Below is a draft transcript from the Hansard of an oral question posed by Hon Mark Mitchell to the Hon Ron Mark on Veterans during question time 13 March 2019
Question No. 9—Veterans
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can the member ask the question as it’s put?
Hon MARK MITCHELL: Oh, sorry. My question is to the Minister for Veterans.
9. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Veterans: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon RON MARK (Minister for Veterans): In the main, yes. In regards to my remarks to the No Duff summit held on 1 December 2018, whilst the assertions that I was campaigning for New Zealand First lack context, given the way they have been misconstrued, I acknowledge that my comments could have been tighter, and I’ll be careful in future.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he stand by his statement to No Duff Charitable Trust that “when I look at the polling results of my political party New Zealand First, then the veterans, the Defence base, you guys haven’t supported us. At all.”?
Hon RON MARK: Oh, that snapshot, out of a wider comment, made in context was something that I would probably—I’d say it characterises my approach to the job of being realistic. I have always said, Mr Mitchell, to all of them—and I think I’ve said it in that same 25-minute speech—that I take this job as a privilege. It’s an honour. I see it as a three-year posting. The chances of being re-elected can never be guaranteed, and I mean to get as much done for the veterans for the time that I am privileged to be in this position as I possibly can. And, yes, I—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon RON MARK: —stand by that.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I thought the member was threatening to give us the full 25 minutes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he agree with No Duff’s founder, Aaron Wood, when he says it’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to get from a Minister of the Crown?
Hon RON MARK: Interesting comment. Look, Aaron is one of those people who set up and founded No Duff, and hats off to Aaron. I would refer the member to the statement just released by No Duff and posted on their Facebook page, and I am very grateful for their comments.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister for Veterans as to whether his policy is to regard actions as being far, far more important than words?
Hon RON MARK: Look, a very good question. I guess that is the difference, that is the hallmark, that I would hope to leave on this portfolio should I not be here. The fact is in that speech we talked about delivery as opposed to non-delivery. The fact is that in 2008, a Labour – New Zealand First Government appropriated money to the RSA on a four-year tranche. The fact is that the National Government removed that. The fact is that this Government reinstated it. The fact is that we actually went out and gave funding to No Duff in recognition of the wonderful work they do. [Interruption] That’s performance, that’s delivery, as opposed to what that member’s Government did.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m not sure—was that Ms Barry who made that interjections or was it Ms Kaye? Someone made a most unparliamentary allegation. I think it was you, Ms Barry—a word beginning with B.
Hon Maggie Barry: Yes.
SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Maggie Barry: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Given the Minister feels like he’s only got three years in the job, is he going to, in his ministerial role, continue to speak about New Zealand First’s party vote when he’s addressing veterans and New Zealand defence personnel.
Hon RON MARK: I think hindsight’s a wonderful thing. Given the concerns that are being raised and the way in which those two quite separate comments were spliced together and presented, I will be tighter in future, Mr Mitchell. But that will not stop me doing as much as I possibly can for veterans going forward, and that will not stop me advocating passionately for them. I just hope, at the end of the day, to be judged on what we deliver to veterans as opposed to what they used to get.
Darroch Ball: Of all the statements and policy statements and speeches the Minister has made since his being appointed, what is, in his view, the most significant issue facing veterans?
Hon RON MARK: It’s a very good question. There are a number of issues that affect veterans right now. One that has to be at the top of the list is the review of the 2014 Act, which the previous Government passed and which has now been proven by Professor Ron Paterson’s report to be thoroughly inadequate and in need of a complete rewrite. But the one that stands out, ironically, is the one around which this controversy is swirling: it is the work that people like No Duff do in addressing the issue of PTSD. It is the one that has been ignored for far too long of contemporary vets, of which, Mr Mitchell, there are 32,000 now who have completed operational service, and it’s about delivering quality service and support at the front line to those affected with PTSD as opposed to making a trivial issue of it in point-scoring in the way in which that member chooses to do.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that the three-year time frame he gave represents the humility with which Ministers in this Government perform their job rather than the arrogant born-to-rule attitude of some?
SPEAKER: Order! The member may answer the first part of the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, what was the first part?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, shut up and you’ll find out.
Hon RON MARK: I’d like to think that I’m not one who feels he’s born to rule or privileged. I do believe I’m very privileged for being appointed as the Minister for Veterans by the Prime Minister and my leader, the Rt Hon Winston Peters. I am realistic, and I know you cannot look at this job as anything more than a three-year posting, Mr Mitchell. So I am focused on that. I am focused on that and delivering the very best that I can do for the women and men who serve us faithfully in uniform, and that’s all I hope to achieve.
SPEAKER: Before we move on, early in that answer the Deputy Prime Minister used an unparliamentary term, inviting members opposite to cease their interjections. Two points: one, it’s my role; and, secondly, the phrase he used is certainly unparliamentary. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Member: With feeling.
SPEAKER: Yes, with about as much sincerity as I’ve seen on the other side recently.