A lively Meet the Candidates meeting

I’m pretty busy so last night was my first Meet the Candidates meeting. Aro Valley will probably be my only other one.

The forum was titled “Ladies in the House” and organised by the Wellington Young Feminists Collective. I found about it on The Hand Mirror blog.

I was interested in the likely topics, but was a bit dubious about attending, in case it was intended to be for women only. But after checking it wasn’t, and taking Jadis along as security, I attended.

The turnout was huge – well over 100 people. And I have to say the quality of the questions was 10 times higher than your typical MTC meeting which is made up of party hacks and old pensioners who are rich enough to have MySky, so they can record Coronation Street, and attend. The gender balance was probably 80/20.

As the forum was on issues, not an electorate, candidates were from Hutt South and Mana as well as Wellington Central, There was Paul Foster-Bell (N), Jordan Carter (L), Holly Walker (G), Jan Logie (G), Stephen Whittington (A) and Ben Craven (NZF).

There was a lively twitter stream for the forum – at #ladiesinthehouse. I’ll highlight a couple of exchanges, but want to say well done to the WYFC for organising the meeting. I’ve been to hundreds of these over the years, and this one was excellent as it was focused on issues.

Ben Craven from NZ First probably provided the most humour, not necessarily intentionally. Even I winced when he said the solution to domestic violence is to cut off their benefits. But I think people admired his pluck for fronting up.

There was (obviously) quite a bit of discussion on gender issues such as women in Parliament, abortion and  domestic violence. Jan Logie from the Greens said that she wanted the law changed so that all political parties are required to have gender equity in their party lists, as the Greens do (who specify the gender balance in their top 10 and top 20 etc). I think that’s a terrible idea to have the state tell political parties how they must select candidates. Not sure if Jan’s view is Green policy – I hope not.

There was a discussion about whether requiring the co-leadership of the Greens to be one male and one female actually discriminated against women, as it stops two women being co-leaders if they are the best person for the job. Incidentally that is a point I made when Rod Donald died. The lack of suitable male MPs to be co-leader meant they had to go outside caucus to Russel Norman, rather than have a female MP replace Donald.

One audience member (a male) advocated that there should be four electoral rolls – General Male, General Female, Maori Male and Maori Female. Luckily no candidate supported that idea. If you keep having separate rolls and seats to reflect your demographics then one day I guess I’d be voting on the Male Pakeha Anglican aged 40 – 50 roll. The proposal actually reinforced to me why having separate Maori seats is not a good idea. If you back seats based on race, why not based on gender?

The audience was, I thought, a very good one. Not just some good questions (and not the usual ones planted by party hacks), but when candidates said things they didn’t agree with, they didn’t shout them down. At most there would be a fit of giggles or a murmur of disbelief.

Again well done to the WYFC for organising the forum. I hope it becomes a regular election event.

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