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Rongotai demands action on child poverty

Nov 25th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

CAMPAIGN CLOSURE: Rongotai candidates at their final meeting with the voters.

By KATIE McALISTER and GRANT ELLEN

CHRIS Finlayson was put on the spot over child poverty at the last candidates meeting for the Rongotai electorate.

The candidates started by delivering their standard party lines, but the real debates started when the crowd were able to ask questions.

One woman asked why the parties cannot forget politics and get together to make a policy to look after children.

Annette King said the Labour, Green and Maori parties have created a group to address child poverty and they keep asking the government to join.

Ms King said the government keep saying they are happy with their own policies.

National’s Chris Finlayson (right) acknowledged the problem of child poverty and listed several things  the government was doing, including home insulation, though he avoided explaining why the government had not joined the cross-party talks on poverty.

Former Wellington City councillor Rob Goulden asked the Greens’ Gareth Hughes – who was standing in for Russel Norman – if he was prepared to apologise and pay compensation for the damage caused from the sticker campaign directed at National’s billboards.

“Why did your leader admit publicly that members of your party had been involved in an orchestrated campaign of political violence against the people of this community and are you prepared to apologise?” said Mr Goulden.

The largely left-leaning audience heckled Mr Goulden throughout his question, with the chair having to intervene and tell the crowd to be quiet.

When Mr Goulden completed his question, someone yelled “oh boo hoo.”

Gareth Hughes (left) responded by saying the Green Party had been up front when they found out about it and they did not condone the defacing of billboards by a former party member.

“The Green Party had no knowledge of it and we gave no organisational support to it,” he said.

When asked why there has been no alcohol law reform bill to tackle ongoing alcohol-related issues, Gareth Hughes was greeted with cheers when he said National is putting blame on young people, but the problem is societal.

Mr Hughes also said both Labour and National governments have not lowered the alcohol breath limit to the international recommended limit.

On climate change, candidates spoke of the emissions trading scheme, and Mr Hughes said: “I can’t fathom why the government wants to spend billions of dollars on new motorways that will pollute.”

A member of the audience expressed worry over the fate of small businesses and independent candidate Don Richards (right) gained fans with his comment: “We’re being rogered! Others are investing in us, but we can’t invest in them.”

When grilled as to why the Greens have not ruled out a coalition with National, Mr Hughes calmed the crowd by saying: “We’d prefer to work with Labour, but we haven’t closed the door completely on National.”

He said unless National changes its policies on asset sales and beneficiary bashing it was unlikely the Greens would go into a coalition.

When speaking about welfare, Conservative candidate Bruce Welsh (left) was roundly booed by the crowd when he said: “We’ll never have an equal society – those systems have been tried, and failed.”

Asked whether they would still be MPs if their salaries were halved, New Zealand First candidate Brent Pearson (right) thought he should earn the same as the average wage because he was representing the average person.

Council of Trade Unions economist Peter Conway asked Chris Finlayson to justify the GST tax switch, which he said has adversely affected the poorest people in the community.

Mr Finlayson argued that increasing GST is sensible and the economy is improving under National, to which a man yelled: “Then why do so many people feel poorer?!”

Act’s Joel Latimer (left) caused amusement throughout the night, at one point proposing to get rid of the RSA, to which the crowd roared with laughter.

He corrected himself by saying: “I mean the RMA.”

The room erupted when he suggested teachers should have performance-based pay “so those teachers who are failing their students are getting their just desserts”.

 

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