The 2004 Youth Parliament - Photo Essay
The 2004 Youth Parliament
Yesterday the biennial Youth Parliament took shape. This event brings together 120 young people aged between 16 and 18, each sponsored by a different member of parliament, to participate in (mock) debates, oral questions and select committees.
On Monday 16 August, many of the Youth MP's had the chance to quiz various actual Ministers (and in some cases Labour MPs standing in for Ministers) on a wide variety of topics. This chance to lock verbal swords with Ministers of the crown was presided over by the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, and watched by a number of politicians including the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Don Brash, ACT leader Rodney Hide most of the Green Party and a number of cabinet ministers.
(middle three) Jeanette Fitzsimons, Keith Locke and Ian Ewen-Street
(with camera) George Hawkins
Rodney Hide And Don Brash
Sadly the name calling and general vindictiveness that usually makes question time so entertaining was missing. One eager beaver did manage a point of order, or more correctly attempted a point of order, only to be firmly assured by the Speaker that his point of order was a general debating point.
During the afternoon Ministers were quizzed on a variety of topics. Whilst education was a paramount concern for a number of the youth MPs, other topics covered included, immigration, the death penalty, local government and tax policy.
Scoop caught up with some of the embryonic politicians after their time in the House and quizzed them regarding how they had found their day in the House.
Mr Edwards quizzed Hon Chris Carter about the NCEA and whether it was an internationally recognised qualification. Mr Edwards, who happens to be of English origin, was concerned that Universities in England may not be fully aware of New Zealand's new educational achievement standards. Mr Edwards said he had no firm specific political allegiances but acknowledged his parents werer Labour Party supporters. Thanks to his question, Liverpool University will should soon be completely up to scrath with the NCEA:
"He [Chris Carter] wants to phone them [Liverpool University]. I'm supposed to give him the email addresses as well."
Ms Al Tiay was concerned by the number of skilled immigrants unable to find work in New Zealand due to the fact that their qualifications were often not recognised by New Zealand authorities.
"My family migrated from Iraq and found it really, really hard to find a job. My father did a whole lot of volunteer work for churches and other companies in order to gain some experience."
Although satisfied to some extent by the Minister's [Hon Paul Swain's] answer to her question, Ms Al-Tiay still noted that:
"There are still doctors delivering pizzas because of their lack of New Zealand experience."
The youth parliament had however been "brilliant", she said.
Mr Schroeter's question was in relation to raising New Zealand's living standard to that of Australia. Mr Schroeter questioned the Minister [Clayton Cosgrove standing in for Hon Michael Cullen] regarding the possibility of tax cuts. Like many opposition politicians, Mr Schroeter wasn't 100% pleased with the Minister's answer to his query:
"I don't think he agreed with tax cuts so probably not."
The idea of the youth parliament did however appeal, and as with a number of the other youth parliamentarians - though by no means all - Mr Schroeter expressed a clear political preference:
"I'm quite interested in politics so I'm quite happy to be here for Rodney Hide. I think he is a great politician leading a great party. I hope to join them one day!"
Also joining in the debate on taxes but approaching it from a completely different perspective to Mr Schroeter was Rachel Meadowcroft.
"Someone had asked a question about taxes and I asked the Minister of Finance [Clayton Cosgrove standing in for Hon Michael Cullen] whether or not he agreed that if we lowered taxes, we'd also lower the standard of our public services?"
The Minister's concurrence with this thesis pleased Ms Meadowcroft more than it presumably did Mr Schroeter.
Despite political differences, all the youth MPs spoken to emphasised that everyone was getting along and enjoying the experience. Ms Meadowcroft considered, however, that young people in New Zealand should be more actively involved in the political process.
"I believe we could be doing a lot more than we currently are. I am keen to work out how we can do that and get us involved with our passion in the general running of the country."
Someone who was well up with the play regarding youth affairs was Pamela Mills (Hon Phil Goffs Youth MP) who is also the chair of the Auckland City Youth Council. Although Ms Mills claimed to already know the answer to her original question she pushed the Minister [Hon Chris Carter], for more information with her supplementary in fine parliamentary style:
"I found out something new regarding whether the Minister thought that youth councils should be compulsory and he [Hon Chris Carter] said yes."
A small badge attached to Ms Mills jacket helped pin-point where her political affiliations lay.
"I think political parties are like radio stations – you can't like every single song – but at this stage, in the little amount I know about politics, I agree with 90% of what Labour is doing," she said.
Ms Stanley, "I think not many young people know enough about Parliament."
Mr Cosgrove, "I would very much doubt that any MP would pick someone because they lent towards that political party."
Green MP Mike Ward and Catherine Mackmurdie (from Hokitika)
The Minister responsible for organising the conference [Hon. John Tamihere's] youth representative found the experience had been worth while.
"You normally only see what goes on at Parliament on TV, so being at the youth parliament has been good."
Ms Pomare seemed to have at least one thing in common with her parliamentary mentor, "I always have an opinion - so being here is a good opportunity for me to express it!"