Bishop selected for Hutt South

Normally Labour held seats only get one or two people sticking their hand up to be the National Party candidate. But unusually five candidates contested the nomination for Hutt South, and Chris Bishop got selected last night. Great to see so many people keen to take Trevor Mallard on. The new boundaries mean the seat is not as safe Labour as it used to be, and a strong campaign could do very well there.

I’ve known Chris for the best part of a decade. One of the funniest brightest people I know, and he is one of New Zealand’s top debaters. He does or has spent a huge amount of time organising and coaching school debating tournaments and teams.

I’m looking forward to Meet the Candidate meetings with Trevor, Chris and Holly Walker. I recommend people who like a good debate go along.

Chris won the selection despite a Dominion Post editorial urging National not to select him. That was because, like Todd Barclay, Chris spent a couple of years as a regulatory and public affairs manager for Philips Morris. How dare National select two former tobacco lobbyists!

Well the answer is they got selected despite their former jobs, not because of them. Unless you’re George Clooney, it’s not the most popular job around. Fair enough.

But I’d make two points. The first is that National’s policies and decisions on tobacco issues have been almost everything the anti-tobacco lobbyists have been asking for. Excise tax has been hiked 50% over five budgets. An official goal of getting smoking to under 5% of NZ in the next decade was agreed to and being resourced. And the Government has agreed to plain packaging of tobacco products (subject to the WTO not ruling it illegal). I actually think the Government has gone too far (I’d trial plain packaging to see if it actually is effective), so any suggestion they are soft on tobacco is silly.

The second point is that Governments make decisions that impact companies in many industries. And every company deserves to have its voice heard on those policies. Some seem to think that tobacco companies should not be allowed to advocate on policies that affect them. I disagree. And judging someone on the basis it was their job to advocate for a tobacco company, seems akin to judging someone because they are a defence lawyer who represents undesirable clients. Everyone deserves a voice.

Anyway congrats again to Chris for winning a hotly contested selection, and commiserations to the other four who missed out. Hutt South is going to be a very interesting seat to watch.

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