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James Shaw's adjournment speech on behalf of the Green Party

James Shaw MP
James Shaw MP
james [dot] shaw [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
Contact: James Shaw MP
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It is a great honour for me to speak on behalf of the Green Party in this adjournment debate. I thank my colleagues for the privilege. I became a MP only 12 weeks ago, a period of time that seems both very fleeting and very long. I would like to talk about some of the things I have learnt about Parliament and politics during those weeks.

The first thing that I have learnt is that although many of the things that we have provenance over are deeply mundane, such as Parts 1 through to 4 of the accounting infrastructure legislation, some are indeed matters of great national and international import. One such legislation is the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill , which was passed in this House yesterday after several minutes of careful consideration and thoughtful debate! This bill is designed to stop New Zealanders from going to fight for the Islamic State, which is fighting the Iraqi Government, which we support. And we will shortly be sending the military over to help Iraq fight the Islamic State, which definitely will not have any New Zealanders fighting with them because we said so—yesterday. We also support Saudi Arabia, which also supports the Islamic State, which is fighting the Government of Iraq, which we also support. The Middle East is a very supportive environment right now. Our military will feel well-supported when they get over there. I will tell this House whom we do not support, and that is President al-Assad in Syria. We do support some of the freedom fighters who are fighting against President al-Assad, who are primarily led by the Islamic State, but we do not support the Islamic State. We also do not support Iran, which also does not support the Islamic State, and which does support the Government of Iraq, which we do support. This mess was largely created by a coalition of the willing, which we were unwilling to support. It invaded Iraq for two reasons: to look for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist and to drive out terrorists who were not there until the coalition went in to drive them out. Into this hornet's nest, the Beehive proposes to send a contingent of the New Zealand Defence Force , perhaps under the Anzac banner, which may be appropriate because, as far as military adventures go, this one looks like a real winner. It may be just as well that we are passing legislation that is designed to keep us safe from ourselves.

I have also learnt that journalists do actually ask questions like: "Have you ever smoked cannabis?". My answer to that was "No. Absolutely not. Never." Of course, I was answering generally rather than specifically, but it is true; I have never inhaled in my capacity as a list MP. My office may have taken drugs in the past—I do not know; I am not accountable for it—but, at the end of the day, what I can say is that I am extremely relaxed.

The people here have been very friendly. To the people at Parliamentary Service , who put on an excellent induction programme and who set up our offices, our IT , our finances, our travel, and our accommodation; the staff at the restaurants who feed us when we are in a hurry; the ushers who look after us in the House; and the cleaners who tidy up after us at the end of a long day—on behalf of all of us who entered Parliament for the first time this September, and on behalf of my Green colleagues, thank you.

The National Party MPs have been especially warm. Almost every time they mention me in the media they talk about me as a leadership contender for the Green Party. It is very gracious of them to do that without any trace of malice or ulterior motive, especially since Metiria and Russel have led the Green Party and doubled the size since 2008 and I can barely make it into this House with a tie on. I would particularly like to thank the Hon Chris Finlayson for his praise, and I return the favour by asking the National Party to consider that member as its next leader, after the current one steps down early next year.

The Hon Chris Finlayson has great integrity, a respect for parliamentary process, precision, a sharp mind, and a clear memory—characteristics that we are looking for in a Prime Minister. Minister Finlayson has other qualities too that many people do not see: a great tolerance for chit-chat, humility, empathy, and a connection with real New Zealanders. He can speak to and for the Kiwi battlers of Huntly. As the Attorney-General himself might say: "Fecisti patriam diversis de gentibus unam."

The House is about to rise for the summer recess, which revolves around the tradition of Christmas. I imagine that after this speech, I for one will be begging for forgiveness, and it is on that theme I would like to conclude. I said in my maiden speech only 7 weeks ago that we must transcend and transform our petty politics and our partisanship. I said that to get unstuck we will all need to let go of some things and to be more committed to finding the answers than to being right or to others being wrong. The intervening weeks have not disillusioned me of that belief; they have reinforced it. To a new observer it may seem that we are stuck in a never-ending downward spiral of attack and defend that serves only to revolt the public at large and to turn them off participating in the political process or even bothering to vote. One of the four principles of the Green Party charter is that of non-violence. This is not simply an absence of physical violence; it is the method of social change given to us by Mahatma Gandhi , who preached ahimsa , the lack of desire to harm or to kill, and by Martin Luther King , who drew from the Christian tradition. It is through these principles and practices that we can transcend and transform the stuck situation we seem to find ourselves in. Let us take the summer recess to consider ways we might work together to fix this, to bring integrity and functionality to our political process, and to restore New Zealanders' faith in who we are and the work we do here.

As this most sordid of political years draws to a close and the House rises for the Christmas break, I offer this. In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is reported in the Gospel of Luke to have said "But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Merry Christmas and a happy New Year .

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