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Robson-on-Politics 13 September 2006

Voters don't deserve more under-hand campaigns or self-serving legislation

National never did say whether or not any of its members were involved in the dirty tricks leafleting and advertising campaign conducted in the Wigram electorate in the final week of last year's election campaign.

That campaign was a disappointing and under-hand one because the pamphlets and ads were misleading and, more importantly, because no one at the time knew who was behind them and so therefore there was no way of engaging the campaigners openly or to promote meaningful debate.

Democratic participation can only be enriched if there is a free flow of ideas and everyone knows who is promoting which set of ideas. Voters deserve to hear directly from candidates and parties themselves what they stand for and what they believe in and why.

The very expensive campaign of misinformation in Wigram, which included newspaper advertisements in the Christchurch Star, were "authorized" by a non-person in an empty house. That sort of behaviour is morally wrong, disrespectful to voters and should never happen again.

But legislation as proposed by Helen Clark to ban well-funded dishonest campaigns? That will have to include political parties. This is as silly an idea as refusing to pay back money that rightfully belongs to the public. And on that subject. I sat on the Parliamentary Committee that set the rules on spending. Parties were well aware what was permissible. There was no ambiguity. Prisons are full of people who can’t distinguish between their money and that of others.


But the fundamentalists are reported to say they'll do it again

On Monday, the Exclusive Brethren were reported by some media to be saying that they would wage another campaign in 2008.

All democrats welcome any group's participation in the democratic process, but the question surely is: Why doesn't this fundamentalist religious group stand candidates and put up a Party List?

That would be the moral and honest thing to do.

They could campaign for whatever they like: That all women's heads should be covered; that evolution is an evil, secular conspiracy; that God created the Earth in six days and that the globe is flat. In a representative democracy, everyone has the right to promote their values, their hopes and their proposed strategies for the country - and citizens get to vote for what they want and that public will is in turn represented in Parliament.

Progressive-minded people should welcome the Exclusive Brethren into the democratic arena. Unlike National, progressives should not propose excluding people that aren't "mainstream". But as democrats, progressives would only hope that the Religious Right do the moral and honourable thing and stand in their own name and have their candidates accountable for the platform and assertions contained in their leaflets and advertisements.


The NZ bank that National/ACT said would fail takes the big one

A reader tells me that I should have congratulated the New Zealand-owned bank which Nat/ACT said would never fly: It is the supreme winner of the 2006 Sunday Star-Times Cannex Banking Awards.


Reducing alcohol-related harm to young people

How depressing to see Labour's associate "health" Minister quoted in all the media in the past seven days saying that it isn't "realistic" to raise the alcohol purchasing age to 20 years, as North America did after experiencing , like New Zealand, the deleterious health and social effects of lowering that buying age.

Why doesn't he outline the public health benefits that he has witnessed, that the Ministry of Health has empirically measured, since the alcohol purchasing age was cut thanks to the critical votes of Labour M.P.s in the dying days of the last Nat-led coalition? He doesn't, because there are none.


The arguments that M.P.s use to let the alcohol lobby off the hook are pathetic.

The families and the communities that suffer some of the worst health and social effects of the inappropriate alcohol purchasing age, which in reality means that 15 and 16 year olds are too often getting away with buying alcohol at their local corner dairy, are modest and lower income families. When Labour was a young and principled party, there would have been no contest - it would have been 100% in favour of protecting families and young people from the liquor lobby – early Labour would not have used Blairite weasel words that we get dished out on important issues which are potentially controversial. Where's the leadership?

I hope that the National Drug Foundation's www.20years.org.nz/ website will soon start listing M.P.s' voting intentions on the Bill that I introduced to Parliament last year. Keep a close eye out on those leaders who claim to be pro-families - National's Don Brash, United's Peter Dunne and ACT's Rod Hide: Last year I recall they were all against families on this, the most important law and order and drug issue in our society by far.

Hopefully, they have listened to some of the advice of people who actually work in this field and made their representations to the select committee.

Middle East film festival opens in Christchurch on Thursday

To help break down the barriers between people, the Palm Date Film Festival/Cultural Awareness Trust is showing what look to be some great Middle Eastern/North African movies in Christchurch over the coming week starting on Thursday with the showing of the Lebanese hit Bosta with proceeds from the screening of Bosta going to assist victims of the humanitarian and ecological crisis in that country. Shows are at Regent on Worcester.



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