest, and I fight for equality and justice, because that is what loves looks like in public—that’s Dr Cornel West; that’s not me. So today I stand here proud and determined because today is about democracy and equality—values that New Zealand embodies, stands up for so boldly.

I am a child of revolutionaries. My parents faced tanks for democracy, at gunpoint fought for human rights. They faced torture to take back their country’s resource from imperialists, from dictators, and from corrupt corporate interests and put it back in the hands of the people. The Iranian revolution was one of the biggest popular revolutions in modern history. Everyone was out on the street—students, communists, socialists, and Islamists—fighting against inequality.

But their revolution was hijacked, and ultimately my life was shaped by one of the most repressive regimes in modern history. Everyone knew someone that disappeared into a torture chamber for speaking out; everyone knew a woman flogged for disregarding Islamic dress—and that wasn’t our culture, even for those of us who were Muslim. Everyone feared their phones being tapped; that was my childhood.

But it was also just the backdrop to a bloody eight year war we fought against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. I remember the bombs and the sirens, running to a basement and just waiting, but mostly I remember kids my age who stopped talking from the shell shock. I still don’t know what happened to them. Then scarcity set in, because America was on Saddam’s side and we were sanctioned. We had to use coupons to buy food. Years later, we realised that the West had backed both sides of that war—sold weapons to both sides.

That is what refugees are made of.

I feel a kinship with first nations people, with tangata whenua, because we too have been alienated from our land and our resources by imperialism—by wars that we did not profit from. We share the same degradation and prejudice; I want us to work closer together. Migrants, refugees, Pasifika people, tangata whenua—we have far more that unites us than that which divides us. I want Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be a living constitutional document in this country, leading policy, even on immigration.

My mum was a child psychologist, but she never worked because she didn’t believe in taking religious exams, especially in a mental health field. My dad was an agricultural engineer who worked on research trying to extract energy from plant sources—Green to the core. So let’s remember that our values exist in all cultures. The Middle East, just like the West, has fierce feminism, environmentalism, Government selling us off to multinationals, and—yes—religious fundamentalism. I want us to amplify the voices in all cultures who speak of democracy and equality above those who would silence them.

When that repression got too scary, my family and I fled. We landed in Auckland Airport and the fear was palpable. I can still feel it now. I was nine years old. We didn’t know what would happen if we were sent back, but we weren’t; we were welcomed here. That warm welcome is my first memory of my homeland. New Zealand recognised our rights and our humanity; that’s what that was, though I didn’t know it then. My second memory is that this country was so green. Those two vivid first impressions are going to lead my work in this House.

I became a lawyer—I never intended to do that, but I wanted to make human rights enforceable. The criminal justice system leads on human rights in our system. The most frightening thing that I’ve seen in about 15 years of being a lawyer all over the world is the sight of a 13-year-old child sitting behind a very large table awaiting his trial for murder at the Auckland High Court. I was part of his defence team. He’d thrown a rock over an overbridge, tragically taking another young life. He was tried as an adult because our system requires it. He suffered from mental illness, as do most people that come through our justice system. He was brown. He was from South Auckland. His family was so poor that they shifted houses every so often just so that they could have electricity for a while. He didn’t have a lot of schooling, because of that, and his Child Youth and Family file was the stuff of nightmares. Our most vulnerable.

The front lines of our justice system is where I learnt about unchecked prejudice. That’s what turned me into a human rights lawyer, and I focused on children’s rights. But it was living in Africa, working on genocide trials for the UN, where I learnt how prejudice turns to atrocity. It starts with dehumanising language in the media. It starts by politicians scapegoating groups, as groups, for social ills—I think that every time I see it happen here. I saw it in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and when I prosecuted the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia—holding politicians and armies to account for abusing their power, and giving voice to women and minorities, because we are always most viciously attacked by abusers. These experiences have instilled in me a commitment to human rights that I first got as someone who has seen the world without them.

Human rights are universal. We don’t have fewer rights because of our religion, because of where we were born, or because of who we love. We don’t have fewer rights because we had our children out of wedlock, or because we’ve been charged with a crime. We don’t have human rights because we are good, but because we are human—there is no such thing as the deserving poor or the good refugee.

Human rights are indivisible. We have a bundle of rights. We can’t realise one without the others—you can’t say we have a democracy or free speech unless we also have the right to education, and we don’t have the right to education unless the kids we are teaching have food and homes. For too long, for about 10 years now in New Zealand, our very democracy has been undermined because too many of our rights—our economic, our social, and our cultural rights—have been breached. I want to entrench those.

Finally—and of most interest to this House—human rights are enforceable against Governments. These are our obligations. This our mandate to govern. We can’t privatise them away. They are not charity—people don’t have to beg.

I want New Zealand to get back to a culture of expecting this from us, and none of that is inseparable from the environment. Protection of people’s rights and nature’s rights are intrinsically linked. Just ask the people of the Pacific—our neighbours—whose homelands are being drowned out because of waste pollution consumption that they have not participated in or benefited from.

One of the greatest threats to both human and nature’s rights right now is subjugation of our democracy to corporate interests. A rampant market on a finite planet cannot exist. New Zealand must lead by example on this, as we have done before. We’ve stood up against status quo interests on the world stage, and I want us to be that righteous little nation again.

I never intended to run as the first ever refugee MP, but I quickly realised that my face and my story meant so much to so many, so my fear of tokenism dissipated. I had such an outpouring of support from all over New Zealand and the world—even Trump’s America—and I remembered getting notes and emails from my female interns, mostly of minority background, back in the UN, telling me what it meant to them to have someone like them forging that path. Some of them are carrying that mantle right now. I realised then that it was important for that process to have a former victim of governance by repression and mass murder stand up in those courtrooms, which are normally dominated by Western men.

So this is a victory for a nine-year-old asylum seeker. But it’s also a victory for everyone who has ever felt out of place, who has been excluded, or who has been told that she has limits to her dreams.

For getting me here, I thank the voters. You’ve humbled me for ever. You voted for diversity and fairness and nature this election when you voted Green.

I thank our Green activists and our staff, especially our Auckland staff. You worked harder and harder as things got harder this election. You will inspire me for ever. To my campaign team—especially Ron and Daniel, who are up there—and my second, political family, the Chalmers clan, I’m so happy you are here. Your support is life affirming to me.

My parents, both strong Iranian feminists—you lost everything. You lost your friends, your family, your professions, and your language because you weren’t willing to raise a little girl in oppression—thank you.

And to maybe the most political person I know, although a very large, loud white boy—my partner. Thank you for stopping me mid-rant—it seems like a lifetime ago now—when I was lamenting the loss of activism in politics and some of my favourite MPs. I was saying, “Who’s going to be the candidate that will stand up to the GCSB? Who’s going to be the candidate who will be the new Keith Locke?”, and you said, “You will be that candidate.”—and I was. We’re both political, we are both adventurers, but you are also patient. I thank you for that, and for love, but mostly courage, on that day and every day.

I stand here as a child of revolutionaries, as a child asylum seeker, as a international human rights lawyer, as an activist, and as a Green, and my standing here proves New Zealand is a place where a nine-year-old asylum seeker, a refugee, a girl from the Middle East can grow up to one day enter Parliament. It proves the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]