Fresh face quick to say why she's Labour (+video)

By Claire Trevett

One of the first of Labour's fresh new faces became an MP yesterday and Louisa Wall used the chance to ensure the Maori Party knew just why she had chosen Labour.

Ms Wall was sworn in yesterday to replace Ann Hartley.

At 36, Ms Wall - young, Maori and lesbian - is one of those Labour is relying on to bring appealing, fresh talent for the next election and to take on the Maori Party as Labour tries to regain the lost Maori seats.

She also has sporting kudos, becoming a Silver Fern at the age of 17 and later representing New Zealand in rugby with the Black Ferns.

Ms Wall is also Labour's candidate in the Tamaki Makarau seat, held by the Maori Party's Pita Sharples.

She recently earned a ticking off from her party leaders for saying she intended to campaign for the party vote, rather than the electorate vote, in the election lead-up.

Mr Sharples and two of his colleagues were in the debating chamber yesterday to check out the competition - and she used her maiden speech to tell them she had chosen Labour because of its achievements for Maori.

She outlined gains for Maori in education, employment, the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and human rights.

Ms Wall also paid tribute to her family - including her mother, grandmother and partner who had travelled to Wellington for her address.

She also acknowledged her father.

"Education was very important to my dad; he wanted a better life for his children. On his headstone are the letters PhD after his name.

"He wasn't quite a doctor, more a post-hole digger, but my dad worked hard to improve the lot of his children every day of his life as a father."

She also referred to her sporting past with the Black Ferns - a team Labour minister Trevor Mallard's daughter has since played in.

She acknowledged the link, saying she was looking forward to playing rugby with "my mate Trevor" in the parliamentary rugby team and adding a wry "I'm sure I qualify."

She was careful to say she looked forward to campaigning for "two ticks" and paid homage to the leadership skills of Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy, Michael Cullen.

She has university degrees in social policy and social work.

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