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July 14, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]


A maiden speech is much more than the first speech a Member of Parliament delivers to the House of Representatives. It is a mission statement, an introduction and a generally a tribute to the people from their electorate and to past Members who have held the seat they now sit in.

In New Zealand the conventions around maiden speeches have evolved over the years, and now MPs are allocated 15 minutes to speak. The 15 minutes are dedicated to whatever the MP chooses. Back in the days of Michael Joseph Savage the maiden speech was worked in as part of the general debate, with MPs acknowledging it as their first speech in the House and mentioning a bit about themselves. Savage’s ‘maiden speech’ went for about an hour!

It is one of the only times in parliament that an MP won’t have to deal with interjections, comments and heckling from across the floor. So you can see there is a certain gravitas that is attached to the occasion.

Maiden speeches are an important tradition in the House and one that you should try to see when the opportunity arises after the election. They are generally non-partisan and humanise the member who is speaking.

“I started a different journey, one which led me first into left wing politics. I am not ashamed to have a history in the socialist movement. I am not ashamed to think that everyone deserves a fair go and a fair share of what this life has to offer; to believe that this world is too divided. But nor do I shy away from my reasons for embracing green politics, for moving on. The two great failings of socialism, as I knew it, were lack of democracy, and a failure to grasp the reality that the life support system of the planet itself is endangered.”

Russel Norman – 01 July 2008

“I am proud to be a New Zealander. I am proud to be a member of this House. And to those who ask why I am here, I say it is because I want to rekindle the sense of adventure and pioneering spirit of our forebears, those courageous men and women who came to this new place carrying little more than their hopes and determination to build a better life. I have as a goal my ambition to build on their efforts and those of others who have preceded me, so that I may play my part in creating something even greater for those who have yet to arrive.”

John Key – 29 August 2002

“It is my hope while in this House to promote constructive solutions based on equity and social justice for the great problems that challenge us today. In so doing, I share my perspective as a woman, as a member of a farming family, as one who was fortunate to have educational opportunities, and as one now privileged to represent one of the finest electorates in New Zealand for the Labour Party. My greatest wish is that at the end of my time in this House I shall have contributed towards making New Zealand a better place than it is today for its people to live in.”

Helen Clark – 27 April 1982

“This is a country I am proud and deeply grateful to have been born in. I have had the experience of seeing other countries and their social systems. I came back to New Zealand because there was the call home, the possibility in this well endowed land of getting away to a place of isolation, of being with my family and those who had a part in my upbringing. All those things impinge upon me. Popping up in this place as I do, I have been squeezed out by what in ecclesiastical terms could be that great cloud of witnesses who have a part in my making and moulding. Where I was brought up we had no doubts. We knew without a doubt that we would have a home. We knew we could achieve what we set out to do. The sons of the railway guard that I went to school with became Ph.D.s in Cambridge. We were protected, we were preserved, we were given the confidence and the assurance that our community was with us. I invite members to reflect on the quarter century that has passed since then, to see whether this House has led the country to a new plateau of security and achievement or whether, somewhere on that slippery slope, we might be putting the millstones around the necks of the children in our society.”

David Lange – 26 May 1977

“What kind of a country is this which perpetuates an archaic, 84-yearold enactment which hampers the introduction of our children to the Christian religion at the time when they are best capable of absorbing it? If we deny our young minds the good, how can we complain if they turn to evil? What kind of a sterile education system is it that shuts out the greatest power for good that this world will ever know?”

Robert Muldoon – 27 June 1961

“If there is one thing more than another that the ranks of organized labour throughout the world is united upon it is this principle in regard to nationality: that no man or woman should be penalized or discriminated against because of the country in which he or she happened to be born, for something over which that particular individual had no control or discretionary powers. The human race was one family – biologically one. The greatest existing differences were due to different stages in evolution, produced mainly be varying environment. In spite of the very doubtful biological facts advanced by member for Wellington East, in spite of the alleged differences in physiology and nature that he would lay down as existing, we believe and we think that science will bear us out, that there is no very great or fundamental difference in the races of mankind.”

Peter Fraser – 8 November 1918


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