On the campaign trail in Dunedin North with Victor Billot

Alliance Party blog

Dunedin campaign interview from today

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Written by Victor

October 28, 2008 at 10:22 am

Vote Eric Gamble!

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Written by Victor

October 27, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Democracy Deficit

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Written by Victor

October 23, 2008 at 7:57 am

What this blog is about . . .

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I’m Victor Billot, the Alliance Party candidate for the Dunedin North electorate in the 2008 New Zealand General Election. I’m also number three on the party list.

I’m 36 years old, work for the Maritime Union of New Zealand, and consider myself a democratic socialist. I stood in 2005 for the same electorate.

This blog is my personal view of the election campaign, it’s a way for me to express my views but also to have some laughs along the way. Please leave a comment! And remember to vote for me 🙂

ELECTION NIGHT RESULT 2008:

Final count including specials 448 electorate votes and 106 party votes

Provisional results: Dunedin North electorate votes for Victor Billot 405, party votes for Alliance 91

 

(Compares to 2005 results, 270 candidate votes and 65 party votes)

This blog is now officially deprecated but will be kept up as an archive. My main site is victorbillot.com.


Written by Victor

October 21, 2008 at 9:00 am

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The Star Chamber

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The Star Chamber used to be a kind of kangaroo court in the traditional, family values good old days that conservatives look back fondly on.

Fortunately, in Dunedin our Star is the community newspaper and our Chamber is the worthy local business fraternity, and together they were kind enough to put on an election forum last night at the Town Hall’s Glenroy Auditorium – probably the biggest of the campaign for Dunedin.

The night was well organized and well attended with a solid media contingent. Coverage included local TV Channel 9 who ran this story tonight.

The forum featured representatives from most parties. However, some notable exceptions. The sitting MP for Dunedin North Pete Hodgson and the Labour candidate for Dunedin South Clare Curran were not in attendance. Barring illness or personal emergency, why would the two leading candidates for Dunedin not bother to show for such a major forum?

According to ACT candidate Hilary Calvert it’s because they can take their seats for granted. Not that I am in the habit of agreeing with Hilary, but I’ve yet to hear a good explanation of their absence. (Update: Well, obviously my blog is being read by someone, because Clare came up to me last night and told me she had been at a Pacific Island community event, so there.) Labour list MP David Parker stood in for both of them.

Neither the Peter Dunne Fan Club, the Winston Peters Fan Club, nor the Jim Anderton Fan Club could find anyone who could be bothered to speak on their behalf, unlike my own party the Alliance which had both our North Dunedin and South Dunedin candidates in attendance – despite the fact we are outside Parliament and lack all the resources of these so-called “parliamentary” parties.

However, we did get some special guest appearances for the night.

The outstanding candidate for the night was once again Robert Wansink of Restore All Things In Christ. This is a candidate who must be seen and heard to be believed.

Robert reached fame during the 2005 election where his eyebrow raising presentation at the same forum was noted on my blog, picked up by Kiwiblog, and apparently even made it to the New Zealand Herald.

At the 2005 forum, Robert boldly claimed that the other candidates were representatives of the AntiChrist, which did not disturb a card carrying atheist such as myself, but caused some interesting facial expressions on the candidate for the Destiny Party.

This time round, I made a point of seeking him out before the meeting. I hoped our previous religious debate had not soured things and was pleased to find Robert in good form. He noted that he had seen my blog and I had got one thing wrong – he had been quoting Aristotle not Plato.

I discovered that Robert is a fundamentalist (my word) Roman Catholic. Apparently some popes are in, some popes are out. He is trained in mathematics and exclusively attends Latin Mass. Anyway, once the evening got underway, I was bemused by the fact Robert was actually making quite a bit of sense. He made a joke about the usury of insurance companies, which went down well, and discussed ways of making retirement savings more secure. What had happened? I was beginning to worry that Robert had lost his way amongst the temporal realm.

Not to worry. Robert made my night with his elegantly righteous response to a question on climate change. According to Robert, climate change is nothing new. Climate change has already occurred in the Great Flood with forty days and forty nights of rain, and when Sodom and Gomorrah had burned under fire from the heavens. This was the first explanation of climate change as a Godly phenomenon I had come across.

The crowd went wild.

Apart from that, everything seem pale in comparison. David Parker yelled a bit at the end but I can’t remember what about. Dunedin South National candidate Conway Powell got his policies wrong and was corrected by a smiling Dunedin North National candidate Mike Woodhouse.

After the long suffering Conway got beaten down the National Party list by new boy Mike, it must be even more galling for him to be corrected in front of a hooting crowd. Conway was all over the place tonight as he tried to give what sounded suspiciously like a left wing Keynesian analysis of the National Party’s new finance programme.

Mike Woodhouse managed a trademark smooth recovery from someone in the crowd reading out his embarrassing quote from the Critic magazine.

The independent for Dunedin South David Bernhardt is a sincere tryer who subscribed to policies which seemed to be the closest thing to the old DLP in Australia. The Democrats for Social Credit had a solid candidate in Dawn McIntosh who gave a good old fashioned presentation. My fellow Alliance candidate Kay Murray fired up for the occasion as well.

I hope to post some video footage later on.

Written by Victor

October 21, 2008 at 8:38 am

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Baptism of Tea and Biscuits

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Saturday night was the three-yearly election forum at the North East Valley Baptist Church hosted by Steve O’Connor, who must be the only left leaning Baptist minister in existence.

The crowd was smaller than anticipated but moderately lively. 

Hilary Calvert (ACT) seemed subdued tonight. Perhaps given the church setting,  distant memories of the Sermon on the Mount were dulling her Gordon Gekko instincts. 

She nearly made it through to the end without inciting a riot in the crowd with some outrageous comment, but still managed to create a flummox in her closing statement. She just can’t seem to resist goading the crowd.

Hilary provided the most obscure metaphor with a longwinded Ukrainian fable about a beggar demanding kopecks from a rich man. We’ll give her a point for managing to introduce the word “kopeck” into a 2008 political debate in New Zealand.

Pete Hodgson (Labour) has to my relief returned to his usual crabby form after appearing unsettlingly relaxed at earlier forums. Perhaps the resurgent Labour campaign makes him think he still has a chance so he is back into it.

Usual dry monotone, however he started to bite back when he got some flak about free trade deals. Pete then informed the audience that my suit was “made in China” so somehow this meant I was not allowed to criticize free trade.

A quick check showed my suit was actually made in New Zealand, which forced Pete to retreat to a fallback position that the “material was made in China.”

Pete tried the age old canard that somehow being against “free trade” means than you are against “trade” full stop. Obvious nonsense but it shows how desperate Labour are to cover their smelly tracks on this one.

Then the old gag that if you somehow have a product made overseas in your pocket, say a biro, this automatically means you can’t disagree with free trade.

The level of debate is so low that it leaves you wondering. Perhaps the evaporation of New Zealand manufacturing is haunting the conscience of the “workers government” under their deregulated policies.

Really I think this free trade tack is the most pathetic example of the corruption of the Labour Party.

Pete started along the lines of how we couldn’t pick and choose between who we traded with – things have obviously gone downhill since the days when Labour Government’s took stands against apartheid and nuclear weapons.

Why don’t they just say, we’re in the free trade deal because profits are more important to us than our liberal moral principles. At least they’d be honest.

Pete was reduced to a dumb silence when Hilary Calvert (ACT) and Mike Woodhouse (National) both agreed with his free trade policy. 

I hope all our Labour Party loving liberals out there take that one on board. As far as free trade goes, National, ACT and Labour are all in the one big group hug.

Two points for Pete for returning to his old form.

Mike Woodhouse (National)

Mike seems to have dropped the Michael these days, so Mike it is. Mike is extremely good at sensing which way the wind is blowing and adjusting his speech and overall vibe for maximum agreeableness. He kept on going on about the National “crusade” in education which I thought was an interesting choice of words for the venue.

The question being, where are the National supporters? Considering we’re being told that there is going to be a Tory landslide, why are no National supporters coming along to back their man?

I’ll tell you where they are. They’re at home, looking forward to their big fat tax cuts. They have no interest in politics, except what it can do for them. Individualists, they have no time for community forums. The old time National Party with its conservative but community based structure is dead and gone. 

Two points for Mike for having to sit through two months of jeering crowds to win his cozy list seat (here is a man who won’t be supporting a return to first past the post!)

Metiria Turei (Green)

Metiria was on good form tonight, she seems to have given up on the mild mannered consensus approach and was in full attack mode on all three right wing candidates at various stages. 

Not sure how this fits into the Green’s principles of colloborative community conciliation, but it makes for a much more entertaining evening.

Following my recent highlighting of a lack of financial specifics on Green initiatives, I now have Greens sidling up to me after meetings to explain how they are trying to speed up the release of the Green tax policy. I am looking forward to this, but encourage the Greens to hurry up as the election day is 8 November. We should leave the non-announcement of policy to the National Party.

Seven points for getting stuck in, and a bonus point for Metiria who bought us all a drink when we went to the Inchbar after the forum finished.

All in all a decent night. For an alternate account of events, go to Bren’s blog.

The previous evening we had an NZEI and OMEP early childhood education meeting, the highpoints were Pete Hodgson starting to yell “Crap! Crap!” at me just before the meeting closed, and watching Mike Woodhouse’s neck slowly turn red as he faced a barrage of catcalls from the rows of middle aged schoolteachers.

Written by Victor

October 19, 2008 at 1:08 am

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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