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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 12. June 16, 1971

Labour Pains

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Labour Pains

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For those who have not yet realised the fact, next year in November or thereabouts, you will be called upon to exercise your influence on the democratic structure of our society. In short, politicans will be using their various devices to persuade you to vote for them. For 1972 is the year of the next General Election.

The purpose of this article is to try and give some indication of the thinking of one of the Two Parties in New Zealand, (Social Credit is some kind of Utopian fantasy), so that you will be in some say forewarned as to the issues that are going to be cultivated to win your support.

Because there is no watertight guarantee that remits discussed at Labour Party Conferences will become Labour Party Policy even when endorsed by a majority of the delegates, it is pointless to attempt to predict issues from the various committee recommendations on these remits. As the President of the Labour Party, Bill Rowling, expressed the reason for this 'It would be fair to say that there has been some expression of concern from certain quarters about the quality of positive policy released by our Party since the last election... experience has taught us that depositing ideas with a bankrupt Government is simply to invite the kind of depreciation that they have applied to everything else.' Thus the argument, translated from the idiom levelled at the captive loyalist audience, is that the policy reforms that Labour will present are so much along the lines of the thinking of the present Government, that the Government itself would have little trouble with incorporating such policy into action. For those who feel that there is a strong need for a general re-thinking of the philosophy behind government policy making, such a statement could scarcely be described as a reassuring one. On the other hand, if Rowling meant to convey the idea that this re-thinking was taking place in the Labour Party, then to suggest that it cannot be revealed for fear that the National Party will take over the ideas, and downgrade them, tends to undercut the supposed dynamic quality of the ideas themselves. With either interpretation, one is not left with an overwhelming feeling of confidence or certainty as to which way the Labour Party will jump - nor with the conviction that it will be even in the right direction.

However, an indication of what areas the Labour Party is concerning itself with can be determined by examining the issues raised by the President of the Party, Bill Rowling, Norman Kirk, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Party, and the ways in which these themes were picked up and clarified or reiterated by the reports of various section groups within the Party.

The address of the new President, Bill Rowling, to the Conference, was very different in tone, style and subject matter compared with previous efforts by past Presidents. The impression that some band wagons were being jumped upon was gained however, and the two main topics were related to the issues surrounding 'Racial Harmony' and 'Conservation'. No new insights into these two widely reported issues were presented, yet a clear indication was given on the subject of racial harmony regarding areas which warranted some rapid improvement. For example, reference was made to the under staffing of welfare officers, the slow rate of growth in trade training schemes, and a sympathetic comment was made with regard to the agitation for the preserving of Maoritangi (although no specific courses of action to get positive recognition for these beliefs were outlined). A feature of this address was its general orientation towards the human needs being denied by the various problems discussed - be they in relation to conservation, Maoritangi, Industrial disputes or Vietnam.

Norman Kirk's Report of the Parliamentary Labour Party contained the usual semi-analysis of the stands taken over the bill presented to the House during the current session. He then went on to outline the issues that were felt to need some comments upon. These were, (in order of presentation); Prices, Industrial Relations, Farming, Trade and the E.E.C., Medical Services, Road Safety, Education, Housing and Foreign Affairs. He gave the assurance that under a Labour Government a full time Minister of Labour would devote full attention to the task in hand - that is, in establishing communication and confidence between workers and management in New Zealand. His comments on farming and trade and the E.E.C. were closely related. In addition to the need for the restoration of profitable farming is the search for a means of marketing our products in new felds outside the traditional ones. However, those outlets already functioning should be maintained - which led into the issues surrounding Britain's proposed entry into the E.E.C. Mr Kirk spoke of his overseas experience of the questions surrounding the proposed entry, and stated that we could fall back on arguments based on appeals to 'our sentimental bonds or the past sacrifices New Zealand had made' as these were 'nothing to be ashamed of. Our concern should be directed towards 'the need for more than merely transitional arrangements', in that New Zealand trade should continue along the lines of a permanent right of sale, in 'fair competition' with other countries, as well as the right to supply cheap essential food-stuffs to British customers.

Another high point of the speech was concerning Education. Mr Kirk deplored the way in which the value the National Government placed upon Education was in the final analysis a matter of dollars and cents. Deficencies exist at all levels of the system - and many of these have been indicated by the growing demonstration of discontent by those teachers actively involved in the day to day attempt to cope with them. He held that it was a basic human right for each individual to be able to persue a free education for which he is best fitted', to the limit of his ability. Labour placed the establishment and maintenance? of this principle as one of high priority.

Throughout his speech, Mr Kirk spoke convincingly -it was toward the end of it when speaking of the tragic events in East Pakistan, that he dropped the tone of voice considerably, as he recalled the lack of response from nations of the world, who stood aside and watched in silence as the atrocities continued. This comment illustrated a feature of Norman Kirk that many have seen too infrequently - humane and compassionate feelings toward those who are suffering in a situation totally beyond their control. Identification within the Pacific Basin, Foreign Aid, (approaching 1% of the G.N.P.) and our voting 'non-record' on issues involving apartheid and South Africa were also examined in the speech.

Overall, the report was well delivered, and covered a variety of subjects. It is significant that it was delivered in the afternoon, the time most convenient for the television coverage, of course.

The other two high points of Conference were the presentation of two reports, one by the Youth Advisory Committee, and the other by the Maori Policy Committee. The first is interesting from the viewpoint of how a contentious issue was fairly neatly contained by Chairman Rowling, and the second was notable as a more informed comment about the 'racial harmony' issues raised by the same gentleman.

The Youth Report firstly outlined the events at the Youth Conference that took place at Victoria University on the weekend prior to the full N.Z.L.P. one. It is open to all the delegates who are under 25. The report, read by Dave Butcher, of the Vic Labour Club, went on to portray the activities in which the Labour Youth had been involved in the preceeding year. Apart from canvasses, seminars, and general policy generating as a result of such discussions, the Labour Youth group were participating in demonstrations with like minded students, and consientious citizens, that were organised in support of the cancellation of the 1970 All Black Tour, (and anti-Vietnam involvement). It was the former stand which prompted comment that mushroomed into the newspaper headline; 'Labour Youth Group castigates Leaders'. The Youth Report made the statement that The Conference, last year having given full active support to the anti-South African Tour movement, were dismayed when Senior Party M.P.'s attended the Parliamentary farewell for the players going to participate in racially segregated sport. This reveals an extreme, disregard' (Rowling had this word inserted in lieu of disloyalty) 'not to the letter but certainly to the spirit of the Party's stated intentions. Among the supporters and potential workers this tends to call into question the political integrity of the Party. While young people, many of them party members, outside protested in support of the Conference decision on a boycott, (and some were arrested), "inside some M.P.'s supped wine in support of the Tour." The reaction of delegates to this statement was quite varied, but those stirred sufficiently to get on their feet in front of the T.V. cameras and microphone generally commended the Youth Report, except the above portion. The arguments embodied from the right of M.P.'s to exercise individual choice in such matters, to questions of the fact the Tour and Rugbee (sic) must go on! No one brought up the valid argument that those M.P.'s most effected and conversant with the implications of apartheid, notably the Maori M.P.'s had taken a definite stand against attending the farewell. This was known by the other Labour M.P.'s and for some to turn around and attend the function can be regarded not only as disloyal to the Conference decision as a whole, but also as an insult to the Maori members who are their colleagues. The situation was superbly handled by the chair - but it also showed that despite the massive attention given by the Labour Party to public relations, the generating of a slick veneer of unity, basically different ways of thinking and acting exist in the party over certain issues (homosexual law reform being another case in point.)

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The Maori Policy Report put the flesh on the bones of the remarks made by previous reports. Issues it highlighted were; The Statistical disparities between the Maori and General Population, Maori Migration, Race Relations, Treaty of Waitangi, Maori Parliamentary Representation and Education and Skills. The report referred to the growing 'new wave' of voices of anger and concern - and went on to break down the agitation into five main characteristics. These were: 'A need and desire for learning thins Maori', 'a need and desire for holding on to those successful agencies - for example, Maori representation, Maori voluntary organisations', 'A need and desire for advancement in a modern society', 'a need and desire to articulate the concern that has always been there, but which has remained veiled under the natural courtesy of the Maori, but above all it is creating the desire for change.'

Among the points raised by the report were anomalies such as those relating to the 'patrial' criterion in the new British Immigration Act - as this feature does not take into account the fact that as the original inhabitants of New Zealand, a Maori may not have had British grandparents in his whakapapa. Other anomalies were discussed under race relations, once it had been acknowledged that the term was a fashionable blanket one, (and roughly corresponds to what Duncan Maclntyre delights in calling The Maori Problem'). The main point in this area was that even if legislation was passed against discrimination over employment, housing, and so on, unless the social and economic conditions causing the active exercising of discrimination are in some way lessened in severity, the need will still exist, and discrimination will be perpetuated.

With regard to Maori Parliamentary Representation, there were three main points. The report was not in favour of the abolition of separate Maori seats, as it felt those advocating this idea were ignorant of the implications of such a move to the Maori people. It proposed instead an increase in the number of seats so that they would be more in line with population figures. Bearing in mind the nature of the Maori population; (its youth fulness), the committee recommended lowering the voting age to 18. The committee recorded that the Education system was orientated towards the European cultural tradition, and was often of little relevance to the Maori Child's background, nor did it take account of the difficulties caused by teaching from one culture to another. Special attention needs to be given at all levesl - from preschool to trade training and university styled teriary education.

Overall, it was, despite cynicism over remit-into-policy- adoptions, a very friendly and interesting conference, For kicks next year, you might enjoy it. But as a paraphrase of a current advertisement on the T.V., join a branch first. Failing that, some students on campus have had sadistic delight in lighting their cigarettes and best friend's hair with Norm Kirk match box books:

Offer expires 10 June, 1971.