6 Sep 2020

The Ultimate General: Parliament’s last debate

From The House , 7:35 am on 6 September 2020

Parliament is no more. Long live Parliament. 

The 52nd Parliament had its last day on Wednesday 2 September, and met its official demise on the Sunday. When MPs return it will be to a different beast - the 53rd Parliament. But before they packed up their boxing gloves for the election MPs had one last chance to raise their voices, distance, issues, complaints and the dead.

The Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins in the House

The Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins in the House Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

First out of the blocks was the leader of the opposition, Judith Collins. Her theme was broken promises.

“This is a government whose legacy is one of broken promises, promises made so easily during the 2017 election campaign - so easily made, and so easily forgotten. I remember these promises. "This government will remove the Auckland urban growth boundary" - that was the Speech from the Throne, and what happened to it? It has not removed the Auckland urban growth boundary.” - Judith Collins

The co-leader of the Green Party Marama Davidson address the House during the last general debate for the 52nd Parliament

The co-leader of the Green Party Marama Davidson address the House during the last general debate for the 52nd Parliament Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

She was followed by the co-leader of the Green Party, Marama Davidson, who sought to point out policy differences twixt her own party and coalition partners. 

“...that is what the Greens' guaranteed minimum income is proposing to do. That has been a politically courageous step that has needed to be seen for a very long time, and we are here, as the Green Party, highlighting and championing that step that everybody not in full-time paid work should have an income that they can rely on and that it should be liveable, because people are doing their best. In this country, we have enough for everyone to be living dignified lives, and I am proud to be a co-leader of a party that is putting up that plan.” - Marama Davidson

National Party MP Shane Reti in the House

National Party MP Shane Reti in the House Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

National’s Shane Reti outlined some proposals for strengthening border protections against Covid.

“We've recently seen holes in the border and I believe our engagement has helped correct this. I want to add to the list of things that the leader has just identified as also being useful to add to the coronavirus response and I want to identify five other gaps that could be improved. I'm calling these "five in five" because I believe these five proposals could also be completed in five days and, in so doing, would lift our collective bar.” - Shane Reti

Minister of Housing Megan Woods talks about the resilience of New Zealanders during the final general debate for the 52nd Parliament

Minister of Housing Megan Woods talks about the resilience of New Zealanders during the final general debate for the 52nd Parliament Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Megan Woods also spoke about Covid, but first she wanted to talk about her own constituents’ responses to the recent terrorist sentencing in Christchurch.

“I want to acknowledge a group of people that I've had the privilege of becoming friends with over the last 18 months who, collectively, have rejected hatred and have rejected retribution. Instead, they've embraced love and they've embraced unity, and over the last few days, I've spoken to them. I've sensed a sense of relief, a sense of some kind of closure of this part of the chapter of the journey that they're on, but also a pride in this community in having the courage to look that terrorist in the eye and to tell him what impact he has had on their lives.”  - Megan Woods

The National Party's finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith speaks during the general debate

The National Party's finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

The National Party Finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith was on the attack over the health and economic responses to Covid. 

“Look, nobody has complete control over a virus, of course, and of course there's always the risk of the virus getting in, but the critical thing is for a government to do everything it can to reduce the risk of that happening and to be swift in their response. All New Zealanders were shocked to learn that the testing wasn't being done at the border facilities, and that gave us a greater risk of the virus getting back and getting out into the community. We've seen, time and time again, the gap between the rhetoric and the reality. We've seen the Minister standing up saying that "We are the single source of truth." at conferences, and that has not been borne out, as we've seen with all sorts of muddles around testing all over Auckland over the weekend.” - Paul Goldsmith

Labour MP Willie Jackson addresses the National Party during the general debate

Labour MP Willie Jackson addresses the National Party during the general debate Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Labour’s Willie Jackson was in full election mode.

“This is where the apology should go to. It should go to the people of South Auckland and west Auckland and this country, who have had to recover over the last three years, and they've only recovered because of the work of this government and the record investment that we're putting in in all those key areas - in all those key areas. Māoridom: under-resourced, underfunded. Pasifika: underfunded, under-resourced. Why? Because of a useless, rotten National government that was there for nine years - nine years too long. Keep staying with us, and we'll do the business next time too.” - Willie Jackson

 So was Todd McClay

“I feel for the travel agents, who have been crying for support and attention, and all they get from the Minister of Tourism is that, actually, they are the ones responsible and they're not being reasonable. Well, I'll tell you what's reasonable: they want to keep working, they want to keep people in jobs, and they want to get those refunds, and, so far, absolutely nothing from this government. When they announce it, I say it to every travel agent in this country: whatever the government does, it won't be enough; it'll just get you by to get the money back, and then you'll end up closing up, because they haven't got a plan and, quite frankly, they don't care.” - Todd McClay

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito Sua William Sio

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito Sua William Sio Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Labour’s Aupito Sua William Sio also spoke about… Covid. Everyone did, at least in part. 

“There are no perfect answers in this because we're dealing with a virus, a virus that has claimed 848,255 lives globally. Over 25 million globally have been infected. If you look at the stats in America, in Canada, in the UK, in India, and across the Ditch to Melbourne, we are very fortunate that our going hard, going fast, and going early, and eliminating the virus, with all of us playing our part, has been important. Otherwise, we could be facing much, much worse.” - Aupito Sua William Sio

National Party MP Nicola Willis in the General Debate

 Nicola Willis in the previous week's General Debate Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Nicola Willis focused on the decision to help fund a new Green School in Taranaki.

“These questions are the questions that New Zealanders are asking up and down the country, because Kiwis are smart. They know that right now, it's appropriate for the government to be investing in infrastructure projects that will create intergenerational assets and that will create jobs. But Kiwis are smart enough also to know that governments have choices about which projects they invest in.” - Nicola Willis

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri spoke about Māori responses and leadership.

“But this is a government that I come back to that puts our people first. I am proud to be part of that and part of the Jacinda-led government that is making decisions to ensure that our people are kept safe, and that we can acknowledge. I want to acknowledge our Māori caucus Ministers, particularly Peeni Henare, our Associate Minister of Health, who supports all our ministerial colleagues doing an absolute stellar job in informing and communicating on a regular basis to all people throughout Aotearoa. Ultimately, as members of the 5 million team, we will beat this pandemic if we come together and ensure that people are put first, as we have seen by our leader, the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern.” - Meka Whaitiri

National MP Barbara Kuriger in the House.

National MP Barbara Kuriger in the House. Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Chasing up the pack for the National Party was, very appropriately their senior whip Barbara Kuriger, who wanted to bring some of their talking points together.

“I just want to pick up on a couple of things this afternoon. One of the previous speakers on the government side of the House talked about bickering. Now, if questioning is bickering, then we have a problem, because sometimes more questions should be asked, because that's how we help ourselves to not make mistakes. So if questions are considered bickering, then we have a real problem with the government of the day. I have got a longstanding statement that was told to me many, many years ago, which says "Feedback is the breakfast of champions", and if questions are going to be considered bickering and feedback is not going to be accepted, then the current government is never going to be a team of champions.” - Barbara Kuriger

Chris Hipkins in the House

Chris Hipkins in the House Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

And for the government, the final speaker of the parliament was Chris Hipkins, the Leader of the House. No one could doubt there is an election very soon.

“If the best thing the National Party supporters can do is come up with photos of the Prime Minister superimposed into PornHub images and think that that's an acceptable thing to be spread on social media, then that explains everything about the predicament that they find themselves in. And when the Leader of the Opposition is asked about that, rather than laughing that off, she should condemn it in the strongest possible terms, because if that's the lack of leadership that she's willing to show New Zealanders when it comes to the most vile, nasty stuff I have seen in my time in this House, then she has no place in claiming to be someone who should be aspiring to be the leader of this country.” - Chris Hipkins

Parliament will return after the election. A precise date is not set, though based on a dissolution this Sunday it must return by Christmas Eve. It is more likely to be in November.