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5 questions for National’s 5 contenders

Chats with Nats.

Image: Universal Pictures/RNZ/Luke McPake

The hot takes on who should be the National Party’s next leader are coming fast.

This week, Mark “I ain’t got time to bleed” Mitchell and Steven “I can take a dildo to the face better than anyone” Joyce joined Judith Collins, Simon Bridges and Amy Adams in vying for Bill English’s old seat.

One will likely lead the party into the next general election against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, so we thought we’d get a quick vibe of what they’re about.

We cold called the five candidates and asked five simple questions. All responded with a similar tune, but some subtle differences.

WHY SHOULD YOUNG PEOPLE VOTE FOR YOU IN AN ELECTION?

AMY ADAMS

Everything I do in politics and the reason I went in, actually, is because I look at this country from the perspective of my children. Whenever I make a decision I ask whether it’s going to make this country a better place for my kids, who are 18 and 20.

JUDITH COLLINS

I think young people will know very clearly what I stand for - I think it’s very good to know what policies people stand for. For young people, it’s about creating opportunities and valuing everybody’s input.

SIMON BRIDGES

National is the party that will provide the most vibrant and exciting economy. That might sound a bit vague, but it’s that economy that provides young people with excellent opportunities.

MARK MITCHELL

I’ve got five kids from 15 to 22 and every night I hear what their views are around the dinner table. I’ve got a pretty good sounding board there. In my electorate, I’ve also been responsible for forming youth advisory groups made up of mostly high school students.

STEVEN JOYCE

I have young children myself, and one of the reasons I’m still involved in politics is because I’m passionate about the future of this country.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE ISSUES RANGATAHI CARE MOST ABOUT?

AMY ADAMS

I think the environment is critical to young New Zealanders. We have to make sure our current generation are responsible stewards of our incredible environment. We should also play a part tackling climate change internationally.

JUDITH COLLINS

From the experiences of my own family, and those in my Papakura electorate, people want to know that they’re going to have a good future. Are they going to get the education they need? Can they get a job or an apprenticeship and earn a good living and buy a decent house? Can they contribute to society and feel like society is contributing to them?

SIMON BRIDGES

There’s a bunch of things. Clearly, education is an important issue. Mental health is another one. But I do come back to the question, what can a government do? I don’t believe a government can make you, as a young person in New Zealand, happy and entirely change your circumstances. But I do think we can provide better health, education and social services.

MARK MITCHELL

In terms of youth, I often hear about the importance of environmental issues. This generation is very conscious about things like recycling and plastics and we do need to look closely at our options for making the environment cleaner, and whether our products are environmentally friendly.

STEVEN JOYCE

I think they care about what opportunities there will be in their future, and whether they’re going to be given the tools they need to succeed.

DO YOU THINK UNIVERSITY FEES AND LIVING COSTS ARE TOO HIGH, AND WOULD YOU SCRAP LABOUR’S FREE FEES PLAN?

AMY ADAMS

I’ve got two children at university so this is a very real issue for me. I think it is a financial stretch to be a student - it’s always been a tough period in someone’s life. Earning a degree can be seen as a financial investment, and that has some merit, but we don’t want to make university unaffordable. I don’t support Labour’s plan as I think it sends all the wrong incentives, but I do think it’s useful for us to think about how we can better support students.

JUDITH COLLINS

It’s very hard to take away things people are used to, and I’ll say this for Labour, when they get into government they normally do things quickly. Their tertiary plan would be very hard to pull back. I think the big thing for everyone to understand is that 70 percent of tertiary fees are already paid for by the taxpayer. Those paying for tertiary fees may well be the people cleaning our hospitals or working on the roads.

SIMON BRIDGES

Young people are having to get jobs and it’s a struggle, as it was for me growing up. The National Party has to think about what it would substitute Labour’s policy with, which I think is untargeted and indiscriminate. For example, if you’re going to do something like that, you might make the third year free and reward students.

MARK MITCHELL

I’m not a big fan of giving something away for free. To use an analogy, one of my daughters is a part-time swimming teacher and on a Sunday she puts on free classes for mums and dads and when it’s free, their engagement is very low. When they come on a Thursday and pay for the class, it’s very different. Things worth having deserve hard work.

STEVEN JOYCE

The difficulty with the free fees plan is it chews up money that’s needed elsewhere, like in healthcare or education. I do think we need to keep benchmarking living costs to make sure that, while it’s right that students support themselves to a degree during their studies, they’re not overwhelmed with debt.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO HELP MORE YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE REGIONS GET JOBS?

AMY ADAMS

We’ve got to make sure New Zealand is an attractive place for people to start a business, employ people and get ahead under their own steam. Regional NZ should also be connected to the rest of the world, so ultra-fast broadband and good cell phone coverage is critical.

JUDITH COLLINS

I grew up in Waikato, and I know a lot of the people who stayed in that area did so to work in farming, or learn a trade, or were trained elsewhere and came back later in life. So you’ve got to have an environment where every job is valued. I think the Labour Party has gone down the track of thinking anyone who doesn’t have a tertiary education isn’t worth much. We should value every job.

SIMON BRIDGES

I think it’s very difficult to reach people - often young people or Māori or Pasifika - who are, for many complex reasons, failing to get a job. I think we need to better matchup those people with jobs, because there are a lot of jobs out there. Some may need mental health support. Others may need support for coping with alcohol problems. We need to support them, get them into a job, but also, importantly, help them remain in those jobs.

MARK MITCHELL

The simple answer is making sure our economy is strong and small businesses are provided with the confidence to invest. They’re the ones who work hard to create opportunities.

STEVEN JOYCE

A strong economy is important, as is encouraging investment. A lot of regional New Zealand relies on foreign investment, too. Providing the right infrastructure is vital, such as better roading and broadband. There are also young people in regions such as Northland and East Coast who need extra help to get jobs.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS REGARDING THE DECRIMINALISATION OF MEDICINAL AND RECREATIONAL CANNABIS?

AMY ADAMS

I’m really concerned about the incredibly damaging impact of drugs in our community, so I would be cautious. In saying that, I want people in chronic pain or suffering from terminal illness to get all the support they need. I would not support anything that seeks to makes drugs freely available.

JUDITH COLLINS

I’m not at all opposed to this. If we can have medicinal opioids that can be prescribed, why can’t we have medicinal cannabis? Misused, it can have negative effects, but there’s no doubt there are times it can be of use. But it’s not something that should be treated in a recreational way.

SIMON BRIDGES

In principle, I’m in favour of medicinal cannabis. Where the law is not working, we should fix it. I’m much more reluctant when it comes to recreational use. It’s not that I’m a prude about this issue, I’m worried about the impact on people with mental health issues, I worry about regional communities, and in terms of recreational use, it’s not an absolute “no”, I just think we need a very considered conversation first.

MARK MITCHELL

I’d like to see medicinal cannabis made available, as long as it’s carefully regulated. I’m against recreational decriminalisation as there are a lot of countries that have gone down that track and have run into some social problems.

STEVEN JOYCE

I’m supportive of providing more medicinal cannabis to those in pain. I’m not supportive of broader decriminalisation because I think we already have enough vices in this world.


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