Grant Robertson delivers a rally speech at Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre.
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Kia ora, nau mai haere mai ke tēnei whananui.
There is no doubt that 2020 will go down as one of the most extraordinary years in our lifetimes. When daylight saving saw us put the clocks forward by an hour a couple of weeks ago I seriously considered just shifting it forward 96 days and being done with 2020 once and for all.
But for all the tough times of 2020, New Zealanders have played an absolute blinder (first rugby joke for the day). We have acted together to look after each other, to save lives and to save livelihoods. As a country we have stuck to the plan, washed our hands, stayed home and have generally been kind to each other.
And here we are in Level 1, gathering in this hall in big numbers, and later today down the road for a Bledisloe Cup win. This is not something that is possible in many other countries. If we were in the UK I would have to ask all but six of you to leave. Don’t worry Tolly, I would let you stay. In France the bars and cafes are shut. Restrictions are in place all over the world.
So we are fortunate- but, in my view, we are not lucky. We did not get here by accident. We got here because we had a plan and we stuck to it.
Now, there were plenty who wanted us to shift that plan. When it came to the border our opponents have had the consistency of a bored cat- first they wanted the borders open, then the borders shut, then the borders open again. They have lurched from leader to leader to leader, with 19 MPs jumping ship along the way. They had a budget with more holes than a rabbit run golf course, and a Caucus helpfully open sourcing their group chat.
If I am being kind, and you know I would never go off brand, I would say they are in a re-building phase. Which is exactly why can’t afford to put them in charge of New Zealand’s rebuild.
We have never wavered. That is what stability and a plan get you. It’s also what strong, compassionate and decisive leadership will get you. And a united team all pushing in the same direction.
And now, we have the opportunity to carry on that work through the next phases of COVID and beyond. To support our people, our businesses and our communities to be strong. To recover and rebuild better than we were before, and to keep our country moving. It can only happen if we all do our job- to vote, to get our friends and whanau to vote. The job is not yet done my friends, one week to go.
And through of this there has been one central figure to whom New Zealanders have looked to in these extraordinary times. I want to thank Mittens the cat for that role.
In all seriousness, Jacinda’s role in leading our country through this time can never be overstated. I am sure like me you have friends and family around the world who look on in wonder and jealousy at the quality and strength of our Prime Minister.
I want to say something to those who tell us that Jacinda is a “good communicator”. Of course she is. She is clear, empathetic and engaging. But that line is used by some to belittle. In order to communicate a global pandemic, its consequences and our response, you need to be razor sharp, not just well briefed but on top of every detail. You need an intellect, a critical mind and a strategic brain that very few can claim. Jacinda has all of this and more. So once more for those who seek to patronise or diminish what Jacinda has done to be about being a communicator, I say no, what Jacinda has shown Ladies and Gentlemen is true leadership.
Now, there might be some who say this has all gone a bit far. At one point I thought that being Prime Minister and a Mum was enough work for any one person, but as NZ’s leading epidimologist, genetic scientist and contact tracer Jacinda’s been more busy than usual. On more than one occasion I have seen our leading COVID experts and scientists stopped in their tracks by a question or observation from Jacinda. She has led, and she has constantly pushed us all to be better.
Yet through this time, Dr Ardern Medicine Woman is still very much the person I became friends with close to 20 years ago. In the midst of this crisis she always has people in her mind and in her heart. From the smallest gesture towards her colleagues to check if they are ok (and once finding they are, asking them a series of difficult work questions) through to making sure that at every step of our response we have put people first.
The weight of the decisions that have had to be made over the last few months have been enormous. Every one of the 25 lives lost to COVID in New Zealand has been personally felt by Jacinda and our team. But her clarity and compassion have shone through. We went hard and early because we had a leader who was prepared to take the tough decisions and make them fast. Of course we were not going to get it 100% right, but one thing I know for sure is that the person that has led us through this crisis is 100% the right person to carry on leading our country and our people to recover and rebuild.
Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome my friend, your leader and New Zealand’s Prime Minister the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern