First speech tack­les short­age

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - DAISY HUD­SON

Re­gional skills short­ages and sui­cide rates are two pri­or­i­ties for new Ran­gi­tata MP Andrew Fal­loon as he be­gins his first term in Par­lia­ment.

But talk of cut­ting mi­grant num­bers has him feel­ing ‘‘in­cred­i­bly ner­vous’’.

The newly elected MP pre­sented his maiden speech in Par­lia­ment on Tues­day, fo­cussing on the is­sues he be­lieves need to be tack­led, and pay­ing trib­ute to his fam­ily for their sup­port dur­ing his jour­ney to pol­i­tics.

Fal­loon found com­mon ground with his fel­low Ran­gi­tata-based MP, Labour’s Jo Lux­ton, with the pair both us­ing their maiden speeches to high­light South Can­ter­bury’s skills short­age.

‘‘The lo­cal econ­omy is grow­ing strongly in my area. We sim­ply don’t have enough peo­ple to do the jobs that are avail­able,’’ he said.

While Labour has pro­posed cuts to mi­grant num­bers, Fal­loon said that prospect made him ‘‘in­cred­i­bly ner­vous’’.

‘‘A large cut to work visas would stall growth in the re­gions. We have to move away from blam­ing mi­gra­tion for the so­cial ill of the day.’’

An in­creased fo­cus on edu- cation and en­cour­ag­ing young peo­ple to con­sider the ru­ral and trade sec­tors as se­ri­ous prospects was also needed, he said.

‘‘We have world class schools and uni­ver­si­ties.

‘‘But I am con­cerned there is a no­tion preva­lent in too many of our high schools that their role is solely to train kids to go to univer­sity.

‘‘Farm­ing and the trades have to be given a far more equal weight­ing when ed­u­cat­ing our young peo­ple about their ca­reer op­tions.’’

Fal­loon also ad­vo­cated for free trade, say­ing the ben­e­fits were ‘‘enor­mous’’.

‘‘Where that’s most felt, isn’t Pon­sonby or Pan­mure, Khan­dal­lah or Karori; it’s in re­gional New Zealand.

‘‘On the back of the China Free Trade Agree­ment, trade with China has tripled in the last decade. Half the piz­zas in China are topped with moz­zarella from Fon­terra’s Clan­de­boye plant in my elec­torate.

‘‘We now need to re­dou­ble our ef­forts in new and grow­ing mar­kets like South Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East, and do much more in Africa.’’

He also spoke can­didly about New Zealand’s sui­cide rate, re­call­ing his own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with the is­sue.

‘‘When 600 of our fel­low Ki­wis are dy­ing at their own hands we have to say this is un­ac­cept­able.

‘‘When I was in my late teens and early twen­ties three of my best friends took their own lives in tragic cir­cum­stances. I’m sorry that I couldn’t do more for them. It’s a feel­ing that doesn’t go away.’’

Part of com­ing to terms with that was the sup­port of his wife Rose, with Fal­loon telling the House the pair met at univer­sity.

‘‘I wouldn’t be here with­out her. Her name is Rose, and the best mo­ment of my life was when she agreed to marry me.’’

Fal­loon also paid trib­ute to his fam­ily and elec­torate team, as well as his fel­low Ran­gi­tata can­di­dates for a ‘‘good na­tured’’ cam­paign.

‘‘It’s great to see Jo (Lux­ton) here as a Labour list MP, but in­cred­i­bly sad that Mojo Mathers wasn’t high enough on the Greens’ list to re­turn.’’

He also took a mo­ment to thank his pre­de­ces­sor, Jo Good­hew, who ended 12 years as Ran­gi­tata’s MP upon Fal­loon’s elec­tion.

‘‘Thank you for be­ing a con­stant source of ad­vice and guid­ance, and for the job you did as our lo­cal MP for many years,’’ he said.

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