Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes

Ninety Days That Shook The Country

As I write this I am sitting in a plane bound for Brisbane, a day or two later than planned, having been waylaid in Christchurch at the magnificent finale to what must surely be the most revolutionary three months in New Zealand's recent political history.

It all began one fateful night in Pukekohe. History will prove how fateful for politicians and the country — my present state of political and philosophical enlightenment and complete exhaustion proves how fateful it was for me!

As a fledgling Libertarian and political virgin, I was drawn to attend the inaugural Abolish Bureaucratic Crimes (ABC) Dinner Debate to see our leader in action. Organised by Adrian Chisholm, himself a victim of heinous bureaucratic crime, it promised to debate "Guaranteeing Individual Freedom and Private Property Rights."

I wasn't disappointed when Linz went out there with all of liberty's guns blazing! When Roger Douglas fastidiously moved to the left(?), saying he didn't want to be seen sitting next to "that thing" (the statue of Liberty), I knew the night was going to be a treat. Then, when Linz refused to shake Paul Hutchison's hand (he was, after all, the National candidate and a gynaecologist — as Linz observed, who knows where his hands have been?) I knew the night was going to be a riot!!

The calibre — or lack of it — of the political candidates became increasingly clear when they totally avoided debating the principles. When Roger Douglas was pulled up to answer the question, he pulled out a prepared speech! He was totally confused by the loud and angry response from the 250-strong audience, which howled him down and refused to listen to his politico-mumbo-speak. It was not a good night for the poor little man. Later, National MP Warren Kyd walked out in high dudgeon, saying he wasn't going to stick around after someone called him a Nazi. He'd been called a National Socialist all evening, but, being a little slow, he'd not equated the two.

The Alliance candidate got upset, and rumour has it that she left in frustrated tears — no doubt off to the nearest Legal Aid office to sue Linz for hurt feelings.

Dave, the unfortunate NZ First fellow, (a local publican whose opening line was, "I hope I've got as many people in my bar as you have here") had only been in politics for three weeks and really had his eyes opened.

Well by the end of that meeting I was pretty well hooked, and the dinner debate in Whangarei convinced me I was addicted. It was certainly heady stuff watching the gum-chewing NZ First candidate (shame Brian, shame) argue with his colleague; and all of them, including the ghastly Greens and Labour people being decimated by questions from the floor and severely challenged by Linz.

The ACT candidate chickened out at the last moment, starting a trend it would seem — in subsequent debates many political candidates were low cowards who did not have the guts to stand up in front of the New Zealand public. No doubt they were very afraid of the guest speaker!

So I had little choice after that but to see where the other ABC dinner debates would lead me, and what a trail it has been. A trail littered with the shredded remains of many an inept politician.

Driving down to Taupo with Lady Liberty beside me for the third dinner debate on September 17, I wondered which candidates would turn up. They where starting to call up sick, or "otherwise engaged," but at least Head Offices were sitting up and taking notice. I wasn't to wonder for long. A motley crew of brave but mostly horrifying political hopefuls were there, though National and Labour pulled out at the last minute. Richard Steele, a farmer who himself had been screwed by the RMA and had been in politics for just a few weeks, thought that ACT was the party to support. However, he went home with a lot to think about, and think he obviously did. In Taupo, when asked if he would repeal the RMA, he answered "no" along with all the other non-thinking candidates blindly following their party line. The following night in Taumarunui his answer to the same question was, "Yes. I am my own man first." (Mind you, I thought there was some hope for him when he stated that he was "as dry as a witch's tit" as he headed towards the bar for a beer.) So...we are getting through!

What a sensation it was the next night to step into the time-warp of the Taumarunui Rugby Club, complete with Pinetree Meads sitting in the corner. My carrying in the statue of Liberty during their after-match function was a most novel experience, both for me and the patrons! Rural New Zealanders have had enough of the RMA interfering in their lives, and the 130 in the audience were fired up and angry. When Shane Ardern, the ridiculous National MP, said in his speech, "As I flew here this afternoon I could feel the aspirations of Taumarunui rising up" I couldn't hear the rest of the nonsense. He was loudly booed and probably lucky he wasn't lynched! The thought that people like this are in government and exercising power over my life made me choke on my G&T!!

Another lasting memory of Taumarunui is of the NZ First fellow who arrived just as Adrian Chisholm was explaining that Winnie had given a directive that none of his candidates were to attend these debates. The poor man went ashen as he had been on the road and hadn't heard, but before he could turn to leave Shirley Riddle had quietly shut the door behind him! Needless to say he left before the question period, after delivering a speech that took politico-mumbo-speak to new heights of the totally unintelligible.

Palmerston North was a surprising pleasure; meeting Linz's Mum being one of the highlights of the night. It was no surprise to recognise a long-time agitator for change and a heckler to be reckoned with. I confess that I don't recall much about the candidates who turned up that night — so many of them were faceless and interchangeable. Plus I was a little distracted as my son and I had been pulled over that day and severely stung for not adhering to John Luxton's re-education programme for drivers "to carry the appropriate documents with them at all times." Ouch!

Palmerston North also gave us one of the more frightening horrors in the form of the now-infamous Suzanne Bruce of NZ First, who naturally supported Winnie, not because of his hairdo, but because he is the "only honest man in Parliament." She said she was in politics "to make a difference." When asked, a difference to what? — she had no idea. Or a difference how? — she still had no idea. (Beam her up Scotty...please!) Like her leader, she would no doubt put her finger to the wind to see which way a vote may be blowing.

Palmerston North was the lead into Wellington, to a wonderful Libertarianz AGM, followed by the ABC debate at the University. The city of the seat of government would be able, one would hope, to produce one, perhaps two politicians who would measure up to some sort of standard. Wrong, how wrong. Annabel Young, National MP, was too ghastly for words (though Ratty did find one or two to describe her well). The Alliance Retard was at least honest, as he spoke of "the stroogle of the pooer" and told us he'd rob us blind and give it to them! ACT's Stephen Franks was a disgusting entity, who when challenged by Deborah Coddington on morality being dictated by social convention, responded that "if enough people in the community believed child abuse was acceptable, then [wait for it] it is acceptable"!!!

On to Nelson (I told you I was addicted) to meet yet another horror. Mike Ward, one of the "Chardonnay Greens" of the area, has a huge opinion of himself. Because he thinks he's done well, and his family have done well, so the rest of us would do well if only we'd live by his eco-fascist rules and regulations! Oh, and this from a man whose first words to me were, "All Libertarians are unintelligent."

Moi? Et vous? Please save me from such push-bike riders! Nick's stick was there to represent the Nats, and so was Richard Cox to represent ACT though I was never quite sure. He was a clever sort of bear, very politically confused and completely philosophically challenged. Quite the party bear though, and I'm not speaking of the ACT party here. He was probably a bear with a sore head after the Libz victory celebration in Christchurch. What was an ACT candidate doing at our victory party anyway? A very confused chappy.

The "debriefing" in Nelson following the debate was a memorable and most enjoyable occasion. The sight and sound of 30 odd(?) people singing in full voice "Oh Lord Montrose you pompous fart" in the delightful bar of the Rutherford Hotel at 2am, to the delight of management and staff, is a vision I'll never forget. There is more to that night but the Privacy Act forbids me from passing it on.

We were a very sorry troupe that rose at the crack of dawn to wend our way to Greymouth. There however, the smallest of the audiences gave us one of the best "shows" in the form of the local Alliance Retard candidate. A member of the audience (thanks Jackie) called her "The Screaming Skull" and I am unable to think of anything more apt. The ACT party bear was there to add to the general entertainment of the evening, being conned brilliantly by the Retard, who said "Put your money on the bar, that's how we do it here on the coast." When he returned from his speech, she had become the drunken "Screaming Skull" and his $20 was gone! Next time you see me, ask me about the uncle story she told — oooh boy!

Somebody else will have to write the story of the ABC debate on Great Barrier Island. Sometimes I really do have to be at work! However, I am told that not one political candidate could be bothered to turn up. What scum, when the grievances on Great Barrier are many and horrifying. You need only read Deborah Coddington's story of Les Harrington in the last Free Radical to know that those people have had it with bureaucracy. I look forward to meeting the Island people, who are beating the bastards back, another day.

So to the final ABC dinner debate, held in Christchurch. That one evening alone deserves an article of its own. The "Chardonnay Green" was there again, this time wearing his approved TV outfit as it was to be televised. The Christchurch Wizard was there, surprised that he, along with a couple of marijuana party people, were actually not radical thinkers at all! Owen Jennings read a well scripted speech, but showed his true colours when he tried to answer the first question of the night, which dealt with the banning of the magazine Cigar Aficionado: Quote, "I don't want my grandchildren to read it." Owen, Owen, you should have read that speech more than once. Somebody else must have written for you. It had some points in it regarding liberty which were obviously way beyond your comprehension. John Stringer's (the Nat man) campaign manager rang 10 minutes before we were due to start saying he had made a double booking in his diary, and that the other booking took priority. A phone call later proved Mr Stringer was at home watching TV.

I could go on. Every venue and every debate uniquely different, though they all shared a common thread. Angry, fed-up and vocal audiences, and inept, unintelligent, lying political candidates, delivering politico-mumbo-speak speeches, and NEVER addressing the question of the debate: "How can you guarantee my individual freedom and private property rights?"

The other common thread shared by every occasion was the pleasure of the "de-briefing" afterwards with like-minded people at the bar, the motel, or, as in Christchurch, at Mama Cassie's Casa. I have met many fabulous and staunch Libz from one end of the country to the other. My thanks and affectionate greetings to you all. Keep up the good fight — you make me feel optimistic about the future of New Freeland.

Adrian Chisholm went from strength to strength, and Christina made every event far more glamorous just by being there. It was a pleasure to watch her pin down hapless pollies just as they thought it was over. Ken, Shirley and Sally were there for every debate, and Number 11 was there for most. I learned a lot from listening to them pin the scum down. The commitment, energy, cutting rhetoric and intellect of Linz are awesome and inspiring, as is his ability to stay awake until the wine is finished.

I am sure that history will write about these 90 days that shook the country very differently than I have, but then I guess you had to be there. I wouldn't have missed a minute of it (and thanks to the support of Ken and Peter at critical moments, I didn't).

So my friends, when the ABC Roadshow comes to a town near you, cancel that prior engagement and make sure you get there. Believe me, it will be coming. This is just the beginning. We have had a lot of laughs, but do not doubt that this is serious business — deadly serious. Enough is enough.

Viva la Revolution.

Lindsay Perigo's speech from the ABC debates is available in the print edition of this issue. Don't miss it!

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