Thank you, Mr Speaker. As this is my first time speaking in this House, let me congratulate you today for your election as the Speaker of the House and your team, the Deputy Speaker, and two assistant Speakers. Thank you for your service in presiding over this House of Representatives and this debating chamber.
While I am thanking Parliamentary figures, I would also like to acknowledge Her Excellency the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy for her role in opening Parliament last week.
I am also grateful for the service of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of New Zealand, and for the service she has given to New Zealand over the past 66 years. We have the finest constitutional framework anywhere in the world. It has served our country well, and I am sure will continue to do so far into the future.
With that in mind, I am particularly humbled to find myself in this room and incredibly honoured to be standing here representing the electorate of Pakuranga.
I would like to acknowledge and thank the people of Pakuranga for the faith that they have placed in me as their Member of Parliament and representative in this House.
I am conscious that it is my responsibility to represent the views and values of my constituents and I am eager to do that because I share their values.
The values of Pakuranga are the principles that have made New Zealand great – a commitment to hard work, fair reward, personal responsibility, equal opportunity, and common sense. These time-honoured values are cherished by kiwis across the country and are instilled in children by their mums and dads every day.
Mr Speaker, I am the second of five children born to Ivan and Sarah Brown, who are in the gallery today. I was born in Rotorua but my family moved to Auckland when I was 12 and I have lived there ever since. I was not brought up in a wealthy family.
We were comfortable, but there were challenging times. My parents were able to provide me and my siblings with what we needed, but I know it wasn’t always easy… However, when I look back, I see the truly important things they provided in great abundance.
I was raised by two loving parents, I was taught discipline, the importance of working hard to get ahead, and taking responsibility for my actions. Their love and commitment to each other has been their greatest strength and has been the best example that I could ask for.
I married my wife Rebecca at the beginning of 2016. I want to thank her for all of the love and support that she has given me on my journey to this place. She is my rock and I could not have come this far without her unconditional love, encouragement, and wisdom.
Rebecca is from Sydney and is the daughter of Lebanese parents whose families moved to Australia to find a better life for their families. Rebecca then met me and moved to New Zealand for what I hope she would agree is an even better one! Thank you for your love Rebecca.
A few years ago I graduated from the University of Auckland, where I studied law and commerce. I went on to work as a commercial banker with the Bank of New Zealand, working with a range of small to medium-sized businesses in Auckland.
This experience has given me an insight into the engine room of New Zealand’s economy and the fact that our country is built on the backs of men and women who take risks, who mortgage their homes and go out to try and achieve their dreams.
A Government is at its best when it backs its citizens and trusts them to pursue their dreams. Too many governments in the past have obstructed those who want to get ahead. I believe Kiwis can fly if they’re not tied up in red tape.
I have been involved in politics for a good part of my life now. My first experience in this field was attending my local residents’ association, the “Clendon Residents Group” and being elected the Secretary at my first meeting, as there was a need for some ‘fresh young blood’.
From there, I chaired the inaugural Manurewa Youth Council, was elected to the Manurewa Local Board in 2013 and served as the Deputy Chair. I was thrilled to help progress a number of key projects and initiatives along the way.
One issue which I was particularly proud to have been involved with during this time was the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act. That Act effectively banned the sale and supply of these dangerous products.
I am grateful that this Parliament passed that legislation, and I was proud to have played a part in getting policy put through Auckland Council and then through this House. There is more to do on this important issue, and the issue of protecting our young people from the harm of these products and other harmful drugs will always be one that I care deeply about.
I would like to acknowledge Angela Dalton, Cr Daniel Newman and the Hon George Hawkins who I worked alongside during my time in local government. Thank you for the opportunities you provided me and the advice you gave. You taught me that actions speak louder than words, a maxim I will always honour.
Being elected as the MP for Pakuranga has been the biggest honour of my career, but winning could not have been done without the help of an excellent team of supporters and electorate team.
I am pleased to have so many good people to work alongside, and I look forward to continuing that work into the future.
My electorate chairman Peter Martin epitomises Kiwi commitment. My electorate and campaign teams include John Slater, Simon Williamson, Hadyn Padfield, Jenny Gibson, Chloe Masters, Katrina Bungard, Sarah Fenwick, Rahul Sirigiri, Nathan Wilson, Daniel Church, Carla Mikkleson, Te Haua Taua, Cedric Jordan, Michael Baker, Gaylene and Evan Whetton, Bill and Maggie Burrill, Erin Dillimore-Muir, Lynn Kidd and Josh Beddell. Their support has been fantastic and their advice has been flawless.
I am proud to be their Member of Parliament, and I want them to know that I know that I would not be here without their help and support.
My appreciation also goes to National Party Board Members Peter Goodfellow, Andrew Hunt and Alistair Bell for their support.
Mr Speaker, it would take me 10 hours to properly thank all those who have helped me on my campaign and I don’t believe the house will grant me the opportunity to do that.
Instead, I will ask the forgiveness of those I can’t mention by name and hope they know how much their support has been appreciated.
They should all be proud of the excellent result they achieved at the last election, increasing National’s Party vote significantly to the third highest in the country.
Of course, I cannot fail to mention my predecessor in Pakuranga. Maurice, if you’re watching this, thank you for all the work you did for the electorate and the nation. As you can see, we’ve built on your success. I think a pool party in Los Angeles is definitely in order.
As I stand here today making my maiden speech, I am conscious that we are standing inside a war memorial commemorating the brave men and women who have fought for the freedoms and the peace which we enjoy as a nation.
When I contemplate their sacrifice I realise that I am fortunate to be standing here, because of the heroic and selfless actions of the generations who have gone before me, a new generation, my generation, is free to shape its destiny.
The traditional values previous generations have fought to uphold are what have brought me here, and are what I will be fighting. We are fortunate that today we do not have to defend these values by force of arms like previous generations did.
But that does not mean that they are secure. Today, we fight to maintain the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded, preserving the right to speak and think according to our conscience, the protection of the vulnerable and disenfranchised in public debate.
Unfortunately, these principles were so well protected by previous generations that many today do not appreciate what life is like without them, and so do not value them as they should.
Freedom is not simply doing what we want to do, to satisfy our individual desires and needs. We are not ships in the night, but ‘He Iwi Tahi Tatou’, one people. We are all interconnected, all part of something larger than ourselves. We must use our freedoms to serve the common good for all in our society.
Moreover, the future security of our democracy and the health of our community are grounded in the past, out of which they grew. We must look back, in order to move forward.
G K Chesterton called tradition, ‘the democracy of the dead’, and this place, Parliament, with its traditions, is underpinned by the freedoms won for us by the ANZAC’s, the suffragettes, civil rights leaders, and those who throughout our history have fought for this country and its values - freedom informed by truth and all that is just - the willingness to do the right thing, no matter the cost, irrespective of fashion or contemporary whim.
As I look forward to my time in this place, I will also be looking back, conscious that I stand here on the shoulders of those who have come before me and seeking, by the grace of God, to help make our country an even better place for future generations.
Like so many others, Mr Speaker, it is that desire to make this country an even better place which has driven me to stand for Parliament and to serve in this House.
I am fortunate to have had many friends precede me into Parliament. I have known people like Judith Collins and Simon O’Connor for many years, and am glad to be taking a seat alongside them.
I am also delighted to see my good friend Christopher Penk beginning his career here and I look forward to learning the ins and outs of Parliament alongside him. (I’m also looking forward to hearing what kind and flattering things he has to say about me in his own maiden speech!)
I joined the National Party because I share its values and believe that those values are what creates a prosperous and a successful country, where all New Zealanders are valued and have the opportunity to succeed.
I am a conservative. I regret that some people have come to see that as an unacceptable title, but it is one I am proud to wear. I am conservative because I care about people.
I believe that Government is there to help make a difference in people’s lives, but not to run their lives. The role of Government is to help create the conditions where people are able to thrive from their own hard work and to succeed based on their own skills.
I believe that people succeed when the Government allows people to thrive and to make decisions for themselves. I also believe in good governance.
When Governments are forced to intervene in people’s lives, it must be for the right reasons, based on a desire to improve those lives, and that any intrusion must be as small as possible. Too often, decisions are hastily made, or laws are quickly passed with little thought about the unintended consequences they have.
Good laws are made through good process, through sound reasoning, and proper consultation. I hope we will see principled actions and well-reasoned policies from this Government, not merely politically expedient propaganda… but I’m not going to hold my breath!
I believe that the crucial role of Government is to protect its citizens and the nation. The protection of the citizens of the country is central to the role of Government. Maintaining law and order and national security are areas deserving of more investment and will be welcomed by the people of Pakuranga. We need more investment in tackling gangs and continuing to crack down on the supply of illegal drugs flowing into our country.
Mr Speaker, the Pakuranga electorate is full of entrepreneurs, business owners, and investors. The Government’s role in business must be to provide opportunities for businesses to grow and to succeed.
This means opening up new trade links, reducing red-tape and regulation, and investing in much-needed infrastructure projects. Two such projects close to my electorate’s heart are the East West Link and AMETI. I am tremendously disappointed to hear the new Government intends to put the brakes on this kind of growth and I will do everything I can to encourage them away from this myopic decision.
Traffic congestion is a huge issue in Pakuranga, for people who live there and businesses which operate in East Auckland. These transport projects must be progressed, and I will champion them, and others like them, during my time in this place.
One of the other values which I will be a staunch advocate for during my time here will be the importance of free speech. As members of Parliament, we are fortunate to work in an environment where freedom of speech is generally protected. But we must ensure that freedom of speech is not merely a Parliamentary privilege, but something people everywhere can enjoy. All New Zealander’s should freedom of expression as that underpins a strong democracy.
Of course, with every freedom comes responsibility, and at times limitations, however, these limitations should be rare and a matter of last resort. I am opposed to the idea that governments should stop people saying things that offend or annoy others. Governments should not be in the business of protecting people’s feelings and affirming every person’s sense of self.
A safe society is one where we debate ideas, rather than suppress them. A tolerant society welcomes all ideas and debates them on their merits, rather than determining what ideas are allowed and which aren’t.
We who work in this chamber must always remember that the government wields tremendous power. Too often, private individuals are trampled by governments rather than protected by them.
This applies to freedom of speech of course, but in other ways as well. It is often the case in society that the weak can be neglected in favour of the strong, and those who shout the loudest get the most attention from the Government.
I believe that it is the role of this Parliament to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure that their rights are safeguarded. It is to our shame that New Zealand has a rising epidemic of elder abuse in our country. We must watch this, and other disturbing trends.
I worry that our society is becoming harsher, less caring, and less compassionate. It is not sufficient to merely spread these words throughout society. They must be backed up with actions. I believe that many of society’s problems are rooted in poverty. However, unlike some, I am not solely focused on material poverty.
There is a growing poverty of compassion, a poverty of respect, and a poverty of understanding between communities and generations.
This must be stopped and I will do everything I can to help. This is a far better way to build a kinder society than the redistribution of wealth because making New Zealand more caring, tolerant, and compassionate, will enrich us all.
Mr Speaker, I conclude by once again thanking my loving family, my incredible wife and my many supporters in Pakuranga. I look forward to my time in this House.