Over 300 people packed into a Tauranga conference room last night to hear Jami-Lee Ross and Billy Te Kahika call for an end to Covid lockdowns.
It was a political meeting that at times seemed more like an evangelical revival service as the audience interrupted with chants of “freedom” and endless rounds of applause and standing ovations and wound up with a spontaneous singing of the National Anthem.
Though there was plenty of grey hair in the audience, there were also more young people than have been turning up for campaign meetings for the other parties.
Billy “TK” Te Kahika’s career as a blues guitarist with an international reputation was evident in the rock-concert style merchandise table outside. Tee shirts, “Make Ardern Go Away” hats and books exposing.
But the show biz continued inside with a stand up comic warm-up act from Australian migrant Brian Gillett.
Introducing himself, he said he was the father of four “beautiful children”.
“And not one of them has had a vaccine.”
That provoked whoops and yells and prolonged applause.
And it set the scene for the evening.
Te Kahika said that he had a link-up arranged for this week with the American environmental lawyer, Robert Kennedy junior (son of Robert Kennedy senior who was assassinated during the 1968 Democrat primary campaign).
Kennedy Jnr is a leading anti-vaccinationist in the United States, and Te Kahika is expecting that he will endorse his stand against vaccines.
But though opposition to vaccines and 1080 are important planks in the NZ Advance Party platform its over-riding issue is the party’s opposition to Covid-19 lockdowns.
“If we continue down the same path that both Labour and National will take this country down, we will see more lockdowns because they believe in lockdowns at any cost,” said Jamie-Lee Ross.
“We will see more devastation to our economy.
“We will see the borders closed for years and years.
“And the only way they’ll open the borders a is if they can implement a vaccine and the only way they will get high uptake of that vaccine is if they pass oppressive laws which require people either to be discriminated against on the basis of the vaccine or they’ve actually given themselves the power to go the whole hog and do some pretty devastating things if they want to.”
Te Kahika told the audience that the lethality of Covid-19 was the same as the winter flu.
He quoted the Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke who has said lockdowns don’t work.
(Giesecke is not, as Te Kahika claims, the chief advisor to the Director-General of the WHO but a member of a 13-person WHO technical advisory committee.)
“But isn’t it amazing, though, the Swedish epidemiologist is now the star of the WHO, and he has said right up front that what Britain was doing, what the US was doing, what Australia was doing, it’s all overblown,” said Te Kahika.
“Our Government has got it fatally wrong.
“And I think it’s costing lives.
“Their response is costing lives right now.”
But beyond their opposition to Covid lockdowns and vaccines, much of the rest of the agenda of the NZ Advance Party echoes the platforms of two other right-wing parties, ACT and the New Conservatives.
Like the New Conservatives, Jami Lee Ross wants substantial constitutional reform including a written constitution and binding referenda.
“Our parliament actually is one that can be very dangerous in the worst of times,” he said.
“There is no constraint on parliamentary decision making.
“There is no entrenched constitution and the Bill of Rights that we have in this country.
“When parliament wants to do what it wants to do, the Bill of Rights isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on.
“At any point in time, our politicians, by a slim majority, in the middle of the night under urgency, can take away rights and freedoms because our Bill of Rights is not entrenched.”
Bill Te Kahika is concerned about an ACT favourite, hate speech.
And he believes the Prime Minister is a communist.
“The other day on TV, in that debate with Judy, she said why don’t we have a meatless Monday,” he said.
“She said it very seriously.
“That is communism.”
Te Kahika (and the Advance Party) also support the campaign against the UN Environmental Programme, Agenda 30, which was promulgated in 1992.
Books by a prominent right wing US author, Rosa Koire, opposing the agenda, were on sale at the rally. The campaign against the agenda has become something of a rallying cry for the right in the US and has drawn support from personalities on Fox News and the right-wing of the US Republican Party.
“When I debated kelvin Davis last week on the TV3 show,” the Hui”, I mentioned Agenda 2030 you should have seen the look on his face,” said Te Kahikia.
“You should’ve seen the look on the presenters face too.
“I believe that Kelvin doesn’t know anything about that.”
But the party appears to have paradoxical views about the environment.
It’s Bay of Plenty candidate, Angela Moncur, told the rally that her main concern was the environment.
“It’s very important that the environment, soil, air and water is clean,” she said.
“This is our survival; it’s our sustenance.
“If we don’t have that, we have nothing.”
But ultimately, like the New Conservatives, there is a strong streak of anti-globalisation running through the NZ Advance Party which is reflected in its foreign policy.
Like them, they oppose the UN and Ross is particularly critical of China.
“We must review every international agreement that our governments has ever signed up to,” he said.
“You know, the critics will say, oh, what about trade? What about exports? What about all of that?
“The problem we have in New Zealand is we are no longer taken seriously enough by our own traditional trading partners.
“It’s a very good reason why we don’t get a free trade agreement with the United States or the United Kingdom or that we struggle with in previous times in recent years to gain future trade agreements.
“We are no longer taken seriously enough as a country, because we put all our eggs in the Chinese Communist Party basket, and the big political parties are heavily influenced and bought by Chinese Communist Party money.”
It could have been NZ First when they were not in Government.
It was ironic that this meeting was in Tauranga, a historic home for extreme right-wing organisations like the League of Rights and then the more mainstream but anti-globalisation and conspiracy party, NZ First.
It is the apparent collapse of the NZ First vote that seems to have inspired what is a flowering of right-wing parties this campaign.
But they have also grown at the expense of National.
The question now is, how far to the right National will go to accommodate them as it tries to rebuild its base.
Te Kahika and Ross talk of NZ Advance, not as a party, but a “movement” and certainly last night the passion of those attending the meeting suggested that might be an appropriate description.
The meeting concluded with a specially written song about freedom and oppression. They had even formed a choir to sing it.
“We are your party,” said Te Kahika as he wound up the evening.
“We are not the Chinese Communist Party’s party; we are not the United Nations’ party; we are not the multi nationals’ party.
“We are your party and we will make Aotearoa great again.” (cheers and applause)