A new National Party MP has appealed to Māori in her maiden speech, saying if her party was an anti-Māori or racist party, then she wouldn’t be in it.
Takanini MP Rima Nakhle, who is an Australian-Lebanese New Zealander, gave her maiden speech in Parliament this afternoon saying she loved “our Māori people, our Māori culture, and our Māori language”.
“In politics, messages get muddied when spins are attached to them. But I want to make something very clear to my Māori brothers and sisters.
“If I felt that the National Party was racist, I would not be part of the National Party.
“If I felt that the National Party was anti-Māori, I would not be part of the National Party.”
She said Lebanon experienced hundreds of years of occupation and persecution.
“The Ottoman Empire tried to wipe out the Arabic language in Lebanon. It was the efforts of the Maronite monks that kept the language alive, so I understand the importance of preserving one’s language and culture.”
Having attended the Kīngitanga’s national hui last week, Nakhle also acknowledged Kīngi Tuheitia in her speech, thanking him “for the manaakitanga he always bestows to all who enter the grounds of Tūrangawaewae Marae, as I did recently”.
The new MP’s comments come after weeks of heat on the Government over its policies around te reo and te ao Māori, such as the proposed Treaty Principles Bill and the changing of agency names from Māori to English.
Her maiden speech was one of six from new National MPs today — including Miles Anderson, Cameron Brewer, Dana Kirkpatrick, Carl Bates, and Carlos Cheung.
In her speech, Nakhle also joked that in the past Speakers of the House risked execution if the monarch disapproved of their message.
“Rest assured Mr Speaker [Gerry Brownlee], I’m fairly certain that King Charles the Third will take a more understanding approach with a Speaker as praiseworthy as yourself.”
New Waitaki MP Miles Anderson, who succeeded the long-standing Jacqui Dean, also gave an unusual kind of compliment to two Labour Party MPs.
“I want to acknowledge colleagues from right across the house with whom I have had an association prior to entering politics.
“Damien O’Connor and Jo Luxton, both of whom I believe share National Party values, but have been held hostage by the Labour Party for so long that they suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.”
Anderson said he’d attended Massey University in Palmerston North to “learn what I could” and graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor of Agriculture “and an overworked liver”.
He said farming sentiment was “the worst I have ever seen”.
“Farmers are leaving the industry due to unworkable regulations. These are costing enormous amounts of money, eroding property rights and are ridiculous.
“It is the family farms that have been most affected, generally a husband and wife team who work long hours for not a lot because they love the land, the environment and have an intimate understanding of their property.
“The simple fact is it’s hard to be green if you are in the red.”
Anderson also hit out at what he saw as changes to New Zealanders’ freedom of speech.
“New Zealand has a proud history of championing free speech and democracy. I believe that tradition has been subverted in recent years.
“It seems that any opinion that isn’t supported by activists and/or so-called progressives is deemed extremist. Why is it that supposed liberals are so illiberal when it comes to hearing opposing views?”
Former journalist and new Upper Harbour MP Cameron Brewer said New Zealand used to be “known as a can-do country”.
“Sadly, we haven’t heard that term for a while.”
He said the foundation of the National Party was “built on the values of ambition and success” with lower taxes, reward for hard work, and equal opportunity for all at its core.
Brewer also took aim at the previous government, saying those it “purported to represent” were “sadly the ones that have suffered the greatest”.
“Those hit the hardest by the cost-of-living crisis are Kiwis on the pension, those Kiwis on the factory floor, those Kiwis trying to make ends meet, it’s Māori, it’s Pasifika. They’ve been absolutely walloped.”
Dana Kirkpatrick, who replaced Labour’s Kiri Allan as East Coast MP, said she “quite literally” found her political voice after shouting at the television during the pandemic.
“During 2020 and 2021 I found myself shouting in frustration, more and more at the television as government policy and regulation stripped the life out of all of us.
“In 2022 it dawned on me, that shouting at the telly wasn’t working and probably never would and that, if I was to make a difference, I would have to get elected.
“I really wanted to do work that would contribute to a positive, innovative, fair and united country, a country where my children wanted to bring up their families.
“A country where we honour our service people, where we have the most inspirational teachers, a health system that is functional and where everyone has opportunities to be educated and to get ahead. And so here we are — a privilege, a new chapter and one of the most important jobs in the world.”
Meanwhile, Whanganui MP Carl Bates revealed he’d “swiped right” — a reference to online dating apps — on his now-wife Candice, saying since that point she had “constantly supported and challenged me”.
The two celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary on New Year’s Eve 2020.
He also joked his mother was both his biggest promoter, but also his “harshest critic”, adding she could “probably get a job in the press gallery” for her efforts.
Representing constituents in Auckland’s Mt Roskill, Carlos Cheung spoke of the importance of education, financial management, integrity and kindness.
Cheung pulled off an upset win against Labour’s Michael Wood last year.
“This is why I am here today. After the election, I have heard and seen many saying, ‘Why is it that Carlos won? Is it because of his high educational achievements? Perhaps his business experience? Or maybe his support from the ethnic community?’
“Mr Speaker, though those things are true, it is much simpler to me, I have a heart for service, and with humility, I display it for all to see and follow if they want.”