The National Party’s candidate selection process is likely to come under scrutiny after a current candidate revealed his anti-fluoride and anti-mandate views raised no red flags.
That’s despite party leader Christopher Luxon saying the comments made by Hamilton East candidate Ryan Hamilton were “entirely inappropriate and wrong” but confirmed Hamilton would remain the party’s candidate.
The matter will be an unwelcome distraction as Luxon prepares for his first televised debate against Labour leader Chris Hipkins tonight. Luxon has repeatedly lauded Hipkins’ debating ability, seemingly in an attempt to lower expectations of his performance, despite Luxon himself having been a champion debater at school.
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Luxon yesterday also continued his refusal to clarify his view on working with New Zealand First, which has extended to refusing to say whether he will tell voters before or after the election if he would work with Winston Peters’ party, despite previously promising he would address the matter.
Peters told his supporters at a public meeting in Paraparaumu that pressure on Luxon to rule him out of a National Government was an attempt by journalists to get ahead of the election result.
“They [the media] don’t care what you think - they want to decide,” Peters said.
Hipkins believed Hamilton’s comments were an “alarm bell” for Kiwis as to what kind of people the “National, Act and New Zealand First coalition of chaos could be bringing into government”, but he was also forced to answer questions about comments made by one of Labour’s list candidates on the HPV vaccine.
Speaking to the Herald, Hamilton said his opposition to using fluoride, which included saying it was pointless because “most lower socio-economics fill their tap water with Raro”, was not raised during the candidate selection process.
His views on the approach to Covid-19, which included opposing restricting unvaccinated people from council buildings and claiming coroner reporting was seemingly used to “inflate death numbers for the propaganda machine” were addressed, but no one from the party was concerned, Hamilton claimed.
“No one raised concerns at the time,” he said.
“I think there might have been a discussion but there were no red flags, I was transparent about everything.”
The National Party has been approached for comment.
Luxon yesterday said Hamilton’s views were now aligned with National’s, which supported the Labour Government moving fluoride management from local councils to the Director-General of Health.
Hamilton, a Hamilton City councillor since 2018, was selected as National’s Hamilton East candidate in February. His past comments were revealed by RNZ yesterday.
Hamilton said it was a “bit embarrassing” to see his comments - some made as many as nine years ago. He said they were “rash” and apologised for any offence they caused.
Despite indicating he was now in favour of using fluoride, Hamilton wouldn’t answer directly whether he supported it.
“As I say, I support the party position, the place for that was obviously in the caucus meeting, which has all been ironed out, I wasn’t privy to that, but I come on board accepting that position and I’m on board with it.”
Hipkins faced similar questions about Labour’s list candidate Deborah Rhodes, who told 1News she no longer believes in claims she’d made that the HPV vaccine was “poison” which sterilised boys, was “genetically engineered” and contains “altered DNA”.
When asked, Hipkins said he was aware of Rhodes as a candidate and was “happy to look into” her social media presence.
In reference to Hamilton, Hipkins said people were entitled to change their views of politics but, “generally speaking, I haven’t found conspiracy theorists that willing to change their views”.
He said Luxon had “set very high standards” for other parties on dealing with problematic MPs and candidates, but wouldn’t comment on whether Hamilton should be dropped as a candidate, as it was a matter for Luxon.
Earlier, Labour launched a clean energy policy, promising $4000 grants for people to install solar power in their homes, if re-elected.
The party was expecting the policy to double solar power uptake in the country, adding another 60,000 installations over four years at a cost of $218 million.
It expected installing solar power would save households up to 50 per cent in electricity bills, or about $850 annually.
Labour was also pledging $20m over four years for community projects and to fit out 1000 Kāinga Ora homes a year with solar panels, the latter costed at $18m a year.
The policy was similar to the Green Party’s Clean Power Payment, which includes up to $6000 for solar installations, along with also installing solar in Kāinga Ora homes.
Meanwhile, despite Peters claiming the media was exaggerating the need for Luxon to address their potential working relationship, the New Zealand First leader half-joked he might be called upon to be Luxon’s finance minister.
Peters seized upon the apparent hole in National’s tax plan and the pledge of finance spokeswoman Nicola Willis to resign if she could not deliver tax cuts. “Could be a chance here to have a decent minister of finance,” Peters said with a wry smile.
Peters’ experience as Treasurer (assuming most of the key roles of the Finance Minster, including delivering a Budget) in the final term of the Bolger Government was a persistent theme.
He was unhappy at being left out of a finance debate in Queenstown last week, sponsored by Australian-owned ASB, while also taking issue with not being included in a new RNZ series Grilled, in which the leaders of National, Labour, the Greens and Act cook with RNZ host Charlotte Cook.
RNZ’s website said New Zealand First was asked to participate, but declined.
”I found that one of our mainstream media outlets is going to have a cooking programme on... paid for by you!” Peters said.