Applause signals close race for Coast

There was no clear audience favourite at the West Coast Tasman election candidate debate in Mapua.  A “clapometer” at the end of last night’s Great Tasman Debate at the Playhouse highlighted just how close the race in the West Coast electorate is, with it hard to pick a clear winner from the audience’s clapping for each candidate.  Green list MP Kevin Hague, who is campaigning on the party vote for the Greens, got the loudest applause by a small margin.  Clapping was next loudest, just, for Labour list MP Damien O’Connor, followed by National MP Chris Auchinvole. To get re-elected Mr O’Connor must win the electoral seat after he refused a Labour list placing.

A crowd of about 70 people listened to the debate. Both candidates and the crowd were polite and well-behaved.  The loudest heckling and scoffing occurred when Mr Auchinvole said National’s tax cuts had been to protect the vulnerable, by spreading tax in a more equitable way.  “You can’t believe that,” someone interjected. Mr Auchinvole answered he “certainly did”.  The three sitting MPs from the electorate were last night joined on the stage by Steven Wilkinson of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and “professional stirrer” Robert Terry, of Reefton, who is standing for the Aotearoa New Zealand Youth Party.  The minor candidates brought humour to the debate, especially Mr Terry’s off-topic answers and swipes at the New Zealand justice system. Candidates were asked questions crafted by the debate’s chair, Steve Richards of Jester House. Mr Richards is also a former West Coast Tasman candidate. They were asked what austerity measures their party would implement to reduce Government spending in the current climate of global austerity.

Speaking first, Mr Hague said New Zealand’s economy needed to be fundamentally transformed to move from a raw commodity export-based economy reliant on free trade towards an economy focused on local self sufficiency and higher-value niche markets.  Savings needed to be increased through KiwiSaver and capital gains taxes, and on some of the things the Government spent money on like roads, tax cuts to the rich and the huge subsidies for greenhouse polluters.  Mr Wilkinson said the Government could save $100 million on its law and order budget by legalising cannabis. By regulating the cannabis industry it could earn tax and GST on the $1billion industry, and more money could be made researching medicinal uses for the drug and uses of the hemp plant.  Mr O’Connor said Labour’s austerity measures were a capital gains tax that would suppress speculative growth, and moving the Super age to 67.  Growth needed to be measured in a different way than purely economic, and it should be measured in environmental protection and lifestyle growth.

Mr Terry said New Zealand didn’t have a growth rate and John Key was the most appalling leader the country had ever had.  “He’s an amateur.”   He said New Zealand didn’t have growth in its economy, it needed it in the intelligence levels of its voters. “Half of New Zealanders don’t vote  Mr Auchinvole said the Government inherited a difficult economic situation and had already engaged in some austerity measures. “When we went into the recession the Prime Minister said we must be extremely careful not to affect those on benefits and fixed entitlements as they have nowhere to go and are defenceless. National’s whole programme has been to protect the innocent or vulnerable and to spread tax in a far more equitable situation, which it has.”  Candidates were also asked about asset sales and if they supported them.  Mr Auchinvole said what the Government was proposing wasn’t the sale of assets, as it would be maintaining a majority share in them.  Mr Hague said if the public had an asset, and half of it was sold, it was an asset sale.  Mr O’Connor said electricity companies were core assets of the country’s future, and we needed to learn from the millions spent buying back assets like Air New Zealand and Kiwibank.
via : The Nelson Mail

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