Respectful. That’s the impression that around a 100 people who attended the Meet the Candidates Night (Botany electorate) on Monday evening, got.
The event organised, by Rev Dr Richard Waugh and Lloyd Wong at the East City Wesleyan Church in Botany, started on a beautiful note with Bucklands Beach Primary student Cail Bowlin singing the national anthem.
There was no heckling, heated arguments or candidates biting off each other’s heads – was the unanimous feedback from spectators who had gathered on a chilly evening to meet the Botany candidates for the General Election.
Which says a lot about sitting National MP Jami–Lee Ross, Labour candidate Tofik Mamedov, Green Party candidate Julie Zhu and NZ First candidate Jenny Marcroft (not contesting from the Botany area but from the Tamaki electorate).
However missing on stage was the newly-appointed leader of United Front and Botany candidate Damian Light and Maori Party candidate for Botany Wetex Kang. Both have both been in the spotlight of late.
They would have added some fire to the debate some felt, but Lloyd Wong, facilitator for the evening, explaining minor parties were with polls indicating they would have little or no bearing on the election result.
With a tight time frame, each candidate was given three minutes to outline party policies on housing, transport and immigration.
Mr Mamedov missed out on some time as he started by requesting the audience to observe silence in memory of the people who lost their lives in 9/11 terror attacks. He spoke about his personal journey as he arrived in Auckland from a shower of bullets between Azerbaijan forces and the Russians.
Ms Zhu impressed people with her fluency in Te Reo Maori as she welcomed the audience and thanked the organisers.
MP for six-and-a-half years, Mr Ross spoke about the blend of multi-culturalism and how Botany remains a family-friendly area with good schools and people who care about their footpaths.
Ms Marcroft said she had been a broadcaster sitting on the fence and has now decided to use her voice in a different way and step out from the comfort of the studio and onto the frontline.
Policies outlined, it was question time on subjects including the teacher shortage, superannuation, the employers’ contribution to KiwiSaver ceasing once staff turn 65, law and order, mental health and suicide. However one took Mr Ross by surprise, referring to the controversial walk-out of his wife and former Howick Local Board member Lucy Schwaner moments after being sworn in last November.
“Reflecting on the difficulties of your involvement in recent local government electioneering, do you think it was wise for a Member of Parliament to be so involved in local government election matters? Any regrets?”
Mr Ross answered it calmly and continued answering questions with the ease of a seasoned politician.
Euthanasia was a hot topic.
Ms Zhu shared about her father passing away earlier in the year. “He was brain dead and I know what it is to relieve the suffering of the individual as well as family,” she said.
Going to Azerbaijan to meet his grandmother whom he was closest to just before she died, Mr Mamedov said: “I can understand why people may want to use euthanasia because of the suffering. But I’m against it. In my personal experience, I saw my grandmother in her last nine days and I cherished every minute of it. I wouldn’t take that away from her or myself.”
Mr Ross spoke about a conscience vote. “People should have the freedom of choice and with rules in place. There should be no pressure,” he said.
“We should go for a binding referendum,” said Ms Marcroft.
Public vote on the candidates:
- Mr Ross: Experience speaks, precise and to the point answers
- Mr Mamedov: compassionate, man with a heart.
- Ms Zhu: switched on, fiery politician in the making
- The event: great way to see and hear Botany candidates in person