Saturday, August 3, 2013

Warren Freer Memorial Service


This afternoon a couple of hundred people turned up for a wonderful celebration of the life of Warren Freer. Speakers included his sister-in-law Linsday Freer, Bob Tizard, Mt Albert MP David Shearer, Former Prime Minister Helen Clark and Niu Qingbao, Consul-General of the People's Republic of China.
Right Honourable Helen Clark.

The son of a Waihi miner, Warren Freer was a courageous man and knew from birth how hard the life of the working people is. He was first elected to parliament in 1947 and he was to make, in the dying days of his first Labour administration, some impact. In 1949, Prime Minister Peter Fraser called a referendum on peacetime conscription. Freer stood with the Watersiders and other people opposed to peacetime conscription, which was a courageous thing for an MP of 27. In 1955, as Niu Qingbao said, he became the first parliamentary representative to visit China. Qingbao in his speech acknowledged Michael Joseph Savage as the first leader of New Zealand to be friendly to the Chinese. Savage and the Labour Government abolished the Poll tax which Chinese had to pay to bring their relatives out. Many a married man was never to see their wives again and some of their lives ended up in the tragedy of opium addiction.
Lindsay Freer

Warren Freer continued in the line of the first Labour government and was internationalist and a visionary. He was responsible for forging export markets into China for New Zealand product. The Consul-General Qingbao then praised Norman Kirk for recognising the People's Republic of China, being the first western country to do so. He then praised Helen Clark for leading the way with Phil Goff for a comprehensive free-trade agreement with China which the Chinese believe is a model for people who have different government systems and different cultures to be able to trade together for the common good of their citizens.

David Shand, Dame Catherine Tizard and Bob Tizard.
His highest praise, however, was Helen Clark's formal apology for the discrimination, hardships and deprivations that they had suffered in New Zealand. He said that no other country had made this apology, and it is another reason why the New Zealand flag flies high in China. Recognition was given in a little film by George Andrews about Warren's Maximum Retail Price Scheme of the third Labour Government, which set the maximum price that goods could be sold for. This scheme, although scrapped by the National Muldoon Government, actually brought the first real competition and discounting into New Zealand. Bob Tizard, who was in parliament and also a cabinet minister wihin the third Labout government (The Kird-Rowling government), celebrated their friendship of more than 60 years.

Sadly, little was said of Warren's other achievements, including a contract with the major oil companies for the development of the Maui fields in the Taranaki basin. This was a time of the first oil shots, petroleum prices were going through the roof and despite these factors making a negotiation difficult, Warren successfully concluded an agreement that has worked in New Zealand's national interest for 40 years. He was also a very successful Minister of Trade and Industry, in the Kirk-Rowling government. He was a great New Zealander and a man of immense vision. Tribute was paid by Linsday Freer and Bob to his wives (he married twice) and the support they gave him throughout his life.