Getting answers to the right questions

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    My most pressing question after this week’s TV3 Leaders’ Debate was ‘who put Matthew Hooton on the panel so he could noisily quibble at Labour leader Jacinda Ardern for an unwillingness to name who might be on a future advisory panel on tax reforms?’.

    The why of his presence, however, is fairly obvious. As a former National Party chairperson and fellow ‘commentator’ once famously told national radio, if you want to stay in power and crush opposition, you find the dirt and get someone else to throw it.

    It’s a concept well set out in investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics in which Matthew Hooton appears liberally.

    Hooton undoubtedly commentates (though is it ‘commentary’ when you’re an active player?) and he is now way out in the open in worrying times for a political party that’s been in power nine years and has some shakey key measures for social equity. Notably an ongoing inability to come to grips with poverty numbers and why the rich should have such an inside running on getting richer while city doorsteps fill with human desolation.

    Hooton was already using his Metro column for sexist and abusive digs at Jacinda Ardern in 2015.

    To anyone who has actually read Dirty Politics, that was probably the first sign that she was starting to look like a threat to the true blue National Party hegemony.

    She only once actually responded to what looked like an alarmingly abusive situation but that silence almost certainly gave rise to recent digs from other and also none-too-objective media commentators about her perceived dislike for conflict.

    “Damned if you respond, damned if you don’t”, Ardern said in a memorable November 2015 response in Metro that will make interesting reading when her political history is told.

    “Is the New Zealand Parliament rife with sexism, or is it the commentary around the work we do that’s the problem? What makes an effective MP, and can you be one without “collecting scalps”, or will you be perceived as weak?

    “Perhaps most importantly, how can we make the job something that appeals to a wide range of people, including young women who might otherwise be put off by the bear pit,” she said after strident commentary around fairly trivial “pretty little thing” remarks had morphed into a Metro column by Hooton titled ‘Pretty bloody stupid’.

    “The title sums up Hooton’s position — that my apparent attack on Graham Lowe showed I had ‘no political acumen at all’ and had undermined a ‘100-year connection with Labour’s league-playing voters’,” Ardern said.

    “Is there sexism in politics? Sure. But I’d hate anyone to be left with the impression that it’s a reason to avoid going into it.

    “But it’s a much harder case to make when you look at the kind of commentator-led discussion that surrounds politics — when a line like ‘pretty little thing’ becomes an excuse to apply a level of critique that is just plain shallow.

    “Don’t get me wrong — we’re politicians, we all need to be held to account. But surely that scrutiny needs to be based on fact, and if we’re going one step further, maybe it needs to factor in the kind of representatives we want in this country by scrutinising their ideas, their advocacy, their priorities.”

    The November Metro issue printed Ardern’s capable response to an abusive situation all too familiar to women. And Hooton’s next column.

    Holding our politicians to account is what we are supposed to do when voting opens next week.

    For employers, applicants seeking to fill a critical position – in a business, a board room or a Parliament – need to have one key attribute: The ability to play nicely (and constructively) with others.

    It’s a given in employment and human resources circles and glaringly obvious when it’s a missing in a team.

    It’s also a good measure for rating existing politicians and aspirant candidates as we choose where the train goes after 23 September.

    As it happens, our major party candidates in Auckland Central have been young women for nearly a decade now. I’ll score my prospective representative for how well I think she will bring the most inclusive teams together to rebuild the social network, get rid of the austerity mentality and get meaningful contribution available to all our citizens.

    Globally, the winners and losers narrative is rapidly approaching its use-by date. •
    Liz Waters

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