Powerful, powerful speech. The highlights:
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) :
I was elected to this Parliament in 1999, and my life changed. I knew that it would. Unlike most members of the public, I had a pretty good idea of what being an MP was like. It was one of the reasons I hesitated to stand. I say “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.” It is an intense, 24/7 job. We digest enormous amounts of information, which is sometimes boring, and then we have to make decisions—decisions that affect real people. It means being constantly available to the media, to the public, and to the party. It means scrutiny of every detail of our lives—particularly for a dreadlocked Rastafarian. I stood, I guess, to demonstrate that we do not have to be of this world to be effective in it. Be true to oneself, whoever one may be, and take one’s seat as an equal, whether it is here in the House of Representatives or in the dust of the streets. So when a kid grabbed my arm on the dance floor and asked: “Hey, bro, what’s up in Parliament?”, I considered that to be an honour, because my purpose here has been to represent those who have had no voice here—those held in contempt by too many of us.
I came to Parliament thinking that the members were all a bunch of bastards, and I was wrong. There are many good people here. The very notion that all politicians are dishonest is misconceived, because if we think that politicians are all venal, then we expect nothing from them but venality. We should raise our expectations. We should expect more from question time than a bun fight. I have avoided question time for years if I have not had to be here to ask a supplementary question, because question time is the time when I am most ashamed of being a member of Parliament—question time and general debate—and members all know what I am talking about. We should grow up. This is our national legislature. We should treat it and the positions we hold here with more respect.
But I do not blame just the MPs. The buzzards who sit watching us from up in the press gallery, waiting for the next political corpse to pick over, are also to blame, because they will always report a fight, which is why the pugnacious Mr Peters always gets a headline. But if we stand to talk about anything real, most of them flap their wings and fly away—most of them. I thank the journalists who are here today for being here, too. Maybe corporate media ownership is to blame for the lack of analysis prevalent in the New Zealand media, or maybe it is just contempt for the audience.
Some people say that Guy Fawkes was the only politician to enter Parliament with honest intentions. I do not think that is true. Many, perhaps most, MPs enter with honest intentions, but we are compromised by this institution. How many times have Green MPs spoken in this House and had other MPs sidle over and tell us quietly: “We agree with you.”, but have then seen them silenced by their hopes for advancement, for promotion, or sometimes just to stay where they are? My mum used to say that we have to get into the system to change it, and it is true that we need good people working within it, but the danger is that the system changes us as much as we change the system, if not more. And that is why I am leaving after 9 years. For those members of the public who judge the behaviour of others by their own standards, I want people to know there are no perks coming to me. After 9 years it is time to cleanse my soul.
To all members of this House, from the most senior to the newest entrants, I pray for them that they remember the light that shines from within them so that they can light a path for themselves and for others. The problem is not how many people enter this place with honest intentions, but how many people leave with them intact. It is easy to slip. We become bloated by self-importance. People open doors for us, they clean our offices at night, they provide us with advice and support, and they wait on our decisions. I say many thanks to all the people who do that—the friendly security, the select committee staff, advisers, and cleaners. And my thanks go to the fantastic Green Party staff up there in the public gallery who are so critical to the work we do as MPs. You guys rock!
One of the first things I did on entering Parliament was buy a watch. Since then I have been shackled to the system. I have been cuffed to the prison bars of time, or at least to the prison that we make of time. This arbitrary Roman calendar disconnects us from the natural rhythms of life and of the planet. So today I remove that shackle, because when I look at the state of our rivers, our atmosphere, and our people I do not need a watch to tell me what time it is.
[Watch smashed with a panel-beating hammer.]