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Future Lefts - The Tories are bored!

Future Lefts - The Tories are bored!

Future Lefts

Wednesday 11th July, 2000

`The Tories are bored!’

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CONTENTS
Editorial: Bored Nats sink to new lows
Presidential Sermon: On being Young Labour
The Launch of Staunch
Membership Sermon
News
Web site of the week


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Editorial: Bored Nats sink to new lows

It appears that, stung by their inability to turn the Dover Samuels affair into a damaging issue for the Government, the Tories are looking for more targets. Various tales of attempts at finding skeletons in closets (or elsewhere) have been filtering through to the Queen’s City, but I have to confess I got the shock of my life when I found out that I, apparently, am one of the targets in this desperate hunt for something to damage the Government with!

In short, a very bored Tony Ryall (not knowing what to do with himself now he has no civil servants to boss around) must have been advised by one of the Young Nats of the existence of Future Lefts, and that we occasionally disagree with the Government. Rather than doing what one would assume to be the intelligent thing (i.e. say “that’s nice, so what?”), good old Tony took issue with an issue of this publication which was mildly critical of Phil Goff’s response to Matt Robson’s murmurings about conjugal visits for prisoners.

The following questions were asked and answered:

11922 Hon Tony Ryall to the Minister of Justice: What is his response to Young Labour Vice-President Jordan Carter who said in the Labour Youth email newsletter Future Lefts that "disappointedly our own Justice Minister [has come] out against any further discussion of the issue [conjugal visits to prison]?

Hon Phil Goff: Mr Carter is entitled to his opinion and is free to express it.

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11923 Hon Tony Ryall to the Minister of Justice: What is his response to Young Labour Vice President Jordan Carter who said the Labour Youth email newsletter Future Lefts that prison conjugal visits were "humane"?

Hon Phil Goff: Mr Carter is entitled to his opinion and is free to express it.

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11924 Hon Tony Ryall to the Minister of Justice: Does he receive the Young Labour email newsletter Future Lefts; if not, why not?

Hon Phil Goff: I do not have time to read every newsletter and magazine that I might to, though I am sure this is an excellent publication.

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11925 Hon Tony Ryall to the Minister of Justice: Does he read the Young Labour email newsletter Future Lefts; if not, why not?

Hon Phil Goff: I do not have time to read every newsletter and magazine that I might to, though I am sure this is an excellent publication.

I found this amusing, if somewhat dimwitted. The idea that Opposition members of Parliament have nothing better to do with their time than follow up the email newsletters of the youth wing of the Labour Party, and then waste ministerial staff time answering idiotic questions like the ones above, is quite abhorrent to me. One could go on about the factual errors in the questions asked, but that would not really be of interest.

However, this episode does raise a wider question. Should youth wings of political parties always agree with the Governments (or Oppositions) they are attached to? The answer, surely, is a resounding NO. The Young Nats in Government went a good deal further on a whole range of issues than the Government did. Young Labour makes no pretence, in either its public statements or its policy positions, to being bound by Labour Party or Government policy. I for one hope to see that independence continue. It would truly be a sad day if all that Young Labour, Young Nationals, Prebble’s Rebels or Staunch (see below) were doing was slavishly following the leads set by their senior parties.

Anyhow, enough on that. A message for Tony Ryall: if you want to ask questions about who subscribes to Future Lefts, try asking me first.

Jordan

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Presidential Sermon: On being Young Labour

This is the first of what will probably be an irregular series of comments by Young Labour President Michael Wallmannsberger. I asked him to provide something which summed up where he thought we and he might be heading in the next year or so. He has provided what I would describe as the kind of piece Bob Harvey would be proud of - big on vision, and eloquent to boot. I commend to you the following item.

Jordan

Being young you can, credibly, claim inheritance to the earth. The unencumbered innocence of youth is a hotbed of innovative, sometimes revolutionary, thinking. To most, our imagination and flair are more important than our achievements.

Being Labour gives us an opportunity to share in and shape a vision of a more equitable, more prosperous New Zealand. Whilst Labour’s policies may change in form and substance, the vision remains the same.

Being both young and Labour, the vision and its esteemed history will eventually be our legacy. Today we are young activists. Tomorrow, we – collectively - lead our nation.

We are privileged to have grown up in a time that allows us to dream of achieving many things that were inconceivable just decades ago. As future leaders, it is our responsibility to apply the fresh perspective of youth to the increasingly complicated and difficult issues that an era of fearsome, relentless change brings.

Our ideals may not always meet the rigours of political reality. However, we are not discouraged. Nor do we find it necessary to be disparaging about what is achieved. We are key stakeholders in the outcomes of today’s policies. For this reason alone, our voice is loud and clear.

Being Young Labour, we seek to:

* Support the Labour Party in government * Encourage and sustain youth membership in the Labour Party * Become capable and innovative leaders and thinkers * Promote and defend the interests of young people * Be scrupulously honest in all that we do * Celebrate our identity, as young people and as New Zealanders

New Zealand’s future depends on the capability of its young people. Our prosperity will be greatly determined by our ability to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Internet revolution. In the “co-operation” era, collaboration is our key to success. Fundamentally, it is the Labour Party that is best prepared to support this new (or, perhaps, not so new) business model.

Many things - both plausible and unthinkable - will inevitably come to pass. We will work tirelessly to entrench universal human rights as the cornerstone of civilised society. We will undoubtedly learn the value of our natural environment and the cost of damage done to it. Someone will probably walk on Mars. A few of us might even pay off our student loans.

New Zealanders have a proud tradition of becoming international leaders. My dream is that we continue to support each other to become great leaders, diplomats, scientists, sports people and discoverers of the world.

Michael Wallmannsberger michaelw@clear.net.nz

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The Launch of Staunch

The Alliance has proved that not all of its members are over the age of seventy five with the launching last weekend of “Staunch”, which is the fascinating name they have chosen for their youth wing. Future Lefts welcomes the emergence of an Alliance youth wing, and applauds Staunch for not choosing a name such as “Anderton’s Arsenal” or “Jim’s Revolutionaries”.

More seriously, Young Labour activists have generally excellent relationships with young members of the Alliance, and Young Labour will be investigating the possibility of an ongoing dialogue with the two spokespeople elected by Staunch. Some older members of the two parties harbour longstanding feuds - it is a pleasing fact that such animosity simply doesn’t exist at the youth level.

Notable too is that the Staunch policy positions outlined in the media release below are very similar to Young Labour’s positions on a range of issues. It appears that the only areas of difference visible so far are on the extent to which education can (or should) be entirely free, and on economic issues around the free trade debate. We look forward to seeing Staunch maintaining a profile and building an activist presence on campuses, to broaden and deepen the extent of party activist on the left amongst the young.

Media release: STAUNCH LAUNCH -YOUTH TAKE OFF!

Staunch, the Alliance youth wing, held it's first national gathering over the weekend, and elected two spokespeople, Tom Haig and Julie Fairey. Over twenty youth activists from around Aotearoa-New Zealand met in Wellington, enlivening the fusty halls of Parliament with their youthful exuberance and dynamism. Staunch has committed to campaigns and positions on the following issues:

Free education - "The Alliance is the only party with a commitment to free education at all levels, and we're committed to continuing the fight for this right," said Tom Haig.

Decriminalisation of marijuana - "Youth are hugely over-represented in the court system because of the current unfair and unrealistic laws regarding marijuana. A conviction for possession currently has an effect far outweighing the so-called crime committed," said Julie Fairey.

Fair trade not free trade - "For those who are already disadvantaged, free trade is driving them further down, and what is needed is a commitment to fair trade, recognising workers' rights and protecting the environment," said Tom Haig.

GE labeling - "Given the huge public concern about genetic engineering people must be given the information to make a decision about what they eat," said Julie Fairey.

Paid Parental Leave within the current term - "This is a basic workers' right and the social benefits far outweigh any minor costs to employers. There are so many factors counting against having children, such as the student loan scheme, that a few encouragements are sorely needed," said Tom Haig.

Opposing all discrimination against youth - "Schemes such as the Yellow Triangle programme and the youth minimum wage clearly discriminate against youth. Discrimination is totally unacceptable and we will be campaigning against this at every opportunity," said Julie Fairey.

Staunch is mainly based around campus Alliance branches, and will be acting regionally as well as nationally.

ENDS

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Membership Sermon: Growing

Those of you who are reading this in the hope that Future Lefts is in the business of providing tips on marijuana cultivation are, I am afraid going to be a little disappointed. This is slightly duller, but hopefully does a bit more to motivate an upsurge in grass roots political activity within the party than getting stoned does. Quite simply, we need to grow our membership. This applies both in terms of sheer numbers, and in the diversity of our membership. A failure to address these issues subverts the very fundamentals of the Party, and will have serious implications for our medium to long term electoral success. While an expensive, flashy national recruitment drive has some potential to grow our membership base, it must not be forgotten that politics is the business of interaction between people, and that only action on the ground by committed activists achieves this. Such activity is needed now to ensure that the party grows meaningfully, and governs often, in the years to come.

Many statistics are bandied around suggesting that the Labour Party was once a mass-membership party of quite titanic proportions - a membership of one hundred thousand is sometimes suggested by sentimental party historians, and much the same kind of nostalgic number-waffling occurs in the National Party. Of course, neither party ever truly reached such great heights during the ‘golden days’ of the mass-membership political parties in the 1950s and 60s, well at least not when the names of cadavers and household plants were removed from the lists of over eager party canvassers. What we do know is that both major parties have suffered from rather drastic declines in membership over the past twenty-five years or so, particularly over the last fifteen as a climate of distrust and dissatisfaction has settled over the national electorate.

This decline is of particular import for the Labour Party. The Tory political project, as it stands anyway, is an elite one - it simply does not want, or require, the input of a large and diverse group of members. Instead, it focuses upon the narrow sectional interests of business and the wealthy. Indeed, the idea of a mass-based membership that may have a say in the making of policy is anathema to the rightist belief in decision making by highly specialised ‘experts’ (read: self interested elites with little footing in the real world). The Labour Party has gone through that phase, and it was not pretty. This was a large part of the reason that fourth Labour government policy was so out of keeping with the wishes of the membership, and the legacy of past Labour governments. Although there is no foreseeable threat of such elite dominance in the Party right now, a strong, wide, and active membership is the best vaccination against future aberrations.

Many of you will also be aware of the emerging generational crisis of membership that the Party is experiencing, and the anecdotal evidence that I have seen suggests that most other parties are going through the same problem. Our membership is aging, and with that comes a certain organisational inertia, a lack of new ideas, and the creation of an image that is unappealing for young potential members, thus perpetuating the problem further. We have not reached any kind of crisis point with regard to this yet, but a strong push for new, young members is necessary to avoid internal seizure in the future. Sheer numbers by themselves, are of course not useful per se, we must endeavour to make membership a meaningful step for people. Simply having the privilege of attending an LEC meeting once a month is not going to fry the pizzas of many young people. A high degree of co-ordination is required that gives people a direct and tangible role in the process of understanding, forming and publicising policy. Steps that can be taken to aid this include Branch debates, remit formation, public meetings with leading figures speaking, and public education drives.

We must also strive to make our membership more diverse. The reason for this is quite self evident to anyone who has ever taken a walk in to the centre of any medium or large sized city in the country – we, as a nation have become more diverse. If we want the Labour Party to be broadly reflective of the hopes, expectations, and ideas of New Zealand people, then we must include those people in our own ranks. In this respect, we are all ready streaks ahead of the parties of the right, but that is no reason to be content in the least. Attendees of this year’s Young Labour AGM will recall that one of the biggest concerns raised was the limited involvement by women and non-Pakeha. The organisation’s commitment to overcoming this can be seen in the development of a diversity strategy as one of the top priorities for the Executive – this will be one of our major challenges over the next year. Already a number of good links with various ethnic communities have been forged, which should serve to improve the current situation.

The key to improving the overall youth membership situation is simply for activists to roll up their sleeves, and begin persuading others to join. As clever as a slogan on a billboard can be, it cannot answer the questions and allay the misconceptions about the party that a prospective member may have, in the same way that an activist who is face to face with them can. Of course, finding fruitful places to begin spreading the word is the first step. Obvious concentrations of youth, such as schools and universities are good places to begin. A little more laterally, some activists have had recruitment success from building bridges with organisations like local unions and Maori community groups. If you have any good ideas on this front, be sure to contact your regional representative, whose name you should be able to find [once we finish updating them - Ed] on the ‘executive’ page of the Young Labour web site: www.younglabour.org.nz

Go to it!

Michael Wood michael@semrits.co.nz

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News, what news?

Well folks, it’s been one of those weeks in which not a great deal has been happening, in New Zealand at least. Parliament has finished sitting and gone into recess with yet another round of muck raking. This time, John Tamihere has been targetted, with past convictions for drink driving being brought to public attention by someone ACTing anonymously. Thankfully, the public mood for such time wasting seems to be short, and most people saw this cheap political stunt for what it was.

No one could accuse the Alliance youth sector, Staunch (what a good earnest name) of any stunts this week though. Instead, they held their first national conference in Wellington this weekend, and have elected two national representatives to speak for the organisation. Future Lefts hopes that a constructive working relationship is forged between Young Labour and Staunch to combat the combined silliness of the Young Nats and those tough arsed, hard nuts guys in Prebble’s Rebels.

Some Rebels to be taken a little more seriously however are George Speight and the bunch of chums he invited over for a sleep over at Fiji’s Parliamentary complex. A deal has been struck between the Military Government and Speight that specifies that the hostages are to be released, a new, Fijian-only administration will be established, amnesty will be granted to the rebels, and that a new President will be appointed (probably the former vice-president, who is more sympathetic to the Fijian nationalist world view). Slightly shockingly, the deal also opens the door to the possibility of Speight serving in the new cabinet. Foreign Minister Phil Goff has issued a number of statements questioning whether Mr Speight has the genetic ability to keep to a deal, and encouraging the new administration to work towards the re-establishment of a multi-racial democracy.

Strong words too are being directed at the Warehouse, which is trying to set up a private union, rather cutely called People First. What isn’t quite so cute is the fact that the whole exercise is a blatant attempt to undermine the independent National Distribution Union, which will be guaranteed access to Warehouse employees with the passing of the Employment Relations Bill into law. National Secretary of the NDU, Carol Beaumont has noted that the Warehouse has consistently denied her union access to employees in recent years, and that People First will not be providing services such as free legal representation, as most unions do. There are also questions as to whether People First will contravene the incoming ERB due to its closeness to the very company that it is supposedly representing workers against.

Yay for the Education Amendment Act! An end to bulk funding, the re-institution of zoning, and important changes to the laws regarding student associations.

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Web site of the Week: will return next week.

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All submissions should be to the editor, Jordan Carter, at carters@ihug.co.nz, or the assistant editor, Michael Wood, at michael@semrits.co.nz.

While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the contents is entirely the responsibility of the editor and the views expressed here don't constitute any official position of Young Labour. All contents copyright (c) 2000. Subscribe at younglabour-subscribe@listbot.com

Te Wairua Hou - The New Spirit - http://www.younglabour.org.nz The Future Is With Labour - http://www.labour.org.nz


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