Today I took the day off work and Matt and I headed to the Family First Forum. It was a worthwhile day out, all the speakers were great. What was especially impressive was the diversity of the speakers and the range of worldviews and political persuasions – this was an impression I formed even before we got to the panel of MP’s from every party. Also well done was Bob McCoskrie’s MC-ing, the organisation from the behind the scenes people – especially the food, the entertainment ranging from the local school doing a national anthem cum haka to Ben Lummis’ live performance.
Of the speakers, Christine Rankin was especially memorable for me. Maybe it was because she spoke a little about her background and motivations and life turning points and I could really relate to where she was coming from or maybe it was the outspoken, confident, right-wing, woman thing – cause I so get that.
John Tamihere was impressive too. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said and wondering how he could ever have been in the Labour Party.
The political panel was really good too. Judith Collins was outstanding. Absolutely outstanding (it warranted repeating – you had to be there). Nick Kearney (who stood in for Heather Roy) was a close second and did a very good job. The two Future MP’s Judy and Gordon basically had the same policy so it was kind of funny thinking of them as being from two different parties – Gordon is an impressive individual and I really do hope he has success with Future NZ but I just cannot… I am just not a centrist. He was really good on some issues but goverment sponsored marriage courses just make me want to run and scream – Judith and Nick were great on that when they pointed out that those initiatives, whilst excellent and important for the good of society, were not and should not be in the domain of the government. Russell Fairbrother and Sue Bradford did a good job of playing the villians – given the audience they were almost always going to bomb with their answers though they did both manage the odd answer that got agreement.
I somehow ended up baiting Russell Fairbrother – Bob says he will hereinafter refer to me as the giggle girl for it – a few questions on conscience issues had come up, the panel had all stipulated that this or that issue was a conscience issue for their party and then gone on to expound their personal view. Each time Russell had his turn at this it grated me more and more – I mean Labour allows conscience votes?!? puh-lease! I sat quietly (well fairly quietly) through Russell’s “smacking was always illegal” then 20 minutes later “this bill did not make smacking illegal” contradiction but the repeated references to Labour allowing conscience votes was too much – I laughed out loud, my giggle audibly echoed just as Russell paused after alluding to yet another of the instances Labour allowed their MP’s to vote on a conscience issue, other giggles erupted but mine was lingered in such a way that any cynic present might have suggested was a little too perfectly timed and executed (never!). It seemed to hit a nerve, Russell began aggressively claiming that Labour respects conscience voting which simply elicited more howls of laughter from the audience and the panel of MP’s.
Another pearler was Sue Bradford’s suggestion that the claim that a light smack was essentially the same thing as beating a child with a horse whip, block of wood or a piece of hosepipe – this elcited howls of outrage. At another point she said she could not see any value in locking up violent, recidivist offenders for long sentences and did not understand why anyone might think doing so was a good idea.
I sat next to some very impressive teenagers – homeschooled (what a surprise) – very sharp. Their reasoning skills and ability to see how things followed was evident by their comments to each other both as they critiqued and evaluated the answers the MP’s gave to the questions and as they commented on Matt’s commentary to me (he cannot watch panel discussions without commentating – even talks to the television during political debates).
All in all a very worthwhile and enjoyable day.
[Photos swiped from http://section59.blogspot.com]