New voices: Brendon Burns, Melissa Lee, Steven Joyce

By Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett continues our series on new MPs, based on maiden speeches.

Brendon Burns

Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns called for liquor laws such as the drinking age to become matters of party policy, saying the traditional use of conscience votes to decide them should be a relic of the past.

The new Labour MP said the need for reform was clear from his own electorate, where even if the bars refused to serve intoxicated people and there was a liquor ban, alcohol was still easily available. Local police and health bodies had told him alcohol accounted for 70 per cent of weekend crime and injuries in Christchurch.

"Liquor legislation is difficult to get right. In part I think that is because it remains a conscience vote for members. As further liquor legislation looms in the time of this Parliament, I suggest it is timely for parties to consider whether such law changes should become matters of party policy."

A former journalist, Mr Burns first stood as a candidate for Labour in 2002. He was then the editor of the Marlborough Express.

He stood twice, unsuccessfully, as Labour's candidate for Kaikoura. In between he worked in the Prime Minister's office as an adviser to Helen Clark, and set up his own communications company.

Before turning to politics, he worked for 12 years in the parliamentary press gallery, and said he was the first former gallery member to become an MP since Sir Frederick Doidge 70 years ago.

Now Labour's broadcasting spokesman, he said he regarded Radio New Zealand as "a taonga" and spoke of the need to retain state broadcasting in an increasingly commercial sector.

He came to New Zealand with his parents and five siblings at the age of 4 - "almost wholly bog Irish by extraction, Catholic and working class".

Mr Burns was selected as Labour's candidate for Christchurch Central after Tim Barnett decided to leave politics. He won the seat with a majority of 935 votes against National's Nicky Wagner. He is on the finance and expenditure select committee and is Labour's spokesman for broadcasting, with an associate role in environment.

Melissa Lee
National Party List MP

Vital statistics:
Number 37 on National's list. On commerce and law and order select committees.

Background:
Former journalist and presenter on Asia Down Under, which has been produced by her company for the past 13 years. Born in Korea, family moved to New Zealand in 1988.

Personal:
Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in their children. As a cadet reporter at the Sunday News she would go to work at the family's dairy until 11pm after finishing her day's work. Mother of 10-year-old son.

In her own words:
"The Korean settlement in New Zealand isn't long and often I'm confronted by people's misperceptions of Korea formed out of ignorance and often by television programmes like M*A*S*H. And when people have preconceived ideas of what you're like, settlement into New Zealand can be paved with tears."

Steven Joyce
National, list MP.

Vital statistics:
A list-only candidate, No 16 on his party's list. Was also National's campaign chairman. Went straight into the Cabinet as Minister of Transport, Minister of Communications and Information Technology and Associate Minister of Finance and Infrastructure.

Background:
Started what is now the RadioWorks network in the 1980s with four friends, all putting in $100 for a Massey station. After 17 years CanWest bought them out for $6 million.

Personal:
He comes from a long line of small business people. His parents both left school at 15 and "scrimped and borrowed" to buy a Four Square grocery store in New Plymouth.

In his own words:
"I bring a real understanding of the value of a dollar. From the time I was a little tacker ... I understood there was no money around if one did not go out and earn it oneself."

- NZ Herald

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