Carmel Sepuloni – bring it on

Written By: - Date published: 8:05 pm, May 27th, 2023 - 49 comments
Categories: Carmel Sepuloni, labour, uncategorized - Tags:

Kia orana, Talofa lava, Mālo e lelei, Taloha ni, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Noa’ia e mauri, Ni sa bula vinaka, Kia ora, Tena Koutou Katoa.Labour Party President Jill Day, Prime Minister Hipkins, Party faithful, delegates and comrades, whānau and friends, it’s a privilege to be here today.I begin my speech with an acknowledgement of my husband, my dad and our family.

A political life is not always easy for whānau. My husband and father hold down the household and care for the children when I am off being a politician.

My husband cooks, he cleans, he tends to our garden, he waits patiently for me when I’m out and about and is quick to pour me a wine when I arrive home.

All this while working full time at the Auckland library as the pacific advisor, writing his poetry, performing at arts events, running poetry workshops in schools, publishing books and researching his passion – traditional Fijian hair practices. Thank you my love.

Even though the feminist in me cringed when the Women’s Weekly used the headline ‘I couldn’t do it without him’, I do give thanks for all you and my dad and our boys do to love and support me.

Personal Story

Delegates, you all know me.  I’ve been in and around the Labour Party for quite some time.

I’ve been that mother at events with her kids in tow, the Pacific Labour activist laughing at the back of the room with the Pacific Sector, the Westie MP battling alongside my West Auckland colleagues and our teams to keep the West red and now, I’m your Deputy Prime Minister!

I came back from a family holiday in January thinking I would ease into the year.

When the week began Monday 16 January I was looking forward to catching up with colleagues and my New Year’s resolution was that mid-week vino’s was a thing of the past.

Within a week I was Deputy Prime Minister and my ridiculous New Year’s resolution was ditched in an attempt to comprehend what had just happened.

They say a week is a long time in politics, and indeed it is.

What of course came first was the unified display of support by our caucus for a new Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins aka. Chippy.

Such a seamless transition between leaders is not something we are used to in politics.  But having weathered a few that were the complete opposite to seamless, I am so grateful for this experience and our amazing caucus team that enabled it to be this way.

Thank you Jacinda

I want to take this opportunity to thank former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Jacinda was unselfish, a wonderful communicator – the epitome of empathy and inclusive leadership.

The Whakaari White Island disaster, the Christchurch terrorist attack and the COVID-19 pandemic. All incidents which have defined her legacy, her leadership and our Party.

We are stronger today, because of all that our former PM did.

Thank you, Jacinda.

The Ginga from the Hutt

I also acknowledge our new PM.  The ‘Ginga from the Hutt.’

Pragmatic, calm, driven by an unwavering commitment to Labour values and a determination to make the world a better place.

It is a privilege to have been asked by Chris to be his Deputy.  On saying yes, I did tell him that now I was effectively his work wife.

What I didn’t expect was then a whole lot of correspondence instructing me to support the Prime Minister with his clothing choices, his dietary habits and his exercise regime.

My definition of work wife is somewhat different to theirs.

Auckland Extreme Weather

Delegates, it certainly wasn’t the easiest start to the year.

So much for ‘easing in to it’.

Two days after Chris and I were sworn into our new roles as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, I was back in Auckland.

The rain was relentless.  My own home was flooding downstairs and shocking footage was being posted on social media of flooding and land slippages across Auckland.

The first evacuation centre to open in Auckland was in my electorate of Kelston.  I headed there immediately.

When we arrived, there were only two volunteers in that hall.

Within minutes, families started to walk through the door saturated, in shock with horrendous stories.  Some lucky to have survived.

This weather event was of course followed closely by Cyclone Gabrielle.  More devastation and trauma for a number of regions across the country and a number of new Zealanders, their whānau and communities.

I acknowledge all of you in this room that have been impacted, are from the affected areas and/ or have been working to support whānau in the impacted areas.

The journey of recovery and rebuild is underway.

My personal observation was that due to the widespread impacts of these weather events, this was a pivotal moment in our nation garnering a shared understanding of the true realities of climate change and the urgency in action required.

Drawing a line in the sand

During the aftermath of the weather events, it felt weirdly superficial to still be doing profile pieces for media.  According to my team – a necessary part of being a public figure.

I had just taken up this important new role yet some people didn’t know who I was and what I stood for.

It’s almost like I’ve been this Front Bench Ninja Minister – ducking and weaving my way through my portfolios and political life.

So many of the questions that came my way were in relation to how I got into politics, my political journey and why I was Labour.

On reflection it is clear.

I drew a line in the sand.  It wasn’t hard to draw that line.

There are the things I stand for and things I stand against.

Life experience, education, history – they guide which side of that line I fall on. I have always been Labour.  How could I not be?

I am a reflection of our Pasifika journey to Aotearoa.

Our Pasifika parents, grandparents and great grandparents came with the intention of working to look after the families in their island homelands.

They raised their children here with aspirations for them to achieve at heights that surpassed the factory floor.

They knew education was key.  They aspired for their children to not only take advantage of this education for themselves but to use it to support the wider family and community to get ahead.

This is integral to why I believe the Pacific Community has overwhelmingly supported Labour over the decades.

Labour is aspirational for our communities.

We’ve always supported equal access to opportunities.

And what we do with those opportunities matters too.

Labour has always supported the plight of the worker and their right to be treated fairly and with respect.

Our Pasifika Community

For Labour it has never been just about the pursuit of the individual – but on the wider service and support for whānau and communities.

I have to add, the Labour Party will never have to use AI to create images of Pacific people in attempt to make it look like we have the support of our community.

Trust is everything and creating fake people to sell a political party or policies is a deliberate National Party strategy that will never ever be adopted by Labour.

My appointment as Deputy Prime Minister was an emotional accomplishment for our whole Pacific community.

It validated our journey – our contribution is valued.

From the factory floor to the highest of decision making roles – our whole pacific community owns that.

The next generation now knows what is possible. But knowing what is possible is not enough.

Budget for the times

Our young people also need whānau, communities and a Government that will get behind them and support them to succeed.

Our recent budget shows our commitment to doing this.

In the tightest of economic environments, Grant Robertson has found a way to provide cost of living support for New Zealanders who are doing it tough right now, with a particular focus on young families, including through the expansion of 20 hours ECE support to two-year-olds, free public transport for children and half price for under 25s.

The Budget has been celebrated across the motu from a range of different sectors and spaces and I want to acknowledge Grant for this.

It was also in so many ways, a Budget that was personal to many.

It was personal to me.

We were finally able to permanently reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance.  Over the past year with the support of COVID funding over 5,000 mostly sole-parents have taken up this opportunity.

On so many levels that is such an important initiative.

I got the Training Incentive Allowance.  I know how much of a difference it can make.

To this day I still say, shame on National and the Social Development Minister of that time for cutting it.

That’s the kind of policy-cutting approach we can expect more of with the National and Act Coalition of Cuts.

On 1 April we saw the amount for Childcare Subsidy and the thresholds lifted after a decade of being frozen so more families can access to the subsidy.

We followed that up through Budget 2023 by extending 20 hours free Early Childhood Education to two year olds.

I will never forget when I first started teaching as a sole parent.  I didn’t qualify for the subsidy.

In order to pay ECE costs, I picked up a part time job in the evenings doing tele market research for UMR – yes I was the person asking ‘Do you think the country is headed in the right direction wrong direction or unsure’.  I barely saw my child during that time.

We said that this would be a Cost of Living Budget and it was.

We shouldn’t overlook the 1 April changes that were funded for by Budget 2023; increases to benefits, student allowances and loans, abatement thresholds and the amounts available for childcare subsidy, 8,000 community nurses receiving pay parity and last but not least, the increase that superannuitants received – seeing a couple on Super better off by more than $100 a fortnight.

I’m also relieved that as of 1 May our beneficiaries and superannuitants are being provided with even more support via the Winter Energy Payment which we introduced in 2018.

All of this support matters.

Especially at a time when the global inflationary pressures are pushing up the cost of living here for New Zealanders.

Superannuitants

I want to spend a little bit of time talking about our superannuitants. They deserve our attention.

There was a documentary recently about seniors living in poverty.  With declining home ownership figures over recent decades it isn’t as easy for many of our seniors when they reach the age of 65.

We have one of the simplest superannuation schemes in the world.  It is universal and generous.  As long as we keep paying in to the super fund it is also affordable.

Delegates, National and Act are warming up once again to mess with people’s Super. They’ve got form in this area, and it never ends well.

They are working on policies that will see people so much worse off by the time they retire.

It includes raising the age of Super to 67 and stopping government contributions to Kiwisaver.

I’ll give you an example of what that will mean. We’ve done the maths.

And I urge Kiwis to also take a very careful look at what it’ll mean for them.

If you’re a 30-year-old earning an average fulltime wage, you would lose $521.43 a year because an ACT-National coalition would cut matching contributions to Kiwi Saver.

With interest, this would mean that that young person would have $46,000 less when they retire.

And they’re asking that person to retire two years’ later. Raising superannuation age to 67 means they’ll lose another $51,000.

If you’re a young person I have this to say to you – the Coalition of Cuts will take more than $98,000 off your retirement.

Just to give themselves hundreds of dollars a week in tax cuts.

Today, Labour is drawing a line in the sand.

Unlike National and Act, today I am confirming that we will not be lifting the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation.

We’re keeping it at 65, as most New Zealanders want.

We will also not stop or reduce government contributions to Kiwisaver.

And we will not do what National did the last time they were in government and stop or cut payments into the NZ Super Fund, the safety net for all New Zealanders in retirement.

The future is too important.

I’ve also got a strong message today for our seniors.

Labour recognises the critical importance of the Winter Energy Payment in helping you to stay warm in the winter, to avoid respiratory illnesses and to stay out of hospital.

These things are not permanent. They’re a political choice. Labour chooses to prioritise it.

But not every political party has the same view. Which means the Payment is not guaranteed in the future.

Today, I’m also putting another stake in the ground on the Winter Energy Payment.

Under Labour the Winter Energy Payment is here to stay.

Delegates, unlike the Coalition of Cuts, we believe that NZ Super, contributions to the Super Fund, and full government contributions to Kiwisaver are essential and affordable, and that the Winter Energy Payment is too valuable to lose.

Conclusion

Delegates it is an election year.  Every New Zealander deserves to know what political parties are offering but equally what they intend to cut.  Kiwis deserve honesty.

You can trust Labour to be up front about where we will spend taxpayer money.

The reality is, you cannot trust the Coalition of Cuts.

We’re proud of what we have done for older New Zealanders, which builds on our track record of delivery to date. Labour is the Party to support you in your retirement. Whether you’re older or just entering the workforce, we’ve got your back.

And delegates, with your support, we will continue to do more to deliver for New Zealanders come October 14.

The line in the sand is drawn. Bring it on.

49 comments on “Carmel Sepuloni – bring it on ”

  1. Chess Player 1

    All I'm hearing here is stuff about redistribution of funds.

    Nothing about fixing any systemic issues, many of which were caused by the Labour party themselves in the 80s?

    Is this really the best these people can come up with?

  2. Anne 2

    " The Coalition of Cuts". I like it.

    Simple and easy to understand and can be applied to just about every aspect of governance.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      You can also subconsciously add an 'n' to it for emphasis.

      • Red Blooded One 2.1.1

        Yes, it would be an easy unfortunate slip of the tongue should a Labour MP does it. Of course if your a NACT supporter you've been using that word for the last five years and longer.

    • higherstandard 2.2

      I think it's a daft line to be running.

      A competent PR advisor would be able to turn it around quite easily.

      • Anne 2.2.1

        You could be right, time will tell. Yet again the Coalition of Chaos can also be turned around given the Nats fairly recent history.

        • higherstandard 2.2.1.1

          If I was hit with 'Coalition of Cuts' in the media or in a debate I'd agree that it was indeed my policy to cut hospital waiting lists, cut inflation, cut truancy, cut ram raids, cut wasteful spending etc etc

          How do you believe 'Coalition of Chaos' can be flipped on its head ?

          • Anne 2.2.1.1.1

            By mentioning all the chaotic machinations and the naughty boys who had to resign in their recent past.

            Of course your response would be… what about all the chaotic machinations and naughty boys in Labour?

            Well, you would have a point there too.

            I'm having a friendly stoush btw.

            • higherstandard 2.2.1.1.1.1

              'I'm having a friendly stoush btw.'

              Nothing wrong with that Anne, it'll be far more fun than listening to the rubbish out of the mouths of the politicians leading up to the election.

  3. Tiger Mountain 3

    Carmel’s contribution was likely well received by Labour insiders, I met her when she was first running in West Auckland and her personable approach is obvious, I know people who are good friends of hers. It is no fun criticising nice well meaning people…but…like 90% of the Labour Caucus she shows little sign of a class analysis which Michael Wood and Willie Jackson do have more than a glimmer of.

    Let's not go through the whole list, but Carmel seems a classic case of an MP captured by their Department. The 2019 WEAG report;

    https://www.weag.govt.nz/weag-report/

    should have been implemented in its entirety forthwith or at the next budget. But it remains substantially unimplemented and sadistic MSD/WINZ staff can still cause much stress and unpaid entitlements, for vulnerable people if you talk to beneficiaries and beneficiary advocates.

    It was telling during the height of COVID that a more generous second tier benefit was introduced for middle class people, more money and no scary case managers! Partners could still be in work too–try that on a standard “job seeker allowance” …or having a live in partner. 1964 social morality standards still apply at MSD for regular benificiaries.

    Labour know what they have operating at MSD but neo liberal theory and decades of officially sanctioned “Bennie bashing” and othering of the poor means they do not have the courage to act. This is a barrier NZ Labour has to cross asap, and the new gens have to organise politically to make it happen.

    • Phillip ure 3.1

      Not much about how labour have lifted the poor out of poverty..

      Nothing about children lifted out of poverty..

      (Any increases given by labour have been eaten up many times by the huge increases in the basics of life..)

      She touched on elder poverty…and boasts about pensioners getting $25 bucks a week..which we all know buys s.f.a…and that seems to be the dephh of her vision on this..

      And she didn't touch upon what is her greatest fail…enacting none of the welfare reforms recommended by the group of experts..set up by labour..

      Her ministry could be defined bas the ministry of mixed opportunities..

      Her whole piece is just another attempt at justifying the neolibral incrementalism..that has so defined this labour govt..

      My heart sank when sepuloni was given m.s.d…..my concerns that she would ring in little change…my fears have been proven to be totally justified..

      (The only positive I can cite is the restoration of the t.i.a…it ain't enough..! .)

      • Phillip ure 3.1.1

        'ministry of missed opportunities'

        • Phillip ure 3.1.1.1

          Labour paid out serious amounts of money in corporate welfare..

          Any real changes for the poorest/homeless etc..?

          Yeah..nah..eh..?

      • Grey Area 3.1.2

        Her ministry could be defined as the ministry of mixed opportunities..

        Her whole piece is just another attempt at justifying the neoliberal incrementalism..that has so defined this labour govt..

        My heart sank when sepuloni was given m.s.d…..my concerns that she would ring in little change…my fears have been proven to be totally justified.

        Yep. Incrementalism nails it. Labour – betraying NZ since 1984.

        • SPC 3.1.2.1

          National once made those in state houses pay market rents. ACT are worse.

          • Phillip ure 3.1.2.1.1

            My criticisms of this labour regime should in no way be taken as endorsements of the other bastards…

            They come from a place of disappointment..

            They should have bloody well done better..

      • SPC 3.1.3

        No, it has been incrementalism, but away from the neo-liberal regime, rather than dismantling it.

        Apart from the TIA, the Income Supplement for winter power payment, and half fare PT. Also a real increase in benefit level. And easier access to hardship money – not so necessary if they had frozen rents.

        • Phillip ure 3.1.3.1

          I have been out here living amongst the real precariat for over five years…

          Any real improvements in their lives..? ..over this labour-time..?

          Not really…

          • SPC 3.1.3.1.1

            There's a difference when people can afford to buy homes (and it was a struggle at 2019 prices to incomes) … or get a rental that is of an improved standard.

            But until then it would have taken a rent freeze (the missing ingredient) to notice the help provided (including the MW increases) in their daily circumstance.

    • Jack 4.1

      Yep, a speech for the economically illiterate and already been lampooned in the media.

      When you take a policy of a minor coalition partner and someone with 35 years to work as your example, ignore the far greater tax savings under that same party policy over the same 35 years, then the coalition of chaos rightly deserves to be lampooned.

      • scotty 4.1.1

        Media as in – Mike, Paula, Heather and the eminent economist Barry Soper.

      • AB 4.1.2

        …ignore the far greater tax savings…

        The tax savings of course are not equally distributed – the greatest tax saving will be accrued by those (the wealthiest) who have the least need of superannuation when they get to 65 anyway. Those who most need superannuation support at 65 will have the least in tax savings to offset the later age of eligibility. (i.e. tax cuts are regressive in all senses of the word)

        And you are ignoring the extra costs that will be incurred when government services are reduced to pay for tax cuts. Will GST be sneakily raised a la John Key? Will an ineffective health service require you to go private for your hip replacement or bowel cancer surgery? Who knows – and would you dare take the risk?

        Is National going to change employment law so that redundancy payment is complusory for workers laid off between the ages of 60 and 67 – and require (say) 50% of annual wages to be paid up to the age of 67? Or do they actually fancy having a tranche of desperate and readily-exploited older workers who need to scrape some cash together somehow to get by till 67 and can't get anything like the sort of job they used to have?

        It's clear that delaying the superannuation age will cause a further bifurcation of social classes among the elderly and the growth in elder poverty. The latter is going to be a horrid problem as more people become life-long renters in a cowboy market and have no significant assets to cash in when they retire.

        National – redistributing wealth upwards has always been their schtick. Angry, mean-spirited, antisocial fools since forever.

        • SPC 4.1.2.1

          The increase in super age 60-65 (1990-2000) left all those unable to work in those years in poverty (and it was bad – late 1980's early 90's unemployment and 1991 slashed benefits). People lost homes and even those who got into state houses were required to pay market tents.

          The difference this time is years of notice but more in privater rentals (not ever owning).

          Social justice would require us to pay super rate benefits to those unable to work between age 60 and 65 because of poor health.

          As usual National are intent on going in another direction.

          • RosieLee 4.1.2.1.1

            Didn't Muldoon drop the super age to 60 as a massive election bribe? I know it made my father vote Nat for the first time in his life!

            • SPC 4.1.2.1.1.1

              The Labour government’s New Zealand Superannuation Act, passed in August 1974, required mandatory pension contributions by employees and employers for all workers over the age of 17. Contributions could only be withdrawn if people were leaving the country permanently and payments would begin upon retirement from the age of 60. The new scheme came into operation on 1 April 1975 but its life would be short. In that year's election the National opposition proposed an alternative tax-funded National Superannuation scheme. This wooed many voters who were unhappy about their take-home pay being reduced to fund their retirement. The affordability of National Super, which replaced Labour's scheme in February 1977, would be severely tested as the numbers eligible for it grew. The question of how to pay for our retirement has dogged successive governments.

              https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/the-1970s/1974

              Both parties had plans for post age 60 super. Labour had a plan for affording it.

              Before then a means tested “pension” amount was paid from age 60 and the same as a universal rate super from age 65.

              https://www.goodreturns.co.nz/article/976486047/super-history-nz-s-super-system-unique.html

        • Belladonna 4.1.2.2

          I don't believe that a gradual shift to a super age of 67 is going to make a significant difference to the cost of provision.

          But the whole debate is completely ignoring the elephant in the room. The whole super payment is predicated on the vast majority of retirees owning their own home, not renting (and certainly not renting in the current market).

          Yes, there have always been a small minority of people who needed support – and this was provided through Council or State housing.

          But, that's not what we are going to see over the next 10-15 years – with a great swathe of current 50+ people who are still renting (not through choice), and have no nest-egg (Kiwi-saver plus savings) to be able to afford to buy on retirement (even if they shift away from all their social networks to small-town-NZ – which is no longer the cheap alternative it used to be)

          According to the 2018 census 1 in 4 people between 50 and 65 don't own the home they live in. Now, some of that may be people with a house in a small town, currently rented out, while they live in a city where they can get work. But a very large chunk is going to be people who will no longer be able to pay the rent, once they stop working.

          https://www.interest.co.nz/personal-finance/115138/claire-dale-details-coming-storm-new-zealand%E2%80%99s-future-retirees-still

    • SPC 4.2

      Labour 2002-2008 said it had made super from age 65 affordable with the Cullen Fund

      National – 2008-2017 said super from age 65 was affordable without contributions into the Cullen Fund.

      Whose flip flopping?

      Labour is again paying money into the Fund and says its affordable because of this.

    • Jack 4.3

      After Labours last big hurrah before the election and they have zero, zilch, zip new to announce. Just re-announce old stuff. No more ideas. Out of steam. Out of puff. And in a few months out of office.

      • SPC 4.3.1

        And Putin's push to victory in Ukraine is assured …

      • Phillip ure 4.3.2

        That depends on the/any promises they make pre-election..

        That is their last gasp..not now..

  4. Ad 5

    Good she got to the dollars and cents at the end. That's what this will be fought on.

    A little surprised she didn't total up all the welfare increases and minimum wage increases Labour have put in since 2017.

    Hiring her as Number 2 was a smart move from Hipkins.

    • adam 5.1

      A little surprised she didn't total up all the welfare increases and minimum wage increases Labour have put in since 2017.

      If she had, she would have got the bash from the Tory press. They have never, not once in this countries history, been anything but willing to punch down to win an election.

    • Phillip ure 5.2

      Yes ad..the facts are that after six years of labour..we still have a low-wage/high cost of living economy..

      So what have they really done..?

      Transformational..?..( my rear end..!)

      • Phillip ure 5.2.1

        I have been lobbying on behalf of the homeless..

        And something innovative that I have been arguing for..may make a first appearance in parliament next week ..

        If it does I will point at it and say ' that is what I am talking about'..

        • Ad 5.2.1.1

          Good on you Philip the country needs more like you.

          But if you do appear before the Select Committee, remember they ain't your friends, so rehearse your message, and memorise your facts really well.

          • Phillip ure 5.2.1.1.1

            Chrs ad..it is a bit bigger than a select committee appearance.

            I have come at it from a different angle…and may well have already done the verbal arguing/persuasion for the case that is needed..

            Others have already taken up the cudgel..

            And it is their actions I am awaiting..

            If it comes off ..I will publish the written pitch I made here..which will explain it all..

            • RedLogix 5.2.1.1.1.1

              Same from me – looking forward to seeing your write up. yes

              • Phillip ure

                Chrs.

                Grrr!..I have been informed this morning that a beaurocratic hurdle still needs to be negotiated….

                So not this week..

                Apologies for raising any expectations..

  5. Ad 6

    Fascinating the way she subverts Polynesian gender role norms so hard by foregrounding the helpmeet subservience of her male partner to her career.

    Not the most obvious pitch to those trad P.I. Labour families.

    I'm sure it generated wry amusement

  6. Corey 7

    This event is usually a far bigger deal than this ….weird…

    I take no issue with this speech I do take great issue with chippies speech though…

    Its bad enough the modern party still compares itself to the first three labour labour govts, which were social democratic not liberal but to diminish Peter Fraser, labours longest serving PM, the man who lead NZ through WW2, led the post war recovery and led soldiers into houses and careers, to call this man just an "innovative education minister" is disgraceful.

    All while lauding bloody Nash!

    Fraser did more for NZ than Clark,Ardern,Lange and Nash combined as PM but he's just an innovative education minister.

    If a sitting labor leader diminished John Curtin in this way there'd be a ruckus

    • SPC 7.1

      What was actually said

      In taking on the greatest and most important job I will ever have, I'm only too aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

      I think of Michael Joseph Savage, whose first Labour Government led New Zealand out of the great Depression and founded the modern Welfare State.

      I think of Peter Fraser, who in addition to being a great Prime Minister was one of the most forward-looking and visionary Ministers of Education New Zealand has ever seen.

      I think of Walter Nash, our last Prime Minister from the Hutt and our longest-serving Finance Minister.

      I think of Norman Kirk and the work of his government to usher in our world-leading ACC scheme, set in train a process to right the wrongs of the past through Treaty settlements, and inspire pride in ourselves as a nation.

      I think of Helen Clark and the catalogue of signature achievements under her leadership: working for families, interest-free student loans, Kiwisaver, Kiwibank, paid parental leave, free early childhood education, and an economic track record of growth and surpluses that any government would be proud of.

      And of course I think of my very good friend Jacinda Ardern, who led New Zealand with kindness, humility and strength through a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption, a series of natural disasters and perhaps the biggest challenge of all, a global pandemic.

      In taking on the greatest and most important job I will ever have, I'm only too aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants.

      I think of Michael Joseph Savage, whose first Labour Government led New Zealand out of the great Depression and founded the modern Welfare State.

      I think of Peter Fraser, who in addition to being a great Prime Minister was one of the most forward-looking and visionary Ministers of Education New Zealand has ever seen.

      I think of Walter Nash, our last Prime Minister from the Hutt and our longest-serving Finance Minister.

      I think of Norman Kirk and the work of his government to usher in our world-leading ACC scheme, set in train a process to right the wrongs of the past through Treaty settlements, and inspire pride in ourselves as a nation.

      I think of Helen Clark and the catalogue of signature achievements under her leadership: working for families, interest-free student loans, Kiwisaver, Kiwibank, paid parental leave, free early childhood education, and an economic track record of growth and surpluses that any government would be proud of.

      And of course I think of my very good friend Jacinda Ardern, who led New Zealand with kindness, humility and strength through a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption, a series of natural disasters and perhaps the biggest challenge of all, a global pandemic.

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