The Spinoff’s Youth Wings series featured a debate in September — our Mavericks sat down with each of the Youth Wings to understand what their parties are about.

For Young Labour’s Adam Brand, Labour is “in my blood”. From a working class family, he joined Labour through a union and has stars tattooed on his right forearm. After being serenaded by Kiwi classic Fred Dagg’s ‘We don’t know how lucky we are’, Adam’s pick for song of the election, we chatted over Zoom and reflected on lockdown.

Adam is quick to admit that Young Labour has a “long colourful history of being rather outspoken”, but he instead seeks to be listened to by maintaining a reputation, not just throwing stunts.

Adam sees the referendums as moral conscience questions. Whilst the majority of Young Labour were for cannabis, “not everyone was as enthusiastic about that”. He is pro-choice despite the party’s stance of undecided on the euthanasia, however wouldn’t shout it from the rooftops.

Adam “definitely struggled at some point in lockdown” with mental health. So why was it not talked about during the leadership debates? Adam believes the leadership debates and election campaigning are not the right environment for such a crucial discussion. “There has been an attitudinal shift toward what’s appropriate to be discussed” Adam said, with examples such as the once-taboo subjects of youth suicide. “Our health system is run down and broken”, he said while comparing it to a city under siege.

The economic ‘downturn’, as Adam puts it, is nothing new. There are early indicators such as Māori and Pasifika unemployment rates, which help coin the phrase ‘the last hired first fired’. So when I mentioned the young students in South Auckland, as reported by Breakfast, leaving highschool to support their families, he wasn’t surprised.

The conversation turned to social issues, as Adam spoke about how putting homeless people into hotels during lockdown “wasn’t a sustainable solution”, and that housing is not enough. Adam advocates for Housing First, an approach where community housing solutions are utilised to get people into stable housing, where they then can be supported to work through other issues like addiction. He has personal reasons for MSD criticism, with his mother having bowel cancer and seeing her coming home vulnerable and torn down. He says people in need are not getting help, but are “being attacked when they ask” instead. He continues on, “dignity of workers is a huge part of worker wellbeing”.

Adam is passionate about New Zealand being the world leader for climate change through innovation and transition without losing people’s livelihoods. He says solutions need to provide actual work, not just “putting a couple of thousand to retrain”. He points to a community-owned and operated hydro wheel solution, seeing the prospect of more jobs as worth environmental trade-offs. Adam is worried about the mantra of ‘damn the consequences and the people who could be left behind’. “That is not the climate transition we want”, he says, advocating one which involves sustainable livelihoods for all New Zealanders.

Labour is for hydrogen fuel as a renewable energy, yet Adam also points out that “sustainability is not true sustainability if it’s only for the elite and for the privileged, true sustainability is accessible for everyone”.

“Young people have absolutely laid down the challenge …this is what we want, this is what we care about, this is what we expect”. With climate change at the forefront of our minds, voting reliability is important for our political sway, and as Adam puts it “the more you vote the more you will be pandered to”.

When asked why Jacinda didn’t visit Ihumātao, Adam explained that it was safer not to due to the legal complications. “She has made a call and has to stick to it, if she shifts with the wind then she is not a Prime Minister, but a figurehead that is influenced by whoever shouts the loudest”. Instead, Labour has brought all the stakeholders together, in a slow and stable way to engage.

Recently a Youth Wings debate was held, where he won The Spinoff’s most terrifying line while saying Young Labour will push Labour MPs to do better. He said his performance didn’t win his stoic Irish grandmother’s approval, who commented after the debate that ‘the ACT boy really won the night!’

Adam’s focus right now is just trying to get through uni, and he even said he should’ve been a tradie. But he does entertain the idea of working in politics, but adds “if I were to be involved, I’d say I’d more like to be a chief of staff, an advisor behind the scenes, to be in the room when the decision is made but not out in the firing line like the MPs are”. He has met a couple of Jacinda’s speechwriters, and there are roles close to the MP that he has his eye on. We can expect bright things from Adam in the future.

VICTORIA WHISKER is a recent English Lit and Classical studies graduate and who loves all things words. Stands by her beliefs in ‘The whole story is the best story’, God and a dessert stomach.

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