On the campaign trail in Dunedin North with Victor Billot

Alliance Party blog

Maximed Out

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Last night was the nzvotes.com forum at Otago University, hosted by the Maxim Institute.

I wasn’t initially invited, but the organizers relented and gave me and a guy from the Kiwi Party a two minute slot each. Things developed from here.

But first, just an aside. The Maxim Institute is a well-known right wing think tank that is well known for strong moral and social conservatism, religious links and a generally free market economic outlook, although this economic stance is not always completely consistent.

Maxim seem to have gone a bit quiet in recent times, in the past they had a fairly high profile spokesperson Bruce Logan who had a media profile, but these days they seem to have gone in more for doing worthy things like running informational websites and forums for the election.

It is a funny thing that the Maxim Institute is OK hearing from Alliance candidates, yet I’ve had to fight a small war to be able to speak at student forums. In Christchurch and Wellington (not Dunedin) the Alliance was excluded from CTU forums altogether which had speakers from ACT – something that I am not going to forget in a hurry.

I don’t think that reflects well on what I consider my side. I have been actively involved with student politics and now work as a union official, so find it strange to get a welcome from conservatives but not from fellow leftists.

I missed the 2005 Maxim forum in Dunedin they ran but the Green candidate reported she had a torrid time. I was expecting a hot reception tonight from a woundup bunch of witch burners, but no.

The meeting was wellrun, and the adjudicator, Maxim head Greg Fleming, not only allowed my two minutes worth but permitted me to take part in the question and answer session.

The parties represented were Green (Metiria Turei), National (Michael Woodhouse), United (Judy Turner), New Zealand First (Ron Mark) and ACT (Hilary Calvert). The Kiwi Party had a candidate on site as well, and there was an independent from South Dunedin who was not permitted to join the debate as a candidate (David Bernhardt) which I thought was a shame.

The Labour Party didn’t show, which was bad form, but not really a shame, as their lacklustre local candidates are running a take no chances, middle of the road campaign to bore the voters into submission.

I’m not sure if I was supposed to join the debate but I did anyway, and I have to say the chair was quite generous in allowing me to have my say.

Here is my review of the night. As always, in the interests of fairness, I will not rate myself.

Ron Mark (New Zealand First)

I have never rated any NZ First MPs before, but I was impressed by Ron Mark on technical grounds. He spoke well and had a good manner. My point of amazement is how adaptable NZ First are to the political terrain. Tonight Ron spoke like a true leftist. The usual rhetoric about crims, Asian invasion, Treaty of Waitangi and the like had evaporated and Ron was taking a basically Marxist line, railing against global capitalism. He spent most of the night attacking the National Party (winning on points against M. Woodhouse) and ACT (no contest.) 

The National Party have made a fatal error by writing off NZ First. Winston’s crew are now in attack mode against National. I’m in no doubt that it’s driven by expediency, but as the gap closes between the big two, John Key must be wishing he hadn’t stood up Winnie so harshly.

A fascinating study in political adaptability from NZ First.

Rating: A+ for survival instinct, D- for past record, principles and sincerity

Michael Woodhouse (National)

I was expecting this to be home territory for Michael, but despite the fact National are supposed to be universally popular, their fan base in Dunedin either don’t exist or don’t go to meetings (probably too busy calculating what size plasma screen their tax cut is going to buy.)

Michael is struggling to maintain his initial composure. Previous meetings he had the air of a Chief Executive giving a Powerpoint presentation, but the cool calm exterior is wearing off. He didn’t like being challenged tonight and started biting back. His main attack now is to keep on repeating how the Alliance is on 0.4% so that means we must be unpopular. The problem is for Michael is that we are getting a better reception at meetings than him, which must begin to aggravate after a while.

National has gone off the boil big time. The tax cuts debacle, the Kiwisaver confusion, the policy holes, and even the stunningly brainless plan to dump tax credits for research and development – even Lenin would have supported the current system – show a party that seems to be about to snatch defeat from the gaping jaws of victory. Michael was floundering tonight trying to explain some of the head office bumbles.

He must be nervously watching the polls as his smooth transition from corporate manager to political manager disappears before his eyes like the Cheshire Cat slowly fading to invisibility.

In his favour he hung around afterwards and talked to the people.

Verdict: Bart Simpson – Underachiever and not liking it. Cowabunga Dude.

Judy Turner (United)

Judy is a nice lady from Whakatane. Like NZ First, United, or at least Judy herself, is doing the leftward shuffle as well with United’s new no tuition fees policy.

What I don’t understand though is their pamphlets which are snide, pompous little missives from Leader Dunne, full of dogwhistle politics, aimed clearly at the angry lower middle classes (the traditional breeding ground of political reaction.)

Obviously this is a party with many conflicting values. Or perhaps those values just change depending on the time, place and flavour of the ice cream.

Combine this with the trite claim that being in the centre means United take the best of left and right – I would claim that it makes them philosophically baseless tennis ball that just bounces between the two major parties, with no firm direction of their own.

Response: Personally harmless but politically suspect

Metiria Turei (Greens)

Metiria was on form tonight and grilled into the Tories. However sooner or later I am going to have to point on one screaming inconsistency with what she is saying.

Tonight was the SECOND time I have heard Metiria claim in public that the Greens support progressive taxation. 

Yet in a recent debate on the Greens blog, the Greens have produced no evidence this is the case. There are no tax tables on the Green website that I can find to explain their position. Russell Norman said on the Green TV ad that the Greens will tax resources and pollution not work, or something to that effect. Resource taxes and pollution taxes are NOT progressive taxes.

They may be good for the environment, but unless supplemented with progressive income tax will (a) hit the working class hard and (b) not provide anywhere enough money to fund Green promises.

Either Russell or Metiria have got the wrong end of the stick. This cannot be solved by sitting around in a circle and reaching a consensus.

Opinion: The jury is out but time is short for the Greens to come clean on tax.

Hilary Calvert (ACT)

Another Hilary-ious performance from ACT’s lead vote loser in the South. This should have been a dream run to a friendly crowd, but she managed to rub the audience up the wrong way again. Why, O Lord, why?

Michael Woodhouse seemed to be desperate to avoid being identified as an ally of ACT and kept his head down while scorn was heaped on Hilary’s amateur reasoning by the rest of panel.

The basic problem is that she keeps on saying mean things about people. 

Her favourite whipping boys at the moment are students, whom she described as spending their allowances in the pub. She should check with the brewery barons in the Business Roundtable before she starts attacking their customer base.

She snarled at Metiria and raved on about climate change, which I understand she thinks is a giant conspiracy, but not quite sure given her rambling answers. I can honestly say I would do a better job at promoting ACT policies.

The only hope is that Hilary lightens up and starts sounding positive. Based on past record, there are slim odds. But you never know. Unlike ACT, I think we should give people a second go.

Required reading: How to win friends and influence people.

Kiwi Party guy

He offered a quick nervous statement of Kiwi Party policy at the beginning of the night which seemed to be directly in line with Maxim philosophy. Then he quietly sat down and we never heard a peep from him for the rest of the night.

Written by Victor

October 14, 2008 at 8:13 pm

One Response

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  1. […] Billot has been giving bad reviews of Hilary Calvert on his blog so I was expecting pretty bad but like John Key was able to […]

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