A case of all quiet on the western front

By Elizabeth Binning, Derek Cheng

Paula Bennett. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Paula Bennett. Photo / Steven McNicholl

It had the potential to be fiery but, in the end, a meet-the-candidates event in West Auckland featuring Paula Bennett and Sue Bradford was surprisingly tame.

Ms Bradford, the Mana Party candidate for Waitakere, had publicly criticised Ms Bennett - the incumbent MP and the Minister of Social Development - for failing to turn up at a number of electorate meetings.

In a statement issued before the meeting at Summerland Primary last night, she said she was "looking forward to finally being able to engage" Ms Bennett.

But there were no obvious direct shots at the MP. Nor were any returned. The most controversial thing to happen was an attempt to bar the press, which was quickly ruled out.

Ms Bennett and Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni went down well with the crowd of about 100, but Libertarianz candidate Peter Osborne provided laughs, saying that a policy on lifelong free education was "none of my business".

Meanwhile in the electorate next door, the hecklers would not be deterred.

The 200-odd who turned up for the candidates' debate in Helensville last night - the only one in which John Key is likely to take part - were put in their place from the start. No questions from the floor. Hecklers would be removed. Police were on hand to help, if necessary.

The Labour supporters contained themselves at first. They cheered their candidate, Jeremy Greenbrook-Held. They clapped politely for the Act and Legalise Cannabis candidates.

But when the Prime Minister started outlining his blueprint for the future, the Labour punters began booing.

"You're not in Parnell," said one, referring to Mr Key's home in a different electorate.

The PM retorted, saying he fought for the causes of 4.4 million New Zealanders, which sent some Labourites into fits of laughter.

The rest of the debate predictably saw candidates use their precious few minutes to push their policies.

Mr Greenbrook-Held hammered on about partial asset sales.

For sheer entertainment value, however, Legalise Cannabis candidate Adrian McDermott was untouchable.

Hemp, he argued, was a better building material because it was more elastic than concrete.

"I'm a scientist. I know how good hemp is. You can sit here and laugh ... but we're talking about the future of the economy. Do not underestimate the value of hemp."

It was a good thing no one could be ejected for laughing.

- NZ Herald

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