Election candidates face off against bishops’ call

Lower Hutt parish has election candidates respond to Bishops’ call for Catholic social teaching role in policies.

With the elections only a week away, it may be worth taking some time to consider how the policies of the various political parties stack up against Catholic values.

On Monday, 20 October, parishioners from Ss Peter and Paul Parish, Lower Hutt, heard representatives from eight political parties respond to the Bishops’election statement, Mindful of the Common Good.
The candidates present were standing in various electorates around the Wellington region, but all had been asked to focus their responses on their parties’ positions on the issues.
Murray Smith of United Future highlighted his party’s aim to stand with the marginalised in society. This could be achieved, he said, by supporting the development of a community that supports each other.

National’s Paul Quin contended that the National party was built on the very values outlined in the bishops’ statement. Josie Pagani saw the Progressives, as a minority party, being best placed to bring issues such as poverty reduction up the political agenda—paid parental leave and Kiwibank were examples of where the Progressives had been instrumental in the last term.

Green candidate Laurence O’Hallagen stressed the core Green principles of ecological wisdom and social responsibility, drawing parallels to these principles and the areas of concern set out in the Bishops’ statement. The planet, the poor, and our children should be the prime consideration for voters, he said.

ACT candidate Lindsay Mitchell suggested that the Bishops’ statement is expecting too much from both Parliament and voters. The ACT philosophy is centred on individual rights and responsibilities.

Ms Mitchell asked if the solutions to society’s problems would more likely be found in giving individuals the power to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions.
New Zealand First’s Ron Mark impressed more as an individual than in what he had to say about his party’s policies, while the incumbent Labour MP for Hutt South, Trevor Mallard, relied heavily on the policies of Labour over the past nine years in areas such as minimum wages, state housing and free childcare which, he said, showed that Labour was committed to helping the vulnerable.

Camilia Chin, from the newly-formed Kiwi party, was clear that the party was one which was founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Although most of the party’s principles sounded attractive, it was unclear in some cases how the party proposed to turn these principles into a workable policy.

Questions from the floor ran thick and fast, with all candidates keen to have their turn at the microphone. The parties found some common ground on the issue of abortion—all agreed that current abortion rates are too high.

The major parties focused on addressing the current approval system and providing better sex education, while United Future and the Progressives emphasised the need for a shift in culture so that fewer women want an abortion, rather than simply a change in the law.
Josie Pagani made an impression with her plea to the audience to not make the issue of abortion the ‘litmus test’ of which party to vote for, but to look at Progressive policies as a whole and to assess these against gospel values.