Winston Peters - That “Vision” Thing

Published: Thu 14 Aug 2008 10:03 AM
Rt Hon Winston Peters
Address to students at College House
100 Waimairi Road, Christchurch
Wednesday 13 August 2008, 4.15pm
Winston Peters - That “Vision” Thing
To start my speech tonight I thought I would quote a line from a song from the once highly popular television series called MASH.
You probably watch the back episodes now and then. There was a song attached to MASH and while I don’t agree with the chorus – I like some of the verses.
This was one of them:
“A brave man once requested me,
to answer questions that are key,
Is it to be or not be be
And I replied oh why ask me.”
So I have been thinking. Why ask me to give you some vision for the future?
This is a heavy responsibility on my shoulders.
What can I tell you? What do you expect? What if I put you wrong and you leave this building with ruined lives?
What if you leave intent on a life of crime and decadence?
I could never forgive myself.
Looking for an answer, as you do in these times, we turned to the Internet and found an advice service for young people – in Britain.
Let me quote from it:
“The service aims to provide integrated advice, guidance and access to personal development opportunities and to help young people make a smooth transition to adulthood and working life.
You can talk to a Personal Adviser (PA) about anything you need to; career ideas, education, higher education, housing problems, self confidence, teenage pregnancy, young parenthood, bullying, alcohol problems, drugs issues, problems at home, or whatever is on your mind.”
Well tonight we are not going to talk about any of those topics, compelling and interesting as they might be.
We are going to talk about some of the things that confront you on a daily basis because the big picture of our lives is painted by how we tackle each day.
Someone once said life is not about the goals we seek – it is about our journey through it.
One of the most important discoveries I have made personally is that we live in an ocean of useless information, and every few minutes someone tips another bucket of it over us.
Never before in human history has so much information been inflicted on the so-called civilised societies on this planet.
Huge industries have been built on a perceived demand for this information.
You could sit at a computer 24 hours a day seven days a week, being drip fed and attached to certain other apparatus and you would still receive only a tiny fraction of the information available.
The Internet is a wonderful thing. It has allowed the creation of that phenomenon known as “blogging”.
In Wellington teams of people spend their spare time filling cyberspace with their opinions.
Now we can’t be too critical because we have set up an election blog site called – and there is no doubt some useful social function is being served.
But it really is like some kind of version of talkback radio. They would probably benefit more from going to cooking classes!
Even the newspapers have their blog sites and their opinion sites.
It's getting hard to take them seriously these days because half the journalists are bloggers and many of the bloggers are journalists.
So let me give one a piece of advice that has served me well for a long time now – never believe what you see in the media.
Most of these people have an aversion to the truth unless it fits their agenda.
It is sad really, because so many people rely on them for information.
Most media a trying to play a game of join the dots but without any dots, and they wonder why they get the picture all wrong.
You see we in New Zealand have a recycled merry go round when it comes to those in the media.
Look at your Sunday newspapers – all the commentators are failed TVNZ managers, political aspirants or journalists who had been moved on from other organisations.
This is why you can never take them seriously.
So, if there was any advice to give on the topic of the media, believe a fraction of what you read and even less of what you hear!
Computers, television and the education system all seem to be gradually eradicating the ancient art of reading books.
Hands up those who have read a novel for enjoyment this year!
Various educational institutions are churning out students who do not read books.
This is a tragedy.
Generations of New Zealanders have educated themselves simply by reading books.
Thousands of them.
Some of our greatest political leaders had little formal education but they were voracious readers.
The walls of their houses were lined with books.
Books about everything.
Most of all books about ideas.
Do you know that it is now possible to leave university with an arts and a law degree without ever having read a Charles Dickens novel?
This is truly astonishing.
But perhaps a sign of the times.
Another topic I wanted to raise with you this evening is about your grandparents.
Yesterday I took part in a GreyPower retirement forum in Porirua just north of Wellington.
The age of the audience ranged from the sixties through to the late eighties.
That generation of people, and the one before them, built one of the best societies on earth.
We were ranked second in the list of developed countries.
We were regarded as some kind of social laboratory with our healthcare, education and social services.
We really cared about the common welfare of our citizens.
The senior citizens attending the forum yesterday entered a social contract with the governments of their time.
They worked hard, paid high taxes, raised their families and contributed to their communities.
In return the state agreed to help look after them when they grew old, sick or infirm.
In your lifetimes this contract was broken. Not by the people but by the governments they elected to defend them.
You are young and strong. You have your lives ahead of you.
Your grandparents are slowing down. They have made their contribution.
It is coming up to your turn.
Young people are idealists – and that is good. What better vision than to make New Zealand a great society again?
Why not follow in the footsteps of your grandparents and their parents who built this country?
Just spend a few minutes talking to your grandparents whenever you can.
In most of the world’s ancient societies the elderly are held in high esteem because of their wisdom.
Unfortunately in some other countries they are regarded as a social expense and a burden on the health system.
You have an obligation, each and every one of you, to ensure that your grandparents are treated with dignity in retirement.
They are entitled to an adequate pension, healthcare and a decent standard of living.
We in New Zealand First have always believed in looking after the most vulnerable in our society - the young and the elderly.
That is why we introduced free healthcare for the under sixes back in 1996 and have continually fought for a better deal for the elderly.
We recognise also the importance of education. We regard it as an investment, not an expense.
Education is the key to our future as a small country at the bottom of the Pacific.
It has always been our policy to introduce a universal student allowance. We are concerned about the mounting levels of student debt.
For some years we have advocated a “bonding” system under which selected students in areas such as medicine would get their fees abated in return for working in certain areas for a fixed term.
This is not new to New Zealand.
Many people gained university qualifications last century through their employers, mainly government departments.
They worked during the holidays and attended university during the terms.
In return, they signed a contract to stay with that department for a fixed number of years.
This system could be used again. All it requires is the will to do it.
As I started with a quote I would like to end with one. That great American philosopher Homer J Simpson said this about life:
“Your lives are in the hands of men no smarter than you or I, many of them incompetent boobs. I know this because I worked alongside them, gone bowling with them, watched them pass me over for promotions time and again. And I say ....This stinks!”
So if I were to give any advice for the future to you, these would be my suggestions.
1. Grab each day as it comes along and enjoy it. You never know when it could be your last.
2. Always read books – any books but especially novels.
3. Go fishing whenever you can. Apparently God does not deduct fishing time from our lives.
4. Be loyal to your friends.
5. Keep laughing.
6. Don't keep filling your heads with useless information.
7. Don't eat too many carbohydrates.
8. And save your Grandma – vote New Zealand First.
Thank you – and good luck.

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