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Words on leaving the House of pain and strength

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, August 24th, 2017 - 32 comments
Categories: greens - Tags: ,

Catherine Delahunty gave her valedictory speech in Parliament a few weeks ago. So much has happened politically in that time, but I don’t want to lose this because it’s the voice of a strong radical woman MP saying what she needs to on her way out the door. This is the Green Party I know and love.

The Spinoff rated Delahunty’s speech as number 1 in valedictories this year,

This is, to use a technical term, fucking savage.

Excerpts from Delahunty’s speech,

Ā, tēnā koe Mr Speaker, tēnā koutou Te Whare Pāremata me te tangata whenua o Te Motu, me ngā Tangata Tiriti katoa. Tenā rā koutou, nau mai, haere mai ki Te Whare Pāremata, Te Whare Raruraru, Te Whare Mamae, Te Whare Kaha!

[Thank you, Mr Speaker, and to you collectively Parliament House, indigenous people of the country, and all Treaty people. Salutations indeed to you collectively, welcome and come hither to the House of Parliament, the troubled House, the House of pain, the House of strength!]

I make this speech with profound gratitude to all the people who have helped me do this job for the past 8½ years, and with few regrets. Possibly, my greatest regret is not being in the Government so I could establish the “Ministry of Pākehā Affairs” and create the national standard for honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi. “Dear Mrs Brash, your son Don is well below, again.”

However, before the thankyous, I need to name the inspiration that has carried me and the deep disquiet that keeps me awake at night. Che Guevara said: “The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.” I have been guided by this view, and by this whakataukī: “Whatungarongaro he tangata, toitū he whenua.”; “People perish, but the land remains.” Thank you to kuia Betty Williams for what you have taught me. These two statements are not contradictions; they are complementary truths. If this makes some of us green-red watermelons, how sweet is that? The watermelon is the most colourful, refreshing, and delicious fruit imaginable.

But all is not well in the garden of Aotearoa. In the past 8½ years we have seen this country become even more unequal and dirty. I could be referring just to the quantity and quality of our water, but it is a universal degradation. In the past 8½ years politics has become depoliticised, celebrity trivialised, and empty. This is not an accident of Facebook; it is a consequence of neo-liberal strategies to reduce citizen scrutiny of the concentration of power, at the expense of our survival on earth and our humanity towards each other. “New Zealand Inc.” replaces Aotearoa as the “brand” we must embrace, while the beggars on Lambton Quay are just a necessary price they must pay for failing in the competition of hypercapitalism.

While we read about Bill English cooking up some tasteless, folksy food designed to fabricate Kiwi authenticity, the real game show grinds on, glamorising consumption, ignoring the chaos of the climate and the collapse of endangered species—the cruelty of a stripped-down, irresponsible State under corporate control. How about they go take their social investment rhetoric and insulate their invisible social housing with it?

There are many alternatives to the current degraded state of the nation. As the poet Pablo Neruda said: “You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep the spring from coming.” What might a transformed spring look like in the 21st century? Spring inevitably has indigenous roots, vibrant with reimagined political structures based on caring, distributive, steady-state economics, the technology of respect, and a few wealth taxes thrown in—full employment, housing for all, free education and healthcare, not market economics. That religion is over, and it failed to provide.

We have to start with an economic system that supports the collective dignity of indigenous people, the unemployed and working class, women, children, refugees, exploited migrants, and the so-called disabled. As my satirical poem—”Double the quota of white men, you can never have enough”—so crudely states, it is time for a different definition of whose voices matter. I may not see this in my lifetime. I want it for my mokopuna. The alternative is our “down home” version of a Trump dystopia, and it is too here and too now.

I want to thank the Green Party for giving me a place and, at this very moment, inspiring me again that we stand for all people and for justice, as well as for the environment. The Right is desperate to keep us in a tidy little green box, focused on the environment minus people. It will fail in the attempt because our mission has always been the commitment to the inseparable solutions of environmental healing and social justice. Many of us believe that if we are neutral and allow injustice to continue to happen, we are siding with the oppressor. Today is a particularly good day to reflect on that.

When I joined the party, we started working on our commitment to honouring Te Tiriti. Not settling treaties but honouring them is the task, as Moana Jackson has reminded us. I am proud to be one the few Pākehā to stand in this House for Te Tiriti, because it is only via this kaupapa that we, the dominant privileged with our oft-denied default racism, can transform ourselves into tangata Tiriti—people of honour with a place to stand.

To everyone who wants change so badly this election, let us be brave and honest. A pallid centrism will not serve us or this country. The era of the slick, bland slogan is over; truth to power, or, as some unlikely leader said, for the many, not for the few.


Full speech transcript is here, and the video is worth watching for Delahunty’s passionate, almost Slam poetry delivery and the heartfelt waiata at the end,

32 comments on “Words on leaving the House of pain and strength ”

  1. ” The Right is desperate to keep us in a tidy little green box, focused on the environment minus people.”

    Catherine’s not fooled by anything. Freed from the shackles of Parliament, she’ll cut a swathe! Great speech, great service to the country, great future Catherine; kia nanakia, kia nui whakaharahara, kia manawanui, kia hiwa ra, kia hiwa ra, kia hiwa ra!

  2. Shona 3

    All the old guard are moving on. A staunch woman. I will miss her.

  3. roy cartland 4

    What a good lady. Solid speech.

    Interestingly, all the recent ructions of the GP seem to have brought some Greenies out of the closet. The feeling I get is that even though some of them are sucked in by the Dirty Politics attack line that Metiria “stuffed up”, they’re still going to vote Green.

    It’s time for Greenies to double down. A LAB-GRE coalition without anyone else is not only not-unthinkable it’s a real possibility.

  4. Macro 5

    Thank you heaps weka for giving space to this speech by Catherine. My own Catherine, and a follower of Catherine, was there to hear the speech so grievously overshadowed by the other sad events on that day. Never mind, the fight will go on. Even now our activists are standing up to mining on DOC land on Karangahake Mountain. And National Radio reports the arrest of 3. Catherine has been a prime mover on this issue for years and she was there with the protestors 2 weeks ago.
    Catherine will be missed from Parliament, she has been the prime mover on cleaning up our rivers, and toxic sites around NZ for years.
    She has been a prime mover in helping the Greens to fully adopt and endorse Te Tiriti as the founding document of this country, and at every development of policy by the Greens she constantly asked “How does this stand in relation to Te Treaty. It is disappointing that Maori in general seem to misunderstand that The Greens are fully committed to Te Triti, and that if any party was to have their interests at heart it would be the Greens.
    Catherine was also the Greens spokesperson on Education, and pressed for some significant subcommittee enquiries including one on the effects of dyslexia. A large number of inmates in prison are dyslexic. Sadly although National were initially supportive of the investigation, as soon as it was concluded, the recommendations came in, and there were costs involved, they turned their backs.

  5. xanthe 6

    The greens are looking more palatable each day now.
    IMHO Their “consultative” processes have been a sham and the reality has been a small clique maintaining control by bullying. Many may be shocked by this but it is my honestly held opinion based on some experience. I am hopeful that the greens may be entering a new phase now. and may begin to actually bring people to a better understanding of environmental and social sustainability rather than building personal followings using division and polarization.
    They would be stronger after a term out of parliament

    • “The greens are looking more palatable each day now”
      Soft and mushy, you mean, xanthe?
      May as well be UnitedFuture then; so palatable you don’t even remember you’ve had them. I like my Greens hard and bright, like emeralds, not so much over-cooked peas.

  6. Philj 7

    “They would be stronger after a term out of parliament”
    As would National.

  7. esoteric pineapples 8

    I would have liked to hear this sort of speech from Catherine over and over for the past 8 and half years. Maybe she was giving them and I missed them. From the little that I have come across and known about CD she has seemed a very nice person but has never had a strong public profile. Maybe Green MPs should be kicking butt hard every week. The last big butt kicking I remember was that from Gareth Hughes against John Key. I don’t think the Greens have anything to lose by being staunch and unapologetic.

    • tracey 8.1

      This is one reason Turei with caucus backing did what she did. Many Greens have spoken this way and put out press releases. If you werent looking for them the media did not oblige.

      How much of Green statements and policy have you read or seen in msm since Turei resigned. Silenced

  8. Good speech. Thank you Catherine and all the best for the future.

  9. Candy1 10

    Catherine’s maiden speech was intensely moving also. Does anyone have the vid?

  10. One Anonymous Bloke 11


  11. I never paid much attention to Catherine Delahunty, but that was awesome. It’s like she made an in-depth study of what would be most likely to induce apoplexy, cardiac arrest or stroke in the typical Kiwiblog commenter and packaged it all up into one speech. I expect DPF avoided covering it for health and safety reasons.

  12. Key – “shallow gambler”.

  13. CoroDale 14

    Catherine, amazing leader. But it wasn’t about her it was always about the issue. Truly believe she had the skills to win the Coromandel seat, like JF. But Catherine wasn’t there to say what people wanted to hear, she was there to offer the unwelcome truth, kicking-ass for the issue, and it was so often the issues that so many blue-blooded locals didn’t want to hear. Inspiring values and strength, and razor sharp humour. Bless her and rest her, she’ll be back.

  14. mosa 15

    Thank you Catherine for your service , commitment and courage , standing up for green principles and justice.

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