PSA Election Forum

The PSA’s election forum on 28 August saw politicians go head to head on issues including, the effects of the Government’s social investment approach, precarious work and equal pay.

Anya Satyanand and National Party Ōhāriu candidate Brett Hudson

Anya Satyanand and National Party Ōhāriu candidate Brett Hudson

Chaired by Ara Taiohi’s Anya Satyanand, the political forum included; National Party Ōhāriu candidate Brett Hudson, Labour finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie, New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin and The Opportunities Party co-deputy leader, Geoff Simmonds.

PSA members asked the tough questions, fronting up with their personal experiences implementing current government policy. One PSA member, who’s worked as a public health nutritionist for more than 15 years, said the Government’s social investment approach was creating a lot of tension and frustration in her workplace.

The question was greeted with shared acknowledgement around the room and New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin struck out saying the social investment approach was: “absolutely not working”.

National Party Ōhāriu candidate Brett Hudson said National’s social investment approach, was about giving households hope by using the resources of the state to address need.

Another member asked the panel how each party intended to deal with precarious work.

Green MP Jan Logie pointed to collective organising and growing the union movement so that if people want to contract their services we can ensure it’s not at the detriment of those seeking full-time work. The Opportunities Party co-deputy leader Geoff Simmons was less sure saying: “you can’t stop the trend towards contracting”. But his point that the economy is changing fast and nothing can be done wasn’t universally agreed.

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin talked about the need to focus on retraining workers. She said that some skills have been undervalued mentioning philosophy and the arts in particular.

Equal pay also featured in the debate with Labour’s Grant Robertson underlining his party’s commitment to closing the gender pay gap. He said Labour has a “genuine and solid commitment to pay equity” and is concerned the Government’s bill will make it harder to finalise equal pay settlements. Robertson also said Labour will look again at the Public Sector Act and ensure that being a member of the public service is a genuine career.

When asked about the public service serving the public, rather than just the executive, Green MP Jan Logie said for her, the priority was to ensure there is a strong partnership between government and the public sector. She said the free, frank and fearless approach championed by the PSA was important in the face of intimidation tactics by both managers and government, referencing the gag clauses on community and public services in particular.

Logie also said the Green Party loved tax and wasn’t afraid to say it: “tax is one of the ways we demonstrate our collective commitment and support for public services.” She reiterated the Green Party’s opposition to the privatisation of state services saying “privatisation puts public services out of public reach.”

The Opportunities Party’s co-deputy leader Geoff Simmons said TOP wants to see the recommendations from the Government’s two tax working groups implemented, and a priority put on boosting transparency under the OIA.

The discussion was masterfully moderated by Anya, who jumped in a number of times when candidates exceeded their speaking slots or varied off course. To end the session Anya asked each

Political candidate to describe what they would bring to the table if elected to government in one simple sentence.

Here’s what they said:

  • Brett Hudson, National: “We want to back New Zealanders to achieve what they want to achieve”.
  • Grant Robertson, Labour: “It’s in the name – we’re here to make sure all New Zealanders, especially working New Zealanders, get a fair deal”.
  • Jan Logie, Green Party: “It’s our charter, our holistic worldview– honouring Te Tiriti, ecological wisdom, social responsibility, appropriate decision-making and non-violence and we will front up when we get it wrong”.
  • Tracy Martin, New Zealand First: “It’s about working collaboratively. We bring respect without calling people names. Name-calling shuts down debate.”
  • Geoff Simmons, The Opportunities Party: “We will bring heart to the right and head to the left.”