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A Great Maiden Speech

Via Kiwiblog 

My dad is Ngāi Tahu, a freezing worker most of his life, a little Māori kid who was kicked out of school at 14 and who never told his parents, hiding in bedroom closets and spending afternoons down the river until he was old enough to convince his folks to let him go to work at 15. Until yesterday, he had never stepped foot in the North Island. His father, my grandfather, was a truck driver and a freezing worker, and my nana was a seamstress and a wool carder in Ashburton. 

Dad’s a hard worker. He’s a bloody hard worker. You can’t stand on your feet for hours on end on the chain and in the boning room for 40 years without knowing what hard work looks like.

Once upon a time the only MPs from a working class background were in Labour, but today it is very different.

My mum and dad split up when I was in kindergarten, so Mum brought me, my younger brother, and sister up on her own—a single mum in a State house on the benefit with three kids. So I know what it’s like to be poor. I know what it’s like to grow up sharing a bedroom with my brother until I was 18. I know what it’s like to have to walk everywhere because we didn’t have a car until I was nine. I know what it’s like to see a father struggle to pay his bills and borrow money from his kid’s school savings account. I know what it’s like to see a solo mother juggle three kids, part-time work, correspondence school, and all the other worries that a single parent living in South Timaru has.

I know what it’s like to have your very first memory be of the police trying to coax you to come out from under the bed, telling you that everything would be OK. But make no mistake, we had a great life. We never went without. My mum has steel in her bones and grit in her soul. My recollection is that, yes, we were poor, but we were never in poverty. My mum always made sure there was food on the table, clothes on our backs, and books in our school bags. Mum made sure schooling was everything. We always went to school every single day.

The power of good parenting.

Perhaps to some I am a walking contradiction—you know, a part-Māori boy, raised in a State house by a single parent on the benefit, now a proud National Party MP in a deeply rural farming electorate in the middle of the South Island—but there is no contradiction there. Members opposite do not own Māori. Members opposite do not own the poor. Members opposite do not own the workers. No party and no ideology has a right to claim ownership over anything or anyone.

So important. Te Pati Maori think they speak for all Maori, when in fact they got just 3% of the overall vote, which would be less than 25% of the Maori population. The current Cabinet has more Maori MPs in it that I think any other Cabinet.

What unites us is our fundamental belief that it’s the individual family unit that knows what’s best for their family—not the State, not the Government, and not us. It’s not the State that saved my family; it was my mum. She took responsibility for our situation. When we fall on hard times, as we all will at some stage, it’s our neighbours and our community that should rally around in support. Only after that does the State become our safety net, as the neighbour of last resort.

So well stated.

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