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Elections 2008: How Methodists see the issues

In the lead up to this year’s general election Touchstone has done its own informal political survey. We have asked a cross section of church leaders what they see as the key issues facing the country.

Ian Faulkner, Wesley College principal

I approach the elections in two steps. For the electorate vote I ask whether the current MP is doing a good job. Are they accessible, visiting people and working for their constituents? If the sitting MP is doing a good job for the community I am likely to support them.

If, however, they haven’t been seen or heard from in the present term, then I try to find out as much about the other candidates as I can. I gather information and talk to friends and neighbours.

For the party vote I look at the track record and see what sort of society it seems to me the parties are trying to promote. I am keen to vote for a party that articulates and demonstrates a willingness to create a just society.

They should provide the means for people who want to work hard to get ahead but they should also put in place protections for those who are less well off to live a decent life, a life in which children can be healthy, gain an education, and have a stake in their communities.

Pari Waaka, Waikato Rohe liaison person

One of the main issues is the health system. Once you are in the system they look after you will but my concern is for people on waiting lists. People can die waiting for operations before they get into the system.

Another issue is the cost of power. I hear of more and more elderly people who go to bed in the winter time because they cannot afford to heat their houses. With increases in the price of food and power, people have to cut back so they go to bed rather put the heater on.

The health care system in Australia seems so much better than here. Most Maori now family members living in Australia so we hear about the situation there. Five of my six grandchildren are now in Australia. Maori go there and they don’t look back. They still support the All Blacks, though, and the majority still come back to be buried here when they die.

Rev Sui Teo, Birkenhead Methodist Parish

I look to vote for the party that does what it promises. Some politicians make promises that they will do this and that but what will they actually achieve?

Many people are getting hurt by the cost of living and cost of going to the doctor. To address issues like this it is important to have a government that will walk the talk.

Rev John Salmon, Methodist Church of NZ ex-president

For me the main issue when approaching the election is to weigh up short-term individual benefit against long-term social and environmental sustainability. This question – short-term versus long-term benefit – can relate to any number of issues, law and order or taxation, for example.

I would also say that the long-term view is the Gospel perspective. For this reason when there is tension between the two perspectives, it is important to place greater weight on long-term, sustainable policies.

In regards to taxation, for instance, I would be willing to pay higher taxes in the short-term, if it meant welfare benefits were raised in the long-term.

Rev Gillian Woodward, Papakura Methodist Parish

The issues in Manukau are poverty, violence and drugs. In certain areas of the city there are pockets of poverty and these are the areas where there are also high rates violence, drug abuse, and neglected children. Our church has set up a school breakfast programme to provide some support to families.

I have not been in Manukau long but it seems to me to be a city of half a million people that is in the shadow of Auckland. There is no place in Manukau to send people for an evening meal or a bed for the night. The nearest shelters are in Auckland.

As in other elections, the health system is another important issue. The government has done quite a bit but there are still shortages.

Janet Teague, Uniting Congregations Standing Committee co-chair

Speaking from a rural context, pubic health is a major concern. I live in Darfield and we have a good ambulance service, medical centre and local hospital. But waiting lists in the public health system are too long.

Also rural doctors have to work around the clock. Allowances for rural areas should be increased so they can get more locums.

Education for our young people is important too. I am thinking both of resources and a giving them a better sense of discipline.

I am also concerned about the environment. We are losing a lot of trees as people convert land to dairy farms. Canterbury was set up with lots of shelter belts but they are disappearing and it is a shame.

Eric Laurenson, chair Liberal Network

My primary concerns focus on values. As a Methodist I am concerned about social justice issues and the state of relationships within our communities. I will be looking to see which party promotes good relations between the races and addresses bi-cultural issues.

It is important to think about what policies the parties promote and how realistic are the chances that they will advance those matters. When I consider the parties I consider not just what they say but also what I know about them. I use my guy instinct and what I know about their past history and recent performance.

Dorothy Willis, Methodist Lay Preachers Network lead facilitator

I was originally looking at health, education policy, and law and order. Low income families are struggling with so many issues. Over the last fortnight I have become very concerned about global financial uncertainty. I will consider which party has the ability to manage complex financial issues.

As a Southlander I am dependent on the rural economy. Many people here are concerned about how the new emissions trading scheme will affect them and what its cost will be to agriculture. At this stage there are a lot of unknowns and many people feel the law was rushed through with too many amendments.

Rev Vaikoloa Kilikiti, Otara Tongan Parish

Tongan people tend to support people in government who are good for the community. They want to see the government support families and education. Most Island people support Labour because they understand that they stand besides those at the lower levels of society. I think they will continue that support in this election.