Election 2017 will see New Zealand’s growing ethnic communities play a greater role than ever in choosing the next government. Ahead of the final leg of the campaign, Don Rowe is speaking to the editors of their leading newspapers. Today he talks with David Soh, editor of the Mandarin Pages.
How are you planning to cover the election?
We have opinion pieces and regular columns, not so much of a full systematic campaign, but we have two writers following current events and writing responses to that. We follow the news closely, and it’s obviously quite busy at the moment with the changing of the Labour leadership and what’s happening with the Green party.
We also had Bill English drop by last week, we had an interview, more of a personal interview than a serious one, and I think he enjoyed it. We knew he was an English literature major so we asked him to recite a poem, you know ‘a poetic PM’, but he said he hadn’t written any poems. His son has three books of poems though and he said we should translate it into Mandarin. We also spoke about family in reference to Jacinda Ardern and the baby question, and I think he was a little bit surprised, and so he revealed a few personal things. He said his wife Mary is the strong personality in the family, and my colleague said she’s a tiger mother and he knew the Mandarin term for that. So that was how the interview went, we’re only a small community newspaper and so we don’t try to make it too serious.
We also translate a lot of news and we try to be very prompt. The news about Metiria Turei and the two Green MPs who threatened to resign was in our paper the next morning, for example. We also put that on our website and on WeChat, which is like a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter.
What issues aren’t the mainstream media covering that are important to the Chinese community?
The Chinese community is especially interested in immigration and law and order. We’re also interested in what exact issues the politicians are campaigning on. The Chinese community is concerned about the same issues as other ethnic communities, for example Winston Peters – he’s a popular guy with a popular party among the older people, because of the Gold Card. New Zealand First produced something. A lot of people do not like the Greens, especially now. What Greens are remembered for is the anti-smacking bill.
But the major issue is immigration, and the family reunion. Most people sense that the government is going to tighten immigration for the good of the country, in terms of costs and the burden on infrastructure and health. That’s what we think Bill English will do. He won’t say it now, but if he returns to government again, that’s what he’ll do. It’s more sensible. So the Chinese community are concerned.
That’s dependent on National winning though. Do you think the Chinese community are more likely to side with National?
I think National are definitely the most popular party. If you look at the percentage in the mainstream it’s around 45%, and 25% to Labour. In the Chinese community it’s over 60% and less than 19% for Labour. We actually did a poll last election and New Zealand First had 5%, National had 65% and Labour less than 20%.
Who is doing the best job communicating to your community? And what are National doing so well?
I think one reason has a lot to do with the MPs. National have Chinese politicians. Also the Labour party seems to be very disconnected with Chinese voters. Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe, Andrew Little all seemed very disconnected. That is a big reason. But Bill English visited all the Chinese media. He’s been to my office twice already. Prior to that it was John Key. And you get out what you put in. You reap what you sow. Also aside from that, Labour just aren’t doing well. As a whole they are failing as a political party. National are more stable, they’re more convincing, and they perform way better.
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But the migrant community is growing, even the Māori party have a Chinese candidate now, also there’s The Opportunities Party with Gareth Morgan, as well as all the deals going on between the parties, so it’s very interesting.
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