Parliament's newest MPs, Agnes Loheni and Paulo Garcia of National, spoke with 1 NEWS about matters ranging from what they intend to pursue in Parliament, to their favourite celebrities, to how they intend to vote on upcoming legislation.
Parliament will likely be making conscience votes on topics such as introducing euthanasia and moving abortion into the Health Act, and there is set to be a referendum on legalising cannabis. How will you vote on each of those issues?
Agnes Loheni (became an MP on January 31)
I was raised in a strong Samoan community where we respect, honour and value life. These values are core to who I am and what I stand for. I won't be voting in favour of euthanasia. I believe the abortion laws do not need to change. I am opposed to legalising of cannabis, having observed first-hand the devastating effect it has on our young people, our rangatahi.
Paulo Garcia (became an MP on May 16)
I will not be supporting them as my conscience based on my Christian and Catholic faith respects the value of life from conception to natural death. Abortion is already legal in New Zealand. I do not see any reason or basis to alter the current law in any further way. I am not a scientist and defer to the position of the New Zealand Medical Association that there is no proven scientific-tested and verified evidence that cannabis can outperform existing drugs already in the market.
*The current rules for abortion under 20 weeks are in cases of serious danger to life, physical health or mental health, incest and foetal abnormality. Sexual violation is a factor that can be taken into account.
What's the biggest problem facing NZ at the moment that needs dealing with?
The rising cost of living. Whilst this Government has its eyes on international headlines, it is dropping the ball big time on the real issue affecting ordinary New Zealanders. Fuel prices and increased rents, and a drop in jobs created is biting ordinary New Zealanders hard.
A general over-all weakening of the value people place on relationships – whether interpersonal, group, family or community – and a rapidly increasing attitude of entitlement and self-promotion which has led to a disinterest in others and the loss of empathy. This manifests in divided communities and families. This detachment allows for a steady decline in all things other than the interest in self and a much weakened society.
Who is your favourite New Zealand celebrity?
Tofiga Fepulea’i (Laughing Samoans) is definitely a celebrity in the Pacific Island community. He’s a family man with a big heart who gives back to the Pacific community a lot. I went to my first Laughing Samoans show around 15 years ago and he’s still entertaining people today with his own solo shows. Even today he never fails to have me almost falling off my chair in laughter.
Mike King – on the value of what he is doing and the method by which he seeks to achieve solutions. Small steps in ordinary life using ordinary situations to help people understand situations of stress and to help or be helped… with humour! A house filled with joy fosters change and facilitates stronger relationships.
As a new MP, what is an issue or topic you want to pursue in Parliament?
In my maiden speech, I spoke of the need to ensure families can choose pathways to better education; to be able to live with a roof over their head and food on their table; and for families to live a life where jobs underpin their futures and where they can live the Kiwi dream. That happens when we reduce tax burden on people, remove the barriers to house building in this country, and where we remove the barriers to employment in this country.
I want to do all I can to find support for families – not just in terms of dollars and cents – people seem to relate problems in families and youth crime with financial poverty as the central basis and money as the central solution. Whilst I agree financial poverty is a factor, I disagree that it is the central problem. The central problem I believe is the poverty in spirit – a poverty of soul – for young people who grow up without knowing the love of both parents.
If you could spend a day in another person's shoes, whose would they be?
I'm not a very good singer so I would definitely choose someone like Celine Dion or Adele, and I would spend the whole day belting out ballads!
I would like to be able to see the world from my mother’s eyes. She is 86, can hardly see, has severe type 2 diabetes and a tumour in her lungs but she feels everything around her. She can hardly see but she is overjoyed whenever she meets with anyone – new or old friends, family missed, family seen yesterday, total strangers. She can hardly see but she brings joy to all she meets, she feels all their hurts and concerns, she laughs heartily and worries for nothing. She is offended by nothing and thinks only of how to bring a dish she just cooked to share with her neighbours. What joy and love!
What was a moment in your life that you believe sets you up for the cut-and-thrust lifestyle of Parliament?
It is not a moment that sets you up for Parliament but the values you stand for and the life experience you bring with you. As a daughter of Samoan migrant parents, completing a degree in chemical engineering while raising my five children and working to grow my own business has taught me the most amazing lessons on resilience, compassion and hope.
I think that having unity of faith and life is an important factor, that we live what we believe and not just speak about it. It affords certainty of purpose resulting in a greater latitude in dealing with others in a way that recognises others' concerns and sentiments apart from your own. True empathy for me is a pathway to the happiness we all seek and the desire to be of benefit to others is good to be fostered.
Who are your favourite current MPs?
Labour: Anahila Kanongota’a Suisuiki. I got to spend a few days away with Anahila at a Pacific women's parliamentarian conference in Fiji. It gave us a chance to get to know each other away from Parliament. I admire her tenacity when advocating for women. We share very similar family values and both are passionate about getting the best outcomes for the Pacific Island communities in NZ that we come from.
National: Denise Lee is one of my favourite MPs. She’s been a great support person to me as I have transitioned into political life. Denise is genuine, has a positive outlook and is just one of the coolest people around.
I find that I hold no favourites among the National MPs with whom I now spend a great majority of my time with. I admire everyone in the many unique ways they do their work - very dedicated and self-sacrificing. I do admire the coalition MPs who have openly received this new member with genuine and ready smiles and a friendly attitude.