Monday, 8 August 2011

Wellington Central: Abortion and other matters

In general, I don't think Meet the Candidates forums are particularly useful. It's fun to say to James Shaw (Wgtn Central Green Candidate) "I won't vote for the Greens because Russell Norman said that Louise Nicholas had consensual sex with Clint Rickards", but not an hour and a half of my life fun. Anyone who cares enough to go to a Meet the Candidate forum probably already knows where the parties stand. However, there is one thing you can learn at a meet the candidates meeting that it is very hard to learn anywhere else - and that's candidates' position on 'conscience' issues.

Like abortion.

So when Victoria University had a meet the candidates forum, this seemed like an excellent opportunity to figure out where Wellington Central candidates (many of whom end up deciding things for the rest of us) stand on abortion.

I thought a bit about how to phrase it. Give them an inch wiggle room and they'll not answer your question at all - one person asked about child poverty and whether they would commit to raising benefit rates - and Grant Robertson waxed very lyrical about the evils of child poverty and didn't mention benefits at all. So I made it very focused on law change.

Grant Robertson emphasised that he was pro-choice and that he thought the law should be changed.

James Shaw just said ditto.

Then the New Zealand First candidate and the United Future candidate agreed as well. The United Future candidate said that UF was pro-choice - which may surprise Peter Dunne, although at this point who knows.

Then came Paul Foster-Bell, the National party candidate. He began with a long spiel about how every abortion is a failure, and then said that he supported a woman's right to choose.

It was neat that he got shit for this response on twitter. Although I was more interested in the second part of his response than the first. Obviously ideas like that are ridiculous and should be challenged. But when it comes to MPs, I'm much more focused. They can believe that abortion angers the Wombles, but pleases the Fraggles if they like. I care how they're going to vote.

Although I was interested in why he thought we cared that he thought abortion was a failure. I had asked for his position on the law, not I understand why the Nats run liberal candidates in Wellington Central - but of all the places to


The debate as a whole was one of the most male dominated events I've been to for a while. All the candidates were men, and James Shaw introduced two other local Green candidates who were also men. The chair was a man, and I'm pretty sure that only one woman asked a question. This did not reflect the audience. No-one appeared to notice.

It feels almost cruel, in events like this, to pick on the candidates from the smaller parties. For some reasons candidates from smaller parties which are trying to portray themselves as middle of the road are always much, much, weirder than anyone else.

So I'm not going to say anything about the United Future candidate, although he was hilarious - because he was just some guy who said yes when asked. Is that any reason that he should be mocked on feminist blogs for going along to a student focused election forum and talking about hunting and fishing?

But I am going to say that Ben the NZFirst candidate who said that there never used to be child poverty in New Zealand and blamed current poverty on poor parenting is as ignorant as his politics are terrible.

Apart from that I hate them all (although Grant Robertson almost got me appreciating him when he argued with Ben's ideas about child poverty - which just made me hate him more).


Here at The Hand Mirror we've got a plan to encourage people to use election meetings to agitate about abortion and make potential MPs say what they think - more next week.


katy said...

"Apart from that I hate them all"

I didn't quite get this bit. All politicians? All candidates? All the Wellington Central candidates at the debate?

A Nonny Moose said...

Yeah, I'm a bit confused too. Sure, I understand not being wild about any candidate because they might stand up on one thing and fall down on others. But here you said you were specifically asking about abortion, and got positive responses from male candidates. Sure it sounded like UF weren't paying attention/lied, and got a standard National party response.

So Robertson and Shaw said they're pro-law change - do you think they're lying?

Maia said...

In the second half I was talking about the discussion more generally. In terms of abortion there are degrees. The first question is how they will vote. The second question is what they are willing to do to make sure a vote happens. In New Zealand, we have had many committed pro-choice MPs who have not made any effort to make a vote happen. And if rumours are true some of those who had been extremely prominently pro-choice actively suppressed a vote from 2002-2009. Asking a question at a candidates meeting will only answer the first bit, not the second.

In terms of the MPs, I'm fairly sure that James Shaw (who is unlikely to be in parliament) would do nothing to make a vote happen - if it was a thing for him he would have said more than 'ditto'. And Green MPs with a higher commitment to the issue are not doing anything to make a vote happen. The vibe I get from Grant Robertson is slightly more than that, but that's obviously not enough.

I think I gave some indications in the post what in their world view I disagreed with. But if you're interested in more details pertinent to the debate (I cultivate a long historical memory, but you don't need it).

As I said Grant Robertson was prepared to tut tut about the existence of child poverty, but didn't acknowledge his previous government's role in deliberately excluding some chidlren from their poverty alieviation measures, or commit to raising benefits. He also defended Phil Goff's ruling out of working with Hone, because he was an 'extremist' - apparently thinking poverty is the fault of hte parents, which the NZFirst candidate did is not as extreme (and I'm not even a Mana fan).

James Shaw appeared not even to know who Louise Nicholas was, or acknowledge that police rape was a political issue. He then proceeded to demonstrate that he was on the slimy right wing of the party (his day job is to go do consultant greenwashing for companies such as petrol companies, and cammpaigns for the Greens in between times). He was super proud of himself for doing the $2.25 challenge, which I find actively distasteful, and the more distasteful the more people take pride in parodying other people's reality. And he told the grossest fat 'joke'.

I'll take it back about the United Future candidate though - I didn't hate him, I found him amusing.

Acid Queen said...

I hate all politicians. And all cops, and all judges. But right now, I hate politicians the most.

Anonymous said...

Very enlightening post and response. I especially enjoyed your distinction between a candidate saying they're pro-choice and actually being willing to act upon that if elected...we all need have the choice be able to vote for the candidate who says "I'm pro-choice and will put up and lobby for a private members bill to change the current law". More MPs need to walk their campaigning talk...

As for James Shaw, I voted Green it too late to beg Sue Kedgley to reconside her retirement? Cos for sure, James Shaw is not the calibre of Sue Kedgley - and likely never will be.


Hugh said...

Why you should support James Shaw (according to Danyl)

tldr; he's Danyl's mate, and also bla bla Marxists, oh no!