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Student-made election series great resource for voters

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 4:48pm

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Politics students Alex Gregory and Anya Gipp with the Hon David Clark (MP for Dunedin North) on the set of Vote ‘17.

An interview series put together by University of Otago Politics students asks tough and light-hearted questions of some of the candidates in this weekend’s general election – from what led them into politics to whether they believe spaghetti has a place on a pizza.

Vote ’17 is a series of nine half-hour interviews with local Dunedin MPs and candidates ranging from National’s Michael Woodhouse to Labour’s Claire Curran and The Opportunities Party’s (TOP) Abe Gray and Lindsay Smith to some from further afield such as New Zealand First’s Warkworth candidate Tracey Martin.

Interviews were filmed weekly on a Friday from 21 July to 13 September.

Those involved say working on this series gave them a chance to really engage with the election.

"We think it’s important that if students do enrol down here that they have a good chance to make informed decisions on who to vote for."

“Being able to run it ourselves with a bit of flair was something that really separates the interviews apart from other Q&A sessions which we are proud of,” says second-year student Hannah Ballantyne.

The team included Hannah and 14 fellow students. They worked with Politics Professor Janine Hayward, former Politics students Alan Richardson and Peter Grace and the team at the Otago Media Production Unit on the series.

Each week different members of the team conducted the interviews, and Professor Hayward says all handled the opportunity with great professionalism.

The show engaged with its audience via Facebook – with the audience encouraged to send in the questions they would like candidates to answer.

Third-year student Caitlin Taylor says students often talk about it being hard to understand what is going on in the lead-up to the election, and in particular getting to know the candidates in Dunedin North. She hopes Vote ’17 goes some way towards addressing this.

“We think it’s important that if students do enrol down here that they have a good chance to make informed decisions on who to vote for.”

Each interview asked delving questions into the politics of candidates and their parties and closed with a “quickfire” round of questions aimed at getting to know the politicians at a “whole new level”.

For example: Michael Woodhouse’s worst haircut? A punk haircut he gave himself; Whether Claire Curran prefers to walk or run? A fast walk; and which animal TOP Lindsay Smith believes his party leader Gareth Morgan would be? An elephant (“very kind, very intelligent, but when he puts his foot in it he puts his foot in it properly”).

Amusingly, the interview with Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark, which followed the now infamous AM Show questioning of Labour leader Jacinda Ardern on her baby plans, asked him a similar question – to which he laughingly repeated her reply – that such a question was “unacceptable in 2017”.

“The quickfire questions were always a highlight for us, because it often brought out a different side to the people we were interviewing and gave the audience a chance to get to know them better,” Ms Taylor says.

"I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it opened our eyes to a range of different issues that face New Zealand and gave us better insight, as well as heightening our will to vote."

Joking aside, the interviews are compelling, thoughtful and informative.

Tracey Martin describes her theory into why young people are not voting. She believes that society is not adequately informing them that everything that affects them, from “minimum wage to the quality of the air they can breathe” can be dictated by politics.

Dunedin South Green candidate Shane Gallagher offered his response to former Green co-leader Metiria Turei’s benefit fraud admissions.
“The system punishes people, it forces people to lie and cheat in order to put food on the table.”

The team behind the show says they had a mixed response from candidates they asked to appear on the show.

“We would have loved to have had Winston Peters, or Bill English or Jacinda,” fifth-year student Nadine Ward says. “But we could also appreciate how hectic schedules must be in the lead up to the election. We were lucky to have really strong support from many of our local MPs and candidates, as well as some from further afield such as Chlöe Swarbrick. Over the course of the nine weeks, we had representatives from National, Labour, Greens, and TOP and tried to get a real spread of policies and opinions.”

As well as being an excellent resource for voters, the series was an incredible experience for those involved.

“It shows that a bunch of die-hard politics students can in fact come together when approaching different politicians without fallout!” laughs Ms Taylor. “In all seriousness we had a fantastic team, and all bounced off each other for ideas and questions making it a really great experience. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it opened our eyes to a range of different issues that face New Zealand and gave us better insight, as well as heightening our will to vote.”

Take a look:

http://www.otago.ac.nz/politics/news/commentary/