Hodgson passionate in farewell speech

Pete Hodgson.
Pete Hodgson.
Labour's long-serving Dunedin North MP Pete Hodgson gave his valedictory speech yesterday, but the 21-year veteran of Parliament said nothing of his role as his party's pre-eminent mud-slinger.

The only reference to dirt-digging in his address was a tale about how a mishap with a large petrol-powered rotary hoe almost ended his own political career.

Rather than dwelling on the political scalps he has claimed, Mr Hodgson preferred to talk about the breadth of his experience as an MP, including the 14 different portfolios he held while a minister.

Clearly still passionate about many of the issues he dealt with as a minister, his farewell speech included calls for greater action on responding to the threat of climate change, greater Government support for research and development and greater support for the low paid.

Among those Mr Hodgson (61) paid tribute to were veteran MP Jim Anderton, in whose office his own political career began in 1980, and two other important mentors, his parents who were in the public gallery yesterday.

In his own farewell speech yesterday, Mr Anderton advised Labour to ignore the polls and "hang in there".

Mr Anderton, who was elected to Parliament as Labour MP in 1984 but later split with the party, is retiring at this year's election and yesterday delivered his valedictory speech.

His advice to Labour came as he recalled a conversation with former Labour leader Bill Rowling.

"I remember Bill and I looking at grim polling news over a beer in the lounge of his leader's office in 1981, and the poll trends indicated that if they continued like that until election day, Labour would actually get no votes whatsoever," he said.

The party went on to gain more votes than the National Government, although under the first past the post system lost the election.

"My message to Phil Goff therefore is to hang in there. The lessons are not over until they're over."

Mr Anderton (73) left Labour in 1989 in response to the party's free-market reforms and state asset sales. He went on to form the New Labour Party, then the Alliance Party, and finally the Progressive Party.

Looking back at the transitions yesterday, Mr Anderton said he had no regrets and that he would not alter his actions if he was faced with the same situations a second time around.

Reflecting on the highlights his career, Mr Anderton noted his push for KiwiBank and the helping hand Labour's Annette King had had in establishing it following his hard-fought negotiations with then-finance minister Michael Cullen.

"Annette King finally turned to Michael Cullen after three hours of this and said these immortal words, 'Michael, Jim's beaten back every argument against the bank we've ever put up. For God's sake give him the bloody bank.

"And Michael Cullen, in equally immortal words, said, 'Oh, all right then'."

- The New Zealand Herald


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