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I am one of five children, so learned quickly to speak up or miss out. Now a parent of two, my eldest is almost three; a chatty age. Now able to ask for things, we definitely know when something is not wanted (good examples include; eating up those last pieces of carrot, going to bed, putting the toys away). Occasionally the chat is nonsensical but I never discourage that verbal interaction – it’s all part of finding your voice!

Having a voice is a fundamental democratic right. I sought election to hear and represent the people of the Waikato electorate – being an MP is essentially echoing the voices of my constituents in Parliament.

New Zealand is a free and democratic country, I am always interested in the reasons behind decisions which seem to the contrary. The recent fracas over international speakers’ access to a suitable venue saw them silenced. Dr Don Brash’s cancelled speech at Massey University’s Manawatu Campus has brought much discussion around just how ‘free’ we are to engage in debate. I believe universities exist to foster wide and open discussion of ideas and opinions, part of comprehensive education.

Freedom of speech is also under threat in The House, with the coalition Government’s Electoral (Intergrity) Amendment Bill which I consider an insult to democracy. Preventing MPs from speaking out on points of principle and policy, the Bill will enable party leaders to force MPs out of Parliament. This will make individual MPs more answerable to their party leader than to the voters that elected them, allowing party leaders to overrule the wishes of voters.

So, if others decide what is appropriate to engage with, how does our small island nation maintain a broad world-view? More concerning is this Government’s culpability iin seeking to override democracy to entrench their political position, which in my book is an abuse of power of the worst kind.

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