Written By: - Date published: 10:50 am, November 13th, 2014 - 63 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, labour, leadership - Tags: andrew little, climate change, election 2017, Labour leadership, questions, regional development
A couple of weeks ago we asked readers to suggest questions for written answers from the candidates. We chose / edited six questions, and sent them to the four campaigns. Here’s Andrew Little’s answers.
(1) Can you outline your strategy for winning the next election.
I want to rebuild not just our Party but our movement. That means building strong connections to our communities, to the unions, and to Kiwis who don’t really feel like politics has much impact on their lives. When more people can see what Labour stands for and why we’re the best party to lead a government, we’ll win.
My plan for rebuilding Labour is specific and practical: http://andrew-little.org.nz/my-plan-for-labour/
(2) How prepared are you to work with the wider left, with the other parties of the left? Would you form a coalition with the Greens, before the next election – why or why not?
We have to work closely with the Greens, because they’ll almost certainly be part of any government we form.
But I think it’s a mistake to look at “the wider left” only in terms of other parties. Like I’ve said above, we need to be working as a movement, with the Labour Party in Parliament being just one part of the picture. That means connecting with unions and other organisations which support our values. That means working with our supporters where they are – in their neighbourhoods and in their communities – even the ones online!
In terms of a formal coalition with the Greens before the next election, I don’t have a yes or no answer. New Zealanders do expect that before an election we’ll clearly signal who our likely coalition partners will be, and I will do that.
My obligation as Party leader is to make sure Labour maximises its party vote.
(3) How will you combat the attacks that will most certainly come from National and their fronts such as the “Taxpayers’ Union” and blogs? How do you shift the narrative so that “middle New Zealand” stop believing propaganda and start engaging with the real issues going on in New Zealand?
The left absolutely has to recognise that the National Party has a well-organised, heavily-resourced attack machine which has a lot of experience at getting their messages into the public consciousness and even allegedly harassing and intimidating people who stand in their way.
The answer to that kind of hate speech is more speech. We have to have a strategy which is much broader than a set of campaigns on separate issues, or a series of press releases. We have to create our own positive messages and build the networks I’ve talked about to get those messages to every New Zealander. We have to be united and focused, with everyone from MPs to activists to commentators working together to amplify our messages.
And we must push back against the so-called “independent” think-tanks and commentators who push rightwing ideas. We have to call out their agendas and refuse to accept their framing of events, because as soon as we do we lose the argument.
We have to back ourselves to carve out our own message to our own constituency.
(4) Rural communities and towns have been declining for many years. What’s your plan to stop urban drift and the loss of vital services to these areas?
Right now Air New Zealand is planning to abandon some of its regional routes, and New Zealand Post has closed regional mail centres and is looking at replacing PostShops with self-service kiosks. When our vital public services are being run just for profit, the regions miss out, and that’s not good enough.
The government has a huge role to play in supporting regional development. We must invest in the infrastructure, like rail or broadband, which makes it easier for businesses to thrive outside the big cities. The state can use its massive purchasing power to buy Kiwi made and create skilled, well-paid jobs in manufacturing. And we can look at what state services could be moved out of the big cities and into the regions.
Doing this also helps our big cities by relieving pressure on infrastructure and house prices. It’s a win for everyone.
(5) Do you intend for Labour to develop policy specific to Work and Income beneficiaries? (as opposed to policy directed towards low income people in general). Do you recognise that many WINZ beneficiaries have vulnerabilities not being addressed by other Labour policy?
There’s a really sad irony that when workers lose their jobs – as far too many have under this government – they get sympathy. But as soon as they start receiving the unemployment benefit, they’re vilified.
New Zealanders are better than that. We know that when other members of our communities are having a rough time, we have a responsibility to help them get through. But we’ve got a nasty, narrow-minded government which keeps whipping up antipathy towards people who, for whatever reason, are relying on government support.
I care about every member of my community, whether they’re in work or not. And a government must be there for every person in its jurisdiction, whether they’re in work or not.
We also have to acknowledge that many people aren’t able to be in “normal” full-time, paid work, whether because of illness or injury or other important responsibilities like parenting. They shouldn’t be harassed and treated like second-class citizens just because they need a little extra support.
In the future world of work, people are going to move in and out of work a lot more, and we have to make sure that the income support system helps them do that as smoothly as possible. That will mean reviewing many of the systems we currently have. We really need to look at a universal basic income and stop stigmatizing those who find themselves out of work against their wishes and for reasons beyond their control.
(6) Do you have the courage to acknowledge the predicament presented by Anthropogenic Global Warming and take the bull by the horns? Do you agree with the statement: “Coal mining is an unacceptably dangerous and ecologically unsustainable industry in the 21st Century”, and if so what are the implications for NZ?
Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing humankind, and we need to take serious action on it. New Zealand has a long and proud history of spearheading progressive change internationally, and this is another area we can do it.
Using coal for power generation should no longer be accepted in New Zealand. We’ve proved that we can significantly increase our use of renewable power sources. But there are realities we have to accept. Most of the coal mined in New Zealand is high-grade coking coal. That’s used to make steel. If we’re going to keep using steel, we need to keep mining coal – and it’s not a solution to say we should just stop mining it here and let other countries do the dirty work for us.
Using lignite coal for transport energy, as this government has proposed, is not acceptable to me.
We must continue to focus investment on clean tech and new industries which will help us replace fossil fuels. New Zealand can and should be a leader in this. It would help rebuild our clean green brand and reputation as an innovative, forward-thinking nation.
Let’s also remember that a lot of workers and their families and communities are currently reliant on industries like coal mining. We can’t just throw those people aside. We have to find alternatives, build up those industries, create secure, well-paid jobs in the regions, and move into the future and away from fossil fuels together.