Kelvin Davis: Speech to the Labour Party Congress 2023

One of my kaumātua up North stood before the Waitangi Tribunal and said:

‘He aha kē ahau, te tangata kore hara i mua i te Atua, e tu nei kia whakawaatia e koe, te tangata tāhae, te tangata hara, te tangata kore tikanga?

Ko koe kē te tika, kia tū ki konei. Māku kē koe e whakawā i raro i ōku ture, ōku tikanga. Kotahi anake te tatūtanga, ko te pono.’

Loosely translated, the statement asks:

“Why should those of us doing what is right by people be judged by you who act out personal interests, and that has only caused us harm and grief? It would be more appropriate for you to be judged according to my worldview and values. There can be but one outcome – the truth.”

There is but one purpose for being in politics - that is to improve people’s lives, to support them; to support their whānau both now and into the future.

We base what we do on a worldview and a set of values based on helping and caring for people and doing right by them, in particular those most in need.

It’s called being compassionate.

Our time in Government has had challenges.

It has included some of our nation’s lowest points; terrorist attacks, volcanoes, pandemics, cyclones and recently; a hostel fire.

Events that have left people hurt, and hurting.

Every time this Government has responded, it has been with compassion and kindness.

Our values guided our actions.

Our motivation is to minimise the hurt, and; the pain, and to help people to recover as much as possible taking the unique circumstances of each new event.

We HAVE been the transformational government we promised to be.

We have focussed on areas that matter and that have been too complex for other Governments; climate change, housing, child poverty, Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

And we have already begun to see the results.

Our approach to climate change is based on our values and our need to limit damage to the environment and by our desire to see people adapt and thrive.

Our approach to housing is based on the same set of values that saw the Savage Government house people.

A house is a fundamental human right.

Not a nice to have.

Our approach to child poverty is based on the value that New Zealand should be the greatest country to be a child, and that means child poverty is simply untenable in New Zealand.

Our approach to Te Tiriti is based on Te Tiriti.

IT speaks for itself, and we have partnered with iwi Maori on their terms, to meet their aspirations.

Telling Maori what’s good for them and to trust in the Crown, is so 1840.

We are a Government that has risen to every challenge, to make the right calls that keep people’s wellbeing front and centre.

But, come the October election, it’s important to understand just how the opposition parties in parliament right now threaten what has been built.

Be warned: Everything is at stake

This Chris Hipkins’ Government is the type of government New Zealand wants and needs, as we continue to face unprecedented challenges.

Firstly, I just want to touch on a story that epitomises to me the type of human being Chris Hipkins is.

This year during Waitangi week we headed to Kaikohe early in the morning to witness the generous return of a significant piece of land to local hapū, by a local farming family.

Not having had breakfast, Chippie swung the PM’s van into a fine dining experience otherwise known as Len’s Pies bakery in Kaikohe and bought some Labour Party caviar - also known as a sausage roll - and stood around talking to locals while he ate.

A common touch, not staged, not for media consumption.

Just Chippie being himself.

Chris Hipkins Prime Minister not only being relaxed and approachable, but genuine and authentic. No need for AI.

Sadly, there are political parties in New Zealand that do not share our world view or values that are disingenuous and, lack authenticity.

We know their world view is dominated by the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

One example is they are bemoaning the cost of producing and distributing the Matariki karakia books at just over $3 a unit, but ignore the value that those same booklets will bring to thousands of communities across Aotearoa as we look to celebrate Matariki again this year.

We know, whenever they are in government, the interests of those in REAL need go backwards, while the interests of their mates, the entitled, always improve.

Let’s look at the ACT Party, a group whose policy proposals are so ludicrous it’s often hard to know if they are serious or just designed to infuriate.

Their value system is the antithesis of ours.

When it comes to Maori, ACT would rather imprison them in order to help them, rather than help them to avoid prison.

Go figure.

Different worldview, different values.

Their vision of a bright future if they are part of the next government will see:

  • The Climate Change Commission – scrapped;
  • The Human Rights Commission – dust;
  • Ministry for Women – gone;
  • The Ministry for Pacific Peoples, for Ethnic Communities – no more;
  • The Ministry of Māori Development – haere rā;
  • And, of course, Te Arawhiti, the Ministry for Māori-Crown relations that has been instrumental in building partnerships with Maori and among other achievements has been integral in introducing our first truly Aotearoa public holiday in Matariki - on the hangi fire.

If you think the alternative Government will care about our climate crisis, care about human rights, care about the rights of women, Māori, Pacific or ethnic minorities, then wake up!

Back to a one size fits all model that has proven not to work.

How about their partners, Negative National, who seem to have storm clouds constantly hovering over their heads as they criticise our country, our businesses, our people?

Well, they are no better.

  • They will evict tenants without cause – nasty.
  • Fair Pay Agreements – Goodbye.
  • The Clean Car Discount – Gone, all the while crying crocodile tears over the damage climate change has had on the lives, livelihoods, and lands of our farmers

And don’t forget bringing back $5 prescription charges.

A social media post summed it up best when it said ‘if you haven’t had to transfer 87c from one account to another in order to afford the prescription fees, you are not qualified to comment’

So Nicola Willis, Chris Luxon – turituri!

The coalition of cuts is real!

Again, this is the reality of the alternative Government, one that cares little for the environment, for workers, or for people.

They put their own interests before others, they want power for power’s sake and good only ever falls on those already doing ok.

They pander to the electorate, scaremonger and put tough decisions on the shelf for future generations to deal with; and future Labour governments to resolve.

Different worldview, different values.

For our Māori MP’s, politics has always been about our people.

Māori have always been at the bottom of every statistic; school achievement; health stats and mortality rates;

At the top of prison and poverty measures.

This is what drives us to work hard and make a difference.

And we have done that.

  • We have established a Māori Health Authority to focus specifically on improving healthcare outcome.
  • We have boosted kōhanga teacher pay by 35% and poured more than a billion dollars into Māori education
  • We have safely reduced the prison population – there are almost 1000 fewer Māori in prison than when we became government

This government, with the largest Māori caucus ever,

8 Maori Ministers, cares about Māori, but guess what?

We care about our Pacific brothers and sisters, our ethnic friends and our European cousins.

We live the saying, “people are our most important resource.” He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Chris Hipkins backs Maori and values Te Tiriti.

The Opposition does not.

I was asked in a written parliamentary question whether I agreed with the Waitangi Tribunal that Ngāpuhi didn’t cede sovereignty.

I replied with ‘I believe…’ and then cut and pasted the Māori text of Te Tiriti o Waitangi into the answer.

National then took a point of order in the House to ask if Ministers answered a question in Te Reo Māori, would there be an expectation that we provide a translation. Heck an English version exists, and its 183 years old.

If National does not even recognise the text of Te Tiriti, it tells me that they can’t possibly understand it.

If they don’t understand Te Tiriti, then they can’t value it.

If they don’t value it, what chance is there of Te Tiriti ever being honoured; except under a Labour Government?

This should scream a warning to Maori about what is at stake at this election.


In fact, ACT wants to lock up another couple of thousand people no questions asked. This is despite the facts showing this approach doesn’t work.

They would need to build another couple of American style mega prisons, at a couple of billion dollars a pop.

We would prefer to build homes with that money.

A different world view, different values.

They say that people in prison can’t get a bank account, can’t get a driver’s licence and can’t get a job.

  • Someone should tell them about the partnership with Westpac supporting every prisoner who wants one to open a bank account.
  • Someone should tell them about the work with the Howard League which has seen over 17,000 prisoners gain their licence.
  • From as recently as February over 1000 have gained their licence with a 91.8% pass rate.
  • Someone should tell them about New Zealand’s record low unemployment rate and the partnerships with businesses to set prisoners up with jobs upon release.

But they won’t listen.

Because facts undermine the scaremongering, scapegoating and acrimony.

Scaremongering, scapegoating and acrimony to help create an enemy to direct anger at is the story of colonial NZ, happening in 2023.

The mass incarceration of brown people is the ultimate example of systemic racism and in 2023 we have opposition parties proudly promoting it.

Surely it’s through ignorance because, if not, then it is deliberate and that is wrong on every level.

The facts speak for themselves - the prison population is sitting around the eight and a half thousand mark. When I became Minister that number was forecast to be around 14,000 by now.

There are not only fewer non-violent people in prison, but fewer people in Corrections care in the community.

Facts matter.

Crime is on the decrease and has been for 30 years.

Youth crime has reduced by over 60 percent in the last decade.

But we get that people don’t feel safe.

When a picture paints a thousand words, one picture of a car being driven into a shop will always have a greater impact on the public than the most accurate set of facts.

So I return to where I started reflecting on the words of my kaumatua standing before the Waitangi Tribunal:

We are being judged by an opposition who operate under a different worldview and a different set of values.

But I am positive and I have hope for the future:

You tell me;

Do we need a Government with compassion and human values?

One that cares about people?

About families?

Do we need a Government that cares about Māori and Pacific communities, ethnic communities and all of our communities?

Do we need a Government that has pulled 77,000 tamariki out of poverty and won’t rest until child poverty does not exist here?

Do we need a Government that has built more state houses than any other in recent memory? Or a government that sells state houses to their entitled friends?

A Government that is committed to climate change; that has just invested to make the single biggest emissions reductions ever in New Zealand

You could say we need a government focussed on all of the above, but forefront of our minds must be;

What sort of country,

What sort of future will our mokopuna inherit from us?

I am positive and hopeful that because of all of our achievements, their future will be better than the one we inherited from our grandparents.

Together we must continue to ensure that our tamariki know that they are, as our ancestors said “kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea – e kore e ngaro”.

“Seeds cast from Rangiātea, they will never be lost”

Not with a Labour Government.

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