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Helen Hughes was invited to speak at the breakfast meeting of the Whangarei Rotary Club on Friday. We had to be there by 7am. Despite the early hour, Hooch was in top form. We gave them a great many things to think about, and she definitely made quite an impression. :) I also played the Philosophy of Liberty animation.
The Russell Ratepayers Association had a meeting on at 7pm Friday night. I wasn't invited, but decided to go anyway. In the afternoon, Jasmine and I drove to Russell, via the scenic back road. We arrived a bit early. While people were coming in to take their seats, Jasmine and I handed out flyers around the hall. I ran into Jacqui Knight, a woman I had been in contact with via email. She is a staunch Greens supporter, but thanks to our previous amicable contact, her influence with the organisers, and Marc Alexander from United Future being stuck in fog somewhere, I managed to get a three minute slot at the end.
The meeting was quite well attended. Not too surprisingly, as expected from Russell, the crowd consisted mostly of Greens supporters. Sue Bradford (Greens) was very popular, followed by Shane Jones (Labour), but John Carter's (National) support was only luke-warm. The candidates were all trying to outdo each other on the toughness of their crime policies and their stance on drugs. The stances on crime were heartening to hear, but the drugs issue, not so heartening.
In the question and answer session, I asked a question about the RMA to the candidates. I said that the RMA has done huge amounts of damage to farmers. What were they planning to do about it? All of the candidates, including Tom McClelland (ACT), said that they supported the original goals and principles of the RMA, and then presented various ways in which they would fiddle with the RMA, from 'completely overhauling' it, to removing 'Treaty' references; from more bureaucrats, to window-dressing. None of them were willing to scrap it.
Shane Jones had mentioned that people only value things when they work for them, and that they want to encourage a work ethic in people. As a result, Jasmine asked Shane the following question about welfare-dependance inculcated in society by Labour's policies: "Why is there a need to give rebates and money back to families or couples already in work? Surely that is a sign that you are taxing them too highly. Why not let them keep more of their earned money instead of taxing them, losing some of that taxed money in bureaucracy and red tape, then giving a diminished amount back? Isn't it inefficient and doesn't it create a culture reliant on government handouts?"
Not too unexpectedly, Shane side-stepped the issue and waffled on about peripheral matters, and how there would be a lot more debate in the next few months about the differences between National and Labour's tax policies.
I then had my three minutes to speak. I think I made quite an impression, though not an entirely positive one. :) I said that Libertarianz was unashamedly for private property, individual rights and capitalism. The capitalism part in particular put more than few people's noses out of joint. Ah well! At least they know what we stand for. :)
On Saturday morning, we walked around Russell, handing out Libz pamphlets and my flyer (will put a link up later) to business owners, to people having brunch and those enjoying the sunshine. We had some really great responses, particularly from a lady who loved Lindsay Perigo's show, and agreed with his philosophy. We also ran into a staunch, long-time supporter, who had been following our blogs. Quite a few people thought that Nanny State's interference in people's lives was out of control, and should be dumped. We also met too many people who didn't want to hear anything we said. They were not planning to vote, as they had lost any hope that positive change can happen by them voting, and politicians just seem to do whatever they want anyway. I was trying to tell them that we knew what they meant, but that by voting for us, it would be the loudest "Go get stuffed" message they could send to the politicians and bureaucrats. Unfortunately we didn't have much success... :-/
We then took the vehicle ferry to Opua, where we chatted to locals and business owners. Amongst these was another wonderfully vivacious and friendly business owner, who had loved Lindsay's PI show. She and her husband were finding it too hard to do business in Northland, and were going to move overseas, probably Australia. We can't afford to lose people like these!
We carried on to Pahia, where we covered the central business district, and once again, I had quite a few favourable responses to our principle of "More Freedom - Less Government".
Maxim had organised a meeting in Dargaville for 7pm on Saturday. Only parliamentary parties were invited. Once again, we decided to attend anyway.
Before the meeting, I asked the organiser whether I might have a speaking opportunity, since Shane Jones hadn't turned up. My request was firmly refused, as David Isaachsen (Destiny NZ) was also there, and they couldn't accommodate two extra speakers, or play favourites. Once again Jasmine and I gave flyers out to all the attendees. Despite the big rugby game that was on, the number of people attending the meeting was even bigger than the one at Russell. Scott McMurray, from nzvotes.org, and ex-Maxim, chaired the meeting. It was very well organised, and ran smoothly.
Lockwood Smith stood in for John Carter, Muriel Newman stood in for Tom McClelland, and Moea Armstrong stood in for Sue Bradford. Jim Peters was late, and as mentioned, Labour had no representation, unless you counted their sidekicks, Vivienne Shepherd from the Progressives.
Lockwood Smith may as well have been a libertarian when he delivered his opening address. Freedom this, freedom that, individual rights, getting rid of Nanny State, letting people live their lives without government interference by bureaucrats, etc. He threw in: "Government can give nothing that it has not taken away first, and if government is big enough to give you everything you want, then it is also big enough to take it all away." He ended with two words: "Freedom Matters."
Jasmine and I just stared at each other with open mouths. Even if it was just lip service, and even though he didn't mention his authoritarian policies on issues such as drugs, civil unions, prostitution, adoption by gay couples, etc., it was great to hear a prominent politician openly advocating freedom in a public forum.
Before the meeting I wrote a question about the RMA on the little form provided. I asked: "The RMA has destroyed the property rights and the livelihoods of many people. What are you going to do about it? Scrap it? Why not go back to common law?" I had only meant for Muriel to answer it, but when the chairman read it out, he addressed it to everybody. While most of the answers were much the same as the previous evening in Russell - and very forgettable, it was Muriel's answer that was most memorable. Unlike Tom McClelland from the previous evening, she said that they had initially thought that the RMA could be made to work by fiddling with it, but they had realised that it was hopeless, and they would now want it scrapped instead. I guess ACT has finally heard enough horror stories from innocent, hard-working people who have been persecuted and prosecuted for trying to use their own property. Good on 'em! It's about time!
The Greens candidate went on about peak oil, said that they would not build any new roads, would scale back maintenance of existing roads, and she rolled out the "Rail for Real" slogan. She also mentioned that every food item would be forced to be labeled with whether it had GE ingredients, and moreover, it would have to be labeled with how many "Food Miles" it had travelled - and why (??). So her example of a can of beans from South Africa, would have a number on it, to indicate how far it had travelled, and how much energy had gone into getting it here.
Jasmine leaned over and whispered in my ear: "Whoah! What a dark vision for the future!?" Indeed.
As the evening had progressed, people had rapidly clapped less and less for the Progressives and Greens candidates, until it was just plain embarrassing, with only about four people in their own entourage giving them half-hearted applause.
To finish, the organisers picked a question written by Jasmine to Lockwood Smith: "I noticed that during your opening speech most of your points sounded very much like Libertarianz policies, except for your very conservative social policies, would you agree?" This was coupled with the question: "Define what freedom means to your party", by someone anonymous. Unfortunately Lockwood didn't get a chance to answer Jasmine's first question, but it was great to finish with the emphasis on freedom! The Greens and Progressives basically said that people should have the 'freedom' to take other people's money and resources, via the instrument of government. Muriel came so close, saying that people should be free to do with their lives and property whatever they wish, as long as they don't violate other people's rights - "or break the law." I just sighed. Damnit! How does that make you free? According to that logic, all the poor "law-abiding" serfs, in all the totalitarian hell-holes of the world, must then by definition be free.
As Scott was trying to close the meeting, the Greens candidate jumped up, and shouted that people shouldn't be put off from voting for the Greens because of their drugs policy. She said that the Greens were "against ALL drugs", and that their policy was merely one of harm-minimisation. Hmm... Whatever happened to the freedom mojo of the Greens? It's a shame really.
On Tuesday, 6 September, at 2pm, there is a meeting in Kerikeri organised by Grey Power. I have not been invited, and when I rang to find out whether I might have a short slot, I was flatly turned down. As we have found out time and time again, it is definitely worthwhile turning up - so I will. :)
On Saturday, 10 September, at 10am, I have been invited to speak at the Doubtless Bay Ratepayers "Meet the Candidates" meeting. I am particularly looking forward to this.
So we've been busy, and it's looking good for freedom up here! I'll keep you up to date with future happenings.