I had a very interesting time at Cafe Conversations on Sunday. This was a “meet the candidates” meeting in Christchurch East, but not all of us candidates were standing in that electorate. Candidates there were:
- Lianne Dalziel – Labour (current Christchurch East MP)
- Aaron Gilmore – National
- Mojo Mathers – Green
- Dr John Pickering – United Future
- Matthew Gardiner – ACT
- Nick McIlraith (I think, lots of names to remember though) – Democrats for Social Credit
- Myself – Family Party
Lianne Dalziel seemed a nice woman but came across as extremely arrogant in one question. We were asked how our party would deal with “powerful self-interest lobby groups”. Ms Dalziel launched into a spiel about the Exclusive Brethren, and went on about how we needed state funding of political parties to ensure parties didn’t have to listen to such groups. Hang on a minute – did she really say that? Do they want state funding so they don’t have to listen to lobby groups like Family First, Federated Farmers, Greenpeace, even Unions? Can you get more arrogant, a politician wanting state funding so they don’t have to listen to the will of the people?
I said we would listen to what they had to say, as they know the needs of those they are representing better than we do, and would weigh it up against Christian principles and the level of apparant public support for the group. The National candidate (Aaron Gilmore) agreed with me. I really don’t see how any other view could be anything but arrogant. We must get rid of Labour this election.
However, Aaron Gilmore did himself no favours on the issue of National funding Herceptin for 12 months. The audience immediately saw through this for what it really is – state interference in Pharmac and politicians deciding which people get health treatment and which don’t (Pharmac has limited resources to allocate) – and he was seriously booed. I was quite surprised at this, because National is obviously taking this position as an emotive issue to buy votes, not scare people away. He then accused everyone who didn’t want Herceptin to be funded for 12 months of being in favour of letting women die – at which point he was shouted down by the entire room and Dr John Pickering (United Future, a medical researcher) stormed across the room and nearly came to blows with him! Matthew Gardiner (ACT) put it best when he said something like “you can’t accuse everyone who disagrees with you of wanting to kill puppies”. Whatever the merit of funding herceptin for 12 months may be, Mr Gilmore needs to rethink how he promotes it!
Dr Pickering (UF) came across as a very likeable man, with very wishywashy policies. I already knew Mojo Mathers (Green) previously, and she came across as very sincere, it is unfortunate that she supports a load of nutty Green policies, otherwise she’d make a good MP. She is profoundly deaf and does an excellent job of speaking to a crowd for someone with that disability. Matthew Gardiner (ACT) came across as a sensible guy who was prepared to listen to the point of view of others.
The Democrats for Social Credit candidate (I think his name was Nick McIlraith) didn’t really come across at all. No-one could understand what he was talking about. Instead of answering the questions he would launch into a long-winded spiel about the evils of the money system which lost everyone after 5 seconds. I felt rather sorry for the guy, as far as I could gather he thought we would be better off under hard-line communism, and I would have been interested to know why he thought communism was such a good idea, but he didn’t manage to convey this at all. Very confusing. People aren’t interested in the money system, they want to know how policies will actually affect them, and he didn’t answer this for any question at all.
After some initial scepticism from some of the audience about my stance on global warming, I got some excellent applause for our environmental policy – once I had explained that the ETS would actually do absolutely nothing for the environment yet cost an arm and a leg to do that, points that Ms Dalziel and Mrs Mathers had conveniently neglected to mention when they had spoken just before me. There also seemed to be support for funding following the child, based on the amount of nodding heads. I also got a great response when I was unable to give a straight answer to a question (that we have no policy on yet) and bluntly said so while pointing out that no-one else had given a straight answer either because we were all politicians!
I had some good discussions with people who had come along afterwards, it was a great afternoon. The food and drink looked and smelt great but I spent so long talking I missed it… My 3-month-old son James was very happy, squealing away down the back, until Sarah had to take him out and walk up and down the road with him because he was so happy he couldn’t contain himself!