by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — Prime Minister John Key has been gently challenged in person by a Catholic
priest to live up to his role of “father of the nation” and provide for all.
Mr Key and his wife Bronagh visited the Malaeola Community Centre on September 7, Fathers’
Day, only a few weeks after Labour leader David Cunliffe was at the same venue.
At the monthly Auckland Samoan community Mass, Samoan chaplain Fr Michael Endemann told
Mr Key he is the father of his own family, and of the nation as well.
The priest reminded the Prime Minister that he gives nothing but the best for his own family, so he should do likewise in terms of the nation.
Mr Key was asked to provide affordable schooling, housing, food and sustainable jobs without
showing any favouritism, thereby providing for everyone.
“And if you do this well, my dear Mr Prime Minister, I assure you, you will earn the respect and the love from your family as well as from your bigger family, which we call Aotearoa New Zealand,” Fr Endemann said.
Speaking after the final blessing, Mr Key said that All Black winger Julian Savea was the true father of the nation, following his performance against Argentina the previous night.But Mr Key spent most of his eight minute address reflecting on his own family and upbringing,
especially the influence of his mother.
Mr Key said he lost his father when he was only six, and his mother filled the role of both parents.
The Prime Minister said his mother passed on two essential truths to him.
Firstly, that you get out of life what you put into it, and, secondly, the value of a good education.
He said the “basic things that my mother taught me are the basic things that are going to make one do well in New Zealand”.
Mr Key praised the improving education achievements of Samoan young people.
The percentage of Samoan young people achieving NCEA level two has risen from 55 per cent six years ago to 75 per cent today, he said.
“If you have a look at the number of Samoan students doing extremely well at university, those numbers are dramatically increasing.”
But Mr Key finished by saying, “today is Fathers’ Day celebrations,and it is a Sunday and it is not a day of politics and all that sort of stuff, so we will leave that out”.
In thanking Mr Key, Malaeola community chairman Afuaumua Seve agreed that this occasion was
not one for politics.
But Mr Seve noted it is time to reach out to the poor and needy.
Speaking later to NZ Catholic, Fr Endemann said politicians are not invited to speak at Malaeola, rather they ask to come and those requests are considered.
Requests to visit Malaeola for future elections will also be looked at, he said, adding that it would be nice if a forum-type gathering could
be arranged so the community could assess parties and policies.
Fr Endemann said the most important issues in this election for Auckland’s Samoan Catholic community are employment, education and affordable housing.
Fr Endemann, whose late father was once Samoa’s minister of public works, said he had encouraged people to get out and vote in the election.