53rd Parliament adjourned after closing debate marked by poll-eve rivalry


Prime Minister Chris Hipkins making his final speech at the 53rd Parliament on Thursday ( FB Photo)

Venu Menon
Wellington, August 31,2023

“I move that the House do now adjourn.”

With these words Prime Minister Chris Hipkins ended the last sitting of the 53rd Parliament on Thursday, 31 August 2023.

Following tradition, the Prime Minister led the adjournment debate, followed by the Leader of the Opposition and other party leaders, with the House Speaker making the closing speech.

Looking back on the last six years of his government, Prime Minister Hipkins recalled a cascade of challenges, such as “a global pandemic, horrific terror attacks, volcanic eruptions, a global economic crisis,” to name just some.

He reflected on the start of the parliamentary term following the 2020 election, when “our border was still closed. There was no Covid-19 in New Zealand because of the successful elimination strategy that we had pursued.”

He remembered fondly “the enormous privilege and honour of being sworn in as New Zealand’s Prime Minister” on 25 January 2023.

But the elation was short lived. On January 27, “Kieran McAnulty ruined it for me when he rang me and said ‘There’s been a little bit of rain in Auckland’.”

That was the start of the Auckland floods, followed by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Hipkins summed up those early challenges: “We may have faced unprecedented disruption, but we have still achieved a lot over the last three years.” His election-eve message to New Zealanders was: “Now is not the time to turn back.”

Hipkins struck a cautionary note. “We can continue to move forward under Labour, or we can face a coalition of cuts,  chaos, and fear: a National-ACT-New Zealand First government that would be one of the most inexperienced and untested in our history,” he warned, adding, “A government who want to wind the clock back on all of the progress that we are making that is so important to New Zealanders.”

So, what was that progress?

Characteristically, Hipkins began with the economy and “Grant Robertson’s track record as our Minister of Finance.” The Labour benches erupted in applause.

The House heard that the economy was 6% larger now “than it was as we went into the global pandemic.”

Unemployment was at a record low. Wages had grown faster than inflation. The number of apprentices had gone up. Minimum wage was up. There was record investment in infrastructure such as roads, rail, classrooms, hospitals.

“I am incredibly proud of the 1,700 projects up and down New Zealand that we have invested in through the Provincial Growth Fund that are making a difference to those communities all over New Zealand,” the PM pointed out.

He highlighted the unprecedented pay rise for nurses and teachers as well as the “seven new or upgraded free-trade agreements that were supporting exports.”

Taking a swipe at National, Hipkins warned: “This is not the time to stoke the inflationary fires with unfunded tax cuts as the members opposite promised.”

But Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon was not impressed. He said Hipkins should not have made an adjournment speech. “It should have been an apology speech.”

The National Party leader said education and health were a shambles under the Labour government. The PM’s speech should have been “an apology to all the victims of ram raids in dairies and superettes up and down this country.”

Luxon castigated the government for its “excessive, addicted spending.” He ridiculed the Labour Party’s allies, calling the Greens “Reds” and a “free money” party. He said the Te Paati Maori were not “the party of collaboration that they once were, with Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples.” However, Luxon did not rule out collaboration between National and the Maori Party in the future.

Luxon rounded off by praising National’s “incredibly intelligent, well-thought-through costed tax policy and plan” that promised average-income households with young kids will get up to $250 a fortnight as part of a package that “will make a big difference.”

After several other party leaders had spoken, Speaker Adrian Rurawhe thanked the Parliamentary Service staff before closing the debate and adjourning the House.

The dissolution ceremony, scheduled to take place on the steps of Parliament on   September 8, marked the formal and official end of the 53rd Parliament.

Venu Menon is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Wellington

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