20 Oct 2022

Trevor Mallard makes final speech to Parliament

8:00 pm on 20 October 2022

Surrounded by the children of colleagues, former Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has bid farewell to Parliament with a final speech that roused laughter from colleagues but was unattended by many members of the opposition.

Mallard retires from Parliament as its current longest-serving MP, 38 years after he was first elected. In that time he has held 13 ministerial portfolios, been part of a dozen Parliaments and represented three electorates.

He has had a long and colourful political career, and been a polarising figure - particularly in recent times in his role as Speaker - the referee of the debating chamber - since 2017.

His valedictory speech touched on many memories of his time in Parliament, thanks to colleagues from both sides of the political divide, and a few words of praise and admonishment.

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Trevor Mallard Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

He said he had seen far too often in Parliament a reliance on "lazy high-school debating styles and reading boring research unit notes. Both are far too common in this chamber.

"There must be something in the water in the leader of the opposition's office.

"I will say I have warned the three previous leaders of the opposition who are in this room of this line. With the exception of John Key, everyone who has assumed that role in the last quarter of a century has seemingly lost the ability to listen in the House and respond with spontaneity and nimbleness."

The opposition has for some time expressed a lack of confidence in Mallard as Speaker, and the entire front bench of the National Party was absent today, along with ACT leader David Seymour.

However, as well as various scandals, Mallard's time in politics has included changes to make Parliament more welcoming to families: Parents, children, and dogs.

It was fitting then, that his final words in the House were delivered surrounded by MPs with their children - and by his own grandchildren.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emphasised his focus on family in remarks to media this morning.

"Privately he is an incredibly generous person, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in our caucus who hasn't at some point benefited from the work he's done to try and make Parliament a little more family friendly than when he arrived.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media in Auckland after meeting mayor Wayne Brown and Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Simon Bridges, 20 October 2022.

Ardern paid tribute to Mallard when speaking to reporters in Auckland today. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

"He's very focused on how we can particularly make Parliament a more child-friendly place and that's made a marked difference to the lives of those parents who are in Parliament and I know many who are very grateful for the influence he's had there."

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said he had worked with Mallard in many different roles over many years and would miss him.

"He is someone I have enormous respect for, who I am enormously frustrated by at times, who I will miss because I regard him as a very good friend, and someone who I'm incredibly grateful to because he has provided with me through my working life a number of incredible opportunities that I will always appreciate."

Shadow leader of the House Chris Bishop was less appreciative, and was among those not attending the speech. He said he felt no emotion about the prospect of Mallard's departure, but reflected on their shared history

"Competing against him in the Hutt South electorate in 2014 ... that's not actually the first time I met him, first time I met him was as a young buck 13-year-old in the 1996 Hutt South election race when he was standing for Hutt South for Labour and I was a 13-year-old cutting my teeth in politics and I remember going to a meet the candidates with him ... it was interesting."

Seymour said he did not have any good memories to share.

"This is a guy who had everything given to him by Parliament and behaved in ways that brought down the mana of this house, and it will take a long time to recover that mana. I think the current speaker's doing a good job."

Mallard has been replaced as Speaker by Adrian Rurawhe, and is set to take up a role as New Zealand's Ambassador to Ireland.

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