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The Nation: National list MP Alfred Ngaro

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews National list MP Alfred Ngaro

The launch of new political party Coalition NZ came on Thursday following months of speculation. Controversial church leader Hannah Tamaki will lead the party. She said it will not be a Christian Party, but it will be built on strong family values. She would not specify policies. One thing she did offer however was an open invitation to Christian MP Alfred Ngaro to leave the National Party and join her. I asked him if that is something he would consider.

Alfred Ngaro: Look, I wish them well. They’ve obviously made a decision. They’ve been considering that decision for some time. I’ve always said, quite clearly, that this has been organic. I didn’t make that announcement. That wasn’t a party launch last Friday. That was a moment in which obviously the media dropped speculation about what was happening. The truth is though, Simon, people have been talking to me for some time — talking about the concerns that they have with the current government’s arrangements, and out of that those conversations have come to a point where people have said, ‘Well, maybe it is an option to set up a party.’

So has Coalition New Zealand jumped in ahead of you? Have they stolen your limelight?

Look, I’m not about race. This is not a race, and I think people will know that any form of politics — it’s a long game not a short game.

Although yesterday Hannah Tamaki said, ‘Alfred Ngaro, come and join us.’ They extended an olive branch. Do you want to join them??

Well, I’m focusing on the things that are really important to me. You’ve got to remember, and I want to assure you, that I’m part of a team. I’m a National Party list MP. This morning I was seeing constituents as well, so I’ve got to make sure that I’m focussing on that task as well — first and foremost.

Okay, well, will you rule that out then?

Well, the thing is that I’m focusing on those, and there will be opportunities where lots of people are coming to talk to me, and, like I said, people— I’ve got invitations now to talk. I’ve had no phone calls and that. That just happened yesterday, so for my mind, stick to the task. I’m performing my role as a National list MP and at the same time having lots of conversations.

They want you to come along and say that you’re looking for a home, but do you think there’s enough space for two faith-based parties in parliament — or even to run at the election?

Yeah, well, if you think about the history of New Zealand, as far as faith-based or values-based organisations or parties that have been there, they’ve often formed coalitions if they’re to make it there. You can think about in 1996 — you’ve got the Christian Democrats with Graeme Lee and then you also have Christian Heritage,—

But they’ve been—

…so the way forward is to— actually, you would have to form a form of a coalition collectively together.

Right, so that’s a possibility, say with the Coalition New Zealand, then? You’re not ruling that off the table?

Well, the only two parties that are here on the table that we know of is the New Conservatives and this now Coalition Party. I don’t have a party, as I said. Last Friday there were conversations, so hand on heart, I don’t have a constitution. I haven’t been planning a party. What I’ve been having is people coming to me, and I’ve been humbled, Simon, by the conversations that people have said. That actually this is something that maybe we should consider.

Yes. Well, obviously you have to be considering it, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me. You must be quite serious about this.

I’ve gone on the record, and I’ve said that I am considering it.

Yeah, so what’s the time frame?

Well, I think it’s something— I want to be really clear and careful that I don’t— I’m loyal to the party, and I think that’s really important. I don’t disrupt the direction of what they’re doing as well. So that time frame’s going to have to be fairly soon.

What makes you think that there’s a place for a faith-based party in government — where everything seems to be based on evidence, in terms of decision-making?

Well, faith is evidence as well. It’s the value system that people have, and so when people act out of it, you can’t say their faith doesn’t have evidence. It’s actually the evidence of the values that people have in the way they exercise them.

But faith is belief. It’s not a scientific evidence.

That’s right. That’s right, and so you and I would say that, for instance, when we say that we show love, care and compassion — well, that’s faith that you and I have, right? We believe in each other. We believe in the people around us that they would act justly, kindly and caringly. Those things are really important.

Well, that’s values-based decision-making, isn’t it?

But here’s the evidence, right? If you don’t have a principle to act on, then the actions that you take is the evidence of those beliefs. You and I know that when we see people who don’t act with kindness, who don’t act justly, then that’s the evidence that there’s a lack of principles. So you can’t divorce them. You can’t just say that, ‘Well, here’s evidence, and here’s faith or here’s some values.’ You and I act every day, in this nation, around this country, everybody acts with a set of principles. That’s what drives us.

Okay, so you’ve been a National MP for eight years. You say you’re trying to carry on doing that role faithfully. But what’s going wrong with the party in order for you to want to do this? Is it just people saying, ‘Come and do it, Alfred?’ Or is there actually something wrong with National that’s forcing you to consider this option?

So there’s nothing wrong with National at all. And so what’s happened is that people are talking about the decisions that are being made by this current government. Let’s think about some of the three core issues. At the moment — and, yep, they’re conscience issues — but euthanasia, End of Life Choice Bill — what people are terming as the ‘Kill Bill’. We’ve got 38,100 submissions — the largest in 165 years of government. We’ve got lawyers, we’ve got doctors saying, ‘This is wrong.’ And so you’ve got a wave of concern around a conscience issue, but that has been driven by one side. The predominance of that private member’s bill has come from Maryan Street and before then it has always been a left-leaning Labour approach towards how we see the end of life.

So you believe out there on issues like end of life, abortion law reform, maybe even cannabis, there is a wave to ride into power?

Well, Simon, I don’t need to believe that’s out there; it is out there.

You say that you’ve got people approaching you, there’s all these issues that this is riding on, but is it more a political thing where Simon Bridges says he’s giving you space to consider your options — National didn’t have a coalition partner to get into power last time. Has that party, has National, asked you openly or quietly, to do this?

So the long answer is no.

That’s the short answer.

Well, the thing is that it is no. This has not come out of the National Party. There is no one in the leadership that’s turned around and said, ‘Hey, we should consider this.’

So they’re happy for you to do this though?

Well, put it this way — they’ve asked me, and— Look, I’m really thankful. I’m grateful for the fact that they’ve given me space, and I’ve been to Simon, and Simon — as he declared — that I went to see him. In fact, I went to go and see him two months ago, just to say to him, ‘Look, people are coming to see me and talk.’ I want to be respectful to his role of leadership—

So who are these people, who are the backers?

Well, these are people that are coming from community. These are people who are leaders, and they’re not just Christian people. So here’s a good example, the lawnmower man who turned around and said to one of my family members, ‘Oh, that guy that comes to your house — is he a family member?’ I said yes. ‘Well, I tell you what, tell him that I might not be a Christian, but I’ll vote for him.’ The guy on the side of the road who’s the road-markings — you know, the stop-go sign, who turned around at a café and said to me, ‘You’re Alfred.’ And I said, ‘yes’. ‘I may not be a Christian, but I’d vote for you. Why? Because of the values that you have that I think are really important that are eroding in our country.’

If you do this, are you going to take other National MPs with you?


Just going to be you?

Well, put it this way — I’m not going to go and actually take people away from what their roles are. People are free to choose, to make their choices. I’m not seeking to divide the party. I’m not seeking to distract from the party, and if it means that, for instance, even when I was speaking down at the LNI Conference last Sunday, I withdrew myself. Why? Because no one person is bigger than the party.

Okay. Can I ask you— It hasn’t really been a stellar week for you. You’ve had to apologise for a couple of missteps about sharing a Facebook post linked to abortion and saying, ‘No woman has been made to feel like a criminal.’ Do you really think you’re a safe pair of hands to lead a new party?

You know, leadership is about having humility as well. None of us are perfect. I think what people are looking for in leadership is the ability to say, ‘Look, if you’ve made a mistake, what’s wrong with saying no?’ Are we going to judge people by the fact this is that they’re not willing to be humble? If they’re not willing to say, ‘Actually I’ve made a mistake.’ Is that how you and I want leadership? We demand integrity in this nation. You demand integrity. What does integrity mean to you? If you’ve made a mistake, if I’ve made a mistake, would you not want me to own up to that?

So you’re big enough to own up to mistakes?

Absolutely. But let’s see this, okay. The mistake was the fact that it was posted. The intent, I didn’t read through it, and it talked about the Holocaust and the event there. I am the Chairperson of the Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group. I speak at the Holocaust events as well. I also too have descendancy where my great-grandmother was the daughter of a Polish Jew. I would not be intently doing anything, but a mistake was made. I own it, and that’s there.

Okay, well, let’s see if you own this. Will you confirm right now that at the next election you’re going to be leading a faith-based party?

I can’t confirm that.

Why can’t you do that? Now is the time to do that.

Well, Simon, when you say you’re considering, that’s what consideration means. If you say you’re planning, then that’s different.

So what are you doing here right now? If it wasn’t serious, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me.

I tell you what I’m serious about. I want to clarify things. Okay, that’s really important. I want to clarify the fact is that where my position is. Okay? People have been coming in, and I chose to come here, as opposed to some of the other programmes by the way, because I wanted to have a conversation like this, so we could actually talk through what those issues are. They’re coming to me and saying, ‘Where are we going to have a voice for our values in the House of Representatives?’

And when are you going to answer them?

Well, Simon, here’s the thing — I’ve got a political career that I’ve been a part of for eight years, I’ve got a family, also I’ve got a party that I’ve been hugely grateful and thankful for. That’s not something that you make lightly. I did not make that announcement last Friday, by the way. These were just conversations that people were having—

So the ball’s in your court now, and you’re not giving us an answer—

The ball is in my court. No, what I’m telling you is, ‘Watch this space.’ Rest assured, I’m not going to leave people hanging. I think that’s really important.

Okay. Alfred Ngaro, thank you very much for your time.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

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