Sean Richards interviewed representatives from the youth wings of the National Party, ACT and the New Conservative Party.
Enter a political discussion with anyone in 2018, and it is all too easy to devolve into pointless name-calling. Cries of “libtard!” and “fascist!” dominate the discussion, and it can become impossible to have a reasoned debate, crossing both sides of the political spectrum. A lot of policy discussion surrounding left-wing ideals gets bandied about in western liberal democracies, and not a lot of right-wing policies. I spoke to Blake Monk (Young National), Felix Poole (ACT on Campus), and Kiraan Chetty (Young Conservative), on a range of issues facing New Zealand.
Blake, a common criticism of National is that they “hate the poor”. What are your thoughts on this? Is it a valid criticism? What policies does National have that engender this criticism?
Blake: It is absolutely not a valid criticism. We want everyone to have the ability to succeed, regardless of their start in life. We believe in giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Our Party’s values focus on equal opportunity, rewarding hard work and supporting caring communities. National is committed to growing the pie for everyone, not just dividing what we already have. The National Party’s social investment approach in education, healthcare and social services create greater opportunities to lift Kiwis across the country out of poverty and on the path to a better future. We are ambitious for New Zealand, and New Zealanders, and our policies go beyond virtue-signalling. Unfortunately for the Labour Party, you can’t buy groceries on vision and good intentions.
Felix, a common trope is that ACT thinks taxation is theft. Is there any truth to this?
Felix: We think tax is an unfortunate necessity, we think that tax is far too high and people deserve to keep more of what they earn.
Kiraan, a common criticism of New Conservative (the renamed Conservative Party) is that it is haunted by the spectre of Colin Craig. What are your thoughts on this?
Kiraan: There’s always been higher scrutiny placed on right-wing advocates and politicians. In times of public indiscretions, said groups are weighed up against a tough presupposed standard of hypocrisy. To some extent, this is a good thing; but to hold the personal actions of one, in the past, as a determinant of a community, in the future – to me – seems fallacious. Because of that scrutiny, Craig greatly harmed our movement, yet – as the polls have proved – he has long since stopped affecting our reputation.
Should the refugee cap be increased, decreased, or not changed? Why?
Blake: National campaigned on a sustainable increase to the refugee quota from 750 to 1000 from 2018/2019. This policy was formed on an evidence-based Refugee Resettlement Strategy and supported by community sponsorship for new Kiwis. Our priority for refugees arriving into New Zealand is to ensure that they are equipped to support themselves and begin making positive contributions to their new home as soon as possible.
Felix: Many Young ACT members want it increased, but that’s not an official position.
Kiraan: If we are to accept refugees – as we are morally obliged to – we must ensure that they either strongly relate to the unique bicultural Kiwi way of life here in New Zealand, or that they are willing to voluntarily assimilate, as I have. If this is maintained, the quantity is not so relevant; if we are able to better coexist (under kaupapa Māori and kaupapa Britain), any long-term negative externalities are far outweighed by the positives. Growing up as an immigrant, in the small East Coast town of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, Gisborne, I’ve learned that NZ has a particular flavour and rapport, which, I believe, is the reason for our success.
What are your thoughts on NCEA? What grade would you give the system – Not Achieved, Achieved, Merit, or Excellence?
Blake: Although originally a Clark Labour government scheme, under National we have many things to be proud of. National required schools to report to the Ministry of Education so they could obtain data on students’ progress and achievement. Under National we saw steady increases in achievement rates across the board. In 2014, 81.2% of students were passing NCEA level 2 and pass rates for Maori and Pasifika have grown from 51.6% to 74.9% and 50.5% to 79.5%, respectively. As a grade, NCEA should be given a high merit. There is always more work to be done to improve the education system but NCEA has established a firm platform for this growth.
Felix: We think that the education sector needs to be reformed to be more competitive so that we have better outcomes for children. We believe in a standardized education.
Kiraan: Having attended a decile 3 school, I’m not sure if my experience with NCEA was enhanced or hindered?! In saying that, I’d likely give it a High Achieved – while it shows some potential, there’s definitely room for improvement.
Does New Zealand need a written constitution? Why, or why not?
Blake: The National Party has no official stance on constitutional law reform. Codification of our laws is certainly an area that would require wide public consultation and conversation before undertaking. Something you would have hoped the Labour/NZ First Government would have considered prior to their implementation of the anti-democratic Waka Jumping Legislation.
Kiraan: Even as a Law student, I’ll be the first to admit ignorance in the minutiae of the matter, but for the time being, New Zealand’s anthology of constitutional documents seem to work.
Other than medicinal cannabis reform, what policy that the Labour-led Government has introduced (or signalled that they will introduce) would your party be willing to support?
Blake: A huge amount of the business of Parliament happens in consensus. Unfortunately, these situations never receive airtime in the press due to the lack of excitement and drama they create. It’s easy to forget that MPs are all there to make New Zealand a better place, regardless of their political position, they all just come at it from different perspectives. Some right, some wrong and some just downright crazy.
Felix: We agree with no Labour-introduced policies that I can think of off the top of my head.
Kiraan, does New Conservative support New Zealand becoming a republic? And independent of this, is a republic likely to occur in our lifetimes?
While, we have no specific position on the matter (as of yet), our reverence for Democracy, and our pertinent policies, make it clear that it must be done by the will of the people – if at all.
Felix, let’s talk drug reform – ACT supports recreational marijuana legalisation. What about harder drugs? Where does ACT draw the line between, to use an extreme example, marijuana and heroin?
Felix: ACT wants smart but tough approach. Young ACT thinks marijuana should be legalized recreationally. However we don’t believe in legalizing all drugs.
Kiraan, Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party received a higher percentage of the vote in 2017 than the Conservatives (0.3% compared to 0.2%). Does this mean that the Conservatives, who have historically been opposed to liberalising recreational marijuana, should change their position? Why, or why not?
Kiraan: Currently, as of May, 2018, NC stands at 1.1% (higher than all minor parties, including ACT (with uncertainty as to TOP’s validity) – while the ALCP much much lower. New Conservative is instead concerned with the objective data relating to medicinal cannabis and its benefits, which we recognise. Any decision made regarding the decriminalization of recreational marijuana, we feel, should be at the hands of the public, by New Zealand citizens, via binding referenda.
Blake, is the concept of a strong economy mutually exclusive with strong social policy? What policies does National have that exemplify this position?
Blake: The two are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they go hand and hand. A strong economy allows for strong social policy, and strong social policy allows for a strong economy. The best example of National policy here is Social Investment. Social Investment was able to occur due to the strong economic position New Zealand found itself in under the National Government. Through the policy, we saw increased, and more direct, funding in social initiatives, education and healthcare. By investing in communities, we help create an environment where spending is targeted to those most in need and towards programmes with the greatest impacts.
Kiraan, recently, Phil Goff suffered backlash for unilaterally banning Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern from Council owned venues. What are your thoughts, both on Goff’s action, and on Southern and Molyneux themselves?
Kiraan: Strictly apolitically, Phil Goff was simply acting in malfeasance. I’m not a fan of the pair (I hadn’t actually heard of them before the controversy), yet, it’s well known that any censorship of universal thought is pernicious to both adherents, and dissidents. There’s no justification for what Goff did, at all. He harmed both their supporters, and protestors – neither group got to properly confirm why they were either right, or wrong. During this time, NC was the only party openly criticizing Goff for ‘crossing the line’. Our Deputy Leader, Elliot Ikilei, was recognized as the main outspoken individual in favour of the Freedom of Speech. Free speech (or freedom of expression, opinion, belief, etc), is a human right. Human rights are only powerful if they are absolute and inviolable. Otherwise, there’d be no incentive! In his actions, Goff set a scary precedent for all civil rights in NZ. If an official can compromise on one right, then why not others?
Which Labour, NZF, or Green MP would you most like to have within your ranks?
Blake: Before the start of this mess of a government, I probably would have had quite a few answers for you. However, for now, I know I am perfectly happy with our team as it is.
Felix: None 😀
Fuck, marry, kill: Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern, Gareth Morgan?
Blake: I think it’s pretty clear that Winston has fucked everyone enough already.
Kiraan: I don’t know NC’s policy on that either! Although, personally, Uncle Winnie (as we call him in Gizzy), is life.
Felix: Refused to answer.
Disclaimer: The author belongs to Young National, and is a member of the National Party.