Denise Roche – maiden speech

Speech – New Zealand Labour Party

We come to this house – all of us – as the individual expression of collective aspiration, collective experience and collective effort.Denise Roche
He honore he kororia ki te atua; he maungarongo ki te whenua, he whakaro pai ki nga tangata katoa

Tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa,

Ko Wharepuhunga toko maunga
Ko Waikato toko awa
Ko Tainui toko waka
Ko Ngati Raukawa toko iwi
Ko Ngati Huri toko hapu
Ko Pikitu toko marae
Ko Rauti Simmonds toko tupuna kuia
Ko Bob Roche taku matua; Ko Anne Roche taku whaea
Ko Jim Roche me Andrew Roche me Ennis McLeod me Bernie Taylor me Bridget McBeth me Judy O’Connor raua ko Gloria Roche taku tuakana
Ko Robby Roche taku tungane
Ko John Stansfield taku hoa rangitira
Ko Joseph raua ko Matariki oku tamariki

No te ātaahua motu o Waiheke ahau.

Nga mihi nui kia koe Mr Speaker, ki nga rangitira o te whenua o te whare tēnei tēnā koutou katoa.

We come to this house – all of us – as the individual expression of collective aspiration, collective experience and collective effort.

It’s been said before – that no one stands on the paepae by themselves. You can’t be a leader if there is no-one with you; you cannot stand at the front if there is no one behind you. And importantly, you are only a leader because others have supported you.

As I take my place in this house – I first thank all the fabulous Green party supporters and voters who have trusted me with their vision of a Richer New Zealand. A country where rivers are clean, children are safe, healthy and educated and where a thriving green economy ensures our children can build satisfying careers in the same country as their families.

In particular I thank the Auckland Greens. I especially want to acknowledge Katy Watabe, Ron Miller, Rod Galanti, Gwen Shaw, Neil Miller – and Nora West, Tim McMains and so many others for their incredible support, encouragement and sheer hard work.

I am not the first woman of Maori descent to come to this house from the glorious motu of Waiheke. My mentor and inspiration – and my friend – former Minister of Local Government, the honorable Sandra Lee, blazed that path for me.

I am not the first woman from our organic island farm to walk these halls, my friend and fellow olive picker and grape stomper, the honorable Laila Harre former Minister of Women’s Affairs, holds that baton.

And I am not the first organic grower from our farm to represent the great green family in this house. My colleague, Greens Co-leader Russel Norman, beat me to that post.

But I am the first descendant of Rauti Simmonds, the first daughter of Ngati Huri to enter this house as a member (I acknowledge Ockie Simmonds from our hapu there in the gallery). And I am the first in that huge family of Roche’s, – blessed as it was by the combination of natural Maori fertility and Catholic contraception – to enter this house.

I am the eighth child and the youngest daughter in a family of nine children. My mother was one of three – but from a large extended family – and part of the clan McLeod of Waipu. I still have a horror of bagpipes being played indoors. My father was one of 16 children and I am one of about 84 first cousins on that side.

I am sad that my parents Anne and Bob Roche have both passed away and do not get to see their youngest daughter take a place in this house. I am however grateful to the support that I have received from my family and I acknowledge my whanau up there in the gallery who have travelled from far and wide to witness this day.

It was my large family that prepared me for a political career. I learned early that numbers count – and the importance of organising the numbers in the house to offset the power at the top. And I certainly learned skills in arguing – I got a lot of practice – and I particularly thank my brother-in-law Pat Taylor for honing those skills over many, many years.

I grew up with my family in a railway house in the Frankton Railway Settlement. My mum worked for the post office and my dad was on the railways. Good secure government jobs, which no longer exist today. Just this week the Prime Minister has announced more job losses to come in the state sector.

I am not of the 1% who are so grossly overrepresented in every part of NZ political life.

I was one of those kids who left high school with no qualification. But I returned as an adult student some years later – I studied by day and, – among other jobs, – sang telegrams at night to support myself. I was blessed to be challenged and supported by one of NZ’s greatest educators while at Auckland Girls Grammar. Thank you Charmaine Pountney – I am here to pay it back.

Emboldened by education and enraged by the injustice that delivered, by an accident of birth, to one class the jewels and another the crumbs, I set out on a journey that began as a union organiser – initially with the theatrical workers union, hitching rides on trains in the guards van with my dad’s union mates and fighting for the rights of cinema workers around the northern part of New Zealand.

I have protested and picketed with the best. I can attest that love and politics can mix: My first date with my life partner was at a union picket at the Devonport Docks.

I have scrapped my way through disputes, represented workers in courts and tribunals and had a solid education in the misery that is greed, the blight that grew inequality across our land.

I moved to the hotbed of activism known as Orapiu Grove Farm – on Waiheke Island – to be with my partner when my kids were small. I am grateful to that island – it’s where I learnt to walk the talk as a Green.

Waiheke is a great place to raise your kids and an even better place to learn the craft of political representation. It is a place where opinions are strongly held and freely given too – at all hours of the day – on the ferry, at the supermarket, at the library.

I started my political career in 2007 by defeating a sitting Auckland City Councillor by 11 votes – and for three years I got called ‘Landslide “Roche.”

That election catapulted me into the final term of the Auckland City Council and the debates on the future Governance of Auckland.

We do political debates a bit differently where I come from. We do them like they matter – and as if political decisions were the preserve of those affected by them. For this reason in Auckland Council, Waiheke and Great Barrier Island have a rate of voter engagement that is the envy of much of the country. There is something in this that this House needs to learn from – “How to make politics meaningful and relevant to our citizens?” And, I am sorry to say, it is something this house has been failing at.

The 2011 election marked an historic low in political engagement, the lowest rate of voter turnout since 1877, which was before women got the vote.

The biggest threat to democracy in this country, is not the Taliban, is not the Exclusive Brethren and their abortive campaign to wipe out the Green party – its disengaged citizens. You will note I do not call this voter apathy, because as a Green Member of Parliament, I don’t believe in blaming the victim.

If our time in this House is to serve the interests of democracy, then we need to urgently address and arrest this decline in voter participation.

When the Royal Commission on the Governance of Auckland began the process which took the local out of Local Government in Auckland, nearly a quarter of all the submissions it received were from the .8% (point eight percent) of the region who live in the Hauraki Gulf Islands. The Commission had no option but to hold hearings on both Waiheke and Great Barrier Island and lively well attended hearings they were too.

Both our communities kept their own local board. Many others in that forced amalgamation didn’t.

The Gulf Islands is a little place – but you seriously don’t want to mess with us.

I’m proud to be Ngati Waiheke – and I acknowledge those from the motu who have travelled here today. And I’m proud to be part of the Community and Voluntary sector too.

Community organisations are the crucible of democracy; the place where citizens come together to share their dreams and plan our common futures. They are an essential glue of society which shape our norms and values, without which we would all be the poorer.

I am carried into this House on the shoulders of activists and organisations who fought for my right to be here. I think particularly of that historic and venerable institution, the National Council of Women. It was founded in 1896 and the inaugural president was suffragist Kate Sheppard. It is an organisation to whose tireless advocacy I – and every other woman in this house – owe our place.

We have not honoured this contribution. In 2004, this House passed inept legislation based on an ancient definition of “charitable purpose” which denies the legitimate advocacy role of NGOs and which has resulted in organisations like the NCW – and others like Greenpeace – being denied registration as charities. They cannot be registered because the Charities Commission has an allergy to advocacy.

Australian legislators have realised their error and amended their legislation. I look forward to being part of a NZ parliament that moves similarly.

As I enter this House I look forward to being able to work across parties for the benefit of all our communities, like the bill that will be coming up soon to restrict harm from gambling.

I can assure the House that even though I am the Greens gambling spokesperson I am not an anti-gambling zealot and will prove this by selling you a raffle ticket during the dinner break.

I am, however, deeply concerned about the harm caused by commercialised gambling and especially by the blight on our communities caused by pokie machines.

Kiwis know that these machines reap their profits from problem gamblers. Kiwis know that they can harm whole communities, which is why whenever they’ve been asked if they want more pokies they say ‘No’. The former Manukau City Council received over 6,000 submissions asking it to restrict pokies.

Active engaged citizens are saying no to pokies and will be dismayed by the Banana Republic back room deal being done by the government, where our laws are for sale; – where the Auckland casino – a monopoly provider – is to be expanded in return for a convention centre, or was that 30 pieces of silver?

Commercial gambling is deeply regressive and cynically exploitative. It is a transfer of wealth from the brown to the white, from the women to the men, from the poor to the rich. And casinos are an engine of crime and inequality.

As Simon Collins so cogently argued in last week’s NZ Herald features, we have become a land of inequality.

The deregulation of the labour market since 1991 has not brought the wealth and security to working people that was promised in this House.

We are not a better country for having dismantled generations of knowledge and experience in distributing fairly the profits of work and enterprise.

We used to be a nation which prided itself on giving everyone a fair go. But the human value of fairness and equality has been subverted by greed. It’s been subverted by a bankrupt financial ideology which has robbed the poor on behalf of the rich.

The one mechanism available to working people to garner a fair share for their work, organised labour, has been systematically demonised, vilified and stripped of rights which took generations of active citizens to build (and I acknowledge the Ports of Auckland workers dispute to oppose the casualisation of a workforce).

If we want working people to invest their lives in our future as a nation we need to assure them of decent wages, safe working conditions and economic security for their families or we are forever condemned to waving goodbye to our kids as they flee to societies that will respect them.

I am proud to join the largest team of Green MPs this country has ever seen. And I acknowledge my fellow maidens, and the 7 members who have had longer terms in this house.

This last election saw a greater awareness that the Green vision is a sound vision. People are waking up to the fact that promises delivered for a three year election cycle will not necessarily deliver the best outcomes in the longer term. My children – all our kids – are already destined to inherit an environment much more degraded than the country I grew up in. We have a duty to them – and their children – to address climate change, and to clean up the mess we’ve been creating.

And finally, it is an absolute privilege to join a team of Greens who are determined to keep our principled approach to politics. And I pay tribute to our Green party MPs who left last term – Keith Locke, Sue Kedgley – and prior to that Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford – who together with all our MPs have demonstrated that principled approach to this House over the years.

I hope to do as well.

No reira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa.
ENDS

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