Luxon, Chen go head-to-head

Christopher Luxon with Naisi Chen on Tuesday night – September 29. Times photo Nick Krause


It’ll come as little surprise that there are very few swing voters in the traditionally blue Botany electorate seat.

Hosted by the Life Growth Community Trust at the East City Wesleyan Church Centre, the floor was given over to those standing from the two main political parties – the favourite Christopher Luxon (National) and Naisi Chen (Labour). [Incumbent Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross recently announced he would not contest the seat he has held for nine years.]

Several showings show of hands revealed nothing unexpected – there were one or two undecided voters, it was a resounding no to whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal and ditto to whether the End of Life Choice Act 2019 should come into force, giving people with a terminal illness the option of requesting assisted dying.

Luxon went the same way on both those referendum options while Chen was a no on the End of Life and yes for the legalisation of cannabis (better to regulate it she said).

Where Luxon succinctly stated his case all night on all manner of public policy questions put to him, the much younger (mothering as Luxon labelled her) Chen fell back to generic Labour rhetoric and frequently threw shade (she was still referring to National’s failure in its nine years in Government).

For example, “no-one gets left behind” “it’s about connecting with everyone” and “really building Botany into the best electorate” said Chen.

Mind you, Luxon’s polish comes from hugely successful stints in the corporate world (Unilever, Air NZ). “When you’ve lived overseas for 16 years you start to appreciate how special New Zealand really is.” He referred also to “real-world experience and perspective” and spending the last 10 months getting around the community.

There was a good crowd on the evening, just three shy of the 100 limit under Alert Level 2. Times photos Nick Krause

Hosted by Rev Dr Richard Waugh and Rev Josh Bowlin, and with seasoned facilitator/moderator

Lloyd Wong at the hlem, it was an orderly and pretty civilised affair. He did warn the pair pre-kick-off though: “The rules are straightforward – 1, you’re not allowed to heckle; 2, no personal attacks and 3, no swearing.” [It seems he refereed a similar engagement in Takanini at the weekend and had made no such stipulations – you can guess the rest.]

Wong hit them with seven topics during the evening and finished with questions sent in and from the floor (after 9.15pm…perhaps the evening should start earlier?). There was Covid-19 (Luxon: “Once you’ve got an iron dome around New Zealand, then you can put a drawbridge down.” Chen: “There’s no playbook for managing Covid”). The Nat expanded, referring to Labour’s wasteful spending when the economy had collapsed and the real need to focus on growth. Chen said it was a real opportunity to rebuild our economy for the future.

And housing supply and affordability. Luxon won this round: House prices and rents are up under Labour. RMA was the root cause. “Let’s stop band-aiding.”

Poverty and income inequality. Chen said it was about ensuring those in this bracket “have all the right environment for them to thrive”. Luxon probably won this round too. It was about surgical intervention and a data-driven response – a “targeted view…who needs the most help”.

Law and order – Chen (who used to work for the district courts): “We look at rehabilitation before we look at punishment. National’s privatising two prisons is what made me want to join Labour.”

Luxon spoke of harm through hard drugs and all that came with it and suggested a health-based approach, disruption at the border, investing more in fighting gangs. “There’s much social harm. There’s a lot of work to do in this space.” Probably Luxon’s round as well.

Climate change and the environment. “Chen: “It pays literally to look after the land.” She bagged the state of the rivers under National’s nine-year rule. Luxon spoke up for farmers (as National leader Judith Collins has been doing in her televised debates) and pointed to a need for best practice, electric vehicles (he’s done much environmentally with Unilever and Air NZ). “Business is well ahead of government on this. We’ve got to be pragmatic and get into problem-solution mode…and get beyond the motherhood and platitudes and buzzwords.” Ding, Ding Luxon.

Mental health issues. Chan’s mum’s a psychotherapist counsellor. It was about front-line staff and she mentioned Labour’s announcement putting counsellors into all primary school. Luxon said it was a cross-party issue. “Irrespective of which government (we have), we need a plan.” Luxon just takes that.

And lastly there was transportation:. “We’re running this country like it’s 1975. We have a major problem with infrastructure. We have major challenges.”

Chen: “Rail is the answer.”

Luxon took it however Chen is likely to be in parliament too, sitting at 38 on the Labour list. How’s that for Botany?!

  • Voting opened on Saturday, October 3 to and closes at 7pm on election day, Saturday, October 17. Those overseas were able to vote from Wednesday, September 30.