Auckland, July 11, 2017
In February this year, I was selected to stand as Labour’s candidate in New Lynn, a seat which has been held by Labour since it was formed in 1963. David Cunliffe was the MP from this Constituency from 2002 to 2017. He stood down from Parliament in April.
It is an honour to be asked to stand for Labour in this seat. David has set a very high standard, and if I am elected, I plan to follow the model he has set, of being open and engaged with all the groups and people in the electorate.
It is a very diverse electorate, with 50% of the electorate identifying themselves as European, 37% as Asian, 13% as Pasifika, and 6% as Maori.
When we look at the numbers a little more closely, 13% of the people here identify as Chinese, and 17% as Indian. That makes New Zealanders of Indian ethnicity as the second largest ethnic grouping in the New Lynn electorate.
Of course, India itself is very diverse, and Indian New Zealanders have come here directly from India and from places such as Fiji, South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore. Thus, even within the Indian community here in New Zealand, there is significant diversity.
Understanding how many different groups and peoples can live and work together was the topic of my doctoral thesis. I particularly wanted to understand how the Government could change the way it operated so that every person, no matter what their ethnicity, could find it easy to participate in society, and in being a full citizen of their country.
This is especially important in New Zealand, where most of us are recent migrants.
We come from a wide range of different backgrounds, with different beliefs and cultures and different ways of doing things. But we are all joined together in this country, and that means working to find ways for us all to live alongside and with each other.
I am an expert in taxation. I started out as an accountant, and I have worked in the private sector, in government, and as a lecturer at Massey University in taxation. That gives me a deep understanding of the importance of business.
I especially admire people who run small and medium sized businesses. They support themselves and their families, and often employ other people as well.
In many communities, small businesses provide a social structure and place for people to gather and pass on news and information.
When it comes to tax, what I want is a system that is fair. Of course, many people do not want to pay tax at all! But if we are to have a decent society, then we need everyone to contribute, and we do that through tax.
Of course, business people should claim all the deductions they are entitled to – no one should pay more tax than the legal requirement.
But people should remit the tax that they are required to pay. No more, and no less.
As for why I am in Labour Party, it’s simple. I think everyone should have a fair chance to get ahead. That means making sure that we have an excellent education system, and that when times are tough, people can rely on our health and welfare systems to help them out so they can get back on their feet, and start again.
Supporting the needy
And for people who cannot, perhaps due to ill health or some other misfortune, we should provide on-going support so they can live with dignity.
I think that is something the current government has let slip, cut by cut.
For them, it all seems to be about keeping government spending down, instead of working out what we want to do as a community, and then working out how to start on getting those critical tasks underway.
There is only so long that you can cut and cut for. Sooner or later, you have to start building again. That is why we need a fresh approach in government.
Working for Children
I especially want to work for children, to make sure that they have every opportunity to succeed. Each child arrives as a bundle of hope, and it is our job to ensure that hope and promise for the future is fulfilled.
I have visited many schools in the New Lynn electorate, and I love seeing the work that the children are doing in their classrooms and their confidence and belief in themselves. Let us cherish and support that by rebuilding our education system to make sure that every child gets a chance.
And let us support families, so that each family can rear its children in hope.
That what I want to work towards in a new government.
Deborah Russell is Labour’s candidate in New Lynn, where she lives with her husband and their three teenage daughters. She has a B Com (Hons) in Accounting and Finance, and a PhD in Philosophy. She is ranked 29 on Labour’s list for the 2017 election.