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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Since it’s the first time I’ve actually spoken in the House, can I congratulate you on your appointment. I think you’ll make a fantastic presiding officer, and I think it’s an important part of the parliamentary process that we have good referees during the match. So I wish you well over the coming term—and the other presiding officers as well.

So it’s good to be back in the 53rd Parliament, it’s fair to say I spent probably parts of the election night not thinking I was back, so it’s good to be here. I think, as I reflect on this bill today, what an important bill, because I think what it does is it grounds us. It’s very easy in our job to assume some self-importance, and that we start to believe in ourselves that we are important, but in fact for me—as an electorate MP—some of the biggest wins that you can make are the small ones that mean the most for the people that we represent.

This isn’t a big bill, it’s fairly technical—a large part of it is reducing the 12-month rule. But I tell you what, for those people that it does affect, this is big news. I want to acknowledge the Minister, Kelvin Davis, for bringing this into the House, but also the former Minister, the Hon Tracey Martin. You know, I did value the Hon Tracey Martin’s inputs to the House over the previous few terms. I hope she’s listening today—if she is, she’s got real problems and needs to switch off. But, in fairness, you always knew she brought her heart to her work with the Hon Tracey Martin. And when you look at some of those other New Zealand First MPs, you know, let’s not forget Richard Prosser—from my part of the world, Waimakariri. And who would forget Denis O’Rourke, with his rousing speeches in the House? We miss Denis, bring back Denis.

One thing that I took a key focus of, when I read our notes about this bill—I’ve underlined it here—which I was quite alarmed: by age 24, people who grow up in foster care are earning, on average, around half the income of those who are not. People who have been in foster care at the age of 24 earn about half the income of those who did not grow up in foster care. That’s a damning statistic, and it’s incumbent on us, as legislators, and in people who develop policy that ultimately translates into practice in the real world, that we address that. On this side of the House, and I acknowledge the Hon Bill English for social investment, because what social investment was—and I think if you look at the example of teen mums, classically, decades ago, they would be put on a benefit, we’d wave them goodbye, and they would stay on that benefit, I think the data said, for about 35 years.

Now, thanks to flexible education models, teen mums and dads—there’s no underachievement, their aspirations are high. They can go to flexible education units, get the education they need, as well as look after their young children and go on to succeed. So it is concerning when you read a statistic that now we know that those in foster care at the age of 24 will go on to earn half the income as an average person at the age of 24—and that needs to be addressed. This bill is not going to be the silver bullet, but it goes some way in acknowledging that, and acknowledging the entitlements for those who are giving up their time, their love, and their resources for some of the most vulnerable in New Zealand. This is a great Christmas present. Let’s hope the bill will get the royal assent as soon as possible and make a real difference for some of the most vulnerable people in New Zealand. That’s why I wholeheartedly support this bill. Thank you.

Dr Duncan Webb: Madam Speaker?

ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Jacqui Dean): Just before I take the call, can the member confirm whether he is taking the five-minute call or the following 10-minute call?

Dr Duncan Webb: I am seeking the five-minute call, Madam Speaker.