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Liberty Belle: Freedom & Prosperity

Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Freedom & Prosperity

Those were the words; that was the slogan of the New Zealand Party, founded 20 years ago by Sir Robert Jones. Last night Liberty Belle hosted a wee function in Parliament's Grand Hall to celebrate the occasion.

Not that I was ever a member of the New Zealand Party. I was a leftie back in 1984 when the New Zealand Party captured 12.5 per cent of the vote, helped oust Rob's Mob and paved the way for the Lange Douglas economic revolution.

I was living in Russell, and I remember heckling the NZ party candidate for Northland - the redoubtable Wayne Brown - at a meeting in the Russell Town Hall.

But somewhere along the way between Russell and Wellington I was mugged by reality. So here I was last night, an ACT MP, hosting a function in honour of Sir Robert, at which Chris Trotter, political commentator and renowned leftie, was the guest speaker.

And a strange day it had been for me. Earlier in the afternoon I delivered a speech on free trade and globalisation to the Importers' Institute Conference in Auckland. I talked about how tariffs on footwear and clothing hurt low income families the most.

I said that I believed the anti-free trade movement was more about diehard prejudices against the forces for good in globalisation, and that the socialists were now hiding in the hemp suits of 'environmentalists'. It's easier to say you care for the environment than say you oppose property rights. It sounds nicer to say 'fair trade not free trade'.

Who should be following on from me as a speaker at the conference? None other than Chris Trotter - a view from the left, as director Daniel Silva put it, to counter my view from the right.

Well, I'm not sure if those divisions hold any more. What should have been interesting to the attendees (those who hadn't been sent to sleep by both of us in the post-prandial hum of the afternoon) was how Trotter and I converged on some points.

His lament was that the left is now more to do with being stubbornly resistant to change, and less to do with a philosophy that once made communism as international as capitalism.

The left in New Zealand, he said, is reduced to fighting to keep tariffs on imported clothing which only serve to increase the prices the poor must pay to put teeshirts on their own backs.

Snap.

Once the left stood shoulder to shoulder, Trotter said, today he's not sure with whom he should be rubbing shoulders.

I like that. I enjoy a world where I can rub shoulders of an evening with people as interesting and diverse as Chris Trotter and Sir Robert Jones. Not because of who they are, but because of what they are - intelligent, curious and likeable people.

Generous spirited people who enjoy a laugh; who enjoy life - freedom and prosperity.

Yours in liberty,
Deborah Coddington

Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington, Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand.


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