Thursday, September 25, 2008

Punk Rock Fan Leaves Parliament Her Way

I might annoy some friends if I gush too much about Katherine Rich's valedictory speech. But here goes.

Rich has been a champion for causes dear to the hearts of social liberals, like civil unions and the repeal of Section 59. She is right to place her politics in a liberal tradition in the National party that includes Marilyn Waring among many others and has been responsible for much social reform in this country.

One of my most satisfying political memories is playing a part in the Section 59 debate, although it was not an easy time.

Some said parenting would become illegal, CYF would steal our children and that good parents would end up in jail.

It hasn't happened. I believe the Bradford law will become another chapter in our gradual move to social enlightenment, alongside other seminal pieces of legislation which brought women's suffrage, homosexual law reform, and the recognition of civil unions.

Initially, I supported Sue's bill because I wanted to close the legal loophole that allowed some parents to batter their children and escape conviction.

By the end of the debate I supported the message that hitting children for any reason was not OK - a turning point was listening to another MP talking of the "loving smack" and merits of using an instrument to beat children.

Secondly she seems to take at least one sideways swipe at her caucus. Her assessment of the state of New Zealand's democracy is clear-eyed but hopeful, I wholeheartedly agree with this

I leave positive about New Zealand, and our parliamentary process.

We live in a robust democracy and one of the least corrupt societies in the world.

We should remember that when the daily small scandals threaten to distract us.

Rich's worst year is also one of her finest moments, and she eloquently put on record her views on forcing those on the DPB back to work for a pittance

Every MP has their annus horribilis and mine would have to be 2005.

Members might recall a slight difference of opinion over a welfare speech.

Demotion clearly wasn't a career highlight, but it was preferable than trying explain why I, a well-paid mother with all the supports in the world, intended telling a DPB mum to leave her baby in child care to net less than half the minimum wage.

There is also this plea to New Zealand's next Prime Minister

I know that under your leadership National will not forget those less fortunate.

It's a great pity that Rich will not be at the Cabinet table to argue their case.

Finally I was struck by the slightly incongruous fact that Rich is a huge Flying Nun fan. I am now officially in love. It's hard to tell on YouTube but I couldn't help thinking that many in the House didn't seem to have heard of Flying Nun. More reason for Rich's plea for the funding of New Zealand music.

They had heard of Sid Vicious though so she got a laugh at the end

Mr Speaker, looking back on many valedictories delivered in this Chamber, I find a popular choice for retiring MPs is to quote Frank Sinatra's My Way.

Well, I can't abide crooning.

I've always preferred the Sid Vicious version.

There is a very nice post on Rich from the other side of politics at Homepaddock. Tony has a brief appreciation here.
The ODT has most of the text of the speech here.

Kiwiblog notes that the liberal wing of the National party is being much depleted at the end of this term. I really hope DPF is right that new admissions to parliament will right this balance.

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