top of page
  • rmacculloch

"Demand the Debate", Judith? But there's hardly any in your own party.

The leader of the National Party, Judith Collins, gave her annual conference speech on the theme of "demanding the debate". It's a topic on which I have some experience, having tried to promote debates on public policy issues, in conjunction with the University of Auckland Debating Society. One debate we organized was on freedom of speech. It was filmed live to a national audience. Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand gave an extremely eloquent summing up. The star debater was Eliot Ikilei, who contested Takanini for Parliament last election. He gave a thundering address, which can be seen below.

Before our debate, I spoke with some students from the Young Nats on campus. They told me that the National Party cared little for debates - so were thrilled to come to the one we were organizing. They also said the Young Nats was boring, had become primarily a social club and that the Party had little interest in the opinions of its youth wing.

So good luck to the Nats when it comes to "demanding the debate". Their MP's have shown scant interest in debating with me, the students, anyone of us, for years and years. And it's not as if we haven't tried to engage with them.

What's more, there's not even much debate WITHIN the National Party. It runs a system whereby MPs aren't allowed to make public comments on the topics of other's portfolios. Why? It may stir a public debate and lead to folks saying there is disunity in the party. So when asked questions, MPs only give answers on their own portfolio, and even then the answers are verbatim party policy, without any of the MP's own opinions on the matter.

Furthermore, if you watch Kiwi Parliament, the standard of debating there is way below the students. Most MPs just read from their notes. I remember a great uncle of mine, Dean Eyre, a National Party MP for North Shore back in the 1960s who loved debating and engaging on every imaginable topic. Gone are those types of MPs. Now they're like mid-level managers with the Party Leader acting as the CEO / boss.

So maybe National's "demand the debate" slogan is just a PR marketing campaign. Maybe their own polling has shown Kiwis want their opinions listened to more so its just a stunt to address that concern.



bottom of page