Sarah Dowie, National’s Invercargill MP gave her valedictory speech yesterday and it was a very, very good speech. She was frank and to the point and spoke from the heart.
She is clearly happy to be going. From Hansard:
When I started my parliamentary career, I would have done anything to make it to the caucus room. The drive was immeasurable. I would have clawed at the windows or walked across hot coals to get in. It was on that premise of motivation that I ran my campaigns and worked with gusto in Parliament and in my community. On leaving, I have the same level of intensity: I could claw at the windows or walk across hot coals to get out.
Her comments on caucus unity and on Labour’s paid parental leave policy were interesting.
There’s a lot to be said for being in an MMP environment. Equally, there’s a lot to be said for being a backbench MP in a stable Rt Hon Sir John Key Government, where discipline was almost a monotheistic religion. In the House, the whips would regularly blow their whistles, and we would head over the metaphorical trenches to present our views in the first, second, and third readings. Sometimes National’s position on issues would stick in one’s craw, none so much for me as voting against Sue Moroney’s paid parental leave member’s bill on the basis of fiscal prudency, only to later campaign on it in the 2017 election. I remember being nervous about speaking, because of my views, and, of course, Labour were in full rampage. Their tongues cracked against our skin like electricity.
My speech was a little more moderate than most. Mr Speaker said to me afterward that he couldn’t tell whether I was supporting the bill or not.
Paid parental leave, including having workable conditions governing it, resonates. I am, of course, before a politician, first and foremost a mother, and it just goes to show what happens when a bit of common sense gets injected into parliamentary debate. I thank Iain Lees-Galloway for picking it up.
She spoke about the camaraderie that exists between politicians of all sides.
It’s easy to get embroiled in domestic politics, but when we go overseas, party colours go out the window. I came to realise this more so in 2017 while travelling with Peeni Henare from Labour on a trip that will forever remain with me: the 100th commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele. It had extra significance for me. My great-great-uncle died at Passchendaele and was awarded a VC for his efforts. Peeni joined me in visiting his grave, and from there the raw, visceral emotion continued to build. Passchendaele is unreal. I have never felt emotion like it. It wasn’t just sorrow or pride; whatever it was sat in your gut for days and manifested in the physical and, of course, tears. The services were so powerful you could literally feel the spirits of the dead rising.
She was frank about Jami-Lee Ross:
According to the more experienced politician, everyone has an annus horribilis. Mine hit full peak in January 2019, and I didn’t think my personal life was too out of the ordinary until my name scrolled across The AM Show‘s newsreel, bumping Brexit as the lead story. While it’s clear I had made some poor choices, the fact that a press gallery reporter was live providing analysis brought the whole sorry affair to a new level. In my eyes, it can only be described as comical. She was maniacal, could hardly get her words out, and she didn’t have the nous to work out the difference between a complaint, investigation, charge, and proceedings. What followed was worse: a litany of diatribe from even the so-called reputable outlets. At best, some comments could be called wide of the mark. Others were just downright lies. In hindsight, I question whether I should have sued some publications.
Compared with recent events where media analysis lasted only a couple of news cycles, the speculation and rubbish continued for me for weeks on end. One woman said to me recently, “Sarah, you were absolutely trashed in the media in 2019, and yet these other MPs experience a couple of media cycles of scrutiny and hide behind mental health issues for their bad behaviour.” The antithesis is the hypocrisy of the media calling for a clean up of politicians. Yes, we are representatives and should take responsibility for poor behaviour, but we are not elected as angels. We too are human and make mistakes, just as journalists do and have. But when a predator is able to manipulate the media for his agenda and the media is directly party to it, it is the media fraternity that needs to audit themselves as to their ethics and their conscious peddling of sexism and patriarchy. If it takes me to be New Zealand’s scarlet woman to highlight this, then so be it.
All in all it was an impressive speech and offered a fascinating and complex insight into Parliamentary life. It also adds some context to recent debate about morality and politics.
Kia kaha Sarah Dowie.