So Lynn is giving you the media perspective, I thought I might get some delegate perspective.
Labour conference 2012 seems to be going well so far.
They’ve already had a policy win, as just rumours of a major housing policy release has caused National to flip-flop and re-instate the affordable housing component of Hobsonville, which they removed in their first term. Now if we can just get the state housing section back… (and maybe some more of the thousands of affordable houses needed each year in Auckland alone…)
The evening session of opening speeches started with the traditional powhiri, and in Ngati Whatua’s speeches a bit of perspective was added to the daily media bubble of politics. The kaumatua Joe Hawke recalled when as a 10-year-old a previous National government had sent the army into their settlement at Okahu Bay, with flamethrowers that blew 40 yards, evicted them and burnt all their houses and marae to the ground.
Which just makes Patrick Gower’s carefully orchestrated camera-work getting ordinary activist Shane Te Pou to shut the door on him for a closed session seem all that bit more shallow when politics makes real differences on people’s lives. The vast majority of sessions are open to the media by the way… (and there’s no HeadHunters-esque initiation ceremonies to join – unless the gang lets you sign a form and pay a koha these days).
Although we wait for the housing policy (and I think you might like it), the focus so far is more on jobs.
Jobs for the nearly 100,000 18-25 year-olds not in education, employment or training for a start. Len Brown pointed out the 30% youth unemployment rate in Auckland – and much higher for Maori and Pasifika. Judy McGregor pointed out that the hunderds of thousands of new voters we need to offer hope to. Prof Nigel Haworth pointed out the need to foster high-value manufacturing jobs, rather than leave the sector to the ‘benign’ neglect of this do-nothing government – with the incredible multipliers in jobs that sector creates (meaning also the many 100s of jobs lost in the sector in recent months means many more lost elsewhere).
There were lots of good policy sessions this afternoon, with lots of robust debate – as ever often more on the details. We all love the ‘It’s about our kids’ children’s policy, but how do we make sure the goal of eliminating child poverty is achieved asap? How do we say we want to increase public funding of dentistry, without saying we’ll instantly fund all dentistry’s costs? Does saying we’ll aim to buy back any assets National sell leave us apparently committed and have to find $6 billion from 2014’s budget, or is it just an aspiration to be achieved as it’s possible?
Tomorrow the focus is on renewing the constitution – so we have a thoroughly more democratic party; with members voting on leadership, the policy platform MPs must stick to etc. This’ll be a once in a generation renewal, so will definitely be worth watching.