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Rough guide to politics for perplexed voters

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rough guide to politics for perplexed voters

For voters struggling to unravel the daily sound bites, slogans and political sermons in the run up to the November 8 elections, help is at hand.

Massey social policy lecturer Dr Grant Duncan is presenting a “rough guide” to New Zealand’s political landscape for perplexed voters by taking a step back and considering the underlying values and ideas that determine voting choices.

“At election time we are asked to think about whom to vote for. But underlying that, is the more durable question of the fundamental values and ideals that we wish to express through our choices as voters: in other words, what values to vote in favour of,” he says.

In his October 14 free lecture at the Albany campus he will survey the survey traditional values and aspirations that “give colour and texture to New Zealand’s political landscape,” as well as how these have evolved.

“New Zealand shares many of the principles and values common to the western democratic world, but it also has its unique history of political events, and a unique mix of core social and political ideals,” says Dr Duncan, author of Society and Politics: New Zealand Social Policy.

One of the key areas he will explore is the contemporary clash between our historic socialist ideals dating back to the 1930s versus market-led deregulation and individualism hatched in 1984 and prevalent today.

Other issues covered in the lecture reflecting the diverse ideas and dreams of 21st century New Zealand which he says “have abiding influences on the way we steer our society politically” include Maori self-determination, environmentalism and liberty, individualism and property.

New Zealanders’ “cosmopolitan aspirations” represent an area rife with philosophical contradictions. On one hand people seek a cohesive, independent society “through a jingoistic desire to identify with symbols of national culture,” and on the other, “we want to be recognised on the world stage, to enjoy the benefits of imported goods and the dismantling of protectionist policies,” he says.

Dr Duncan says he will not dwell on parties and their policies, political personalities and predicting winners in the lecture. Rather, he wants to emphasise that “New Zealanders do not share a single vision for a better future, but our disagreements are interesting and healthy in themselves.”

Free lecture:What are we voting for? A rough guide to our political landscape – Tuesday Oct 14, 7pm, Neil Waters Lecture Theatres Building, Rm 200, Albany campus, Albany Highway.

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