Mana byelection: McCarten feels the heat

By Derek Cheng

Matt McCarten. File photo / NZ Herald
Matt McCarten. File photo / NZ Herald

Union leader Matt McCarten faced off with a determined Labour supporter in Porirua this afternoon, who accused him of fracturing the vote on the left and having "sh*t" policies that had no hope in becoming reality.

Things are heating up with only three days left in the Mana byelection, and the contenders were out in full force today - with some added muscle.

Prime Minister John Key and Labour leader Phil Goff took to the electorate in the morning, accompanied by candidates Hekia Parata and Kris Faafoi.

They opened a new building for the Porirua Union and Community Health Service, which will see almost 5000 people a year, mainly Maori and Pacific Islanders.

Meanwhile, Mr McCarten was supported outside his campaign office by Maori Party MP Hone Harawira, who praised the union leader for attributes he sees in himself: saying what you think without sugarcoating it, and sticking up for what you believe in.

Mr McCarten is campaigning on three policies: a $15 minimum wage; a plan to find 3000 jobs; and scrapping GST, replacing it with a 1 per cent financial transaction tax.

The mood was jovial until an argument broke out between Mr McCarten and Labour supporter Shane Cheriton.

"I'm an individual who thinks you're just full of crap," Mr Cheriton told Mr McCarten.

"Here's a bunch of trendy liberals who think they can get out with a bunch of slogans and things will happen. No one will vote for you mate, because everyone knows that you're going to split the vote."

Mr Cheriton, who said he would vote for Labour on Saturday, traded verbal blows with McCarten's supporters, while Mr McCarten shot back that Mr Cheriton was doing the Labour Party's dirty work.

"I'm not from any party, but an individual who doesn't believe this sh*t," Mr Cheriton said, pointing to McCarten's billboards.

"The people I spoke to this morning said, 'I was going to vote for him, but he's a dick'. I want to stop the people for Porirua from voting for someone who's not going to do anything ... Hekia Parata is a shoe-in if this man [McCarten] continues ... He needs to concede.

"$15 minimum wage sounds great, but it's never going to happen. It's just hot air."

Mr McCarten said he was not damaging the left's chances in the byelection because Parata had no chance of winning.

"I've done the doorsteps and I can count, and she ain't got a ... show and she never did."

He said he had every right to campaign for issues he believed in, and he would not accept any blame if Labour failed to win.

"It's called democracy, and all the parties should have to fight for [the win] and not say, 'don't run because you'll hurt us'."

But he conceded that Mr Cheriton had a point in saying his policies had little chance of being implemented.

"Any candidate who gets elected, like Hekia, won't change anything.

Kris will be a new MP, but in opposition. If I was elected it will shake the political establishment to its knees, and I'll have 12 months to organise this community. And we'll have it on, because I would say that I would have a mandate.

"We've got enormous support around these issues."

- NZ Herald

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