Money, sex and racism
RED AND BLUE: Labour candidate Maryan Street tells the audience she would be happy to serve Taranaki-King Country Electorate as a List MP, with National’s Shane Ardern (background) as constituent MP. 244051AD
By Grant Johnston
There was lots of talk about money and some about sex and racism - not a TV soap but Tuesday’s meet the candidates meeting in Te Awamutu.
The Grey Power organised public forum was a snapshot of this month’s general election. And while Labour’s Taranaki-King Country candidate Maryan Street and Green Party Piako candidate Stephen Lee found plenty of common ground, so did National MP Shane Ardern and Act representative Garry Mallett and New Zealand First Piako candidate Barbara Stewart.
On the subject of coalitions, Mr Ardern said that while the media portrayed that National could not form a government because it had no logical coalition partner, neither was Labour actually in coalition with the Greens.
As with the national campaigns by the respective heavyweights, the central arguments were whether government should tax less and entrust more to the private sector, or retain a hands on role to ensure those who required welfare received it. There was also debate over whether National’s promised tax cuts were affordable.
Mr Ardern said economists and consultants Price Waterhouse Cooper had agreed that the cuts could be afforded. Maryan Street said National could not cut taxes without cutting services. Mr Ardern said the cuts would be to unnecessary bureaucracy, not services.
There was a chasm between those on the right and left when it came to the government-funded sex changes at Christchurch Hospital raised by timekeeper George Douglas.
Mr Douglas said he understood Government was funding three sex change operations a year at $100,000 each. His question rang the bell and out of the red corner came Maryan Street. She corrected Mr Douglas’ information and said that the Government had made provision for three sex change operations recommended by experts on medical grounds every two years, at a cost of $20,000 each.
“These are people who require our compassion more than they require our judgement,” she said.
Stephen Lee said in some instances it was a case of correcting a defect at birth of being born ‘in the wrong gender’. “Prejudice (against these people) is out of order,” he said.
Barbara Stewart said if people wanted these kind of operations they should fund them themselves.
Te Ata Rest Home manager Heather Lydford raised the issue of reduced funding for aged care. The Labour candidate was back on her feet, swinging.
Ms Street blamed the previous National Government for cutting spending in the aged care sector. She said funding had increased under Labour and gave figures detailing extra spending.
Shane Ardern said there was a philosophical difference between those on the right and those on the left when it came to health funding.
“Labour will not allow private rest homes to provide the beds needed. In the 90s we took a hiding from the Labour Party and told we were going to privatise the health system. Well, after six years of their way of doing things it is clearly not working.”
Act Hamilton East candidate Garry Mallett said his party agreed with National.
“The State need not be the only provider. Act believes people should be able to take their State funding for health or education into the private sector.”
WORM TURNER: United Future leader Peter Dunne answers a question, with Taranaki-King Country Christian Heritage NZ candidate Mark Jones looking on. 244052AD
United Future leader Peter Dunne said there was a growing problem of elder abuse in New Zealand. The elderly were being victimised, assaulted and abused in our society and something needed to be done about it.
Ken George wanted to know why waiting lists were only seriously tackled by Government at election time.
Ms Street said labour was not a tax cut party, but had a philosophy of taking surplusses from an economy that was cooking and reinvesting them back where they were required. Large increases in knee, hip and cataract operations were coming in the next few years.
Mr Ardern said Labour had invested billions more in the health sector and waiting lists were still terrible.
“It is not about chucking more money at health, it is about getting efficiency from the money being spent already and cutting out the massive waste on bureaucracy.”
Mr Dunne said his party wanted health insurance premiums for over 65s made tax deductible.
Brian Arrandale wanted to know what candidates thought about Muslim immigration to New Zealand, given the danger posed by those trying to impose their will on other cultures.
Barbara Stewart said New Zealand First wanted to ensure those coming to our country would add to the economy, a view shared by John Kilbride (Democrats).
“Immigrants should be assessed on skills matched to our shortages, not the colour of their skin, we should not have the highest qualified taxi drivers in the world.”
Ms Street agreed that skilled immigrants were needed, but refugees were a different argument and we had international responsibilities.
In debate about how they would serve Taranaki-King Country Electorate, Destiny New Zealand candidate Tony Harrison raised the most appreciative chuckle of the day when he said he was not conceding defeat yet to Shane Ardern. That bold comment came after other candidates in the electorate said they would not mind being list MPs with Mr Ardern obviously going to be voted back in. Most were asking for electors’ party votes.
In their introductory speeches, Taranaki-King Country candidates said:
Shane Ardern (National): “New Zealanders will be better off under National. We are about giving you choices not the Government making your choices for you and saying we know what is best. National will grow the economy, not Government.”
Tony Harrison (Destiny NZ): “The decisions made three years ago are what gave us the realities of today. The family needs to be the focus first and foremost of this and future governments, otherwise we will end up with an even worse society.”
Mark Jones (Christian Heritage NZ): said his party had an “ABC’ platform. The A was for affirming marriage, the B for building families and the C for celebrating life. “We need to give the power back to families.”
Maryan Street (Labour): “We only promise what we can deliver and we deliver what we promise.” She said people should read Labour’s pledge card for this election which showed commitment to providing help where it was needed.