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PoliticsSeptember 29, 2020

The week in memes: Bad quotes from both leaders


Too much news? Welcome to the only round-up you need.

We’re on the last lap! This election campaign has been a marathon in every sense but we’ve entered the stadium now, the finish line is in sight… just. Hang in there and don’t forget to read up as much as you can on each side of the referendum questions. Knowledge is power.

Judith Collins aka Iutita Kolini

Welcome to the family, Ms Kolini. It feels like a lifetime ago but the first leaders’ debate was last Tuesday which means it gets covered here. In short, it was a boring debate. No one said anything inspiring or even new, but Collins said “tālofa”. She also said she “understands, actually” the plight of teenagers having to leave school to work and support their families “because my husband is Sāmoan”. First of all, the question was asked by a Sāmoan student (Fili Fepulea’i Tapua’i) but otherwise made no mention of ethnicity. Collins’ answer sounded disingenuous on the night (having a Sāmoan husband has nothing to do with what a political party promises to do to assist students from low-income families) and many, including Fili, called her out for it.

The memes flowed steadily (admittedly, a lot of them were made by me) until Collins appeared on Tagata Pasifika to respond to the criticism. “How dare people try to disrespect my husband like that,” she said. I can’t speak for anyone else but I wasn’t trying to disrespect or make fun of Collins’ husband, I was making fun of her for saying what she said.

What’s missing from the tālofa discourse is what Collins’ actually said in her answer and then elaborated on during her Tagata Pasifika appearance. What she was trying to say, she insisted, was that her husband had to run away from home because he wanted to stay at school rather than work. And Collins wanted young working students to know that they have a choice to stay at school and don’t have to work the same jobs as their parents. Advising young Pasifika (tālofa) students that they could simply choose to not work or just run away from home shows exactly how little Iutita Kolini understands, actually.

A race to the centre

The biggest takeaway from the first leaders’ debate, besides Ms Kolini, was just how similar National and Labour really are. From the campaign ads to the slogans to the leaders’ answers on Tuesday night, it’s all a variation of the same thing. Never was this more evident than when moderator John Campbell asked about the always-divisive capital gains tax. Ardern said she technically still thought it was a good idea but hurriedly promised to never implement. In opposition, Collins also promised not to tax property. It made me wish some of the minor party leaders were invited to the debate to at least throw out some different ideas.

If you also finished watching the leaders’ debate feeling uninspired, watch this debate instead. All the parties are represented, the questions are more pointed, and the answers are more dramatic.

Misquoting is bad

While tālofa was the quote on everyone’s lips last week, National tried their darnedest to get an Ardern quote off the ground, even if it was taken out of context to suggest a meaning opposite to what Ardern meant. During the debate, Ardern spoke about the farming sector and said that thinking farmers were against sustainability was “a view of the world that has passed” – ie farmers care more about sustainability than we might think. I don’t know if this is true but that’s what Ardern said. An unofficial National party meme page created an image misquoting Ardern as saying “dairy farming is a world of the past”. Two National MPs (Matt King and Harete Hipango) shared the image and Hipango defended her decision by saying it wasn’t a misquote, it was “construction of key words aligned with Jacinda Ardern”.

What? Words are important and quoting someone carries a lot of weight. “Construction of key words” makes absolutely no sense and choosing which words to quote in which context changes everything. What’s most annoying is Ardern did not perform well in the debate. There were so many things to criticise without needing to make up a quote.

As an aside, if you run a meme page, stay in your lane and just make memes if you don’t know how to quote accurately.

Act on the rise

After two terms of everyone thinking Act was David Seymour’s solo political project, we may be about to see the full extent of the party. The latest Colmar Brunton poll has Act polling at 8% which, if they achieved that on election day, would see 10 (ten!!!) Act MPs in parliament. Are there even 10 Act candidates? I’m still doubtful but according to their website, the libertarian party has 55 candidates on the list. Almost all of them have names that have never been uttered in public discourse and some of them don’t even have photos on their profiles. Thankfully technology has come far enough to computer-generate what 10 Act MPs would look like.

Full disclosure: I made this meme when Act were polling at 7% (nine MPs) seven days ago but you get the idea.

Winston Peters yelling

It almost feels strange to talk about Winston Peters now. After decades of singlehandedly keeping New Zealand First afloat and acting as The Decider in three elections, it looks like Peters is fading into political oblivion. Peters delivered a speech at Ōrewa on Friday and took the opportunity to throw dirt at Ihumātao protestors and tell the crowd that it was in fact New Zealand First that was responsible for the lack of government action on the site. Ōrewa is perhaps most known for being the site of then National leader Don Brash’s race-baiting (is race-baiting just a “safer” way of saying racist?) speech that resulted in a huge surge of support for the party. Peters denied choosing Ōrewa for any particular reason but it certainly followed some of the same sentiment as Brash’s 2004 spiel. Peters’ speech didn’t cause much turbulence in the news or the polls. Maybe New Zealand is less racist than it was 16 years ago. Or maybe people just aren’t so entertained by Peters any more.

Unti next time, tōfā soifua.

Keep going!