Labour's Grande Dame Annette King has signed off on more than 30 years in Parliament with a plea for better pay and representation for women, as well as rollicking anecdotes spanning her career.

King delivered her valedictory today to a packed public gallery, saying she had been told she was the longest-ever-serving woman MP in Parliament: "that must make me officially the Grannie Annie of the House."

The public galleries were packed with former Labour MPs, including Sir Michael Cullen, Mark Gosche, Phil Goff, Steve Maharey, Margaret Wilson, and Darren Hughes who travelled from London, former Police Commissioner Howard Broad, as well as union officials.

King kicked off with a story about her first political battle as a dental nurse marching on Parliament in 1974 to get a pay rise.


They got a 24.4 per cent increase - and King said that taught her the value of fighting for what you believed in.

"Now, 43 years on, I'm ashamed we still don't have pay equity in New Zealand. Women have waited long enough. No more excuses, no more half-baked measures, no more litigation."

She also said other parties needed to do more to increase the number of women in Parliament - although it was at just 8 per cent before 1984 and was now 31 per cent that was still not proportionate.

King, a former Health Minister in the Helen Clark government, said more had to be done in that sector if a crisis was to be avoided, especially in mental health.

She said one of her regrets was that there was still not affordable dental health care for adults in New Zealand.

She also spoke of her time as Police Minister, saying her one regret was the way the Urewera Raids in 2007 were carried out by police. "Although the Minister of Police has no involvement in operational matters, I have gone to the Tuhoe people and made my peace."

That time had included the Bazley report into historic police conduct and the new Policing Act. "One thing I was not prepared for as Minister of Police was a bad case of shavers' rash which I got after 100 UK recruits kissed me on the cheek when I welcomed them to New Zealand at the Police College."

King paid tribute to some of her closest colleagues over those years, including Trevor Mallard and Phil Goff. She also acknowledged former leader Andrew Little, to whom she served as deputy from the end of 2014 until earlier this year: "Andrew - you brought unity to our caucus and renewal to our front bench."

She told Labour leader Jacinda Ardern she was proud of her and believed she would be one of Labour's most loved and effective leaders.

King has been a Labour member since 1972 and an MP since 1984 with a three-year break from 1990-1993 - the term Labour was punished by the electorate following the "Rogernomics" reforms. King described the Labour Government of 1984 to 1990 as "both distressing and exhilarating."

"We became a deeply divided caucus and party ... but the fourth Labour Government made some of the most significant changes seen in New Zealand - economic, social and constitutional."

"There were changes that were needed, but not enough thought was given to the consequences on families and communities, and some of those consequences are still with us today."

She said the focus on those economic reforms ignored other important reforms such as Homosexual Law Reform, the Bill of Rights Act, the legislation that introduced Child Youth and Families, the Treaty of Waitangi claims process and nuclear-free New Zealand.

The impossible we did immediately, miracles took a little longer.


King also told some little-known tales, including about notes sent to her by former Finance Minister Michael Cullen. She said many were not for publication, but when King, then Food Safety Minister, was passing a law to irradiate peanuts Cullen's note read 'Nuts to be irradiated. Labour Women's Council happy." - a reference to Labour's women's wing.

King also spoke of efforts to get the late Parekura Horomia to lose weight, saying it was one of the failures of her time as health minister. "I said 'you have to join Weight Watchers.' There was another outburst of bad language, then he said 'okay, but I'll only join if it's by correspondence."

"The impossible we did immediately, miracles took a little longer," King said.

King, whose childhood nickname was "Skinny Robinson" also recalled a photo stunt involving herself dressing as a jockey to ride a horse out the front of Parliament for the 50th Anniversary of the TAB. "By now I was hardly Skinny Robinson."

She said when she was MP for Horowhenua, former National Prime Minister Rob Muldoon said she "put the horror into Horowhenua" but later grunted "I hope you win" at her.

She said Parliament had changed a lot since she had arrived - the food was healthier, there were enough toilets for women and it was a better place for families. She acknowledged her own family, including husband Ray and daughter Amanda: "I hope you have forgiven me for the times I put politics ahead of you."

Although Grannie Annie will not return to Parliament, she will be a regular feature on Labour's campaign. King is set to be a travelling companion for leader Jacinda Ardern on the trail - a role King likened to "Queen Mother".