No one's left right out in battle for votes

By Simon Collins

New Zealand's newest political party has decided to do without policies so that anyone who votes for it will not be disappointed.

The Bill and Ben Party, registered by TV Pulp Sport stars Jamie Linehan and Ben Boyce, is standing in the grand tradition of parties like the Mickey Mouse Party and McGillicuddy Serious, a regular fixture of New Zealand elections until 1999.

"At this stage we are running on a no policies, no promises kind of thing," said Mr Linehan, whose show conveniently starts a new run on TV3 just as the election campaign is due to climax in October.

"That will result in very few disappointments. [A vote for] all these parties making wide sweeping promises is pretty much setting yourself up for failure."

New Zealand politics may pale beside the excitement of Obama and McCain, but voters bored with the traditional choices can opt for any of 20 parties registered with the Electoral Commission so far - up from 19 in 2005.

Twelve new entities are entering the lists: three Christian parties, two monetary reformers, two parties on the left, one on the right, and four, including Bill and Ben, that are hard to place on any spectrum.

The two Christian parties at the last election, Christian Heritage and Destiny NZ, have disappeared - although Christian Heritage still received 0.4 per cent of the vote in last month's Herald-DigiPoll, more than all but one of the 12 parties outside Parliament that are actually standing.

Their most direct successor is the only other party to make 0.4 per cent, the Family Party, led by former Destiny leader Richard Lewis.

"The main difference between us and the Kiwi Party and the Pacific Party is that we are an overt Christian party. Our candidates are members of local churches with local church pastoral accountabilities," Mr Lewis said.

Kiwi Party leader Larry Baldock, a former United Future MP who led the recent petition to force a referendum on the smacking law, agreed that his party did not call itself Christian, although it stood for "traditional values".

"We believe we have to look seriously at what's going wrong in our families, the child abuse that's coming out where family breakdown is occurring," he said.

"We think welfare is part of that. It's time for a look at how do we deliver help to sole parents without creating a sole-parent society."

Pacific Party leader Taito Phillip Field told his party launch last month that his new vehicle stood for "Christian and family values", including repeal of "ungodly laws" such as the anti-smacking law and legalised prostitution.

Long-time monetary reform campaigners Democrats for Social Credit are joined this year by the Direct Democracy Party, whose leader Kelvyn Alp also advocates low-interest loans to fund new businesses.

On the left, the once-powerful Alliance is the only other party outside Parliament still registering in the DigiPoll, at just 0.3 per cent. Co-leader Kay Murray, a Dunedin programme manager for people with disabilities, said the party would field about 30 candidates this year.

This time it faces competition from the Residents Action Movement (RAM), which has stood previously only in Auckland local body elections. It is standing "up to two dozen candidates" from Northland to Wellington.

"We are calling the two major parties the Lab-Nats. We see them as a non-choice between market fundamentalists and market liberals," said RAM chairman Grant Morgan.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Libertarianz are fielding about 30 candidates advocating the eventual abolition of taxation and replacing welfare with voluntary charity.

Party leader Bernard Darnton, a Wellington software developer, said the party believed in "setting the goal posts" for policy, even though "we realise the goal posts are a long, long way away."

The single-issue Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and the Republic of NZ Party, which combines republicanism with a passion for fathers' rights in divorce cases, are harder to place on the traditional left-right spectrum.

So is Nathan Couper, 25, of Hamilton, who has gathered the required 500 names to register a party called the "New World Order", but can't afford $1000 to actually put up a party list.

"We got our policies off the Jehovah's Witnesses," he said.

- NZ Herald

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