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Making the pitch: Candidates take the podium in Wellington

Thu 18 Aug 2005 In: Features

The following addresses were made by a variety of political candidates on behalf of their parties at the recent GAP organised election forum. has edited the addresses slightly for clarity or readability. In some cases poor audio quality of the tapes of the evening as supplied to us has completely obscured sections of the addresses. In those very few instances we have transcribed what we could and provided the url of an appropriate website. Candidate 1: Marian Hobbs, Labour Labour believes very strongly in the value of diversity. If we were a society that was totally monochromatic it would be a society that is bereft of ideas and experience and different things that enrich a society, and that contrast views. I'm very much a person who believes in a clash of ideas. A clash of ideas from which ideas further clash... the spiral goes up. So the value of diversity is particularly important. It leadsus, for instance, to think about ideas about food, about style, about life. It is also about thinking outside the square. That does not mean that everyone in the gay community thinks out side the square, some are particularly square, so I do not claim that that is necessarily so. But I do want to say very strongly that Labour values diversity. We also say it's terribly important to be inclusive. If you want to say that you value a diverse community or a varied community, then the differences must be included and not excluded. I can only think of my life as a school principal and think about bullying. It happens in the school, in the classroom. It also happens in society. I think we have a long way to go, actually. At Avonside Girl's High, a long time ago, a parent came to me and she was very concerned. She came from a very strict religion, she had a young child at the schjool and she said to me: "Miss Hobbs I'm very concerned about this book in the school library because it has women hugging each other in it." It was fantasy fiction. I took the book from her, and said I would look into it. I took one step away and two women came running down the stairs at me yelling "Miss Hobbs! We're lesbian mothers and we'd like to set up a club for the daughters of lesbian mothers at Avonside!" That is what a state school is about, and that is what a state should be about. Including everybody. Celebrating everybody. Another thing we hinge upon is Human Rights. For me, Human Rights is about removing the legal barriers, physical barriers and educational barriers to leading a full life. That for me is extremely important. All the important things in Parliament are always up for a conscience vote. So there's my personal view in Parliament, exercising a conscience vote. I strongly supported Homosexual Law Reform, Civil Union law, the Relationship (Statutory References) Act. I support these from a human rights perspective, from the value of an inclusive and respectful community. But the last year has seen me sharpen my own thinking on separation of church and state. You should know I was brought up a very strong Catholic. Of church ceremony, and state recognition, I see a difference. The division between church and state has got to be something that forms our law in the future. Candidate 2: Fiona Mackenzie, United Future The thing is, I'm from United Future. For many of you, there's kind of a good point to switch off. Because United Future doesn't have a particularly good track record when it comes to gay rights. And many of you know that. I realise that all of our MPs voted against the Civil Unions Bill. And I have to say that I would have as well. But it's now in law and we have to move forward. All of us believe that there is no point in trying to repeal the Act. I certainly believe that I would never do that. It's now in place - Parliament has sovereignty and has made that decision. I am against the Civil Unions Bill because I believe that it should have been put to vote for New Zealanders, there should have been a referendum. I thought you should hear that right away. United Future does believe in human rights. And we definitely agree that all New Zealanders have the right to live lives as diverse as they want to. We celebrate NZ diversity. And we believe that stable relationships, no matter what kind of relationship that is, build strong families, and that builds a strong nation. I'm standing here because I believe that a stable relationship is any kind of relationship. I come from a family that is incredibly diverse. I know that many of you do as well. I believe that there is nothing like two parents who love a child no matter what sex it is, rather than one parent. I really want to encourage you to rethink the way you see United Future, because it has an incredibly different core to what you may think. We have eight MPs in Parliament, they are not party-aligned. United Future is all about uniting as New Zealanders, and we are all New Zealanders, uniting together for a better future. I really just want to encourage you to rethink what you may see as United Future. Believe, as I do, it's all about stable relationships, strong families and a strong nation. Many of you are business people. I wanted to talk about our business policy. We believe that we should retain the Ministry of Economic Development, but refocus it away from picking winners, and to removing impediments to business. We really want to reduce the company tax to 30c in the dollar in the next three years. One of the things I'm really proud of because it is part of human rights is enshrining property rights. The right to own property no matter who you are. And the NZ Bill of Rights. We would like to review general grievance and dismissal procedures in the employment relations act. Allow employers to take on employees for a trial period of up to six months. I am the youngest candidate standing in Wellington Central. I am just 21. And I show a young liberal woman's face in United Future. I'm really excited that United Future decided I was good enough to represent them. I really want to encourage you to look for the other side of United Future, not to just look solely at our eight MPs. Candidate 3: Steven Franks, Act I enjoyed the equivalent of this dinner three years ago, before the last election. Partly I enjoyed it because a friend had sent me a book some time before. A gay friend, who sent it as it had an interesting economic justification for government intervention to encourage the liveliness of the city. It meant that when I spoke to your group, I felt that I was armed to reflect what was going to be the biggest question about ACT: what would you do for the arts? How would you justify maintaining state intervention in that area. In fact it turned out that the questions were about the most diverse and most intelligent of this type of forum that we'd had. I encouraged my wife Cathy to come along for that reason - it's one of the more enjoyable of these sorts of occasions. It's essentially a job application. I'm here, you're the interview panel, I'm asking for a job... to stay in the job, but it's quite a complicated one because the only way I'll do that is if Act gets 5% of the party votes. What we offer is essentially a level of directness and honesty that I think Parliament will be the less without. We have, on nearly every issue, had a position that is clearly consistent with the positions we've adopted previously. On the moral issues: prostitution, civil union legislation, and some of the other conscience issues we're in fact divided, almost evenly. We're divided evenly because we debate these things as issues of legislative quality. In my case, I chaired the committee over the prostitution bill, and I thought it was dishonest. Because it had a promise to protect children, the minimum age for prostitution would be raised. I voted against it, because the state interferes, and gives privileged status to lifestyles. Here we had a whole lot of rhetoric, which was then matched again when we did the Civil Union Bill, that was really used as symbolic badges to which side you belonged to. I couldn't avoid looking at it instead of [as]a lawyer and say: "what is the actual effect of this law?" In the case of the Civil Union Bill, once the barrier had been removed for gay couples entering into that status, then I said ‘what is the continued purpose?' To put a prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of marital status, in the Human Rights Act. Will that be used to try to force people who object to gay couples being married - to force them to override their freedom of association. I have absolutely no problem about the state enhancing and facilitating people to opt in to the status of the legal rights of marriage, but it should not then go further and tell people that they must pretend they like it, that they are indifferent. A state that's prepared to favour, to give protections to, certain status that is not extended to others, is also a state that can marginalise when a political majority changes, it becomes voter-friendly, to create inside and outside groups. That is a state that has already abandoned principles, that is willing to intervene, that is willing to say ‘we already discriminate for a specific group, it's just as legitimate to discriminate against it.' In the Act caucus, we had differing views about which way the balance should go but we ended up in the middle of the road, where you get run over. Candidate 4: Pita Sharples, Maori Party Before the days of the Maori Party, I was on an advert, telling people to stop smoking. The advert disappeared when I became a political candidate. That campaign was all about whanau... our sisters our brothers... about people who are live-in partners of the same sex, different sex, those who are raising children who are gay, transgender. "It's about whanau" means it isn't about any one relationship being the ‘ultimate' relationship. Who is anyone to say the love between one's sister, mother, lover, is less significant than the other? It's about disengaging ourselves from conventional thinking and looking again at the understanding of whanau. It was on this basis that [Maori Party leader] Tariana [Turia] cast her vote on the Civil Union Bill. The issue for her was never about the status of sexuality, but whether this bill was in fact ever necessary. It's our firm belief that the recognition of acceptance must come from the whanau, from our friends and from communities and from ourselves. To this end Tariana did not believe legislation such as the Civil Union Bill was required, to create a means for the state to endorse or formalise different types of relationships. Her view was that any from of relationship - whether you be married, or civil unioned - did not need to be legitimized through state intervention. Her position was very clear. That the ultimate endorsement of our relationships was within our own whanau and our own communities. Part of the tension for Tariana was associated around the issue of human rights. For Tariana, a kin right is a whakapapa right. Therefore your partner, whether married or defacto should not have the right to next of kin. Such a role she reserves for children, brothers, sisters, parents, if they are alive. It's a right which comes through the virtue of genealogy - the right passed on from our tipuna. It is my duty here tonight to explain to you all, to make you listen to the reason why Tariana Turia voted against the Civil Union Bill. I invite you to see what a mix of representatives were supporting the bill for various reasons, and others supporting Tariana's view in relation to kin and whanau. What was unanimous however, was given that Tariana was a lone Maori candidate in Parliament, that she'd had a battering by her Maori Labour colleagues, that she alone was in the front line at that time. What was unanimous was that at that moment in history the regional representatives of the Maori Party outside of Parliament agreed to accept whatever decision Tariana would make on the Party's behalf. Her decision on the matter therefore was the Maori Party's decision. I personally look forward in anticipation to the time when other members of our party will [be] inside parliament to share representing our people in making such important decisions. I am aware that members of our family, our community, are takataapui. And we believe that you are a voice as part of our whanau. I draw your attention to things like racism, the question of the AIDS Foundation Board member selection, the newsreader on Maori Television who took exception to being called a dyke... this stuff is going on. Candidate 5: Luci Highfield, Green Party candidate for Rongotai Kia Ora Koutou. We want you to give your party vote to the Greens this election. There are a million reasons why you should choose to vote for the Green Party, including our emphasis on the wellbeing of the planet, and the wellbeing of people. But tonight I'm just going to focus on three key things. The Greens support the diversity and the protection of human rights. Our work is in raising the visibility of important issues. I've chosen these three things because embracing diversity, human rights and visibility are critical to the wellbeing of our community. I'm going to digress for a moment as I'm aware that quite a few of you don't know me. I'm a lesbian, a Wellingtonian, I'm standing in the Rongotai electorate. I'm a Trade Union Lawyer. I am also a founding member of Out of Work, a trade union network for what we call GLITTFAB: Gay, Lesbian, Intersex, Takataapui, Transgender, Fa‘afine and Bisexuals. Out of Work has been building, and every two years we have this fabulous camp. Our goal is to increase visibility, support and education around GLITTFAB issues, particularly within unions. This brings me back to the reason I support the Green Party this election. The Greens support diversity as the matter of policy. Not only of plant life, but also of people. All nine of our MPs voted in favour of the Civil Union Bill, and for the Statutory Relationships Bill. And that was a matter of policy. Our MPs also supported the Care Of Children bill, which is important for GLITTFAB people, like myself, who have children. We're not only proactively supporting diversity in our community, but are champions for human rights, and seek opportunities for raising human rights within the public and calling the government to account on their human rights record. Ahmed Zaoui is one such example, and the Green party has been actively raising the visibility of the issue of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, and the Black Caps tour. Mugabe is no friend of our community, and has oppressed our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. The Green Party believes that it's important that we stand up and stand firmly in support of human rights both here and internationally. The Green Party vote is critical to ensure we can keep raising the visibility of these issues, even when they're not popular with other parties. The Green Party also supports removing legislative barriers to full participation and protection within society. It's important that we stand together as a community, even if we're not all affected by those barriers. The fact that there is no legislative protection against discrimination based on gender is an outrage. My work as a trade unionist shows it is simply not acceptable that transgender people remain vulnerable to discrimination in their workplaces. The Gender Identity Bill will be supported by the Green Party. We need to, and the Green Party will, visibly seek human rights protections for transgender people. Although appropriate on critical constitutional issues, the Green Party does not support referenda on things like the Civil Unions Bill, or any other human rights issues which may affect minorities. The Green Party does believe in community development, and the empowerment of rainbow communities. We encourage the development of adequately resourced community centers, programmes and events, like the one gay and lesbian fair that we have here locally. We also recognize that our community has special health needs and we acknowledge the relationship between human rights and health. One such example is in relation to HIV/AIDS. We support the development of specific programmes including professional education in partnership with rainbow communities. Giving your party vote to the Greens will mean diversity, human rights and visibility for our community. Party Vote green is about supporting a visible political voice for diversity and for the protection and extension of human rights. Candidate 6: Bernard Darnton, Libertarianz party leader As a libertarian, it disturbs me deeply that there are so many people here tonight willing to pay good money to listen to politicians talk. Speaking to you tonight, you're going to hear eight different flavours of nanny states. Eight different people with eight different sets of ideas about how your lives should be run. When you get into the voting booth, you'll get your party list which will have something like 20 different groups with 20 different sets of ideas about how your life should be run. There are socialists, there are capitalists, there are authoritarians, Christians, nationalists, conservatives... the list goes on and on. Surely there is something there to suit every taste. [Tape stops... Libertarianz policy can be viewed at] Candidate 7: Kane O'Connell, Alliance party This election we're out proud and loud, we are running a list of candidates in a number of seats. The Alliance is nailing a stake in the ground as Aotearoa's left wing, democratic socialist party. We are an all inclusive party with policies based on a genuine position for democracy, equality, and social ownership. If the legacy of poverty, low wages for workers, student debt, war and environmental destruction is to be reversed, then people must gain democratic control of our society. Central to the Alliance's manifesto ... [At this stage the recording became unintelligible for some time. Alliance policy can be viewed at] Candidate 8: Mark Blumsky, National Party I'm going to break this into two sections, National speak and Blumsky speak. The National Party supports freedom of choice, less government intrusion. National supports tolerance for race, religion, and refuses to pay service to anyone because of their sexuality because it doesn't ask the sexual preferences of any member or candidate, because it isn't relevant. We think all New Zealanders are equal regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. National is committed to focusing on the big picture, and the gay and lesbian community is but part of that. National has said it is the party of mainstream New Zealanders. Our definition makes no mention of sexuality. For us, mainstream New Zealanders are regular law-abiding kiwis who get up who get up in the morning and go to work. They are seeking to better themselves through education or training, they may or may not have children, but expect a first class education and a first class cultural system. They want security and they want stability. They take responsibility for themselves, and their kids, and they want the opportunity to get ahead in life. They don't want to be told what to do all the time by the government, and are tired of the political correctness that is invading every aspect of life. “Mainstream New Zealander” is an attitude. It's an attitude to the way you want to live your life. In regards specifically to human rights, National does have a proud track record in that area: introducing the Human Rights Act, and creating the human rights commission and the race relations conciliation. What do you get when you get Mark Blumsky as your MP? You get energy for sure, you'll get vitality for sure. I'm a very relaxed, non-stressful character. I do care... I believe in strong communities and since my time as [Wellington] Mayor I've spent a lot of time in community organisations. So I do believe in giving my time to make sure that communities are strong. Many would call me liberal... I'm one of these who does things. I'm a very proactive sort of person I like making a difference. I honestly do believe that I made this a better city because I had my time as the mayor of Wellington. What I want to do now is I want to find out if I can make a difference as an MP. I want to find out if I can make the difference to New Zealand that I managed to make to Wellington. For sure I'm passionate about Wellington. But when you sold Wellington like I did for six years, there's only one thing better left to sell. That's the country. In the first instance you sell it to New Zealanders themselves, because far too many New Zealanders don't believe in their country. After you've convinced them that New Zealand is the best damn place in the world you can then go bigger and talk about it to the rest of the world. Candidate 9: Tony Simpson, Progressive Party I'm here to represent the Progressive party which is an independent party lead by Jim Anderton. The Progressive party has a very strong record on the civil union bill as a human rights issue. It was important from the outset, and our MPs supported it right through, and in the end voted for it. We have a unique distinction. Jim Anderton was the only party leader to come out publicly against the Catholic bishops when they launched the pulpit attack against civil unions. It wasn't easy for him to do, as a practicing Catholic, but he didn't hesitate to do so. His response was forthright and unequivocal. He didn't exercise his conscience under the restraint of service to the Catholic bishops who he outraged. What that whole controversy illustrated was that we cannot, as a community, be complacent. There are a lot of people out there to test us to the point of violence, and I make no apology for saying that, and although civil unions were achieved we've got quite a long way to go. The progressive party identifies three immediate important steps - the first of those is making our schools safe. Not just for young people but for teachers as well. So that people are able to come out without fear of bullying and outright attacks. I've no doubt you'll be familiar with a recent study done by OutThere that found that a third of non-heterosexual students didn't feel safe at school, and most of them aren't. There's a programme called Safety in Schools which is underway, which the Progressive Party unreservedly supports. Linked to that is the problem of gay suicide. A 1990 study which showed that by the age of 21 nearly 70% GLBT young people will have contemplated suicide. 32% reported to have made an attempt. Comparable figures for non-gays are 58% and 7%. Associate minister of health Jim Anderton has taken portfolio responsibility on suicide and health matters to include current programmes at a higher level of priority. We also want to extend them, we've put a discussion paper forward called Life Worth Living which specifically invites comment on the need to deal with the problem of gay and lesbian youth suicide. Jim wants to pursue that initiative in parliament. It would make life easier for him to do that of course if he had one or two further progressive colleagues in parliament. Then there's the question of access to HIV/AIDS treatment. The progressives support an initiative to streamline Pharmac's approval of administration procedures for a new drug which has already been approved. You're all grownups, so I'm not going to tell you how to exercise your vote. But my advice would be to vote for Marion in the electorate. Give your party vote to the progressives who are committed to pushing ahead with legislation that concern gay and lesbian people. - 18th August 2005    


First published: Thursday, 18th August 2005 - 12:00pm

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