First speech tackles shortage
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.