GUEST BLOG: Simon Buckingham – Where are Labour Candidates on disability?

For the few people who know me (hello Mum), I am proudly New Zealand’s first Autistic Spectrum Lawyer, as well as being the very bottom Candidate on the Labour Party List. (64 out of 64). Being honoured like this is touching, and when I made the List, I promised to speak for the disabled community. Today is where it gets uncomfortable.

I wrote a question to the three Leadership Candidates who threw their hats into the ring quickly. This was before Nanaia Mahuta fronted up, so being fair, she did not get the question till today.

This is a copy and paste of the e-mail sent on 3 October:

Dear David, Andrew and Grant (in no specific order).

I wish to ask a question that I intend to post on Facebook in regards to the Leadership race:

Given that:

1. Labour core values are based upon inclusion and equal opportunity for all, and
2. Labour considers the number of people with disabilities during selection, and
3. Labour has not had an MP with a disability since Norm Kirk,

what does equal opportunity mean for you, and what are you going to do to encourage and foster more disability access and representation within Labour and Caucus as Leader?

I would be honoured if you felt able to answer this question by e-mail so I can then post it. Whilst I am honoured and privileged to know all three of you, and to know that whoever succeeds will be an excellent Leader, we are a badly disenfranchised group that needs a voice.

I am asking this on my own recognisance, and purely and solely as a Labour Party member and candidate.

May the best person win!

Many thanks

Simon Buckingham

Sadly, not one of the three I wrote to felt that disability issues are worth responding to. Not one reply. I know that they are busy, but this was sent four weeks ago, which is plenty of time to reply. However, having received the question today, Nanaia has answered within a few hours. Whilst her answer is not ideal, I admire it for honesty and openness. Also, for promptness. Her answer can be found on my Candidate page on Facebook. I am not totally in accord with the answer, but at least it gets some debate going around this sorely neglected issue.
I have a few facts for our Leadership Candidates who have failed to answer. I know all to be great people who bring some amazing qualities to Caucus and Labour. Nanaia is a by-word in loyalty. Andrew is passionate abour the Unions and justice, David is a fiscal genius who puts his money where his mouth is, and Grant is the ultimate Labour stalwart. Whoever succeeds would be a good Leader (though I still feel that David Cunliffe is the best PM we never had). However, if you want to succeed long term, you NEED our vote.

We are 24% of New Zealand society. Everyone in New Zealand is affected by disability in one way or another. We are not les imbeciles blithereaux who sit in a corner dribbling, just like accessibility does not just mean wheelchair access (though this is a vital issue). We are a vast cross-section of society that also tends towards the left politically. If united, we could have got the left into Government this election. However, whilst David Cunliffe fronted up and even sponsored the Kirk (disability) Sector of the Labour Party in his New Lynn Electorate before replacing David Shearer, no-one else going for Leadership has spoken for us.

Is Labour about lip service or do we really believe in equal opportunities to succeed? With a significant proportion of our community disenfranchised (unable to vote) anyway, unless real and significant support and opportunity is given, we are nothing but hypocrites.

I am Labour because I do believe. I can see a groundswell of change. However, I stood for the List based upon disability, and unless I speak up loudly and clearly, I am also a hypocrite in for my own interests. Therefore, my message is either include us, recognise us, and give us a voice, or lose our support to whoever will give us a voice. This is not a threat. I am solidly Labour. This is a painful truth and prediction.

Andrew, David and Grant – Please could you answer this question above? Thank you.


  1. Hello Simon, for the benefit of those of us who don’t belong to facebook and therefore can’t go to your page there, any chance you could re-post Nania’s reply here please?

    Congratulations on your political success thus far and ongoing advocating. The sad reality is, those of us with disabilities are considered 2nd class citizens by politicians, even lower if we have the audacity to be needing a benefit to survive. Even more sad is that attitude extends to a lot of the general population as well. Once you’ve spent years having that drummed into you one way or the other it’s pretty easy to become completely cynical about the politics. And to give up on voting. I hang out with a lot of intelligent people with a variety of disabilities- we’ve all decided that none of us would ever want to stoop to the level of being a politician. I sincerely hope if you move up the ranks you won’t become corrupted by the power as well, Simon.

    When, a few months before the election I was trying to get information from Labour about the welfare and disability policies, including more detailed questions about where they stood on disability benefits- same problem as you, no replies from anyone. Between that and their total betrayal of beneficiaries in the 2000s, they lost my vote forever, and that of many of us. As you point out we are a big left-leaning voting bloc, but any party who wants our vote has to sincerely treat us as equal citizens.

    And reply to emails.

    • Hi Simon

      I saw your email about questions to leadership candidates and would respond in 2 parts;

      1. Policy: I would uphold and endorse the committment to our policy and the desire to have a Minister for Disabilities. leading into the 2017 election I would ask the sector to identify a priority pledge linking to a core theme of Working New Zealanders.

      2. People/Candidates: I would be supportive of meeting our aspiration to broaden the diversity of our representation starting with our target for gender, geographical representation and then other factors such as disability.

      there is so much more to the questions you have asked but it would seem to me the genuine response would be to broaden our connections with those involved in the disability community notwithstanding our membership.


  2. The present lot are the tip of an iceberg of cerebrally challenged, morally vacant, directionally inadequate, mutually antagonistic, collectively impotent pretenders.

  3. Simon Buckingham – Where are Labour Candidates on disability?

    Stuart Nash answered our call for us disabled with (EHS,) or Electro-hypersensitivities.

    It is a sensitivity to electromagnetic fields and causes severe disabilities when we are exposed to them.

    I was Chemically Poisoned twenty years ago and permanently disabled by this isolating disease also now called (MCS) or Multiple chemical sensitivities.

    We have spent four years getting these disabilities recognised by Government and the Medical establishment.

    Now as a result the 2012 NZ Human Rights submission to UN Charter on the rights of the Disabled there is a chapter now stating these types of disabilities though real, receive little or no support from Government agencies or medical communities suggesting some education of these disabilities is required with Government and Health providers.

    We are still waiting the Ministry of Health & Disability to respond to our requests for recognition and services.

    These candidatures must respond to the electorate or face no support from our Disabled community.

    Thank you Simon for your honest open expressions we felt it very deeply.

    • We have Corie Haddock who stood in Helensville and was on the List, and Tracey Dorreen, who was on the List in Christchurch. We are starting to move forwards, thanks to real support from people like Tim Barnett, David Cunliffe, Phil Twyford, Clare Curran, Ruth Dyson etc. As you can see, this has nothing to do with likes or allegiances in Caucus, but around actual support.

      What we need now is an MP who will focus on these issues. A one issue MP perhaps for now, though for myself, my issues are not just disability. I have a passion around unemployment, ACC, justice, and international relations, but these areas have a strong disability emphasis anyway. I would suggest that I am not a one issue Candidate, but my drive is around disability issues, and the phrase “Nothing about us without us”.

      We need to all get active and push the Progressive Left into recognising us as a powerful voting bloc. We need to unite to endorse Candidates who can give us all a voice.

      As a final note, I have not decided who to vote for in the Leadership election. I was a Cunliffe supporter, but now DC is not standing, I am torn. This article is not partisan or to support any one candidate over another. It is to make us aware of how little notice we get, and to try to force the Candidates to actually answer the question. One in four answering a question which affects one in four voters is not a good record.

    • what does equal opportunity mean for you, and what are you going to do to encourage and foster more disability access and representation within Labour and Caucus as Leader?

      Read the article. It is there in bold.

  4. I mean seriously guys, we are a quarter of the population of this country, a not insignificant proportion of the vote, and at the moment only the green party has any disabled representation. And we are paying attention. You have lost votes over this before and you will lose more if you don’t acknowledge us. If you don’t represent us we will find someone who will. Head out of the sand time.
    A little bit of added irony. With the national party engaging in active persecution of the disabled at this time, particularly through winz and cutting funding for educational assistance, a very large proportion of the disabled voters were looking for representation in this last election. You had an opportunity then, don’t waste it now. Let us know you mean to represent us now, tacking on a few platitudes right before the next election will not be enough.

  5. Its about control, and disabilty will be there somewhere within their party care however not prevelent on their chance of control.The only one who would have a opinion on that line up would be the female.The males outside one, who!s husbands love has beleif,possible.

  6. Thank you David Parker for his answer to my question (below).

    It would be good to hear from Andrew and Grant as well though…..

    Hi Simon

    I’m sure that all of the candidates want to ensure the disabled have opportunity to fully participate in broader society, and in the Labour Party.

    I am committed to the inclusive policies and objectives of the Labour Party. I don’t think that these can be achieved through a strict allocation to each of the subsets of Labour. In my opinion we all owe duties to each other to ensure that we fairly represent the needs and aspirations of everyone. Of course we need to guard against the tyranny of the majority, but we are stronger as a unified whole than as an amalgam of separate parts.

    We should be outcome driven. For example, Ruth Dyson has been a powerful advocate for disability rights. The same goes of Labour in general.

    Great to hear from you. Advocacy by all sector groups is one of the ways we achieve a fair balance.


  7. Thank you Grant Robertson for your answer to my question –

    Hi Simon.

    My answer is as follows ” Equal opportunity means taking action to ensure that everyone has the chance to contribute and benefit. This does not mean treating everyone exactly the same but rather providing the appropriate support and measures to allow the full potential of each person to be realised. In terms of access and representation within Caucus and the Party for people with disabilities we must strive for New Zealanders to see themselves represented in our team. This includes the disability sector. In terms of the Party closer links between sectors, like the Kirk Sector and the NZ Council and electorate organisations is an important step.

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