Justice spokesperson talks tough

Tag team – Whangaparāoa MP Mark Mitchell will hold the police portfolio and work closely with National’s justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith if National is elected to government.

An audience of around 50 people came to hear what National’s justice, workplace relations and regulatory reform spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, had to say, along with police spokesperson and local MP Mark Mitchell, at Ōrewa Bowls Club on September 18.

It was no surprise that law and order was the key theme, and here the two MPs were largely preaching to the converted, mainly older, crowd. However, some who came to the meeting said they were undecided voters, or considering Act or NZ First.

List MP Goldsmith opened by saying that he “inexplicably keeps losing” his Epsom electorate to Act’s David Seymour. He said all bets were off this election, and he was actively campaigning to win the seat for National. Epsom has been represented by successive Act MPs since 2005.

Later, when asked about MMP, Goldsmith said “the party vote is the only one that really matters” in the makeup of Parliament and to ignore “snake oil salesmen” who say they are supporting National.

He is clear about his justice priorities, which are dealing with violent crime (including reinstating the 3 Strikes policy) and preventing judges from reducing sentences by any more than 40 percent.

He wants to create a new category for serious young offenders who are caught more than twice, with tougher penalties, and reduce waiting lists for court hearings (although he did not say how this would be achieved in view of National’s policy of locking up more offenders).

There were murmurs of approval for his fourth priority, which focused on opposition to co-governance strategies. Goldsmith said National would “restore equal voting rights in local government”.

In response to a question from the audience about school absenteeism and the need to increase powers for truancy officers, Goldsmith agreed that there needed to be “more bite in the system”.

“Erica Stanford [the party’s education and immigration spokesperson] will have something to say about that soon,” Goldsmith said.

He said schools that were successful in getting attendance rates up had a “no excuses” policy and that parent accountability also needed addressing.

Although he praised National’s leader Christopher Luxon for his belief in “devolution” – not controlling everything from central government – he added that what was taught in schools was also a focus: “one hour of reading, writing and maths a day is needed,” he said.

In relation to climate change mitigation causing increased costs in sectors such as building, Goldsmith said the government needed to be mindful of what the rest of the world was doing, and the impacts of climate change policies on the economy and cost of living.

“But [climate change policies] will still increase costs, and all New Zealanders have to face that,” he said.

He said it was important to keep pace with our trading partners, which he suggested could be assisted by changing the rules around genetic modification.

The two MPs said that New Zealanders “want to see results, not promises” and that they are excited about delivering that if elected to government.