We’re keen to help you get active this election campaign. That’s why we’ve launched Campaign Hub 2008 and its Facebook group to give you info, access to materials, and tips on campaigning. It’s great to see so many people have downloaded leaflets and posters from the Hub or clicked through to Vote With Both Eyes Open to use their materials. If you haven’t seen any posters or leaflets around your neighbourhood yet, why not print them off yourself? There’s nothing to stop you making a contribution of a little time and energy, even if you are also helping out other campaigns.
I just got an email and thought I would share it because it’s an excellent example of how to put a politician on the spot:
John Hayes, the over-zealously accelerating National MP for Wairarapa was speaking to a town hall meeting. A member of the audience asked ‘John, can you please guarantee this audience that a National govt would continue to consistently raise the minimum wage – at least to cover inflation – which the Labour-led govt has done for the past 9 years, in order to support our lowest paid workers?’ According to the report, Hayes tried to avoid the question and waffled about MMP but the questioner insisted on yes/no direct answer. Hayes then snapped ‘No, we believe in tax cuts, not the minimum wage’.
That’s a bombshell answer. Hayes’s answer basically says that under National 500,000 workers would become worse off as inflation eats their minimum or near-minimum wages (these only rise when the minimum wage does, National has said it won’t cut the bottom 12.5% tax rate and tax cts can’t make up for wage stagnation anyway). That would undercut economic demand and living standards in poor communities leading to stagnation, higher unemployment, and higher crime – just as it did in the 1990s. It puts Hayes in line with comments from National labour spokesperson Kate Wilkinson but seems to contradict John Key who has told workers National would raise the minimum wage (no specifics, of course).
Note how the question managed to draw these answer out of a politician who didn’t want to give it. The question included framing facts: Labour has increased the minimum wage every year for the past 9 years. It made clear to the audience the ramifications of not rising the minimum wage: our poorest workers would be unsupported. It was specific enough to prevent Key-esque evasions: it says ‘consistently raise’ and ‘at least to cover inflation’, which prevented Hayes from fobbing the question off with a vague promise that the minimum wage would go up even though it might actually go down after inflation. Insisting on a real answer when Hayes didn’t want to give one exposed his evasiveness to the audience and brought out the bombshell. That revelation should come back to haunt Hayes
You can do it too. Get along to a candidates’ meeting, the Hub has a weekly list of them, and ask a question. Make it on a topic you know, include a framing fact, shut down the obvious evasions by asking for a specific, and make it relevant to the audience by mentioning consequences. Kiwis deserve to hear these answers before they vote; it’s up to all of us to make sure they get asked the questions.