SPECIAL POST: Anne-Elise Smithson answers pilot questions

When a young aspiring journalist goes to make a blog and gather interest – he has to have pilot questions to gather interest. One Anne-Elise Smithson has answered said questions. Others have been given the opportunity, and Damian Light has taken up so far, so you will see his special post in two weeks time. Without further a do:

What is democracy to you?

If your question is around the definition of ‘democracy’, there are many different types of democracy and it can take many forms. However, in general, I would say it’s a way of organising society so that people have decision-making power over how to use the wealth that they have collectively created – how to use it on health, education, justice, innovation, housing etc etc. It’s a way of using conscious decision-making and majority rule to work out how the economy will be structured. (I have to note here that from the Green perspective, we know that the environment is the thing WITHIN which human society and its economy operate, and not the other way around, but I digress…)

But if you mean more along the lines of what is a healthy democracy specifically,  then healthy democracy is decision-making that allows for human dignity, freedom of thought and happy, comfortable lives for ordinary people. I would also throw in: due process, good electoral process and the public’s right to a free and unbiased media.

I also have to add that a healthy democracy is something that is very easily taken for granted. It’s something you have to constantly work on, participate in, or it can corrode. People in power positions abuse their power when they are able to ride on the backs of others’ apathy.Whatever freedoms you have cannot exist in a political vacuum.

What is the importance of election campaigns?

Our communities are full of compassionate, brave and inventive people who are trying to tackle climate change, make things better for more vulnerable members of society, protect the environment and build stronger societies.

But for a healthy democracy, I’m not sure that this albeit really important work is enough. I see election campaigns as the most direct way of participating in democracy. It’s having a strong voice and strong influence need to speak out. As a candidate, you get to join panel debates, and go head to head with local MPs in government, and other candidates. Members of the public join the meetings and they get to hold the candidates and MPs to account, by asking them questions from the floor. In turn, this helps them decide who they will vote for.

Campaigning is a way of fighting for a decent society in New Zealand. As a Green candidate, a decent society means for me a fairer country (rather than 1 in 4 kids in poverty), a cleaner environment (swimmable rivers and oil-free beaches), and a smarter economy (more focus on innovation rather than pollution activities).

At the same time, I should add that civic engagement shouldn’t be limited to just once every 3 years. Although this is the best way to send through large ripples of influence, it’s important to continue to engage outside of campaigning time.

Should election campaigns consist of large groups or one on one sessions?

Both are good. Most of my experience has been with large groups though.

At what point should the public accept what their politicians are doing?

I love New Zealand and there is no place here for dictatorial styles of governance. Instead, we should be forging a reputation as the least corrupt country in the world.

I know that no-one is perfect, and we cannot expect our leaders to be either. They are ordinary people and are fallable like anyone else. However, we should demand that our leaders have a basic level of good ethics.  We should hold our leaders to account when they lose sight of ordinary citizens and are dancing to the tune of an uncaring few.

Don’t listen to anyone that says all politicians are ‘bad’. It’s simply not true 🙂

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