Feeling foreign in own land

November 4, 2008

Dene Mackenzie, who’s taking the political pulse of the country for the ODT, has reached Botany.

People born overseas (49%) outnumber the locals (47.9%) and the electorate has the country’s second-highest proportion of Asian voters (33.5%).

But the strong competition for Chinese votes in particular has created a backlash among other voters.

Three Chinese-born candidates are seeking election.

They are National’s Pansy Wong, Mr Wang and Simon Kan from the Kiwi Party.

. . . At Jacob’s Cafe, only the staff were Asian as I settled down next to Glad and Allan Jamieson. They are both in their 80s and have lived in the village for most of their married life.

They are committed National voters and will be voting for Mrs Wong and giving National their party vote. But even they are starting to feel a bit peeved about the wave of new immigrants and new housing.

. . . Botany residents are split over whether it is good for candidates to be campaigning in languages other than English.

Some spoken to by Taking the Pulse said it was good that the Chinese candidates could talk to voters in their own language.

Others said they would prefer to have everything conducted in English but could not say that publicly in the electorate in case they were branded racist.

It’s difficult when you start feeling like a foreigner in your own country, but speaking your mother tongue is natural.

A young Chilean woman works in a supermarket I shop at. She always speaks to me in Spanish and I always try to answer her in her language but that is very different from what Dene encountered in Botany.

If I lived in another country I’d learn the language, but I’d also be pleased if others used mine.


MMP puts party dogma before people

October 16, 2008

MMP was supposed to improve representation and if you judge it by the greater diversity of parties, gender and ethnicity in parliament it has.

But that has come at the high cost of poorer representation for people, especially in the provinces. There are more Members of Parliament but fewer of them are constituency MPs and they represent far bigger areas.

Most people aren’t particularly interested in politics but they do want to know they have an MP who can listen to them in their electorates and speak for them in Wellington.

All electorate MPs represent parties but once elected they work for all the people in their electorates, they deal with local issues and they help local people.

The importance of this is rarely acknowldeged. Most political commentators are based in Wellington and only see what the MPs do in parliament so that is what gets reported. 

I’m not blaming the media for that because a lot of the work MPs do locally is for individuals who’ve come up against burureacratic brick walls and it is confidential.

Not everyone understands the importance of this work and this was made very clear at a meet the candidates meeting in Alexandra yesterday.

It was addressed by Jacqui Dean, who is seeking the seat for National, David Parker who is seeking it for Labour, the Kiwi Party’s Dunedin South candidate, Phillip Wescombe and Pat Scott from the Green Party who was standing in for the candidate who was unable to be there.

It’s the party vote that counts so it was not surprising that they all stressed that but only Jacqui made it obvious she was also seeking the seat.

So at question time I asked them why they were seeking the seat, or why their parties weren’t.

David said he was seeking the seat. Phillip explained that the Kiwi Party was new and didn’t have the people to run in every seat, which was honest.

Pat started with the party vote message so I asked her to get back on track and explain why the party wasn’t seriously contesting the seat when a good electorate MP was important to the people who needed her/his assistance.

She replied that she didn’t think an MP should be a social worker and that if s/he got help for a constituent that was rorting the system.

This was greeted with some surprise by the audience and Jacqui who explained how rewarding it was to be able to help people who were at the end of their tethers She then comprehensively rejected the accusation of rorting the system.

It’s just as well we’ve still got a few MPs who understand that people are more important that party dogma but under MMP they are an endangered minority.


Kiwi Party’s wish list

August 9, 2008

The Kiwi Party is holding its inaugural conference today and it has announced its first five priorities.

They are repealing the anti-smacking law; appointing a Royal Commission on child abuse;  introduce binding referenda on controversial issues; increase the drinking age, clamp down on those who supply alcohol to under-age drinkers and establish faith based detox and rehabilitation centres; increase the minimum wage to $15; and invest in marriage preparation and relationship enrichment courses (which by my count is six priorities).

There are no surprises there. The big surprise would be if the party actually got in to parliament and history shows how difficult that would be.  Party leader Gordon Copeland is only in parliament because Future New Zealand, the manifestation of the Christian party he was in at the time, was subsumed by the United Party.

The best result for a Christian party was the Christian Colaition’s 4.3% of the party vote in 1994. In 1999 Chirstian Heritage got 2.4% and Future New Zealand got 1.1%.

Three years later Christian Heritage got 1.4% and United Future NZ got 6.7% – but that was because the television worm liked its leader Peter Dunne and National was decimated.

At the last election United was down to 3% and Destiny got .6%.

MMP does enable wee parties to get in to parliament but no new party has got in without an electorate seat and I can’t see the Kiwi Party having a broad enough appeal to change that.



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