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Battle lines drawn in Hutt South electoral meeting

Nov 24th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

 

Top: POLITICAL PREACHERS: From left, Trevor Mallard, Hugh Barr, Peter McCaffrey, Holly Walker, Paul Quinn (obscured) and Gordon Copeland.

By Newswire team

THE TOPIC for the evening was “securing the common good,” but the message may have been lost on National’s Paul Quinn and Labour candidate Trevor Mallard.

The two Hutt South representatives pricked and prodded one another into increasingly loud displays of on-stage dominance during Monday night’s meeting at Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

Before the meeting Mr Mallard warned things might get testy.

“This is a group of candidates who mainly get on ok. Sometimes it can get a bit tense and nasty, but maybe I’m immune to it.”

FIRST, ACT: NZ First supporter Geoff Mills, left, ACT Hutt South candidate Alex Spiers.

ACT candidate Alex Spiers (left), although present in the audience, was replaced on stage by another ACT candidate, Peter McCaffery.

New Zealand First’s Ohariu candidate Hugh Barr came along in lieu of any Hutt South representative, along with Gordon Copeland from the Conservative Party.

Each candidate was asked to come forward and speak about how their policies relate to the “Securing the Common Good” statement published by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference for the election.

They were allowed five minutes before having their microphone cut off, although Mr Quinn and Mr McCaffery frequently soldiered on without amplification.

“I find the bishop’s statement not quite as forward or direct as it could be,” says Mr Mallard of the pamphlet.

“It looks a bit on the fence to me and a bit harder to address.”

POLL TALK: Gordon Copeland with Father Bruce England.

Mr Mallard chose to highlight the need for a better healthcare system.

“When we do have kids they are looked after and getting them to the GP is not an issue. There are big parts of our country that can’t afford healthcare.”

Mr Quinn greeted the crowd in Maori, speaking of the National government’s success around Treaty of Waitangi settlements as well as their emphasis on family.

“Our policy is to ensure that every child, every person coming into this world has the best possible start in life and is given everything they need to succeed,” he says.

He slipped when speaking of their achievements around race-relations.

“From a Nat, from a government point of view, no-one can hold a candle to the National government.”

Trevor Mallard.

Mr Quinn describes Labour as a “dithering government”.

The audience were allowed to pose questions to the candidates. “Questions are questions, not your public address,” said MC Chris Duthie-Jung.

Subjects brought up included the problem of beneficiary-bashing, overcrowding of prisons and abstinence-based sex education in schools.

A heated debate stirred after a question, directed at Mr Quinn, brought up the issue of student debt and unemployment.

“Last year we created 60,000 sustainable jobs,” he says.

“The figures speak for themselves.”

Mr Mallard (above left) however, argued that these figures have not done anything to change the fact the number of those in debt and unemployment is still too high.

He cited unemployment rates and New Zealand’s economic growth, saying the country had 50,000 more unemployed than in 2008.

Paul Quinn

Paul Quinn (right) responded that Labour drove these figures higher during their term in government.

“Those figures occurred in 2008 in the recession caused by them (Labour),” he says.

The response garnered laughter from Mr Mallard as well as a small section of the audience.

Mr McCaffery and Mr Copeland are in agreement that the private sector holds the solution to New Zealand’s economic woes.

“Government doesn’t create jobs. It’s the job of the private sector,” says Mr Copeland.

Mr McCaffrey argued the focus of job growth shouldn’t be directed towards certain sectors but the whole economy needs a boost first.

“Get a growing economy rather than cherry picking businesses,” he says.

Mr Barr says NZ First is not a right-wing party, unlike National, which he describes as generally a party for the wealthy.

“In the last three years, National has presided over a massive increase in the gap between rich and poor- hence, poverty.”

Ms Walker spoke about the Greens’ community focus, and their commitment to creating new jobs in the environmental-technology sector.

In their final speeches, Mr Mallard, Mr Quinn and Mr Copeland asked for the audience’s vote in the election on Saturday.

Ms Walker recommended voters choose MMP in the referendum, and Mr Barr asked the audience to make sure that whatever happened, they did not vote for National.

Reflecting on the night, Mr Duthie-Jung was happy with the result and says the issues brought up in the Bishops’ statement were dealt with.

“I felt they all did their level best with what they had,” he says.

“There were some interesting interpretations (of the bishop’s statement).”

He admits that his right of reply system went a bit awry, saying it still needs fine tuning.

– Reporting by Robbie Parkes, Sarah Dunn, Kimberley McCombie

 

AMEN TO THAT: An audience member finds the discussion all too riveting.

THE TREVMOBILE: Trevor Mallards preferred mode of transportation.

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