This election is shaping up to be a bloody close run, and in the wake of the pandemic it’s going to be an iiiiinteresting race to the Beehive.
To help decode what the hell is going on in Wellington, we speak to the incredible wāhine of Three Gals, One Beehive – Holly Bennett, Georgie Stylianou and Brigitte Morten – about what they think will play out come October 14, who are their personal MVPs of parliament and what they think Kiwi need to really pay attention to before you decide on your two ticks.
Kia ora team! First, tell us about yourself and your political credentials!
Holly: He uri ahau nō Te Arawa, me Ngāti Whakaue, me Ngāti Pikiao. Ko Holly Bennett tōku ingoa, I am a lawyer and former political advisor turned lobbyist!
Brigitte: I spent a decade working in politics across Australia and New Zealand, including on many election campaigns. I am now a lawyer, specialising in public law – which generally means the law of government.
Georgie: I’ve been a journalist, a Press Secretary and Ministerial Adviser across two different governments. I’m a swing voter and don’t consider myself party political – I just love politics! I’m a Director of a Government Relations firm in Wellington and a news junkie.
Right, let’s crack into the niggle of this election. Is it just us, or is apathy HIGH with this election – do you think NZ as a whole gives a shit about this one?
Holly: Whether people do or not is irrelevant – the answer is everyone should! Voting is a key part of a functioning democracy – if you don’t vote, we all miss out.
Brigitte: While some of us have been counting down the days for months, most people don’t turn their minds to the politicians until much closer to the day. The Covid / lockdown hangover is definitely having an impact in 2023 as people are much more worried about what’s happening in their home rather than big government promises.
Georgie: Yeah, I feel like the whole country is a bit tired and grumpy, and somewhat politically saturated post COVID. But a politically unengaged society can have scary consequences and we have plenty examples of that playing out overseas. That’s why I love Three Gals One Beehive, because talking about politics and staying engaged is freaking important!
In your opinion what do you think is likely to be the outcome?
Holly: It is anyone’s election: a close election is a good election in my opinion!
Brigitte: The mood for change is building so I would put my money on a tight outcome with National and Act getting over the line – but there is still a long way to go.
Georgie: This election is going to be bloody close, but I think there’s probably just enough discontentment with the status quo to see a change of government. I wouldn’t be surprised though if the smaller parties do better than polls suggest though as voters look to send a message to both National and Labour.
Do you think there’s a policy that has the potential to be an election winner?
Holly: As a business owner I am personally interested in policies that support the growth of pakihi (business) and in particular pakihi Māori. I keep a close eye on what politicians say about supporting pakihi – and none have particularly impressed me thus far.
Brigitte: Cost of living is dominating voters’ concerns and frankly there is no magic policy that is going to relieve that stress.
Georgie: Different policies appeal to different people for different reasons, including people’s circumstances, what’s important to them and what their own values are. But given that the cost of living is top of most Kiwis’ minds right now, policies that put money back into people’s pockets are bound to play well.
Do you think there’s an MVP politician at the moment and why?
Holly: I’m pleased to see so many politicians and aspiring politicians with whakapapa Māori getting involved across the political spectrum! They are all MVPs to me!
Brigitte: I volunteer on the local campaign of National’s Deputy Leader Nicola Willis so it’s hard for me to not think she is doing a fantastic job. Find me another pollie who is more across their brief, demonstrates that they understand about what is happening for families and can laugh at herself (did you see that clip of her asking about the size of Grant Robertson’s hole…)
Georgie: Anyone who has listened to Three Gals One Beehive won’t be surprised by this but Greens co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw is a superstar in my eyes. He’s progressive but pragmatic, a consensus-builder but principled and I only wish the Greens realised what a good thing they’ve got in him!
In the ‘Chris v Christopher’ battle, do you think one of them is currently winning?
Holly: I am in awe of the mana and intelligence of both the Deputy Prime Minister Hon Carmel Sepuloni and Deputy Leader of the National Party Nicola Willis – so that is the race I am watching.
Brigitte: What is different about this election is the lack of Sir John Key or Dame Jacinda Ardern figures. And I think that is great for politics – it means we spend more time talking policy than an individual’s charm.
Georgie: In my opinion, neither. This election feels about who can lose the least, rather than who wins.
What do you think the people of New Zealand should be paying attention to right now?
Holly: Any politician that goes out of their way to denigrate people – particularly minority groups – with their words. He mana tō te kupu – any politician who is comfortable being flippant with their words should be cause for concern for us all.
Brigitte: What’s happening beyond the PR headlines. Easy for a party to promise cutting the cost of vegetables or go hard on law and order, but what are they actually promising to do and will that work?
Georgie: The fact that the combined support for our two major parties, National and Labour, is the lowest it has been for over twenty years. I think that speaks volumes.
What advice do you have to people who might be confused about who to vote for?
Holly: Think about the key two or three issues that you care about, and then look at the policies each political party has on those issues – let policy drive you, not personality.
Brigitte: That this is ok! There is a lot of noise out there and there is no right or wrong way to vote. Pick a couple of things that are really important to you and look at what the politicians are saying.
Georgie: Pick what’s most important to you, do your research (spend some time looking at the parties’ respective websites rather than relying on what you see in the news) and don’t expect to like everything about a party or every policy.
What do you think the biggest issues are for New Zealanders right now?
Holly: We’re a diverse bunch, we’re all (hopefully) thinking about different things – because that is where you get societal progress.
Brigitte: It’s hard to see past cost of living at the moment and the impact that is having on our collective vibe.
Georgie: I think a lot of us are noticing that it’s harder to make ends meet but behind the cost-of-living crisis, there’s these societal tensions bubbling away that won’t be solved if we all become too quick to shut down anyone we don’t agree with. The fact that New Zealand feels angrier and more divided is a massive issue, as is the fact that we have children growing up in poverty and exposed to violence. I also think it’s sad that future generations look likely to be worse off than their parents, it really shouldn’t be that way.
What are your thoughts on how the parties are campaigning at this stage in the lead-up?
Holly: My thoughts are with the dedicated volunteers who put up hoardings only to have them defaced or graffitied, and then they return to do it all again. I see you! I appreciate your commitment to the election!
Brigitte: I genuinely think the standard and detail of election policy has gone up – ACT, National and the Greens have all put out a lot of policy early in the campaign. This is great because it means they can hit the ground running.
Anything else you want to say/mention?
Holly: Go the mighty Warriors!
Brigitte: Please vote! We are very lucky to have the ability to influence who makes the rules and we should use it.
Georgie: If you don’t have time to read all the parties’ policies, can’t imagine ever popping down to your local candidates debate or you just feel so God damn over it, then fear not – Three Gals One Beehive has got you covered – check out our Leaders’ series where we interview the leaders of all major political parties.