Benson-Pope stands by Labour in valedictory speech

David Benson-Pope gives his valedictory speech in Parliament yesterday. Photo from NZPA images.
David Benson-Pope gives his valedictory speech in Parliament yesterday. Photo from NZPA images.
Dunedin South MP David Benson-Pope remained loyal to Labour, right to the end of his Parliamentary career as a member of the party that rejected him, first as a cabinet minister and then from the electorate he served for nine years.

In his farewell speech in the House last night, the last he would give as a Labour MP, Mr Benson-Pope focused mainly on the policy introduced during his time in the House.

Legislation he helped steer through Parliament included the Civil Unions and Care of Children Bills, and the reintegration of Child, Youth and Family into the Ministry of Social Development.

Not once did he refer to the events that have changed his political career, in which he rose from being a back-bench MP to chief whip to cabinet minister, and then returned to the back bench under a cloud of scandal.

Nor did he provide any hint about whether his plans included standing in Dunedin South in some independent capacity while pledging to support Labour.

However, he found time to take a swipe at the media, some members of which, he said, wanted to be the news rather than just report events.

But his harshest criticism was reserved for National Party MPs, particularly their constant attack on the NCEA, a system introduced by National.

"I've watched and been involved with the introduction of that qualification, both as associate minister of education and a parent of high-school students.

"I've seen the positive effect on my daughter and son and the motivating effect on them and their friends, and that is a common experience.

"And isn't it great to finally have a qualification designed for our own country, and our own needs?"

The real low point for Mr Benson-Pope had been the repeated veiled insults and other misogynist behaviour by National MPs towards presiding female officers in the House, which he said was ugly stuff, hard to put up with and difficult to do anything about.

He hoped a future Parliament would address the issue.

After paying tribute to his supporters in Dunedin during the 23 years he had served as a city councillor and MP, and to his staff and family, Mr Benson-Pope raised the matter of the election.

"We again own Air New Zealand, the rail track, our world-leading ACC system is not being privatised, and this Government will not sell them 'eventually'.

"Best of all, young New Zealanders are not coming home from their OE in Iraq in body bags. They would have been had voters made a different choice in 2002 or 2005. For me, that makes the choice for this year pretty clear."

Asked how he felt as he delivered his valedictory speech, Mr Benson-Pope said "politically focused, as always".

Prime Minister Helen Clark was in the House to hear the farewell speech of the MP she had sacked from the Cabinet.


> David Benson-Pope

Born Dunedin, February 23, 1950.

Married to Jan Flood, they have twins.

Educated: Kings High School, University of Otago and Christchurch Teachers College.

1986: Elected to Dunedin City Council.

1999: Elected MP for Dunedin South with nearly 10,000-vote majority.

2002: Government whip.

2004: Elected to Cabinet.

2007: Resigned as minister on July 27.

2008: Defeated as Labour's Dunedin South candidate on February 2.



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