Posts tagged ‘election’


The political caricatures of old have taken human form, but they’re still nothing like us

09.05.2015

That’s another British General Election done and dusted. I haven’t followed one this closely since the 1997 campaign, where I was backing John Major.
   Shock, horror! Hang on, Jack. Haven’t the media all said you are a leftie? Didn’t you stand for a left-wing party?
   Therein lies a fallacy about left- and right wings. I’ve never completely understood the need to pigeonhole someone into a particular camp, when I would say most people on this planet hold a mix of views from both sides. Now that politicians are not unlike caricatures—there has been a “rightward” shift where the policies being adopted by some are so outside economic orthodoxy that they look like what their Spitting Image counterparts would have uttered back in the day—this holds more true than ever. We know what subscribing to certain parties’ views fully and completely is like: we risk looking loony, and, if taken too far, we risk becoming loony.
   But the spin doctors and advisers aren’t in to transparency. They are into their talking heads conveying what they feel the public responds to, hence Mitt Romney, once an advocate of universal health care in his own state, becoming an opponent of it when he ran for president; or, for that matter, Ed Miliband’s insistence on the ‘budget responsibility lock’, to demonstrate that he had a handle on the economy, when Economics 101 told us that austerity isn’t a good way to help the economy along and Miliband began sounding like Cameron lite.
   My support of Major in the 1997 General Election, which went against the prevailing view at the time, was down to several reasons. Unlike Cameron, Major didn’t practise austerity, but he did practise conventional economics with the government going more into deficit through increasing spending during the early 1990s’ recession, knowing the stimulus to be affordable, and knowing it had to be paid back once the economy was healthy again. It is interesting to note Sir John’s own goal while campaigning for the Tories in this General Election, when he said at the Tory Reform Group annual dinner, ‘We need to acknowledge the fact we have a pretty substantial underclass and there are parts of our country where we have people who have not worked for two generations and whose children do not expect to work.
   ‘How can it be that in a nation that is the fifth richest nation in the world, that in the United Kingdom we have four of the poorest areas in Europe? I include eastern Europe in that question.’
   How indeed. The John Major who was prime minister will have answered that easily, and his own record illustrates just why he avoided such consequences in the 1990s that Cameron was unable to.
   The second reason was that I really believed the ‘classless society’ speech, and if you have read his memoirs, or even biographies written about him, then there was a real personal experience woven into that. Critics will point at the fact the speech was written by Antony Jay (Yes, Minister) or the fact that Britain invented To the Manor Born and such sitcoms, but, generally, why should only certain classes have the ability to excel and do their best? Everyone should have that opportunity, and the measures implemented under the Major premiership, while not as far to the left as traditional socialists would have wanted, struck a good balance in my view in an immediate post-Thatcher period. We should always be wary of sudden shifts, whether they’re swings from the left to the right, or vice versa. A pragmatic approach seemed sensible.
   Third, it was precisely that Major was not a Thatcherite, even if Margaret Thatcher might have believed him to be when she made him Chancellor of the Exchequer, a job that he wanted most of his political life. But what we had in his very shrewd opponent in 1997 was Thatcherism, or at least monetarism. As we know from Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s early move in allowing the Bank of England to be free of political control, their belief that this would avoid boom-and-bust cycles was not realized. However, the evidence does show that the freedom has coincided with a period of low interest rates and stable inflation, but equally one can credit the work of the Tories in handing New Labour a booming economy in May of that year. As Major noted at the time, it was rare for a government to lose while the economy was improving, but the Labour campaign, ably assisted by biased media at the time, and the easy pass Blair got from the British establishment despite being very, very vague about his policies, was hard to beat. All he had to do was utter ‘Change’ and ‘It’s about New Labour, new Britain.’ It hid, to those of us watching the General Election and the year before it, New Labour’s Thatcherite aims. I am not even that sure what Blair, Brown and Peter Mandelson were doing in the party to begin with.
   This might be contrasted with a Tory party weakened through allegations of sleaze (and we know now that no party is any less sleazy than the other, but it depends on when you are caught out) leading Major to fight a campaign largely alone with the occasional publicity boost from the Spice Girls. No matter how specific the PM got, it didn’t matter. (Or, as I had told many of my design classes at the time when I was teaching, the Conservatives’ Arial was no match for Labour’s Franklin Gothic, a typeface family that, incidentally, was used by Thatcher in her 1983 election campaign, and by Labour in New Zealand in 1999 and 2002.) It was frustrating to try to discern what Labour’s specific policies were from Down Under, watching the General Election campaign with keen interest. And those lack of specifics worried me from the start, which explains why when I ran for office, I issued a manifesto early in the game. I liked being first, even if the electorate didn’t put me there.
   Whether you agreed with Labour or not, and many would argue that the Blair and Brown years were not stellar, the divisions in their party—which I imagine we will see reemerge in the next few days—indicate that even within there is a great deal of polarization. The Thatcherites are in there, except they are called Blairites. And while Sir John put his weight behind his party out of loyalty, and from his earlier political years witnessing how ‘Labour isn’t working’ (the Wilson–Callaghan years must have been formative for him given his age), his comments at the dinner are telling on just where modern Conservative economic policies under George Osborne differed to his own and those of Norman Lamont. If people are suffering, if they aren’t getting their shot at the ‘classless society’, then is the place any good? If the class divide has grown, contrary to Sir John’s own views, and weakened Britain as a result of the contraction of economic players in it, then even the “right” can’t support that. To me, I thought conservatism was letting everyone have a shot, and about solid, national enterprise, and this century hasn’t given me much faith that that applies very widely.
   Labour might have campaigned on that and on preserving the NHS although having listened to Miliband, I was never totally convinced. Perhaps, I, too, had concerns about Labour vagueness, and until this General Election I had not followed the Shadow Cabinet closely enough to know the thinking and histories behind the players. That area, I will leave to others to comment. In some respects, the caricature comment I made above applies to Labour, too.

Contrasting the Tories this time with the party I knew a bit better through observation—the two terms of John Major—I feel they are very different. And, sadly, I draw parallels with the National Party here at home, where people attempt to compare incumbent John Key with Sir Robert Muldoon (1975–84), and I simply cannot see the parallels other than the colour of the branding.
   Sir Robert resolutely believed in full employment, the rights of the unemployed, the state ownership of assets, energy independence, and his ability to fight his own battles. Had attack blogs been around then, he wouldn’t have needed them. I do not agree with everything about his premiership, and his miscalculation of public opinion over the Gleneagles Agreement and the environment is now part of history. However, his terms are still being misjudged today, with an entire generation happily brainwashed by both the monetarist orthodoxy of the 1980s and a prime-time documentary (The Grim Face of Power) aired after his death (probably to avoid a defamation suit) to belittle his legacy. (The contrasting documentary made many years later, Someone Else’s Country, was buried on a weekend afternoon.) We did not have to wait months for a telephone, nor did we not have cars to buy; yet the belief that the electorate has a collective memory of only five years means we haven’t a hope of comprehending fully what happened thirty years ago. But to those of us who pride ourselves on a decent memory, and I believe if we seek public office we must have one, then things were never as bleak as people believe. He was sexist, yet I do not believe him to want to preside over a divided New Zealand, and his own books reveal a desire for unity. Unfortunately, looking at a man born in 1921 through the prism of 2015, plenty of his sayings look anachronistic and passé, but once context is added, the New Zealand we look at today looks more divided.
   We, too, have an underclass that has emerged (those begging for change weren’t there two decades ago, nor were so many food banks), through economic policies that have weakened our businesses. Both major parties deserve criticism over this. For a country where experts have said we must head toward technology to end our reliance on primary products, other than software patents, we have had a strange record over intellectual property with a prime minister who was against certain copyright amendments before he was for them (and voted accordingly). A New Zealand resident who adopted the same rules over copyrighted materials as Google and Dropbox has been indicted by the US Government—that’s right, I am talking about Kim Dotcom. It’s a reminder that we haven’t done enough for our tech sector, the one which governments have said we should aid, which can help our overall economy.
   We are hopelessly behind in how much technology contributes to our economy, and we have done little to support the small- to medium-sized businesses that form the backbone of our economy. Instead, we have been selling them short, welcoming ever-larger multinationals (who usually pay tax in their home country, not ours) and giving them more advantages than our own. Since when has allegiance to these foreign players ever been part of politics on the left or on the right? If we are to support businesses, for instance, we should be negotiating for our own milliard-dollar enterprises to make headway into new markets. Xero et al will thank us for it. Globalization is as much about getting our lot out there so they can pay tax back here. Politicians should be patriotic, but toward our own interests, not someone else’s.

Therein lie my many posts about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on my Facebook. It is precisely because I support business that I am against a good part of what has been leaked so far. (I am aware that many trade agreements are negotiated in secret, so there is nothing new there.) It is precisely because I believe in a level playing field for Kiwis that we should be careful at how we liberalize and in what sectors and at what pace we should do it. The curious thing there is that the substantial arguments (obviously against it) have come from the “left”, or friends who identify as being left-wing, while some who have identified as being right-wing have bid me an indignant exit from the discussion by attacking the players and not their utterances, and yet somehow the lefties are branded the woolly, emotional wrecks?
   As I wrote last year, ‘All I want are facts, not emotional, ideological arguments. On the evidence for me, things are leaning toward the anti side. I come from the standpoint of the market being a man-made construct and people are not numbers.
   ‘… [T]here are cases going on with tobacco companies where they are using IP to argue that plain packs are contrary to trade agreements. So where do you draw the line with public health versus a foreign enterprise profiting? I’d like to see healthy people not taxing the system, and plain packs were a foreseeable development IMO for a tobacco manufacturer. [I know this is an argument that is typically trotted out, but I use it since there is at least one case out there.] A wise tobacco company would have acquired businesses in other fields (as some have done), just as Coca-Cola, seeing the tide turn against sodas, have bought up water, energy drink and juice businesses. It’s wise investing, and it’s progress.
   ‘There is nothing wrong with the notion of a trade tribunal but what has been emerging from the leaks are ones where corporations can be compensated for loss of profits based on, say, plain packaging. If a government is democratically elected to implement such a policy, and corporations have always understood investments to be subject to the laws of the land (including the risk of divestment in some), then should their rights trump that of the citizens? This is the danger here, and this is the heart of the sovereignty argument.
   ‘Another example is with software patents, which our country has voted to do away with. It’s been shown that that would spur innovation.
   ‘The tendency is that TPPA is against these moves, although given the secrecy we do not know for sure. But reading other IP provisions it does not take a big leap of the imagination.
   ‘… Do I believe in global free trade? Absolutely. But I also believe in making sure that people have the means the buy the stuff I sell, and to me this treaty (based on what has been leaked) does not ensure that. I also believe in social responsibility and that citizens have their basics looked after so they can participate in commerce. I am pro-innovation, especially in smaller enterprises where some great stuff is taking place, and we have reasonably robust IP laws already and conventions that govern them. I’m not saying I have a complete alternative that replaces it, but some of the work we have done at the Medinge Group touches on these issues.’
   One argument in favour is: if we are not party to this, then does this mean we will get shut out of it? I’m not entirely sure we will in that we are already one of the freest markets in the world, although I welcome arguments and past examples. In the areas I know well, the absence of a free-trade agreement with the US, for instance, have never hampered our firm exporting there, but I realize for our primary producers there have been obstacles. But do such agreements mean unimpeded access when it’s so easy, even under WTO, to erect non-tariff barriers? And why should corporations’ rights trump citizens’, as opponents are quick to point out?
   ‘At the end of the day,’ to borrow a phrase, all human systems are imperfect. And the market is just as human as any other. My belief is that your own citizens, and their welfare, must be placed first, and we should support our own people and our own businesses. The political caricatures that certain parties have now rendered into human form don’t necessarily appear to understand this, certainly not by their actions. This is at the crux of the arguments that I saw from Labour supporters in the UK General Election, and to some extent from those who opposed National and ACT in our one last year. Labour’s loss here, too, in my view, can be placed on a leader who himself came across as unsubstantial on TV as his opponents; and his refusal to resign can be contrasted to the behaviour of Miliband and Nick Clegg yesterday. He could have always pulled a Nigel Farage.
   The sooner we get away from notions of “left” and “right” and work out for ourselves where we’d like our country and our world to head, we will start working together without these false divisions. I might add that “being Asian” in this country is yet another false division. No wonder most people are sick of politics, politicians and “politics as usual”, because most of us cannot be bothered pigeonholing ourselves. We just want to do what’s decent and honourable and have the chance to get on with it.

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Posted in business, globalization, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, UK | No Comments »


About Labour, I was nearly on the money in May

20.09.2014

In May, I wrote (in the wake of the Oravida scandal):

The problem with all of this is: where’s Labour, in the midst of the greatest gift an opposition has been given for years?
   One friend of a friend noted that maybe Labour shouldn’t be attacking, because we Kiwis don’t like whingers. It is the charge I hear from friends on the right. Labour should, instead, be coming up with solid policies and leave the attacks to the Greens (which is doing a marvellous job) and Winston Peters (need I say more? He remains a great political wordsmith).
   For me, I’d like them to do both if they are to stand a chance. The job of the Opposition is to oppose.
   And failure to oppose strongly may suggest to the electorate that the same thing could happen under Labour.
   Six months out from the election I contested, I had my policies published—which one blog noted was unusual but welcome. That meant my policies were out for twice as long as my opponents’.
   We’re talking about a party that has been in opposition for a long time, long enough to know what it wishes to do should it be handed the reins of government.
   And yet, apart from a few policy announcements here and there, it has been silent. You’d think the names of the Shadow Cabinet would be in our consciousness by now. Embarrassingly, I even forgot David Cunliffe’s name recently in a conversation. I could only call him ‘not-Robertson’. (It is better than the PM calling Grant Robertson ‘Perry Mason’ today, I hasten to add.)
   It makes me wonder if Labour isn’t working and whether the anti-National vote will, indeed, head even more to the Greens this year.

My last paragraph was off about where the anti-National votes went, but the old Saatchi & Saatchi headline held true in the 2014 General Election: Labour isn’t working. I don’t think I need to restate what I wrote four months ago—and what I had been saying even before that.

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Posted in New Zealand, politics | 2 Comments »


When the parties uploaded their opening statements to their YouTube accounts

26.08.2014

This is when each political party uploaded their opening broadcasts to their official YouTube accounts. Ideally, they should have gone up on Saturday night, when they were broadcast on television, as that was when those of us online were hunting for them. (TVNZ did not have these up on demand on the night, either, but they are there now.)
   My thoughts: if you don’t go after the online audience, you are missing out on voters. Is this indicative of how you see the internet?
   And, of course, if you make these videos available, they can be shared (as I have now done at the bottom of this post).

Labour: went live on the night
Greens: went live on the night
Internet Mana: went live on the night
United Future: Sunday
Conservatives: Tuesday noon to Colin Craig’s own account (which appears to be the de facto Conservative account, as I cannot find others)
National: not there
ACT: not there
Democrats for Social Credit: not there
Māori Party: not there

Those who have bothered with uploads to their YouTube accounts feature below.

Labour

Greens

Internet Mana

United Future

Conservatives

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Posted in internet, New Zealand, politics | No Comments »


‘Planet Key’ is good old-fashioned Kiwi satire

23.08.2014

Fed up with the Electoral Commission barring Darren Watson from expressing his valid view with his satirical song ‘Planet Key’, I made a spoken-word version of it for my Tumblr a week ago, with copyright clearance over the lyrics. I wrote:

Since the Electoral Commission has imposed a ban on Darren Watson’s ‘Planet Key’—in fact, it can never be broadcast, and apparently, to heck with the Bill of Rights Act 1990—I felt it only right to help him express his great work, in the best tradition of William Shatner covering ‘Rocketman’. This has not been endorsed by Mr Watson (whom I do not know), and recorded with crap gear.

   I’ve read the Electoral Act 1993 and the Broadcasting Act 1989, but I still think they’re trumped by the Bill of Rights Act 1990.
   Legal arguments aside, I agree with Darren, that his expression of his political view is no different from Tom Scott drawing a cartoon.
   He has a right to freedom of thought and a right to express it.
   The Electoral Commission’s position seems to centre around his receiving payment for the song to cover his and his animator’s costs—which puts it in the class of an election advertisement.
   Again, I’m not sure how this is different from the Tom Scott example.
   Tom is paid for his work, albeit by the media who license it. Darren doesn’t have the backing of media syndication, so he’s asking for money via sales of the song on Itunes. We pay for the newspaper that features Tom’s work, so we can pay Itunes to download Darren’s. Tom doesn’t get the full amount that we pay the newspaper. Darren doesn’t get the full amount that we pay Itunes. How are they different?
   Is the Commission saying that only people who are featured in foreign-owned media are permitted to have a say? This is the 21st century, and there are vehicles beyond mainstream media. That’s the reality.
   The good news is that other Kiwis have been uploading Darren’s song, with the Electoral Commission saying, ‘if the content appeared elsewhere online, it would not require a promoter statement if it was posted as the expression of a personal political view and no payment was involved,’ according to Radio New Zealand. Darren might not be making money like Tom Scott does, but his view is still getting out there.
   On that note, I’m sure you’d much rather hear the original than mine. If you ever see Darren’s gigs out there, please support him through those.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


I thought political division got you nowhere in New Zealand

23.08.2014

A week and a half ago, I appeared on Back Benches to talk about Winston Peters MP’s “two Wongs” joke, and confined my comments to that.
   My response, ‘There are still people who enjoy watching Rolf Harris, just as there are still people out there who enjoy listening to Winston Peters.’ And, ‘We have a politician here who says he does not believe in race-based laws, and yet everything he utters is race-based … Can’t he walk the talk?’ His is a passé joke, and of course there’s no way Mr Peters would have heard it in Beijing—since the Wong surname does not exist in Mandarin.
   It’s a shame he resorts to this old technique because I find myself agreeing with a number of his statements when it came to the Dirty Politics revelations. And had I more time on Back Benches, I would have explored this further.
   There were three MPs on the show, Annette King (Labour), Scott Simpson (National) and Russel Norman (Greens). Ms King and Dr Norman were up front enough to call the joke racist, while Dr Norman went so far as to call it ‘unacceptable’ and ‘disgraceful’, while Mr Simpson merely passed it off as ‘Winston being Winston.’
   Mr Simpson’s dismissal is in line with his Prime Minister’s, who called it ‘a stunt’. And it brought back the PM’s unflinching reaction to Paul Henry implying back in 2010 that the then-Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, did not ‘look or sound like a New Zealander’.
   That has been covered here before, but I read comments at the time that John Key’s predecessor, Helen Clark, would have taken Henry to task over the comment.
   I plainly don’t notice someone’s colour and I suspect most people do not, but I do notice accents, and Sir Anand sounds exactly like what you would expect from an Auckland Grammar alumnus: if linguists were to pin down just where he was from, I’m fairly confident they would find it was Auckland.
   Once I can forgive. The PM was in the heat of an interview in 2010, he had his points to make, and it’s very, very easy not to answer the question put before you. In the YouTube clip, I didn’t directly answer one of Damian Christie’s questions.
   But twice? This is not ‘a stunt’, this is something that goes to the heart of the casual racism that occasionally gets spouted in this country. It has no place in Aotearoa, and in election year, you would think that the Prime Minister, wanting to capture votes from Kiwis of all stripes, would take a rival to task over it. Politicians in the past aimed to paint an inclusive New Zealand, not one where people are cast out by race or, as we have seen post-Dirty Politics, by whether they are on the left or on the right.
   Author Nicky Hager is now, according to the PM, ‘a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist’ for writing his book, one where the allegations have been carefully written to avoid legal action, and one where there are no emails to refute what he claims. Watching the fallout has been instructive: the ACT Party has completely defused the allegations over the Rodney Hide “blackmail” stance thanks to early, measured, and direct statements from Mr Hide and from lawyer Jordan Williams, and the burden has been lifted. It didn’t take much. David Farrar, who admittedly is not a central figure in the book, comes across as an intelligent and genuine National Party member and supporter. But National has played a divisive game once again, and that has been disappointing, especially for those quality MPs the party has outside of the Cabinet.
   You can say that its poll numbers are comfortable enough for National not to attempt to get voters on “the left”, but if I were running right now, I honestly wouldn’t care what your political leanings were. I’d want your vote. I’d know there were swing voters out there, and I’d also know that most New Zealanders, who tend toward centrist politics, have policies on the left and the right that they favour. Why isolate them by insulting some of their beliefs, or pigeonholing them as belonging to one group or another?
   Or, why, for that matter, associate with blogger Cameron Slater if he is a ‘force of nature unto himself’ (if I have quoted the PM correctly).
   And he is. I actually have little problem about the man having an opinion and expressing it on the internet. I’ll even go so far as to defend his right to hold an opinion and to express it freely even if I do not agree with it.
   I might not agree with Mr Slater’s venomous ‘I have come to the conclusion that Maori are thick. Dumber than your average bear. Stupid. Dumb and Dumber rolled in one. Dumber than a sack of hammers,’ and ‘My patience with Maori is at an end. They are venal, corrupt, lying, lazy useless fuckers,’ but he has a right to say it.
   It’s like “two Wongs”.
   Those who don’t like it can say so, too.
   The PM’s defence so far of his and his party’s association with Mr Slater (which suddenly has become less tight than it was portrayed earlier this year) is effectively “this is OK, because Labour contacts left-wing bloggers”. Sorry, John. If there is a blog out there that spews this kind of hatred, the normal thing for any right-thinking New Zealander to do is to isolate its writer. To make sure that his brand of venom is as far away from you as possible. You just don’t risk it for the sake of votes. You do not cozy up to him, even minutely—which is now the image you wish to portray. To have your government and your party willingly associate with him is precisely the sort of divisive politics that has no place in this country.
   The tactics have been compared to the Muldoon days. I disagree: if Rob Muldoon thought you were a knob, he would come out and call you a knob.
   I don’t think he would recognize his party.
   As Muldoon himself put it (in Muldoon):

A great deal of New Zealand’s history has in fact been recorded in detail and it as [sic] at least as interesting as that of older countries. To read it is to understand why so much damage is being done by a small group of stirrers who have fomented the hateful cry of “racism” in recent years. New Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.

   And I can’t see decent National Party people like Paul Foster-Bell or Simon O’Connor ever engaging in these sorts of tactics. At the local level, Kerry Prendergast never did when I ran against her in 2010.
   Despite these efforts from our politicians, I still believe in inclusiveness, and that when you stand for public office, you are prepared to represent everyone in your constituency, even those you might not like or hold different beliefs to you. I said of a racist who wrote on my wall in 2013, ‘If elected, I’m happy to represent you, too.’ I don’t think that’s an idealism found in the Coca-Cola Hilltop commercial, but the reality of someone who wants the job of public office. Maybe it’s naïveté, but I can’t see what division and negative campaigning get you in New Zealand.

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Posted in culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Being answerable to your public (or, if you can’t engage now, can we expect you to in office?)

22.08.2013

One of my supporters Tweeted to say I was the only candidate at Vote.co.nz who has bothered to reply to citizens’ questions. It’s good for me, but sad to see my opponents so disengaged. I was also surprised to see that only three of us have bothered to register for the website this time, despite its reasonably high traffic in each election.
   We each get notifications of these questions via email. I receive over 300 emails a day, which I gather is just slightly below what the current mayor gets. I take the questions seriously because they are often about things that I have failed to cover in my manifesto in sufficient depth. I don’t wish citizens to conclude that I haven’t given them a lot of thought, too, especially since I’ve had my manifesto out for such a long time—months before anyone else decided they had policies they could share.
   Here are a few for your interest.

Mr Vasquez asks:

What will you do to ensure a racially tolerant, diverse and peaceful Wellington City?
   Recently, we saw on the news the appalling racial tirade against a Pakistani-born taxi driver. While everyone seemed to rebuke the actions of Mr Shuttleworth, I found that Ms Devoy’s response was weak and non-committal. This is the excerpt of her response that I found very disturbing: “Freedom of expression and freedom of speech allows us to be as offensive as we like without being able to do anything…” Really?? Are we now supposed to condone this type of behaviour and just shrug our shoulders? New Zealand law prohibits this type of behaviour as detailed in the Human Rights Act 1993. In the UK, Australia and US, ‘Hate speech’ is punishable by imprisonment.
   I would like to know what your views are on this issue, and how you yourself would have responded. Also, what can you offer to do as Mayor of Wellington to ensure we remain a racially tolerant, diverse and peaceful society?

My reply: As probably the only candidate who has been a victim of racism in our own city, I would have been firmer, because I can speak from the heart about such matters more sincerely. I don’t consider intoxication to be an excuse and that Mr Shuttleworth needs to get to the root cause of just why he acted in this way. I believe the incident to have been inappropriate and would have said so, assuming I had been asked for comment. I did not condone, for instance, the Paul Henry attacks on Indians on television (and was public about it). Sadly, we are faced with a great deal of casual racism where minorities have to come forth and say, ‘Hey, I heard that, and I’m not thrilled by it.’ This can only change by people seeing more from different communities serve in public roles, and this is one of the many reasons I have chosen to stand.
   However, the decision to charge Mr Shuttleworth had to come from the police or, if it was a breach of the Human Rights Act, then from the Human Rights Commission, and I do not believe I would have interfered with their decision.
   One of my policies from day one, since I announced them in April, is to promote unity. A mayor has to live by example. This means engaging with all sectors of our community, regardless of class or ethnic origin, and giving everyone the equal opportunity to have a voice and to have access to me.

Marcus asks: ‘What will you do to make Wellington a more child friendly city?’
   My reply: When I said I would reach out to all sectors of our community, I meant children as well. Too often they are ignored because politicians don’t see value in non-voters. As for me, I’ve put my hand up because at some stage, I’d like to start a family here, and I’ve retained my connections with St Mark’s and Scots College, where I was educated, running the alumni association of the former and serving on the Old Boys’ Association of the latter.
   The best way to find out how a city can be more child-friendly is not to ask an adult, but to ask children. That means allowing them access to the mayor. I’ve actually been living this through social media over the last six years, where I have been able to hear from teens. As to even younger groups, I can foresee visiting schools—which I have done regularly as well.
   One of the reasons I’ve put so much effort into innovation and creativity is that I want our city’s youngest minds to have the right stimuli. At libraries and some public sites, I would love to see small workstations that can keep children entertained with educational programs, especially as they can be acquired for low cost and help alleviate the cuts in library funding.
   I’ve seen how the Shakespeare Globe Centre here in Wellington promotes theatre, again targeting youth (albeit a slightly older group), and our city should continue providing funding to such bodies that encourage creativity.
   We need to invest in physical education with the cuts to these programmes in a lot of schools. Wellington should have set activities that lead to the physical health of our youth and that means encouraging volunteers and allowing kids easy access to community and sport centres. These programmes can be child-created online, with parental supervision, so it’s kids creating for kids.
   Essentially, if we don’t hear from children today, then how can we claim to create a city for our future? We need them to know they are being listened to, so that they don’t have the same cynicism about local government that many of us adults possess. Treat children as valuable members of society and not talk down to them, and they will step up to the mark.

Peter asks: ‘What’s your position on fluoridation of water?’
   Peter, I support ongoing fluoridation. One of my friends has a son with a congenital heart defect, so fluoride helps him for a start, to avoid dental infections that can bring on myocarditis. A few of my friends are against fluoridation, and I admire their conviction, but I have to look at what the academic research says (especially as a candidate who says we need to work with our tertiary institutions more closely). Since I contribute to academic journals myself and am on the editorial board of one, I know the processes, and I take peer review seriously.

Claire asks: ‘What’s your position on cycling as a mode of transport in Wellington, and how would you support (or not) an increase in the number of people riding for transport and the safety of the mode?’
   Thanks to my work overseas, especially in København and Stockholm, I support cycling, for the obvious health and environmental benefits. One of my policies in both elections was the idea of a market weekend, where we close off the central city to traffic in the summer, apeing what we do for the movie premières. This would allow people to enjoy Wellington in a friendly, enjoyable environment. Cyclists would be encouraged. Longer-term, this would allow us to see how we could manage greater pedestrianization for our city, in line with what is happening in western Europe, and such a setting would encourage cycling as a more acceptable mode of transport.
   Safety has to come about through road-use education and I accept it is hairy for cyclists out there. Putting money into driver education, and working with the police to target difficult motorists, would be on the agenda. In theory, I would like to get eDrive involved, too, as an excellent virtual reality simulator to help with driver observation, but as it is a company that I have an involvement with, I would have to recuse myself from taking part in that decision.

Patrick asks: ‘What are your policies on climate change?’
   I applaud the city for establishing a target for a low-carbon, eco-conscious future but we need to move toward it actively. In 2003, I began working with the United Nations Environment Programme on one of our businesses, and the same year, I was one of the authors of an early Carbon Neutral business book, Beyond Branding (back when people were asking, ‘What is carbon-neutral and why should I care?’). My policy of working with the C40 is to share best-practice ideas on managing climate change, while my policy on transparency covers our need to disclose, manage and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. That way we know which areas need addressing, and set an example. By having greater engagement—something I have been doing anyway in my businesses—we will share this knowledge with others in the city, and encourage all Wellingtonians, especially businesses, to adopt these best practices. Solar energy is also another area in which I want to make real advances, and I am already working with businesses to see what solutions can be cost-effectively promoted to Wellingtonians, beyond what current energy providers can do. I believe, due to the limited size of the industry at present, there is huge growth potential here, which will be good for the environment as well as jobs—I’m already excited about what new innovations will stem from Wellington-created solutions that we can license to others and export.

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Wellington isn’t ‘dying’, but we’re going to have to prove our mettle

07.05.2013

That didn’t take long, John.
   I know, the economic statistics aren’t pleasant.
   Wellington’s economy is stagnant and our population growth lags behind Auckland’s and Christchurch’s. I did predict this in 2010.
   The difference is that I don’t give up on us quite so quickly.
   I don’t think political leaders should.
   Not if we’re looking at a long-term view. Yes, the last three years haven’t been great, but then we’re not rebuilding from as large a shock as our brothers and sisters in Christchurch.
   In fact, if you have spent any time here, and I suspect that since you work here, you would have seen that the ingredients that men like the late Sir Paul Callaghan believed could lead an export recovery are here. Innovative thinking, intellectual capital. We just haven’t nurtured it properly because we’ve entrusted same-again politicians to do the job.
   But, Prime Minister, you’re right to at least raise your points, because at least we’ve kicked off a debate.
   A debate about just what Wellington is, and should be in the next half-century.
   This is not just a knee-jerk, defensive response from a little town so offended by comments made in Takapuna.
   We recognize that there are problems, and since it’s election year, it’s our opportunity to fix them.
   You’ll see from today’s reactions, in the video that Andy Boreham has filmed here, that there’s civic pride in Wellington, most likely because Wellingtonians see what I do: a more cultured, globally minded workforce that’s intelligent and savvy. We know Sir Peter Jackson’s not alone—because there are so many other innovators here, not necessarily in something as glamorous as film. They’re the backbone of our city’s economy.
   You’ll also see that this identification with and sticking up for Wellington is the same energy that drives everything from trade to Olympic bids, more so than nation branding efforts have ever managed.
   My plans, if elected, call for not only identifying and promoting those great firms that are innovative and socially responsible, but the use of my knowledge globally to do just what is needed for Wellington. Like the city’s next big firms—those who have Weta, Trade Me, 42 Below potentials—they’re all waiting there, their latent energies ready to be released. I see them regularly, and the region’s mayors and I can work with Grow Wellington to identify them with a new set of criteria, then market them properly.
   It’s why in 2010, and again in 2013, I’ve made innovation a priority. Free wifi, which I proposed and we now have, was only a signal to say Wellington is open for business. The costs of extending it are relatively low. Pedestrianization, greening the CBD, and transportation improvements are needed—and we have the nous and the knowledge to get them done.
   If prime ministers can lose faith in a city in three years, I believe we can begin rebuilding it in less time—since, as you’ve seen, we’re united. You’ve given us the perfect opportunity to prove our mettle.
   And you know my record, Prime Minister. If I can work at the C-level with companies around the world, I can work with central government, whomever is in power, for a fair deal for Wellingtonians. We’re not asking for sympathy—we’re getting ready to show you what we’re made of.

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Thank goodness I did not have a ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ moment on Saturday

13.10.2010

On Saturday, I called then-Councillor, and now Mayor-elect, Celia Wade-Brown to congratulate her. I felt sure that the special votes would see her ushered in, and in my Sky TV interview that night, I stated much the same: I would offer our new Mayor my support for programmes that would benefit the people of Wellington. We all share a desire to make our city great, and that’s a fantastic starting-point.
   I’m glad I made the right call on Saturday, otherwise it would have been my televised ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ moment.
   Soon after, she and her husband, as well as a few of the Celia for Mayor campaign team, joined us at our event, along with Councillor Ritchie, who was re-elected. We had intended to join hers at Finc, but as they started earlier, their function ended earlier. We were still going, buoyed by a speech from my former rival and now friend Bernard O’Shaughnessy.
   While the Mayor-elect and I exchanged emails this morning, prior to the official announcement of the final results by the High Sheriff, I was able to congratulate her in person at the Backbencher pub earlier tonight.
   I pay tribute to her and her dignified campaign, and her willingness to give credit to policies where it was due from the very start. Leadership must acknowledge the notion of fair play. I am delighted that we believe that ICT will play an important role in our city’s future.
   You might say we worked together, at least, to ensure that the process was fair. When Access Radio mentioned they might like to interview me for Espace Français, I told them that Councillor Wade-Brown should also be approached, as the other Francophone candidate. It was as early as April when we debated one another—in French no less! I don’t know if it was the Councillor’s first debate of the season, but it was mine. I am willing to bet that it was the first political debate in a foreign language for us both.
   She was equally generous with providing opportunities: when she learned of events before I did, I can remember two occasions in which she forwarded me a note.
   We exchanged a few notes during the year and realized that we faced at least some editorial bias from one foreign company. Thankfully, the majority of people in Wellington was too smart to fall for that, and both of us did better than had been predicted by some so-called specialists.
   Her supporters will be pleased to know that consultation, which the Mayor-elect had preached during her campaign, was practised.
   Just as I had a reasonably good dialogue with the outgoing Mayor, Kerry Prendergast, till we became more guarded rivals, I look forward, as a Wellingtonian, to supporting our Mayor-elect.
   It’s a great start to what I hope will be a better three years for our city.
   And as her predecessor’s years come to a close, it is only right that I offer Mayor Prendergast a tribute, too.
   It takes great sacrifice to be in a public role, and she has done that as Mayor for nine years. It is the culmination of many years of sacrifice of putting others first.
   My late mother was a midwife, and it takes a selfless mindset to start in that career. I note that Mayor Prendergast began her career in the same profession, before being elected to the Tawa Community Board, and then to Wellington City Council.
   As a businessman, outside of our respective campaigns, nearly all of my dealings with Mayor Prendergast were positive. She honoured every appointment request I made of her. It is those memories that will remain with me, especially the New Year shows that I have hosted at which she was guest of honour, as she departs from office.
   Never mind that politically, she and I differed. I believed we needed a city IT strategy through the last few years, as growth slowed in our city. I would not have said no to free wifi in 2008, even if she came right on this during the campaign trail. Based on my years doing business strategies, I felt we were being weighed down by bureaucracy—not to mention some entrenched bureaucrats—which needed a solution, either of greater transparency or a renewed corporate culture.
   I trust our Mayor-elect recognizes the many issues that face Wellington: I am sure, after hearing my and my other opponents’ addresses for three weeks on a daily basis, she knows there are pressing concerns, such as our debt, that must be addressed beyond her own manifesto.
   I am sure that we all look forward to Wellington’s future together, in a spirit of cooperation. We can make our city globally competitive and great again.

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