This is the first of our Bants with Baby Back Benches interviews. Through this series we want our readers to get to know the youth leaders of our political parties, ready for our eventual youth leaders debate, and the upcoming election.
If you’d instead like to listen to our complete conversation click here
By Liam Davies
On the day of our interview, Natalie, Co-Convenor of Greens on Campus, and I attended our mutual friend’s campaign launch, for a party I will not mention and of which neither of us belong. Having arrived at the launch and after sitting through a couple of speeches, our friend on stage called Natalie out as his ‘Greenie friend in the audience.’ We soon decided the politics were not for us and left to record this interview.
I started by asking Natalie why she entered into youth politics, and in particular why the Greens Party of Aotearoa New Zealand (The Greens)?
Natalie cited an anger and indignance with injustices that she saw throughout New Zealand. Having come to the conclusion that ranting was not constructive she saw politics as a vessel to create change. In particular, Natalie chose the Greens party due to its constitution. The party’s constitution is made up of five main tenants that aligned with her values; namely non-violence, democracy, ecological wisdom, social justice and upholding Ti Tiriti values. As a natural ‘leftie’ these values and their uncompromising attitude towards social justice and climate change issues won her over.
At this stage an airshow flew over our heads, Natalie commented ‘I thought we had abolished airplanes?’. Classic greenie rhetoric.
Following on, I asked what function she saw the club on campus as having, and how they related to the larger party.
A strong message throughout Natalie’s answer was that they provided a voice for youth, rangatahi and uni students. In particular, the club is able to speak to the values of these groups and take their issues to MPs. Youth engagement was stressed here too. The club gets Green MPs and representatives on campus for various events. This helps bring down the wall between students and politicians. Post-interview, Natalie also referred to the club as the Greens ‘Fan Club’ on campus; her enthusiasm when she made this remark makes me think it is one of the clubs most important functions.
The party’s voter base is young compared to other parties. Due to this high percentage of youth votes, I asked Natalie how we might increase youth voter turnout?
Natalie’s answer was similar to her answers in the previous question. It is all about making MPs and politicians approachable. This lowers feelings of intimidation, while increasing feelings of trust. She further mentioned teaching young people that their votes do make a difference. This could be done through civics education, which our current schooling system neglects. Natalie mentioned that under our MMP system, a vote goes much further than people assume.
Possibly the most important question I asked, from Natalies perspective was: Why should young people vote for Greens this election? How will students be better off if the Greens are in government?
Generally, Natalie referred to the main tenets of the party. This was followed by a particular discussion around their emphasis on climate change. We will be ‘buggered’ if we don’t put more effort in this area. A policy that Natalie was quite excited about was UBI for students of $325 a week. This will replace the current student allowance, however, students will generally come out of it $100 a week better off. Additionally, it will also apply to parttime and post-grad students. Creating a stronger safety net. Increasing funding for mental health facilities in universities. Students will also find themselves better off as the Greens hope to expand fees-free into apprenticeships (Stronger than labours current policy). Natalie stated that these policies are about investing in young people.
The Greens party if given the chance would certainly implement many policies meant to benefit students. The question is… Will you vote for them come September 16 2020?
Come see Natalie debate the other youth leaders at Baby Back Benches event! While it has been delayed due to lockdown to keep up on updates, event info can be found here