Organiser defends line up

By Christine Allen

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Russel Norman, Winston Peters and David Parker were invited to speak at Monday night's election event at Forum North. Photo / John Stone
Russel Norman, Winston Peters and David Parker were invited to speak at Monday night's election event at Forum North. Photo / John Stone

A fear of political mayhem, upturned tables and radical policies left Act Party Leader Jamie Whyte out in the cold and eating dinner downtown while the leaders of three main opposition parties spoke at a Whangarei election candidate meeting.

Mr Whyte said he was rejected when he tried to get his name on the list of speakers at the Northland Regional Economic Development Forum on Monday night. He has accused the organiser of trying to manipulate a political outcome by omitting him, and other political representatives, from the Forum North event.

Alby Barr from the Whangarei branch of the Rail and Maritime Transport Workers' Union organised the event as a private citizen, rather than on behalf of the union. Mr Barr told the Advocate he did not want Whyte "stealing the headlines with some radical policy announcement".

"His local candidate was bad enough talking deregulation and privatisation of our railway," he added, after the event on Monday.

He said his initial intention was to invite "the three main opposition leaders" to speak. On the final list was Green Party co-leader Russel Norman and party colleague Julie Anne Genter, Labour's finance spokesman David Parker and NZ First's Winston Peters, which Mr Barr introduced on the night as a "political behemoth".

He said he didn't want the Act Party there as it was "too out there" with its "liberal agenda". He wanted a mayhem-free event without political bun fights. Instead, the buns were thrown at the parties who were not represented - and not there to defend themselves. The National Party was not represented - a tender point which drew hisses from the audience throughout the evening. Mr Barr said he had tried to get National's Finance Spokesman and Deputy Leader Bill English to speak too, but he was unavailable. When the party offered outgoing MP for Whangarei Phil Heatley, Mr Barr decided he did not want him.

According to Mr Barr, Conservative Party leader Colin Craig tried to "crash the party", calling on Sunday asking to attend, but he was not on the guest list.

Mr Whyte said he and Whangarei candidate Robin Grieve made several attempts to attend the meeting.

"It reminds me that some people try to administer democracy and some want to administer the results," he told the Advocate.

He said he had been in Whangarei on Monday and would have attended. "I didn't have any 'radical policies' up my sleeve, but if I had - it's an election. Parties have policies. He [Mr Barr] just didn't want to give us a platform."

While the audience listened to policies from Labour, Greens, NZ First, Act, Internet Mana, Conservatives, Democrats for Social Credit and Focus NZ, Mr Whyte ate dinner with Act supporters at the Dicken's Inn on Cameron St.

Meanwhile, Mr Barr defended his decision saying "I'm just one person organising an event. If enough people had wanted Colin Craig or Jamie Whyte, I would have buckled and allowed them to come".

- Northern Advocate

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