Audrey Young 's Opinion

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Best speeches of the day

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I'm not sure about the timing, but the day after Labour leadership coup rumours swept through Parliament, deputy leader Grant Robertson delivered a brilliant speech in Parliament.

The rest of the Labour caucus was enthralled this afternoon - though Leader David Shearer had left earlier during Question Time.

It was a very funny speech on John Key and Kim Dotcom and mandates and man dates.
Robertson kicked off the general debate - the Wednesday free-for-all in which MPs can make five minute speeches on anything they like, or anything they can convince their party whips should get an airing.

Robertson was followed by National minister Steven Joyce, not quite as funny but not bad response to a cleverly crafted speech by Robertson.

Joyce concluded by saying Robertson's ''audition" had got more laughs in five minutes than his leader has had in 18 months.

What follows is a lightly edited version of both speeches.


GRANT ROBERTSON
(Labour deputy leader)

It is wonderful to be so popular on the other side of the House. Picture the scene. Picture the scene. Parnell resident and occasional visitor to the Helensville electorate John Key sits down in a room in his modest 15-bedroom electorate office to get an update on events in the area. He is surrounded by his closest advisers. He cannot remember any of their names and he does not know who they are.

One of them looks like the Fletcher boy from high school, but he cannot be sure. He makes a note for [chief of staff] Wayne Eagleson: "Ask Saunders Unsworth who my advisers are." He seeks to get a briefing on what has been happening in the happy hamlet of Helensville: "Any major developments?". A hush comes over the crowd, and a quiet voice whispers: "A German has moved into the mansion." John Key is shocked. This is a development of considerable note, a German in the mansion.

First things first, John Key says: "Whatever you do, in no circumstances must anyone tell me the German's name. It is a matter of national security. It is a matter of national security. And I am struggling to remember all of the things I have got to pretend to forget, so don't tell me his name." Then arrives the figure of Steven Joyce, or, as we shall know him from now on, "Corporal Jones". "Corporal Jones" appears, yelling: "Don't panic. Don't panic. The Germans are coming. Don't panic." John Key sits calmly and says: "I normally get my list of overseas migrants. Where are the Australians? Where are the Indians? Where are the Chinese? I am being told only about the Germans." In John Key's Helensville it is Dad's Army all over the place. Well, on this side of the House we say: "Who are you kidding, Mr Key?". He tells us he cannot remember a very large multimillionaire -multibillionaire - German arriving in his electorate.

He says that he cannot remember the man who put on the biggest fireworks display in New Zealand's history. But he does not know because he is surrounded by his Dad's Army of advisers. John Key is surrounded by Steven Joyce as Corporal Jones. "He doesn't like it up 'em.", as he would say. "He doesn't like it up 'em." - that is what Corporal Jones would tell the House. But, you see, what John Key tells us is that he has a mandate to govern. Well, it is certainly true that John Key has been on a hell of a lot of man dates. He went on a man date with John Banks, and he got a seat in Parliament. He went on a man date with Ian Fletcher , and he got a job running the Government Communications Security Bureau. He went on a man date with the Sky City chief executives, and they got a whole law for themselves. Man dates are what John Key does, but someone else always wins out of them other than New Zealanders. People who are associating themselves with John Key have another problem. Those who go on man dates with John Key have a major problem: "PTD", or politically transmitted diseases - politically transmitted diseases. Every time anyone goes near them, there is trouble. John Banks cannot even remember what day it is. He does not even know where he is. He cannot remember $50,000 of donations from the German in the mansion. Peter Dunne has completely lost his way - totally discredited. And the Maori Party appears to have three leaders, or it might have two, and certainly after the next election it will have one or none at all. So politically transmitted diseases are the order of the day for anyone who comes into contact with John Key. But on a serious note, tomorrow this House will debate the Sky City law - the "Casino Bill" - and there is nothing that is more of an emblem of this Government than that bill: a convention centre built off the back of problem gamblers; a convention centre that will add 8,000 additional problem gamblers; a convention centre built with a dodgy process, where the Prime Minister intervened; a convention centre built by selling off the laws of this country; and a convention centre that typifies a Government that works for vested interests and not in the interests of New Zealanders. This Government is a crony capitalist Government.

STEVEN JOYCE
(Minister for Economic Development)

Well, we know what Grant Robertson was doing last night. In between his desperate denials on Twitter, he was watching the JONES! channel. That was the inspiration for his speech today. It was his JONES! channel. The only thing is that he should have been Sergeant Schultz today, because he is the one running around saying: "I see nothing. I know nothing. There's nobody challenging for the leadership of the Labour Party. I know nothing at all.", when the reality is that there is a Jones channel, and the Jones channel is the channel by which the leadership challenge of the Labour Party is being conducted. It has been a fascinating 24 hours in the identity politics of the Labour Party. First, we had the man ban, then we had the ban of the man ban, and then, very nearly, we had the demise of the man who banned the man ban. That is where it nearly got to last night, and it is where it is heading again today. Despite the denials - the many, many denials - the reality is that three of the men who were going to be banned in the man ban have decided to take their opportunity and step forward. I say, stand up those men who are against the man ban - Shane Jones, Andrew Little, and Clayton Cosgrove - the red meat men of the Labour Party, who are, as we speak, either circulating or not circulating, or denying they are circulating, a letter of no confidence in the leadership of the Labour Party. That is what is going on right now. The red meat division has decided that this is its chance to get its own back. But those members did not quite succeed. All they succeeded in doing yesterday was causing a massive Twitter explosion last night. There was a massive explosion on Twitter, where nearly all the Labour Party caucus, except Shane Jones, except Andrew Little, except Clayton Cosgrove, and except a bunch of other Labour Party members, were on Twitter last night saying "No, there's nothing happening here.", and Annette King was even on the radio this morning saying: "No, there's nothing happening here." Well, you know what you say about denials. "De Niles" is a river in Egypt, and the reality of the situation is that the Labour Party is heading towards a leadership revolt. Mr Shearer, of course, is desperately trying to shore up his leadership, and today he has made a significant bid in that regard. He has decided that the vote for jobs and growth tomorrow will be a conscience vote for his caucus, and he welcomes people who want to vote for the convention centre to do so tomorrow.[interjection by Labour]

The Speaker has ruled - absolutely right - but go and check. There has been a statement released by your leader this afternoon, where he has said that if members of his caucus want to vote in favour of the convention centre tomorrow, they are welcome to do so. Of course, most of them will not be voting in favour, but it will be interesting to see who does, and I think it is yet another test of this man's leadership. On this side of the House it is pretty clear. On this side of the House we are in favour of jobs and growth for New Zealanders. Every day this Government proves that, and tomorrow is just another day when we prove that we are in favour of jobs and growth for New Zealanders, but not the modern Labour Party. It used to be like that. It actually supported a convention centre being built in a very similar arrangement 10 years ago, but not today - not today. Those members are caught up in identity politics and are focusing on the man ban. Well, tomorrow a few of them - the few middle of the roaders left - have an opportunity to stand up and say: "Actually, no. We are in favour of jobs and growth, and we should go forward and say so." There are three or four of them who might do that. Obviously, they would then have to turn their backs on Grant Robertson and David Parker, and so on. But, for example, the "fab four" who attended the Eden Park discussion with Sky City in the corporate box - [Interruption] - or was it six, or was it eight - will have the opportunity to do so, and we will know whether there is anybody left in the Labour Party who supports jobs and growth, or not. So tomorrow is a test of Labour Party caucus members. It is yet another day of a test of the Labour Party leadership -
I will finish by saying that I thought that in the audition for Mr Grant Robertson just now, he got more laughs in 5 minutes than his leader has had in 18 months.

- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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