Audrey Young

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

The backbenchers: David Clark, Labour MP for Dunedin North

David Clark, Labour MP for Dunedin North, tells political editor Audrey Young he is driven by the pursuit of social justice

David Clark was disappointed his bill to raise the minimum wage didn't get the support needed. Photo / Otago Daily Times
David Clark was disappointed his bill to raise the minimum wage didn't get the support needed. Photo / Otago Daily Times

What's been the most rewarding part of the past year?

Representing the local constituents in Dunedin North and being able to make a difference in specific situations where they have fallen through the cracks for one reason or another, or the system hasn't quite served them properly, and having the ability to intervene and raise questions with local agencies or the relevant minister and to get the support they need for their circumstance.

The private member's bills have been pretty satisfying, too, particularly getting the one Mondayising Waitangi Day and Anzac Day through to select committee and hopefully beyond.

Has there been a low point?

My other member's bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour didn't get the support necessary to get it to select committee. I found it disappointing that the Government wouldn't support it when, by the time it went through, the change would have been probably only $1 an hour.

There's no doubt that with the growing gap between rich and poor, those at the lower end of the spectrum who are working harder are missing out. The little bit of money it would have cost would have made a big difference to the lives of those living on the breadline or below it.

What's the most frustrating thing about working in Parliament?

Being in opposition and not being able to achieve the kind of change you campaigned on. Those kind of things are like improving working conditions for those who are struggling the most, making sure that the vulnerable are looked after and trying to make sure we are getting the most out of all of our people, not just those who are privileged.

What MP outside your party impresses you?

Kevin Hague [Green]. Kevin is impressive in that he has been able to walk a line where he is seen as very reasonable, but also is able to challenge injustices where he sees them.

Do you have another bill in the private member's bill ballot?

Yes. It would see the conservation aspects of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority returned in to legislation so there is a stronger Government emphasis on energy conservation.

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

I am on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I think they are necessary in this day and age to communicate particularly with younger constituents. In my electorate the number of people engaged in tertiary studies is higher than any other electorate in the country.

What's your position on the same-sex marriage bill?

I'm supportive of it. Fundamentally I think the best possible scenario would be a civil union that the state delivered much as they have in Germany, and any kind of marriage per se administered outside of state control. That's a purist understanding of things.

However, I see the bill that has been put forward as being effectively the same thing. And the young people I talk to don't associate marriage with the religious institution anyway. They see it as being something delivered by the state.

In their eyes, it's having the state deliver [the idea] that marriage should be the same for everybody.

Name one of your heroes outside politics.

I guess this sounds a bit cheesy but ultimately the Biblical Jesus is something of a hero to me, unsurprising given that I've got a background as a minister of religion. He was someone who stood up for the poor and vulnerable and was concerned about social justice issues and not afraid to take on the authorities of the day to ensure fairer outcomes for those who were struggling.

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

The two books I have on the go are partly serving as prep for my Eisenhower Fellowship this year: Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow and Joseph Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality.

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

The Elton John concert at the stadium in Dunedin was spectacular for the way it got Dunedin people together.

How are you unwinding over summer?

I'm spending some time with family. I'm hoping to get a bit more exercise because that is something that has been neglected in the course of the parliamentary year.

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

Yes, several. I grew up in a little village called Beachlands, southeast of Auckland, so the local beach there was significant to me. It's where I spent a fair amount of my time after school, swimming and jumping off the wharf and so on. I also remember summer holidays often being beach holiday at Cooks Beach, so there are many happy memories from there, and Hot Water Beach up on the Coromandel Peninsula.

- NZ Herald

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