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Sunday 12 April 2015

Candidate catch-up: Damian Light

Posted in: Features
By staff - 16th September 2014

Gay Aucklander Damian Light is third on the UnitedFuture list, meaning if his party can rake in enough party vote, he’d be an MP on the back of leader Peter Dunne retaining his seat. We check in with the political hopeful.

The 30-year-old is standing in his third election for the party, and is contesting his home electorate of Northcote.

What have you been up to since we last caught up with you?

The most exciting news is that me and my partner managed to buy our first house! It was a real challenge trying to find a place that we could afford, but we managed it with some help. I have a first-hand understanding of the challenges faces by those trying to get their first home, especially younger people. It’s a massive effort and I’m very keen to see more done to make this easier, especially for those with young children and those on low incomes.

So I’m now living in Beach Haven, which we’re loving - such great community spirit and amazing people. We’ve gotten involved in some local community groups including one in particular which is working alongside the Kaipataki local community board to establish a park in the heart of Beach Haven. It’s a good example of a community empowered to make decisions with support from government.

How do you feel about your rise up the UnitedFuture list?

Obviously it’s a nice feeling to be recognised and I feel very honoured to be at number three. The party has always said that gender, age and sexual orientation has no bearing on our ranking and I think this has been proven once again. None of these were a factor in our selection, it was all about experience and knowledge (political and life experience), which is how it should be.

What is it about the party you love so much?

I love how UnitedFuture is a truly centre party – it means our policies are driven by the best outcome for NZ, not a specific left or right-wing ideology. We still have discussion and debate internally about our policies, but it’s about the merit of the arguments. It also means that we’re able to work with other parties and achieve things. We get a bit of flak for working with both National and Labour, but it’s meant that we’ve delivered real results for all NZ like personal and business tax cuts, abolished gift duty, KiwiSaver subsidy for first home buyers, the Family Commission, 240,000 more people with access to the medicines they need and reformed child support laws. Over the past 12 years we’ve delivered these and more, by working with parties – while some people seem to delight in standing on the sidelines yelling, we’re far more about making NZ a little bit better for everyone.

What do you think some of the key glbti issues/concerns are this election?

While we’ve made some massive progress in the past few years (especially around marriage), there is still a lot of discrimination. I’ve been fortunate to not experience anything too extreme, but people are still being abused and even beaten because of who they are (there was that disgraceful incident a few weeks back in Wellington). Coming out is still a very tough experience for many people, even in 2014, which says we’re not the open and fair society we could be. We need to be challenging everyone to be more inclusive, in our government, communities and workplaces. Our adoption laws are still horribly out of date, with a focus on the sexual orientation of the parents instead of the wellbeing of the child.

What is your advice/plea to glbti voters?

Get involved in the process – ask parties and candidates the hard questions, don’t be swayed by the personalities but look into the policies. There’s loads of choice and tools like VoteCompass, On the Fence and AskAway are making it easier to identify which parties might be a good fit for you.

And of course vote! With advance voting, there really is no excuse. Make sure your voice is heard!

What other issues (non-glbti) are you feeling most passionate about?

I can’t be asked this without mentioning our Income Sharing policy, that recognises the crucial unpaid work parents do raising children and means a fairer tax system for families. I’m very proud of our FlexiSuper policy that allows people to choose when they retire – we’re not all the same and this diversity should be supported by government, not ignored. I’m also very passionate about our free tertiary education policy because it has the potential to unlock the potential in so many young people, without leaving them with crippling debt.

Housing is one that concerns me, partly because of my recent experiences. There is a lot of talk from both sides about building more houses, which is important, but we also need to make it easier for people to get into these houses. Things like rent to buy (including state housing), low equity schemes and allowing low income families to user tax credits to build equity in their homes. I’m really keen to see some practical progress on this after the election and I’d love to work cross-party to get some action on it.

Tell us a bit about yourself outside politics ......

What’s an ideal Saturday night like?

Sometimes it’s a nice quiet night at home with my partner, watching a mindless movie and enjoying a good glass of NZ red wine (especially when it’s raining). But I do enjoy a night out with friends and family at a great restaurant - we’re so spoiled in NZ for choice when it comes to food and beverage, I love our multicultural nation.

What’s something people might not know about you?

After watching every James Bond movie (in order, one per week), I developed a taste for martinis. Made for an interesting New Year’s Eve!

Who are some of your heroes?

A lot of people have inspired me, friends who’ve faced adversity head on and never looked back. My parents and my older brother for the way they’ve always put their families first, sometimes at great personal cost. There are other inspiring people who are more well-known like Stephen Sutton who battled with incurable cancer since he was 15 but never lost the determination to live his life to the full. Winston Churchill is a legend in my mind for keeping the allies together through WWII. Politically, I look to Peter Dunne for his experience and pragmatic approach – he’s been in Parliament nearly as long as I’ve been alive, so he’s able to teach me a few things. staff - 16th September 2014

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