On Saturday the 29th October Caritas organized a meeting with the candidates in Masterton in the Wairarapa electorate. Two Alliance Party representatives attended the meeting – Mary O’Neill the candidate for Napier and Thomas O’Neill a list candidate.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development. They work for a world free of poverty and injustice.
Candidates were invited to present 3 minutes talk. After that candidates were questioned by the 3 members of the panel. Dr. Anne Else who were representing the Child Poverty Group, Michelle Leslie-McArthur who represented Kids Kai Time and Mark Richards the board chair of Caritas.
Michelle Leslie-McArthur asked all candidates to give an answer about hungry children at school and if the parties have a policy on that. She asked all candidates - Alliance, Act, Labour, Greens, Libertarians, The Democrats, and New Zealand First and Conservative (the National Candidate did not attend). The Alliance Party was the only one with a free school meals policy.
Many of the candidates such as the Libertarians, Democrats and Conservatives have said it is a parent’s responsibility to feed their children. Another question put to the candidates was what are the parties proposing to do about the 80 percent of children in families without work that live in poverty. Once again the response was either it is the responsibility of the parents or the parties would put policy in place to help generate economic growth which will trickle down. The other party’s policy’s turn’s the task of alleviating poverty over to the private sector by generating jobs, but in a recession these policies are unlikely to have any effect, and if the past is anything to go on, economic growth will simply mean the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Only the Alliance had a policy of raising benefits to lift the standard of living of our poorest people.