Last night I took a punt and went back to basics. Candidates had been given a joint statement from Catholic Bishops to respond to and then take questions. The church was fairly full. The questions were mainly relating to personal and private matters and taking what I will describe as a 'negative' position on abortion, same-sex marriage, voluntary euthanasia, embryo stem cell research, etc. You get the picture.
This is my speech (without the electioneering tagged on the end). I knew we would have plenty of time to talk policy during question time;
We were asked to provide a response to this collective statement by Bishops . I don't much like the word collective. Neither do other members of the ACT Party if they are true to ACT's philosophy. Unlike other parties ACT actually has a defining philosophy. That of individual rights and responsibility. We put the rights of the individual above the rights of the collective because we believe people own their own lives and should be free to live them as they choose providing they inflict no force or harm on others. Of course there are grey areas about what constitutes harm or force, for example Libertarian views can differ on abortion, but in the main we can agree on quite a lot. We can certainly agree that currently the state interferes far too much in our lives.
It seems to me that the Bishops want too much from government and too much from candidates. ACT was formed on the idea of personal responsibility. Look at most of today's problems, some described in here, and the solution to them could be found in the individual taking responsibility and making the right decisions. For instance, if people produced only children that they want and can provide for , much of the New Zealand's child poverty would be resolved. I often muse that if people had and used three things - common sense, commitment and conscientiousness, their lives, and the lives that touch theirs, would be simpler, happier and more effective. Of course, we all make mistakes. The key is to learn something from those mistakes. Unfortunately when the state collective picks up the pieces and buffers the individual from the consequences of their mistakes, many fail to learn anything.
The idea of individual rights should not be confused with selfishness or a culture of 'me first'. Exercising personal responsibility doesn't preclude one from exercising responsibility for someone else. But that care for others, and the acting on it , should be a voluntary matter. We shouldn't mandate governments to exercise social responsibility on our behalf. Because when we do that we are reliant on the government of the day's goals and values matching our own and of course, as many of you have discovered, there is no guarantee of that.
So the best way to ensure that doesn't happen is to reduce the government to as small a role as possible. Unfortunately I sense that the Bishops would like to use the state to serve their values and determinations, as much as any other collective attempts to. That can lead to more conflict than harmony.
In a largely secular, free society, there will always be individuals who have moral values not embraced by the greater community , and you know how that feels. But when that happens the solution is not to ask govt to step in and use organised force but to use moral persuasion and example to change the views of other.
To sum up forcing the collective interests of one group on another doesn't provide a successful blueprint for society. That's what I believe and certainly ACTs current MPs would share the view that individuals should enjoy , and respect I might add, having as much individual freedom as possible.
A number of people approached me after the meeting to thank me for my honesty. I can't think of a better compliment. Two elderly ladies in particular were delighted that I had "said 'no' to the Bishops" and said until then they had never known what ACT actually stands for.
But my gut instincts about honesty are right. People are crying out for honesty (as distinct from somebody simply mirroring their own thoughts) yet get increasingly less of it. I stood in the last two elections because I believe in Rodney Hide. He never evades the hard questions and he never lets down people like me who believe deeply, almost achingly, in the rights of the individual. The world is overflowing with people who want to run other people's lives for them and they fill the ranks of politicians, bureaucrats and religious authoritarians. I can't stand them. But the good news is they are still in a minority and many of the silent minority can't stand them either - although I wouldn't presume to include Catholics.
Low light of my campaign so far came yesterday when I lost my trailer frame to an almighty wind gust. Thankfully nobody was behind me. It must have made a hell of a racket. As luck would have it - my second most welcome dose - an ACT supporter lived nearby. He heard the racket and came to my aid, driving the trailer around the block and back to where I was hanging on to the corflutes madly flapping in the wind and threatening to fly away with me in tow. We managed to bundle the signs into my slightly damaged car and get the frame back onto the trailer. I realised then what had happened. We had put a sign on the back and it had created a build up of pressure inside. That combined with the gale force winds Wellington experienced yesterday was just too much. Last election I towed a trailer for many weeks with no problems but we changed the design. Bad mistake. Today we rebuild it - better and stronger than ever before.
As my good Samaritan waved me off he chortled, "Thank goodness it was you and not a Green Party candidate I had to help. Keep up the good work!"
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