Zinger-power-ranking the valedictory speeches

If it’s your last speech in parliament, you might as well throw a little shade around, right? Sam Brooks reads the politicians’ farewell addresses so you don’t have to.

When the Spinoff politics editor asked if anybody would be keen to pull out some of the best lines from the recent lineup of parliamentary valedictory speeches, I thought, “Why not? I like speeches! I’ve seen every Best Actress acceptance speech! And these people are politicians, so they’re used to making speeches, so this will be even more compelling.”

I thought wrong.

So, so wrong.

After wading through what feels like thousands upon thousands of words of text (thanks Hansard Reports!), and watching one of the videos, I’ve plucked out the zingers, the jokes, the funny stories and most importantly the shade in the latest round of valedictory speeches from our MPs.

Warning: To put it kindly, none of these people will be doing Raw Comedy with their newfound free time, so I’ve lowered the bar for what is considered “funny” or “a joke”. If they said something that haappened to be mildly amusing or unintentionally funny, I have included it because otherwise this would just be a transcription of Catherine Delahunty’s speech, probably.

The following are ranked from least-zingers to most-zingers:

12. Barbara Stewart (NZ First)

I detected zero zingers in Barbara Stewart’s speech even with the very generous yardstick I’ve applied to these speeches and their relative yuks, but she does talk at surprising length about oral health and SuperGold cards, and seems altogether lovely.

11. Kennedy Graham (Greens)

“I shall always remember the spontaneous hug I received last Friday.”

You guys, Kennedy Graham might need more hugs. The left might not be in this position if somebody hugged the guy more.

“This is not the moment to explore the issues that arose, and both of us were prepared to accept whatever fate was in store, when we made our decision. Once you make a decision on a matter of deeply held conviction, the rest is consequential, subject to a collective fate that the individual cannot orchestrate.”

I feel like this is an appropriate way of saying “that thing we did did not have the intended consequences”.

10. Sue Moroney (Labour)

“My advice to future parliaments is simple: if you have to go to the Serious Fraud Office to satisfy yourselves about the person you are about to appoint as Auditor-General, then they are almost certainly the wrong person for the job.”

When your shade is actually just a fact.

9. Hekia Parata (National)

“I learnt something from all of these, but Energy and Resources was the portfolio I learnt the most in, in understanding what a rich set of resources we have around and in our country. It was also the portfolio that got me pretty much excommunicated from my tuakana iwi, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, for proceeding with the approval for exploration for oil and gas in the Raukūmara basin — somewhat awkward, given that we have a home there and we would have to drive past garages and fences saying bilingually just what an egg I was.”

What were you expecting, Hekia? Residents aren’t usually overjoyed about that kind of thing.

“We have had fun and challenging times, but we have been dedicated and focused. I remember once when teams of us were out leafleting I got a call from Enoka saying: ‘Mum’s been bitten by a dog and we’re going to A & E.’ I raced over to Kenepuru to see how she was. It was pretty bad. She had been stitched and had multiple shots and was on pain medication. Once I had established, however, that she had been sorted I was able to ask: ‘Um, did you manage to finish that street?’ Sorry Parn!”

Hekia Parata doesn’t seem like the funnest boss, you guys.

8. Lindsay Tisch (National)

“There have been many humorous occasions during my time presiding. In the early days when I wanted the House to settle down I would stand and boldly say, ‘I’m standing,” to which there were some unparliamentary comments, and laughter. So I changed the terminology and I have now said for many years now ‘I’m on my feet,’ and there has always been silence.”

Humour is, as ever, a relative concept.

7. Jo Goodhew (National)

“Campaigning and being seen does bring challenges. Our Ford Falcon was sign-written and also had my photo on it. Supportive up until then, this was a step too far for our teenage daughters. How embarrassing to be taken to rowing in that — that is, until one of their friends dubbed it ‘the Jo-inator’. Apparently, it was suddenly quite cool.”

Incorrect.

“Who gives a continental whether I label myself a feminist or not?”

Probably quite a few people! Also, I have no idea where “gives a continental” comes from and what it could possibly refer to.

“To my ‘class of ’05’ classmates — good buggers all — Wednesday nights after 10pm will never be the same. To friends who are here today: there will be more time for us now. Thank you for hanging in there.”

Wednesday nights are mentioned a lot in the National valedictory speeches, and given the general tone of these speeches I can only assume these nights are as wild as half a glass of red and listening to Newstalk ZB.

6. Chester Burrows (National)

“I was at a loose end in Christchurch once and wandered into the District Court and sat in the back row of the public gallery to have a listen. I had trouble hearing proceedings so I leaned back and closed my eyes trying to concentrate on what was being said, and a big burley policewoman tapped me on the shoulder and told me I could not sleep there. I told her to make it interesting and I would do my best to stay awake.”  

Dick move, yo.

“Viv likes rust never sleeps.

I’m assuming this is a typo, and not a stream-of-conscious comment on Chester Burrow’s terrifying metal-eating assistant Viv Chapman.

“As I said to my previous boss, Sir John Key: ‘I remain that loyal old Labrador, you will never know whether to pat on the head or boot up the arse.” 

Never own a dog, Mr Burrows.

5. Steffan Browning (Green)

“The most striking encounter with the doubters, the risk-averse, or overly confident consumers of very narrow interpretations of science, or just plain industry-fed scientific propaganda, was when I curiously put homeopathy and Ebola together. Wow, did the sky not fall for Steffan Browning!”

Yeah, no shit.

“Chemical cowboy country.”

Steffan Browning repeats this, seemingly randomly, seven times (he says chemical cowgirl country once, perhaps as a mistake) throughout his quite long and sprawling valedictory speech. It doesn’t seem related to anything, and it may well have come off better in person than it does in print, because in print it looks like he’s saying words to awaken some kind of sleeper agent.

“Mr SPEAKER: The member has 2 minutes to complete his speech.” 

FAIR ENOUGH.

“Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am sorry to interrupt the member, but the member’s time has expired.”

DITTO.

4. Sam Lotu-Iiga (National)

“While I have been a public servant for the past 10 years, my first taste of the National Party was in the mid-1990s. I remembered being invited along to a meeting by a colleague at Russell McVeagh.”

This is maybe the most National thing ever said by a National MP.

“But lesson No 1 in politics: watch the company that you keep.”

Said, probably without irony, with a man who shares a party with Judith Collins and Todd Barclay.

“Looking back over the last 10 years, I was proud to launch the new blue recycling bin service.”  

This is an important and great thing, but phrased like this it sounds a little bit depressing.

“To my parliamentary colleagues, this is said to be a caustic and a harsh place, but I have made many friendships across this Chamber. I will not name and shame you today, because I know some of you are seeking re-election.”

This is genuinely funny. Strong closer, Lotu-Iiga.

3. Craig Foss (National)

“To me, the black box of politics was — and often is still — quite a mystery. Sometimes it does not matter how logical, rational, good work and positive outcomes might go into the black box of politics. Sometimes quite illogical, irrational, and negative outcomes come out of that black box, but that is politics. When CJ and I first flew into Wellington in 2005, we were greeted by quite a pleasant chap. He offered us a ride into parliament. He seemed very interested in us and was asking a lot of questions. This was a very early lesson in politics. We later discovered he was from the lobby firm Saunders Unsworth. He used that information to complete a book about new MPs, which it went on to sell for about $600 a pop.”

This is not funny, but it is a little bit terrifying that one of our MPs appeared to at one point, without considering that a strange thing, take a ride from a complete stranger at the airport.

“For the past few months I have been in the ‘departure lounge’ on the ground floor of Parliament House. The press gallery, much to our horror, recently moved in next door to our very flash, newly refurbished offices. Press gallery photos going back over 100 years now adorn our corridor, and I could swear that some of the current press gallery members, who often advocate for renewal and rejuvenation, feature in some of those very early photos.”

This is some A-grade shade, I salute you sir.

2. Annette King (Labour)

“I do have to admit to one major failure in the health portfolio — and I am sure Hekia Parata will relate to this. Helen Clark told me that as Minister of Health, I had to talk to Parekura Horomia and convince him to lose weight. I went to Pare’s office and I said: ‘The Prime Minister said you need to lose weight. You’ve got to go on a diet.’ His response was unprintable. I said: ‘You’ve got to join Weight Watchers, Pare.’ There was another outburst of bad language, and then he said: ‘OK, OK. I’ll join, but only if I can do it by correspondence.’ The impossible we did immediately, but I have to say that miracles took a little longer.”

Hey! It’s maybe not in amazing taste to make a joke about a DEAD COLLEAGUE’S WEIGHT in your valedictory speech, and you being unable to convince him to lose weight being your one major failure as HEALTH MINISTER for the ENTIRE NATION.

“Andrew, you brought unity to our caucus and renewal to our front bench. Look at this line-up. The average age is 47 years — I have not added what the Government’s is.”

What you can probably smell is the National’s back benches reduced to embers from that burn.

“I cannot finish without a special mention to my Wellington colleagues: Grant, ‘Chippie’, Kris, and Trevor. We have been a great team, and I am sorry, Peter, but we intend to paint the whole of Wellington red at this election—

“Hon Member: Dreams are free.

“Hon ANNETTE KING: —ha, ha—and with a good tail wind we want to take Wairarapa as well.”

This too is a very good burn, courtesy of an unnamed National caucus member.

1. Catherine Delahunty (Green)

“Possibly, my greatest regret is not being in the Government so I could establish the ‘Ministry of Pākehā Affairs’ and create the national standard for honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. ‘Dear Mrs Brash, your son Don is well below, again.'”

Unsolicited, underhanded and very graceful burn from C-Delahunty.

“‘New Zealand Inc’ replaces Aotearoa as the ‘brand’ we must embrace, while the beggars on Lambton Quay are just a necessary price they must pay for failing in the competition of hypercapitalism. While we read about Bill English cooking up some tasteless, folksy food designed to fabricate Kiwi authenticity, the real game show grinds on, glamorising consumption, ignoring the chaos of the climate and the collapse of endangered species — the cruelty of a stripped-down, irresponsible State under corporate control. How about they go take their social investment rhetoric and insulate their invisible social housing with it?”

This is, to use a technical term, fucking savage.

“This MP job is for grown-ups, not shallow gamblers.”

See above re: savagery.


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