Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

The backbenchers: Gareth Hughes, Green Party

Green Party list MP Gareth Hughes talks to political editor Audrey Young about heroes and holidays.

Gareth Hughes has pushed hard to get the issues of fracking and deep-sea oil drilling on the agenda. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Gareth Hughes has pushed hard to get the issues of fracking and deep-sea oil drilling on the agenda. Photo / Mark Mitchell

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?

Personally, it has been watching my kids grow up. Arlo is 5 now and Zoe's 2. I guess politically it has been trying to put the issues of fracking and deep-sea oil drilling on the agenda. I think that well and truly is a bit of an issue nationally and we've seen the likes of Petrobras pull out which I think has come, in part, because of that public pressure we've seen.

Has there been a low point?

I can't think of a low-point issue. I did get a bit tired in the middle of the year. I think I got a bit tired of being in Opposition. It's difficult when there are so many things happening which you don't politically agree with and you'd like to see a change. It can be a bit tiring. But I'm full of energy now.

What is the most frustrating thing about working at Parliament?

I've found select committee could be really good forums for having proper discussions and really amending things in a non-political way but I do feel that select committees are very partisan-political. I've been talking to some old hands as well and they say it has been getting worse over time. I've had some frustrating experiences where some common-sense things haven't been done because politics has got in the way. Local government and environment is my main committee.

What MP outside your party impresses you and why?

I would probably say Jacinda Ardern [Labour list]. I often share political panels with her and it's good to share experiences about what it's like being young politicians. Obviously she's done very successfully to be on Labour's front bench.

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

Yes, I've got a number I have developed. I've got a Copyright Amendment Bill in there which would give Kiwis the ability to use parody and satire which is something we don't have compared to many other countries. Under the Copyright Act there are a number of exemptions [for copyright] such as for literary criticism or for using for the news. Unfortunately parodying or satirising something isn't a defence under the Copyright Act.

Do you engage in Facebook, Twitter or other social media?

Absolutely. I think politicians should be out where the people [are] and in 2012 it's clear people are online. I'm on there constantly and find it a great tool to engage, get ideas, respond to questions.

What is your position on the same-sex marriage bill?

I'm a big supporter. I think it is just a human right. I think it is something we should have done a few years back. Now we've got an opportunity to do the right thing.

Name one of your heroes outside politics.

He's passed away but a comedian called Bill Hicks. He died in the 90s but he is just someone I greatly respect and is incredibly intelligent and is able to speak truth to power through comedy. I wish he was still alive to talk about some of the things our world faces and could put it in a different light and a humorous light. He's American. Over the years I've found all his videos and different things online. I discovered him after he died. I was too young to have known him but a friend passed me tapes back in the late 90s. My old hero used to be [American philosopher] Noam Chomsky.

What books are you reading or planning to over the summer?

I've just started a book called The Victory Lab about Obama's election campaign by Sasha Issenberg. Another book that I've just bought and am looking forward to reading is Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson and When the Lights go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us by Maggie Koerth-Baker. I hardly ever read fiction but I will be reading 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson [a novel set in the solar system 300 years from now].

What's one of the best shows or concerts you've been to in recent years?

I've really enjoyed Public Service Announcements at Bats Theatre in Wellington. They've done three seasons where they just parody politics over the previous month or so. It's rewritten. They have political characters and they have the mickey taken out of them. The last one was all about David Shearer getting advice from Russel Norman and reminiscing with the ghosts of Lange and Muldoon. I've had brief cameos in all of them.

How are you unwinding over summer?

My plan is to have a whole bunch of bonfires. I bought a house last year and I've got a huge amount of gardening to catch up with so I've got a fire permit and as the nights have got a bit longer I've started having fires so I plan to do some gardening, clear some wood. There's heaps of fallen trees we've cleared away and straggly stuff.

Was there a beach that was special to you during your childhood?

Yes. Pouawa which is in Gisborne. Probably for the first 16 years of my life we would go camping there every summer. It's got a rocky shore and big sand dunes.

- NZ Herald

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