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Authentic voices: It’s NOT the economy, stupid

Nov 4th, 2008 | By | Category: Featured Article, Features

Who are the authentic voices in the election campaign? And what do they think are the big issues? NewsWire’s LAURA FRYKBERG and JENNY MEYER cut through the spin and talked to Kiwi workers to find out.

It’s not the economy, stupid – it’s education!

Working people care most about what the government can do for education in New Zealand, NewsWire found from talking to people who work in five high-spend public sectors – health, education, defence, transport and police.

Education, employment and crime are the top issues, according to a practice nurse, a policeman, a road worker, two secondary teachers and a defence force worker.

“The better educated our public is, the less crime they are going to commit and the more likely they are to be employed and the less police you are going to need,” says Constable Keith Rowe, who links all three.

Yet few politicians are discussing education in any depth, and neither are many commentators.

For example, journalists Jenni McManus and Linda Clark – commenting on TV3 after the leaders’ debate this week – suggested political issues are being “spun” by public relations people to such an extent, that what real people think has become lost.

Right-wing political commentator David Farrar points to the economy, job security, and standards of living as deciding factors: “So you really have one substantial issue which is the economy.”

On the left, Clint Smith (blogging as Steve Pierson) cites his top five issues as ACC, Kiwisaver, tax, trust and experience.

NewsWire’s voter sample, however, ignored the spin when we asked them the following questions:

1.  What are the big issues for you in deciding who to vote for? (Issues)

2.  What do you hope the new government can do to help you in your work? (Hopes)


Sheridan Evans, practice nurse, Thorndon Medical Centre, Wadestown.


“Health and education are my big issues. I haven’t really made a decision. I do feel that the present government has not done the best for those in need. There could be improved education. I have worked in lower decile areas, and I have worked in the prison service. It’s a lack of education.”


“More real funding for health, out in the community, rather than hospital based. More access for everybody. Equitable access to health.”


Hayley Gale, teacher, Wellington Girls’ College, 26 (pictured below, left).


“Where their morals lie, since Labour has legalised prostitution and same-sex marriages I think that has been a turning point for me in maybe voting for National. But at the moment I am keen on the Maori Party.”


“Pay me more money and pay teachers what they are due.”

Liz Sugrue, teacher, Wellington Girls’ College, 36  (above, right).


“Giving all people an opportunity.  It’s the whole country we have to look at. The fundamental thing people are talking about is family values.

Global warming issues are still marginalised. I think the media has a lot to answer for in terms of what we see. There is lots of study that proves these things, yet we still want to sideline it.”


“Class sizes in teaching, I think that is massive. We are limited by the school buildings we have.

We have all these new teaching methodologies, but the classroom isn’t conducive to using them. Money for developing buildings in schools would be good.

Teachers are up to date, but the classrooms themselves are letting us down.”


Anonymous worker for the ministry of defence (picture from recruitment material).


“Whoever is best placed to manage the economy, especially with the downturn. The issues for me are employment, housing, bank loans – that sort of thing.”


“Because I am in defence, foreign policy and international relations are important. I am pretty happy with how Labour has been running that.”


Eddie Samoa, road worker, Porirua, 27.


“Law and order in New Zealand. Our man [John] Key has a good focus on law and order. Our law and order is in crap creek.”


“A pay rise! There is talk about trying to boost the minimum wage so that would help.”


Keith Rowe, police constable, Khandallah, 50.


“The bottom line is who is going to do the best job for our country. They need to have a bit of a social conscience. Being a policeman I am very aware of the social side of things.

The better educated our public is, the less crime they are going to commit, they are more likely to be employed, the less police you are going to need, the less court staff you are going to need, the less women are going to be beaten up at home by disaffected unhappy partners, the less kids are being abused.

If we can sort out our education to start with, things can follow through from there.”


“At the moment there is not enough of us. If we keep the status quo with what is happening out there, we will need a lot more police. If you have more police you need more courts, if you need more courts you need bigger jails, and so on.

So I would like us to take a couple of steps backwards and have a look at the cause of our social problems, and we do have social problems.”

The responses represent personal but informed views, and are not necessarily in accordance with each person’s employer.

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