Special Correspondent – New Attorney General David Parker is a man who will may bring a somewhat different approach to his predecessor. From being almost broke financially to having a personal relationship that has created some waves socially, he is a man who will bring a strong social conscience together with some solid life experience with him to the Attorney General’s role.
Although perhaps less intellectual in demeanour than Chris Finlayson QC, David Parker’s smarts are not to be overlooked, along with a solid, Presbyterian background that provides a combination of social conscience with a relatively conventional approach to life.
Here are 7 things to know about the new Attorney General under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
1. Legal Background.
He has some solid legal training as a former resource management lawyer and litigator with Anderson Lloyd in Dunedin. He stopped his legal work when he found it less satisfying, telling LawTalk that ” I didn’t think the fees being charged justified the scope of the work and when I stop enjoying doing something, I do something different.”
2. Social Conscience.
His social conscience saw him set up the Dunedin Community Law Centre with other Dunedin lawyers, before entering parliament as an elected MP in 2002.
3. The Women.
He is divorced from Sue Wootton, a Dunedin poet who has published five poetry collections and is the recipient of the 2008 Robert Burns Fellowship.
His current partner is Barbara Ward, a sculpture and the former wife of singer/songwriter Chris Knox who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2009, which received some publicity in the media.
He has three children by his marriage.
4. Atheism and Activism
He is a self declared atheist, although someone who was brought up with a strong Presbyterian upbringing, including an similarly self-described parsimony with money. His mother was a social activist involved in abortion law reform and the woman’s movement among others.
5. Financial Reversal.
Despite a lucrative legal and business career he has suffered financial reversal following his involvement in business after leaving the law.
He was involved in many businesses, many involving deceased Dunedin entrepreneur and multi-millionaire Howard Paterson, including innovative bio-tech export start-ups A2 Corporation, BLIS Technologies, Botryzen and Pharmazen, as well as in more traditional industries. However financial reversals in the early 1990s saw him “almost broke” saying in one report –
“It was the most stressful and difficult period of my life. I was cleaned out financially. You have feelings of shame. It was terrible and I’m certainly more accepting of people’s frailties than I was in the past.”
6. Potential leader.
David Parker stood for the Labour Party leadership in 2011 and removed himself from contention half way through in part because he wanted to keep his personal life to himself. “Personal life is relevant to the extent that hypocrisy is involved,” he said.
7. Humourous Debate
Mr Parker engaged in one of the longest-running parliamentary ‘gags’ with National MP Gerry Brownlee over tramping and related issues in respect of those parts of the conservation estate that were potentially threatened by mining activity. The video is one of the most-watched of any recent parliamentary debate.