Last Monday, the University of Auckland Debating Society hosted its 2020 Election Debate. Moderated by Jack Tame, the event featured speakers from the National, Labour, NZ First, ACT, the Greens, the Opportunities Party and the New Conservative Party ahead of the upcoming election this September.
Labour MP Michael Wood was questioned on the government’s response to coronavirus, and in response said that “we’ve managed our economy in a way that allows us to put investment into education, health and housing, all those areas that were neglected, we’ve managed the books well, we’re now able to make sure that we keep things going…the Prime Minister has announced that we’re going to be looking at a wage subsidy for small businesses and people in work who are potentially facing the loss of wages and their jobs because of COVID-19”.
Paul Goldsmith, National MP, responded by dismissing Wood’s claims on the state of the economy. “You hear Michael saying the economy had great momentum going into this crisis, but it didn’t have great momentum at all,” Goldsmith said. “That’s because of a wider range of government policies that are fundamentally about undermining business confidence…what we need to be having is a clear set of policies focusing on economic growth.”
ACT Party Leader David Seymour used the opportunity to encourage students to vote for his End of Life Choice Act in the upcoming referendum. “The bible police come along and say no my child, you must keep suffering to fit my morality. That is wrong, that is inhumane,” said Seymour.
Tracey Martin of NZ First was questioned straight out of the gate over her colleague Shane Jones’ recent comments on Indian tertiary students. “Shane Jones was wrong. He should have been referring to a historical situation, that was actually 2016 and the Mumbai office with regard to the PTEs in this country,” Martin said. “So please don’t rewrite history with regard to what was across all of the newspapers in 2016.”
Martin was also asked later about her party’s stance on immigration, and in response read from New Zealand First’s 15 Core Principles. “Immigration will cease to be used as an excuse for our failure to train, skill and employ our own people…that’s been our immigration policy for the last 27 years,” said Martin.
New Conservative Party representative Elliot Ikilei was met with disdain from the crowd after starting his opening remarks by saying that there are “attacks on our children through gender ideology”, and later proclaiming that his party are “patriots” and “nationalists”.
Even moderator Jack Tame wasn’t immune from criticism, as the Opportunities Party’s Geoff Simmons called out the pay disparity between male and female television presenters.
Housing was a critical issue on the night. Simmons of the Opportunities Party argued for a capital gains tax, while Seymour and Goldsmith of ACT and National opposed this idea. Labour’s Michael Wood put the housing crisis down to a supply issue.
Green Party representative Ricardo Menedez March called other political parties out of touch with housing issues. “This is about politicians seeing housing as an investment as opposed to a human right,” March said. “Generations of New Zealanders are going to grow up in unsuitable, unhealthy homes…let’s get in touch with the working class and stop pandering to property investors.”
March also called out inaction on climate change, stating that “we cannot afford to be taking baby steps on the climate crisis and we cannot bank on the zero carbon act to take us there”. He also promoted moving away from polluting industries. In response, National’s Goldsmith criticised the Greens for prioritising the cannabis referendum over climate change, and focused on technology and investment as means of addressing climate change. Ikilei, of the New Conservative Party, argued that “the climate is always changing”, but did not have much else to say on the issue.
John Tamihere of the Māori Party was absent from the debate.