When asked about the challenge for the Labour nomination for Manurewa, the Prime Minister replied that selection processes were dealt with by the party. "They don't tend to interest the rest of New Zealand", she said.
That may be true for most of the Labour candidates for the New Zealand Parliament, but it is not true in this case.
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Louisa Wall MP is a national and international figure with a major profile. She is highly regarded by a large number of significant women leaders, by our nation's sporting community, by community activists, and by the nation's LGBTIQ community.
She took the same courage she displayed as a Silver Fern and a Black Fern to her successful leadership for the Marriage Equality legislation.
I taught Louisa Wall in her undergraduate social work degree, and I supervised her M.Phil thesis (2001) Indigenous Representation as Members of Parliament. Louisa knows that our first Māori woman MP, Iriaka Ratana, faced vociferous opposition from Te Puea Herangi when she stood for Parliament, and elders from Te Arawa turned their backs to her when she rose to speak. She worked with National MP Hilda Ross extensively on issues for Māori women and Children.
My colleague Hon Peter Gordon said, that when Whetu Tirakatene Sullivan became Minister of Tourism in 1972, officials and industry leaders complained that she served tea and not alcohol, she did not give in to lobbying pressure, and did not play male games. Our second Māori woman MP led New Zealand's delegation to the UN Conference for International Women's Year in Mexico in 1975, and outrageously suggested that the word "sexism" be added to the World Plan of Action, well outside her MFAT brief.
For her thesis, Louisa interviewed Sandra Lee, Nanaia Mahuta, Georgina Te Heu Heu and Tariana Turia about their motivations to serve in Parliament and their links to tūpuna/tīpuna.
Louisa carries the kōrero of these exceptional women with her. These intense and compelling stories influence and motivate her.
Now Louisa Wall is being challenged for the Labour candidacy for Manurewa.
The Labour Party President is reported as saying "members understood the need to select an MP who represented local issues", in a report that also claimed "Labour has claimed almost every election there for 50 years". I don't think so. Merv Wellington was the National MP for Manurewa before boundary changes saw Roger Douglas (already in Parliament nine years) take over for 1978 –1990. Does Labour really claim Roger Douglas as representing "local issues"?
Apparently, there is criticism that Louisa Wall is not in Cabinet. Was there some advantage to Manurewa when Roger Douglas was in Cabinet? George Hawkins spent 21 years as the MP, with 15 of those years in Opposition, and he did not want a Cabinet position after 2005. If I go back to 1972, the MP for Manurewa has had a Cabinet position for 16 of the 51 years.
Cabinet Ministers have less time to devote to electorate matters. The electorate does not receive resource and investment advantages. New Zealand needs some leaders who will forsake opportunities for promotion to Cabinet, where they will be silenced by the doctrine of collective responsibility, and may be invited to relinquish principle and integrity for Cabinet unity. The options for disagreement are silence or resignation.
Louisa Wall is an exceptionally strong local representative. Louisa doesn't just make speeches, she makes things happen. Look at the examples: tackling period poverty, showers for the homeless and their access to primary health care, working with local churches for hospitality cafes, sight screening and glasses for children in Manurewa, introducing KidsCan to their first high school partnership, in Manurewa. She has a very good grasp of how the system works, how to access information and assistance for those who seek her help, and she responds quickly.
Louisa has been a distinguished Chair of the Health Select Committee. She has demonstrated significant leadership in the cross-party Women Parliamentarians group, and in teams working on marriage equality, abortion, female genital mutilation, mental health and addictions wellbeing, and end of life legislation, a quality New Zealanders want to see more of in their elected representatives.
I laugh when I read she is a "polarising figure in the Labour Caucus". I was subject to the same criticism. Yet time has a way of showing that critical thinkers on the inside improve a government's performance, especially when there are weak Opposition parties in Parliament.
I have great respect for our Prime Minister, but in this case we disagree. Many New Zealanders will be watching the Manurewa selection, and wherever they live, their party vote will hang on this outcome.
• Marilyn Waring is Professor of Public Policy at AUT University.