Building links across the Tasman


By Sean Malloy

Ross Debrecery is a member of New Zealand's NewLabour Party and a student at Otago University in Dunedin. He will be attending Resistance's 21st national conference in Melbourne July 4-6. Debrecery talked to Green Left Weekly about his visit, the NewLabour Party and plans for a national organisation of young progressives in New Zealand.

Debrecery thinks that an important aspect of NewLabour's success has been the involvement of young people. "In Auckland and across the country, young people are really the key to the NewLabour Party. If young people don't get involved in an organisation, then it is not going to last very long.

"Of the three major parties in New Zealand, NewLabour is the only one that offers any real hope for the future."

Polls show strong support for an Alliance that has been formed between NewLabour, the Greens, the New Zealand Democratic Party and the Maori party Mana Motuhake. Debrecery said that "there is a real disillusionment with politics in New Zealand at the moment, and the Alliance is what people seem to be looking to, if they look to anything at all. The polls certainly show this; the Alliance is the only organisation which has gained over the past year.

"It seems to be the only group which can capture the large pool of uncommitted voters. There are a lot of left organisations, but very few of them appear to be credible. The Alliance is the only one which has any appeal to young people, workers and unemployed. I think it has really grown to play a large role in New Zealand's future."

Conditions of young people in New Zealand, Debrecery said, are "absolutely terrible. There is no minimum wage for people under 18. Young people are being used to break unions, to break strong work forces. Their conditions are absolutely terrible: some people are working for $15 a week. The unemployment rate of university graduates is over 10%, which is an incredible rate considering graduates are considered to be the elite.

"Young people not only face all the problems from the Employment Contracts Act and unemployment; they also face problems like house prices. Houses are so expensive these days that we don't ever expect to buy a house. We also know we are never going to get national superannuation (the old age pension), unless something drastic happens or government changes. We are expected to pay for our pensions and our educations."

Debrecery plans to meet with activists in Australia to make links and get some ideas that will help build a national organisation of young progressive activists in New Zealand. "Many young people that I have been talking to throughout New Zealand want to build some kind of

"One of the things which has been lacking in NZ for a long time is any kind of strong youth movement. In the '60s and '70s, we had the Progressive Youth Movement, and various other parties like the Socialist Action League have had youth groups. But it has never got off the ground in a major way or lasted a long time.

"In some respects it is happening in certain areas: the student green groups have now got a national organisation. Maoris have several national organisations for young people and students. I think it is important that we get a more socialist-oriented organisation going on a national level.

"We want it to be more than just national", he said. "International links are very important and obviously links with Australia are important.

"By coming to the conference I hope to meet as many people as I can, to learn from people in Australia, make good contacts, to get lots of good ideas, learn from experiences of building a movement and get a flow of information going across the Tasman."

"We have very similar cultures and similar problems; by coming to the conference, I hope we can start to build up our information and get together on a lot of issues", he added.