Gordon Copeland: As It Is - My Time In Parliament and Thoughts For Our Future
Mary Egan Publishing
By Dave Crampton
There is a bit of dirty politics in Gordon Copeland’s book out this month.
The former Labour Party voter, and the United Future and Independent MP, and National Party, Future New Zealand, Kiwi Party and Conservative Party member outlines his vision for New Zealand, and discusses his time in parliament in “As It Is - My Time In Parliament and Thoughts For Our Future.
This book is both a history of the legislative changes which occurred during Copeland’s time in Parliament and a plea for the changes which he believes still need to be made.
It outlines Copeland’s views on prostitution, smacking, gay marriage, civil unions, housing, tax, his bust-up with United Future leader Peter Dunne and betrayal by Destiny’s Brian Tamaki. He supported decriminalisation of homosexuality, and legal rights for same-sex couples, but opposed gay marriage and civil unions.
However the book does not mention the time in 2007 he reportedly missed a vote on the anti-smacking legislation after leaving his party because of its continued support for the bill. He later took issue with media reports that he forgot to vote.
In 1972, Copeland was asked by National to stand for Parliament. He declined. Norman Kirk had a landslide and Copeland hilariously recalls a party at his house with National supporters, one of whom, apparently in shock at the election result sat on Copeland’s wife’s pavlova temporarily placed on the couch, and a couple of other National party members at the party soon confessed to voting Labour.
In 2001 Copeland, a conservative and devout Catholic, joined Future NZ who later merged with Peter Dunne’s United party and called themselves United Future. Copeland stood against current Wellington Mayor and Green candidate Celia Wade Brown in the Rongotai electorate in 2002 and made it into Parliament as a list MP, with seven other United Future MPs, as the party whip.
As a United Future MP, Copeland made some gains, including working with Finance Minister Michael Cullen on the establishment of a Charities Commission, and the adjustment of tax bands to minimise fiscal drag. Copeland, with his expertise on finance and commerce, has firm views on tax – tax most things sums it up – just don’t have a carbon tax and take GST off rates. (He had a member’s bill on the latter but it never passed; he had another on informed consent for abortions but it was never drawn and wouldn’t have passed anyway). He promoted a reduction in company tax and income tax and supports wealth tax, and capital gains taxes.
But, as we all know, things began to change after the anti-smacking legislation. Copeland resigned from United Future in 2007 after Dunne changed his mind, voted for the legislation and turned liberal on the party after losing support in the 2005 election. By that time former MP Marc Alexander had been expelled from the party and Larry Baldock had resigned. Copeland writes, “Peter came to the conclusion that our loss of support was because most of our caucus were Christians. I believe Peter was wrong.” Dunne then called Copeland a “serial nutter”. Accountable in Parliament to no-one, Copeland formed the Kiwi Party with Baldock, which had 500 members in 52 days but turned to custard after an approach with Destiny Church leaders, who said at a press conference that one of them will co-lead the party. Copeland felt betrayed. “My name was not even mentioned. Listening to (the press conference) in my office I felt sick.” Copeland writes.
Copeland has an opinion on most things, including Labour’s future. “If Labour wants a future then they must find ways to reconnect. Forever changing the leader is not going to cut it,” Copeland writes in a chapter dedicated to the topic.
The chapter on housing and home ownership is a good read. Copeland has a range of solutions on how to address inequality caused by housing, including a 50 per cent tax on profit resulting from the sale of land following its rezoning for residential use and a one off 50 per cent GST refund on, say, the first $350,000 or actual cost of building a new home.
Copeland believes politics is an important vocation, since the Government influences and to some extent shapes and affects the lives of us all. As It Is outlines how Copeland believes we can do better, and be better.