Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson had the House of Parliament in hysterics in a speech full of jests and self-deprecation, proving laughter really is the best medicine as MPs capped off an objectively, incredibly tough year.
In her adjournment speech, Davidson remarked on the achievement of 50 per cent of women in Parliament for the first time, adding the Greens wanted to work towards 75 per cent, but would settle for 60 per cent.
“At which point, Mr Speaker, the Green Party would entrench it,” she said, to howls of laughter, from some, though more of the nervous kind from Labour, clearly still reeling from the fallout over constitutional issues raised around Three Waters legislation.
“I thought that might get a bigger laugh but that’s okay, you know this is literally making fun of ourselves,” Davidson said.
She was far from the only one to turn to humour, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern starting off with a dig at somewhat controversial former speaker Trevor Mallard, admitting as he departed so had “our material”.
But she was quick to acknowledge the reality for so many: “This year has been hard.”
A year ago in her adjournment speech, Ardern announced New Zealand had reached 90 per cent Covid-19 vaccination, with MPs across the House breaking into applause.
This was shortly after Auckland’s brutal lockdown had ended, but before waves of Covid would enter the country with millions of cases and thousands of people losing their lives.
“It’d be fair to assume that the world has almost spun off its axis,” said Ardern this time around.
“We’re still dealing with the impact of a pandemic as it moves from a health crisis onto being an economic one.
“We lost our head of state, war broke out in Ukraine, the climate crisis continues to confront us,” she said, before adding, to much laughter, “and there was a punch-up at the Oscars.”
She thanked her colleagues and all of those working in Parliament, even the Hansard team “who record the things we mean to say and the things we don’t” - a reference to her calling Act Party leader David Seymour an “arrogant prick”.
A highlight was Matariki, as was legislation passed including on Fair Pay Agreements and a range of groundbreaking climate change policies.
Looking ahead to next year, already signalled to be another tough one with, Ardern said the Government was equipped to handle the challenges it could bring.
“We are an amazing country on a journey, we have faced our fair share of challenges. But we rise to them every time and we keep making progress.”
National Party leader Christopher Luxon also started off with a dig at Mallard, saying to current Speaker Adrian Rurawhe Christmas had “come early” with his appointment.
In a similar vein to his “Christmas presents” last year, Luxon this time around proffered his funny yet at times brutal suggestions for New Year’s resolutions around the House.
He took a jab at the Prime Minister, via Seymour, noting she “showed us that she rightfully gets a bit of a bad rap for being all spend no delivery”.
“Yesterday she showed us she can be refreshingly to the point,” referencing Ardern’s now-infamous comment.
“We want to encourage you to keep that up. We truly would have loved to know what you really thought about Gaurav Sharma.”
Luxon then took a dig at those lining up to be Labour’s next leader, saying Transport Minister Michael Wood was a frontrunner to get his colleagues’ support “because he started his campaign by pork barreling his Labour MPs with transport funding”.
He then returned to Seymour, saying after yesterday all he needs is “a big hug”.
For Green Party co-leader James Shaw he noted he’d be looking to change his party rules so he couldn’t be thrown out - even though he supports reusing and recycling - and Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer to keep up the TikTok videos (to which she responded she’d recently been suspended).
On a more serious note, Luxon raised ongoing concerns about the health system, crime, economic pressures and school attendance, among others.
Davidson started her entertaining address on the serious side, including acknowledging the social division on display during the Covid mandate protests at Parliament, and need to address systemic issues.
“I hope we never again, see that kind of surface violence at the centre of our democracy.”
She quickly turned to humour, again the self-deprecating kind referencing the debacle over Whittaker’s mīraka (milk) chocolate.
“This year I learned that life is like a block of Whittaker’s Mīraka Kirimi chocolate. You never know what racism you’re going to get.
“And I learned what it’s like to be a solo co-leader or as other parties say just a leader,” referencing Shaw briefly losing his title.
She took aim at Luxon with her “12 unwanted gifts of Christmas”, in song.
“On the first day of Xmas my true love gave to me ... a boot camp for tamariki ... a tax cut for the very wealthy ... a holiday in Hawai’i.”
Act Party leader David Seymour challenged the Government on its record while also taking a dig at National.
“We don’t just criticise the other side, too ... We actually propose a better way forward.”
He also acknowledged despite all the differences what brings New Zealand Parliament together.
“Those I agree with those I disagree with those who speak to me kindly, those who don’t. At the end of the day, there is something enormously Kiwi about the intimacy and proximity of our politics.”
Seymour also turned to his creative talents to list off his grievances with the Government, in the form of a Christmas-themed poem.
“With the cost of our living gone up the wazoo we’re all doing it tough and we feel it too.
“But this Christmas one sack is the biggest of all greedy grinch grabby Grant [Robertson] and his record tax haul,”
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer began by seizing on Seymour’s poetic lines: “Is it wrong that all I heard David talk about was the intimacy of Santa’s big sack?” earning perhaps the biggest laugh of the debate.
In the Christmas spirit, she acknowledged their “greatest gift” to the Speaker: co-leader Rawiri Waititi not being ejected from the House for an entire year.
She also shot back at National and Luxon, congratulating them for “having the same leader for the same year” and inviting them to “Rawiri’s garage”, referencing leadership issues of the past and Luxon’s recent comments about youth and gangs.
She also acknowledged the tough year, but the “heartwarming” memory of watching the cross-party youth MPs in the house and referring to honouring Te Triti.
“That’s our future.”
With Parliament wrapping up, Ngarewa-Packer made clear her plans for the summer: “I’ve got a surfboard with my name on it.”