Watch: Maori Party co-leaders break into song as Parliament mourns lifelong unionist Helen Kelly

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Parliament has paid tribute to lifelong unionist Helen Kelly who lost her battle with lung cancer last week.

The 52-year-old “didn’t need an office in the Beehive to make a difference to New Zealand,” PM John Key told those in the debating chamber.
Source: 1 NEWS

The former Council of Trade Unions President died at the age of 52 on Friday, after a long battle with lung cancer.

Labour leader Andrew Little moved a motion in Parliament's debating chamber to mourn her loss, describing her as a champion of working people.

He says the hardest fight that Helen Kelly had was with the "the might of Hollywood" over the Hobbit film being made here.

"It was a dispute that would result in one of the most expedient, unnecessary and unprincipled laws in this country, which still breaches our international obligations and remains an embarrassment among the community of developed nations," Mr Little said.

"Helen Kelly did not see herself as a hero. She was a champion, an advocate, an agitator. She epitomised New Zealand values."

Prime Minister John Key says the Hobbit dispute was just one of the many occasions that he did not agree with Ms Kelly.

The union leader's last TV interview was recorded two weeks before her death on Friday at the age of 52.
Source: 1 NEWS

"Sometime the forceful way which Helen Kelly made her arguments frustrated me but she also had my enormous respect," Mr Key told Parliament.

He says Ms Kelly was passionate, she was tenacious, she was articulate, she was intelligent and she was pragmatic.

"The truth is Helen Kelly didn't need an office in the Beehive to make a difference to New Zealand. She made that all too easily through the capacity of her arguments and the way she articulated them."

ONE News reporter Ryan Boswell interviewed the trade union leader two weeks before she died from cancer.
Source: Q+A

Mr Key says Ms Kelly died far too young and she had a great deal more to contribute.

Green Party MP Denise Roche suggested a fitting tribute for Ms Kelly would be to "overhaul our industrial relations laws".

"A health and safety law that actually protects farm workers, a reversal of the Hobbit law, a living wage for all ordinary New Zealanders ... and for someone to be held responsible for the Pike River mine tragedy," Ms Roche says.

NZ's leading trade unionist died of lung cancer and will be remembered for campaigning for workers' rights since a young age.
Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters called Helen Kelly a "stand out New Zealander, a person of true character, honesty and integrity".

"Clearly she put her cause in the people she served before herself and in doing so enhanced the respect for the union movement."

Mr Peters says Ms Kelly put unionism on a new level.

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