Back Benches for 5th October 2011

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...

Tonite's panel. Oops, couldn't get Heather Roy into the frame ...

This week’s line-up included ACT MP Heather Roy’s last attendance, supported by Labour MP Lianne Dalziel from Christchurch East, National MP Todd McClay from Rotorua and Green MP Kevin Hague, who although a list MP lives on the West Coast, and maintains a strong interest in the affairs of the local constituents.

The ‘Double-downgrade’, as it’s being called (‘a fiscal fact you can choke on’?) was the headline topic as Wallace and Damian rolled into a wet and windy Wellington show.

Most of the pub tables were taken up by members of PRINZ, the professional body for PR people, so it was a very different crowd than usual, despite an influx of young Labour supporters right before the show started. I lucked into a seat just before the filming began, but had to rely on the screens for a view as the wall of student shoulders clustered around the bar and the stage manager’s taped white line on the floor totally obscured the panel!

‘Teh News’ roundup focused, not surprisingly, on Dan Carter’s groin strain, and we were apprised of Wallace’s degree of compassion on this issue as he castigated Damian for his frivolity and told us all that he’d experienced groin strain and it was no laughing matter. Cue Damian heading off-screen to recover as Wallace went on with the script.
Ahem, Wallace, if you’re reading – TMI, darling, only your lovely girlfriend needs to know the state of your groin, mm hmm, ‘kay?
The rest of us would have been happy to have remained in ignorance of the depth of your experience in the matter under discussion ….

Back to politics again, Wallace went round the panel asking them how serious the Standard & Poors and Fitch downgrades are for the NZ economy. Fascinating, I could almost hear Sir Roger’s teeth grinding somewhere in Wellington by telepathy as Heather answered. The rest went through their paces, with Kevin making very good points about the cost of rebuilding Christchurch having had a strong effect on the decision to downgrade.
Then Damian spoke to NZIER principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who must be one of the smartest of the young crop of economists in NZ. He gave us all a good perspective on how much difference there is between an AA+ and an AA rating, and Damian quipped that he’d have been happy with either grade on any of his university papers, which got a solid laugh from the wall of students. The short version of what the effects of this downgrade might be was not looking good for property speculators, exporters, or even just those running businesses in NZ.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for mortgages to get more accessible, those who aspire to get into their first home any time in the next five years. (I’m getting déjà-vu from the late 80’s, am I the only one?)

Then Heather Roy got the topic of her choice and completely shot herself in the foot by saying that women are less engaged in politics than men, in her opinion, and that it’s not good enough … curiously, Damian couldn’t find anyone willing to support Heather in this view, and did find several members of the audience (male and female) who roundly contradicted that point, which was then carried on further by the other panel members. The overwhelming conclusion was that women are large-scale participators in NZ democracy, but maybe just not in the ACT party. Lolz all round.

Peter McCaffrey managed to win a book prize for answering a patsy question on ‘Who am I?’ which was engineered to find the young ACT supporters in the room, who’d been pretty silent while Heather was speaking. (The politician described was Sir Roger Douglas ….) I wonder if he’s ever read a short story by Katherine Mansfield, or knows anything about her? Perhaps it will make a good gift for his mother ….

PRINZ then got their moment in the sun, during a panel round on the importance of public relations in politics. Damian spoke to Daniel Paul, the MD at Four Winds Communication Ltd, who gave a very smooth, ‘Mad Men’ performance in support of the PR industry. Todd McClay professed ignorance of which PR company the National Party uses, which only made him look like an uninformed/disingenuous twat as it appeared most of the room, and indeed all the other politicians, knew the answer to that one. This segued into a discussion around the use of social media, and some vox pop’s on internet privacy issues with specific relevance to FB. Lolz, school holidays bring out the best in crowd-sourced opinion!

Todd did however win the Quiz round, and has a lovely book to take home, ‘The Great Crash ahead: strategies for a world turned upside down.‘ Let’s hope he hands it on to his esteemed leader when he’s finished dealing with his insomnia.

The final round up included Kevin Hague’s strong statement about the need for better safety for miners in the wake of the Royal Commission on the Pike River disaster, which has seen truly damning evidence produced by mines safety experts and the Pike River Mine management. Lianne Dalziel made an impassioned plea for further support for Christchurch from the rest of us, after thanking everyone for all the support given so far. Todd McClay thanked all the valedictorians for their service in Parliament, and Heather Roy thanked Wallace and Damian for ‘telling the story of politics’ and ‘having her on’. Can only say roflmao…

The full episode can be viewed here, if you want more detail than this post has provided.
There’s one more Back Benches in Wellington before they set off for their Summer Tour around the country, so if you’re local get down to Back Benches next week and if you’re out in the provinces, watch out, they’re coming your way soon.

BTW, if anyone thinks I’m being a little harsh on Heather, at least I’m not an ACT member with a politics blog who regularly has a go at her – see here for Cactus Kate’s view of the blonde mother-of-five. Friends like these, as they say.

2 thoughts on “Back Benches for 5th October 2011

  1. Please note: Back Benches is live in Wellington (except on 2 November when we head to Auckland for a night) until Wednesday, 14 December. We will be placing information about our summer tour on our website as details become more concrete. In the meantime, I hope you’re turning in (at the pub or at home) to Back Benches for the rest of the year.

  2. Thanks to the BB team for picking up my inattentive mistake – must have been looking the wrong way when Wallace was speaking & normally I cross-check those kind of details but it’s been a busy & slightly odd week here so my habits are fracturing. Always nice to know you’re reading this!

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