This is the sixth and final 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
Artie, President of The Opportunities Party (T.O.P) on campus, turned up to the interview sporting a T.O.P t-shirt, he said he wears them everywhere, and a different one everyday. If this doesn’t show commitment to the party, I don’t know what does! T.O.P is also the only party not represented in parliament attending our Baby Back Benches debate, it was great to hear what T.O.P’s platform is and how they will benefit students.
I started by asking Artie why he entered into youth politics, and in particular why The Opportunities Party?
Artie admitted that it wasn’t until the lead up to 2017’s election that he started to think politically. Describing his life as living out west, not the nicest area, and how having parents who immigrated from the Soviet Union impacted his political thoughts. Eventually, he realised he could not accept the way things were, ‘I was like Damn!’, and he wanted to create change. Originally Artie liked T.O.P after seeing its previous leader, Garth Morgan, said he would give away free money on the evening news. Since Morgan left the party, Artie started to meet people within T.O.P and saw it as a fresh party that wasn’t mainstream. He saw the party as caring more about its policies and impact, rather than playing the party politics.
Following on, I asked what function he saw the club on campus as having, and how it related to the larger party.
Currently, the club on campus is still new and growing. However, Artie mentioned that there are equivalent groups at several other universities over NZ, as such they hope to create a starting platform for political engagement through T.O.P. Currently, events on campus are a mix of students and adults, as Artie feels that it is better not to create a divide, or split up different groups. He would like the club to engage everyone equally. In relation to the main party, the club on campus is there to inform students of T.O.P policies and how they might get involved with the party.
On youth voter turnout and how we can increase youth engagement.
Artie started by saying how he often hears people say that it’s ‘just one vote.’ Both T.O.P and Artie would like to see alternative forms of civics engagement, that will show people that their vote has significance and impact issues of the day. Artie mentioned direct approaches to public engagement. This included increasing the number of referenda and normalising citizen assemblies in decision-making processes. Artie further hoped that these more direct styles of decision making will have a focus in universities too. He stated that this will help change how youth view politics and will create a motivation to become involved.
As a party that has yet to be represented in parliament, this is the question that T.O.P most needed to answer. Why should young people vote for T.O.P this election? How will students be better off if T.O.P is in government?
‘Don’t leave change to chance,’ is the slogan for the 2020 T.O.P campaign. When Artie spoke about T.O.P policies many were not related directly to student outcomes. However, the policies he discussed were based around environmental, housing and constitution issues. Issues that while they may not be directed specifically at students, they are designed to help today’s students live in a clean environment, eventually be able to buy a house, and live in an equitable society. One policy, however, that students might be keener on is T.O.P’s UBI, where students should generally see themselves better off than they are under current student allowance schemes.
Will we see T.O.P in parliament after the election? The important question is… Will you vote for them come September 16 2020?
Come see Artie 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