Kris Faafoi delivers valedictory speech in Parliament

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 Jun 2022, 5:54pm

Kris Faafoi delivers valedictory speech in Parliament

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 Jun 2022, 5:54pm

Labour MP and former Cabinet minister Kris Faafoi will officially end his parliamentary career today after 12 years in the halls of power.

Faafoi will give his valedictory today in the House at about 4.40pm.

Last Monday Faafoi - who held the immigration, justice and broadcasting portfolios - announced his resignation, saying he had decided to leave Parliament to spend more time with his family as his youngest son started school.

Faafoi had been facing increasing pressure in his portfolios.

"I am the father of George, Fred and Theo, who say they want to see more of their Dad, which is something I think is a reasonable ask," he said at the time.

On June 22 his youngest son turned 5, and he had made the decision when that happened he would get out of politics.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed Faafoi had actually voiced a desire to leave at the last election, but she'd asked him to stay on to lead major reform in broadcasting and immigration.

Asked if he had lost passion for politics, Faafoi responded: "No, I love it."

"It is a bittersweet day. I could stay for a long time but I wouldn't get to know my kids as much as I should."

Faafoi was born in 1976 and raised in Christchurch by Tokelaun parents, a teacher and a factory worker.

He trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter in Parliament's press gallery, then as former Labour leader Phil Goff's press secretary.

Faafoi entered Parliament in 2010, winning the Mana by-election.

When Labour came into power in 2017, Faafoi was elected as a Minister of Civil Defence, Commerce and Consumer Affairs and Associate Minister of Immigration, outside Cabinet.

Faafoi impressed with his strong work ethic, making inroads in tackling loan sharks, and was quickly promoted into Cabinet, eventually taking on the portfolios of broadcasting - which had long been his ambition - and immigration.

His career has not been without controversy, however. In 2019 he had to apologise to the Prime Minister for promising to speed up an immigration visa application for Opshop singer Jason Kerrison's father.

Leading into the 2020 election it is understood Faafoi's desire to be with his young family began to outweigh political ambition.

Ardern managed to convince him to stay on, continuing his work in immigration and broadcasting while taking on justice as well.

Faafoi has led major changes within public broadcasting, including work to see state broadcasters RNZ and TVNZ subsumed into a new entity project as broadcasting minister since 2018.

His successor, Willie Jackson, will introduce the Bill on Tuesday.

Faafoi has come under immense pressure as immigration minister throughout the pandemic, having to operate with a largely closed border.

Many questions were asked about immigration settings and particularly the impacts on migrant families who split through the pandemic, and pathways to residency.

Faafoi did oversee a major immigration announcement in the one-off resident visa for 165,000 migrants.

Faafoi hasĀ been under pressure in the justice sector, with criticism over slow progress following several major reports at the start of Labour's reign. Faafoi has also faced criticism over stalled progress on hate speech legislation.

Budget 2022 delivered more than $2 billion to the sector, with advocates indicating the tables could be starting to turn.

Most recently Faafoi faced questions over how TVNZ handled the hiring of Breakfast host Kamahl Santamaria, who quit amid allegations of inappropriate conduct.