GUEST BLOG: Vanessa Kururangi – I know jack shit about elections, but I know my vote will count!

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I’ve been super quiet about these elections, but definitely not disengaged. I’ve been watching and listening, contemplating and (with a select few) engaging in deep conversations and debate – not only about who to vote for, but how to vote in the referendums. 

I’ve voted Labour before. I’ve voted Māori before, I’ve voted Greens before. I’ve voted Mana before. Now more than ever, it’s important to make our votes count. I’m on the Māori roll. I know who I will never vote for and have not wasted a single moment of my time folding origami tin foil hats to go and listen to their drivel.

I will give my party vote to Greens despite Shaw and because I tautoko Marama Davidson. I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking for protection. Marama has a proven record of protection. 

From the Women’s Peace Flotilla to Free West Papua to Ihumātao just to name a few, she has worked tirelessly for kaupapa that matter to me. Do Black, Brown, Indigenous lives matter to her? More than you know. Sure, the world wasn’t ready for her to reclaim the word “cunt”, but in our circles dropping the “c-word” in our korero is done in context and no one bats an eye, so whatever. Marama has saved the Greens from disintegrating into a wishy washy not-sure-where-we-stand- but-kumbaya- and hakuna matata Party. She is the co-leader that holds the line, prioritizes indigenous knowledge and experiences, leads with compassion, and places herself exactly where she needs to be. She is present where it counts, and equally flies under the radar with purpose. If James Shaw had half the backbone of Marama, the Greens would be a force. So, for her savvy and sass, I’ll give her beloved Greens a party vote tick. 

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I will give my electorate vote to Māori Party, despite J.T. I need to make that crystal clear – despite John Tamihere being the co-leader of the Māori Party, they have been successful in winning my electorate vote. Is this personal? Yes and no. I don’t know the man. If we have ever met I don’t remember and probably neither would he. So the only information I have available to me is what is in the public arena – that’s all I have to go by. However, my memory is long. We all know that Maya Angelou quote about people forgetting what you said, forgetting what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. I clearly remember how I felt after the “Roast Busters” interview back in what, 2013? I also remember the disparaging comments made along the way in his political career, and how his words rubbed me the wrong way. Has he changed, evolved, reflected on these times? I bloody well hope so. As I say, all the information I have is only from what I have seen and heard in the media – behind the scenes he might be a totally different guy whom I might end up genuinely liking, I don’t know. But nope, J.T is not the reason they get my second tick.

In saying that, our Waiariki candidate, Rawiri Waititi, is not particularly someone I feel aligned with either EXCEPT he has been clear, forthright and staunch in his messages and nailed every debate I’ve seen, which I totally respect. I don’t know him personally either, but if it’s true that he’s as grassroots as they come, and if he really is prepared to roll up his sleeves and do the mahi, then yeah, let’s give him a shot. He has talked the talk so I want to see if he can back it up, no excuses, just get it done. My only comment is that he has HEAPS to say; so please bro, if you read this – I want to be reassured that you also know when to hush up and listen. Listening, being observant, responding to y/our people and being present when it matters (and it always matters) is what I value. Do that and you will retain my vote time and time again. You seem like a genuine fulla.

Waititi also has my electorate vote, not because he has done anything particularly outstanding, but simply because Tāmati Coffey has not been present enough in issues pertaining specifically to Tauranga Moana even though he lives less than an hour away. Invisibility and lack of presence has been my deciding factor here. Coffey has a wide smile, is charismatic, is skilled in convivial conversation. He’s palatable for conservative voters – he means well and is probably someone whose company I’d enjoy. The korero would flow easily across the table over a latte, and I’d probably leave feeling good. Meh. I like activism. I like strategising. I like a bit of brimstone. I admire gall and backbone and rebellion. I respect people who say controversial shit, not because it ignites a reaction, but because their words are the truth that others dare not speak. As long as what is being said and done is activated with the blessing and for the betterment of my people – then I don’t mind a bit of contention and dissent. From what I’ve seen of Coffey (which is very little – or very *andrew* Little?) he doesn’t quite have enough mongrel in him. He doesn’t push boundaries, he doesn’t rock the boat, he doesn’t speak up. He is probably quite likeable but it doesn’t mean I want him representing my electorate. It’s not you, it’s me – I can’t vote for you, but we could still be friends.

At the end of the day, Labour doesn’t need my vote. What I want is to ensure that there are enough strong influential Maori at the table. That means Greens and Maori Party need to be there to fill that space in a coalition. Sorry NZ First, you gotta go. In order to hold Labour to account I want Greens and Maori Party there… and Greens in particular, you better friken throw some hands when it comes to indigenous issues. I know Maori Party will, so you’d better too.

I will vote YES to support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, because I feel this is not a criminal issue but an issue of health and wellbeing.

After LOTS of contemplation I will vote NO to the End of Life Choice Act 2019. This could have and should have been drafted better. Also, I have serious concerns for the way differently-abled peoples lives are viewed, and also for those terminally ill people who (out of pure love for their carers and whānau) are willing to sacrifice themselves to ease the “burden” for others. This has been the hardest decision for me, and when I tick NO, I will be thinking of my childhood friend Lecretia Seales who, after suffering a terminal brain tumour became an advocate for physician-assisted dying – and how people like her deserve a BETTER, STRONGER, CLEARER Act. I don’t know how she may have felt about the EoLCA in its current form. She may have approved, she may not. I’m not willing to take that risk. I feel an obligation to vote NO. 

Weirdly, up until now I always thought that people who are suffering, who have struggled daily for years upon years, and/or those with terminal illnesses should have the right to decide when where and how they exit this World. I hate to see people suffer under any circumstances. I thought I’d choose YES. Now, I have the power to vote for or against it, and I’ve swung my vote the other way. The Act in its current form is simply not safe. People for whom this referendum matters most are saying they don’t feel safe. THEY. DON’T. FEEL. SAFE. And to be honest, I can see why. 

For a start, let’s remove the word “choice” from the End of  Life *choice Act. It feels like the only ones who get any choice here are those who are able bodied and affluent. Seriously. I still hear people debating whilst using terminology like “handicapped”. I mean, if your language is that ancient, then how little do you value the rights of people with higher and/or additional needs, and those with disabilities, and serious health issues, including mental health?

Yes, I know you have to be of age (18 and over). I know you have to be a NZ citizen, have a terminal illness where you are not likely to live beyond a further six months, an ongoing decline in physical capability, and so on and so forth. I know that a doctor can’t initiate the conversation. I know. I’ve thought about this. A lot. And I maintain it (the Act in the way it is written) doesn’t feel right and we are voting whether or not this becomes law, right? What the actual kind of fuckery is this? WHY does a doctor get to determine if someone is of sound mind? Shouldn’t highly qualified, specifically trained experts such as, I don’t know… PSYCHOLOGISTS be the ones assessing patients/clients in this instance? Don’t they have the skills necessary for the extensive testing, not your local/family G.P? I mean, I think everyone has the right to decide whether they are for or against euthanasia, assisted dying, whatever you want to call it. But for me the actual legislation is wrong. Just wrong. I’m not saying that it will always be wrong, but there is more work to do here.
Anyone who has ever read a blog by me knows, I’m just the average citizen with no qualifications to be giving out advice, so please remember these are just my own thoughts. As always I include the disclaimer; I am a creative writer, not an expert on anything except living my own life (and even then I screw up – that’s where the learning happens). All I know is that these are strange times. If you make a conscious choice to not participate in the elections, kei te pai, I don’t judge. But I do believe that now more than ever, voting counts. Your voice matters so please, tick those boxes and know you are making a difference – if not for you then for someone else.

 

Vanessa Kururangi is a State House Tenant Advocate

8 COMMENTS

  1. But for me the actual legislation is wrong. Just wrong. I’m not saying that it will always be wrong, but there is more work to do here.

    And I very strongly agree with that! It is deeply disturbing, and will be a cancer on our social landscape if it goes through. Highly malignant. There are many thoughts on this, many unforeseen consequences, many deliberately overlooked aspects. It is shockingly bad. We have not even had a fragment of a discussion on this. Again, it is very, very wrong.

  2. Disagree with with most of your points and argument. On the areas we do agree, i dont see them as in my, or the society I live in, best interests. And so will definately be voting for completely different people and reasons.

    However I do agree that a vote matters and irrespective of our political views lets celebrate the face we can all vote !

  3. I hope you are right about your vote counting there VK! I am on the; general, rather than Māori roll; specifically because of the mysterious way that thrice the number of Māori votes are disallowed. Say you are in Tauranga (guessing because biggest town in Waiariki?), then in 2017; 1.37% of those Māori who did get to the polling booth (also a mysteriously fewer than general) were deemed to have cast informal votes compared to the 0.45% on the general roll.

    https://www.electionresults.govt.nz/electionresults_2017/statistics/party-votes-and-turnout-by-electorate.html

    However, I am voting for the euthanasia referendum. The doctor consultation is solely to determine if someone is indeed likely to be within their last months of life. I don’t see psychologists (even if you shout it), being much help there – even if you could get to see one in that time frame: For routine consultations (eg pre-lockdown trans issues), if you cant afford to go private, that can easily take a year on a waiting list before you actually see anyone. And that’s if you don’t have health issues that require you to reschedule. Plus post-pandemic; good luck getting a consultation that fast, unless you are actively a danger to others.

    Yes; the bill as written, may not be perfect. But I do not feel justified in condemning the terminally ill to months of agony until unquestionable perfection is achieved.

    • A few days ago 36 psychologists published an open letter explaining why they are concerned about being left out of the End of Life Choice Act:

      “In writing this we are not making any comment about the rights and wrongs of euthanasia. We uphold the right of all New Zealanders to have their own opinion on this issue. We recognise and uphold the right of every health practitioner to determine their involvement in euthanasia as their conscience directs.

      We are writing because we are seriously concerned about the way the legislation is addressing competence and decision-making capability in New Zealanders with a terminal illness.” Search for “Unsafelaw”

  4. The ecological Left will vote to keep the Greens in the AONZ parliament. Not because they think that these are doing a great political job, on contrary, but because they know that a defeat of the Greens is a generic defeat of the Left spectrum.

    Just making it into parliament again, some Greens will be tempted to read this as a confirmation of the party leadership, or the main political direction the Greens have taken under the aegis of Shaw. Nothing could be more wrong and seductively deceptive.

    But it can be expected to become a popular pattern of explanation within some Green party circles, therefore avoiding the required re-structuring of the Green party, both in terms of personnel as well as more cohesive strategic, tactical and practical orientation toward climate resilience and socioeconomic adaptation.

    The real measurement for the Greens’ performance is not whether they reach the 5% threshold, but why they are polling so far below their actual potentials.

    Any result below 10% of the popular vote calls for responsive action by the Green party. However, is the organization ready for a more radical re-configuration?

    Most of the Green members of parliament are solid parliamentarians, some far above the usual standards set by the other parties, and this quality is widely acknowledged.

    The point is, that exceeding these normal standards by becoming the ‘parliamentary model student’, so to say, is not the purpose of green parliamentarism.

    Nor is this by any means adequate to cover the strategic and historic challenges of the Greens in the unfolding global and local de-industrializiation process.

    More courageously, a Green party must be an avant-garde actor and groundbreaking shaker and mover in leading the socio-ecological transformation process. Otherwise, there is no need for a Green party.

    Business as usual can be done by a Labour party alone. As things stand now, and with all the access to government resources, assuming that there is the political will and intention, Labour could easily outsmart the Greens on all environmental matters.

    My assumption is that the Greens make it into the next national parliament but my hope is that they are not becoming part of the new government. A strong green opposition party is far better than a toothless appendix glued to the governing Labour party.

    Medium-term political gains can be successfully developed in collaboration with a community-centred, socio-ecological platform that rolls back all facets of neo-liberalism.

    System. Change. Now.

    On popular demand …
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UHHc7POovg

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