i've been meaning to write about hon chris carter for some days now, but as usual, get caught up with other things. i've been gettting really pissed off at the media attention, caused by the national government releasing information in an attempt to distract from the rort by hon bill english.
see, there's a very simple difference between mr carter and mr english. mr english not only reorganised his affairs post-election in order to qualify for an allowance that he would otherwise not qualify for, but he also is claiming an out-of-wellington allowance when he is in fact not living out of wellington. mr carter, on the other hand, has been doing his job and claiming the expenses required to do it properly. and this is how i know.
the first time i had any meaningful interaction with chris was back in 2004, when i invited him to a meeting of ethnic communities that i had organised in hamilton. since then, i got to know him through his portfolio of ethnic affairs. i'd meet him at almost every ethnic event i attended in auckland, and i was attending a fair few leading up to the 2005 campaign. i knew he was attending at least 4-5 events on a saturday and the same on a sunday, all across the country as the invitations would come from the deep south to the far north.
i drove up to waitakere to attend a meet-the-candidates forum organised by the waitakere ethnic board. i met chris just as i was going in, and he said "great, you're here, you can stand in for me", and he took off. which gave me all of about 30 minutes to prepare my speech (got quite a few rousing cheers and the best of paula bennet, one of the high points for me of the 2005 campaign!). a few weeks later, chris' father passed away, and i knew then that he had taken off that evening to spend some time with his dad.
but his commitment during that campaign was 100%. as it was during the whole time he was a minister. i remember spending waitangi day 2006 with him, and he was telling me about his plan to visit waiheke island the next weekend with peter. he said "that will be the first sunday i've had off for three years". yes, that was and still is the kind of commitment he has to his job.
and that commitment has had an immeasurable impact. i can only speak of the portfolio i know about - ethnic affairs. and i know that his leadership ensured that nz came through some extremely difficult times in a much better state than many other countries. because chris carter showed leadership and set the tone.
i remember when all the mosques in auckland were vandalised after the july 7 bombings in london. chris was the only MP to visit all seven of those mosques and give his support to the muslim community. when a young somalian woman went of the rails and hijacked a plane, injuring the pilot, chris had a press release out the same day asking that people refrain from demonising the somali community based on the actions of one troubled woman.
time and again, when there was an incident of racial violence or tension, our minister was quick to speak out and to create an environment that made it difficult to demonise minorities. not only that, but it was during his time as minister that festivals such as diwali, chinese new year and eid were officially celebrated at parliament, in order to recognise the growing diversity of new zealanders.
chris has been a strong advocate for ethnic communites when labour was in government, and so we saw increased funding for settlement support, the establishment of language line (ensuring that translation is available for phone calls to essential services), and the appointment of ethnic liaison officers in the police.
as i say, this is just what i know and what i've seen myself in the portfolio area where i most interacted with him. i also know that, as minister of education, he made an effort to visit as many schools as possible. and i cannot imagine that he would show any less commitment to any of his other portfolios as he did to ethnic affairs.
which is why i feel so angry with the current media beat-up, which is totally uncalled for. i can think of very few MPs who fit the description of "a hard-working and conscientious minister" the way that chris carter does. he's definitely one of my heroes.