1978, and all this recent talk of byelections puts us in mind of a certain byelection in the Rangitikei electorate which was covered by Tom Scott in his Politics column.
“Along with many others,” wrote Scott, “I have been guilty of not taking Social Credit seriously in the past. Seeing, however, is believing, and seeing their campaign car left me in no doubt as to the outcome on polling day in the Rangitikei byelection. The dusty white Holden, modified in accordance with the league’s monetary policy, was filled with just one gallon of petrol at the start of the campaign. Four weeks later, when I joined them in Ohakune, they were still having to stop every half-hour or so to sophon off gas and relieve the pressure on the petrol cap.”
Social Credit leader Bruce Beetham, up against National candidate Jim Bull, Labour’s JJ Stewart, and Values Party candidate Dr Hocking, was “relaxed and casual in an open-neck shirt and walk-shorts” as he “sauntered through the small township at Ruapehu’s base greeting locals like old friends, which in a sense they were. This byelection was his third in the district and this visit his third in as many weeks. In spite of Jim Bull’s best efforts to revive the taunt, Beetham has long outgrown carpetbagger status.”
At the Labour Party information caravan was “a rather glum Roger Douglas, still musing over Arthur Faulkner‘s Waiouru meeting. The former Minister of Defence attracted three people, but not too much could be read into that. JJ Stewart would be in town later to talk to the local rugby club, and that would help.”
Later, Beetham “attracted more than 80 people to the gloomy Ohakune picture theatre. Again, as elsewhere it was a bigger audience than National could attract, and most seemed to like what they heard.
“Dressed soberly in a smartly cut suit, suitably serious, and lit from below by a feeble desk lamp that gave him a faintly demented air, Beetham delivered his now familiar address. If elected he would be a vigorous and independent MP. He would exercise a moderating influence in the House and would make Parliament more responsive to the wishes of the people.
“Economically the country was going down the drain. In real terms unemployment was 70,000 and rising. In real terms productivity was zero and falling. Borrowing, taxation, and interest rates would all have to come down. Social Credit alone could do these things.”
In the magazine’s extraordinary cover story, staff writer Karen Jackman looks into the vestiges of domestic service in New Zealand.
“Throughout New Zealand countless number of live-in domestic servants still perform menial tasks for their “betters”. They are living fossils, stragglers from the ranks of great domestic armies which once flung around their brooms to help build the classless New Zealand society.
“The matter of the household servant is one of the great New Zealand secrets. A persistent myth would have us believe that there were perhaps a handful around the turn of the century. But by 1901 domestic service was the biggest occupation after farming. Some 19,000 women (mainly 16- to 25-year-olds) and 800 men drudged in New Zealand homes. As the Golden Age of servants peaked, the 1936 Census recorded 37,000 paid female domestics. Shop assistants and typists combined only reached half this total.”
Elsewhere in the magazine, staff writer David Young looked at New Zealand’s newest skifield, on the Turoa slopes above Ohakune; there was a short story, A day at the races, by Michael Gifkins; Hamish Keith wrote about the economics of professional theatre; and sports columnist Charles Martin wrote: “New Zealanders have a great capacity to catch the atmosphere of an occasion and become involved. The fourth day of the recent Wellington test was a case in point.”
On television, Roger Gascoigne was hosting Stumpers “television’s newest game for the quick wits and quicker tongues”, Doctor Who (Tom Baker) was doing battle with the Sontarans, and How Green Was My Valley was screening on South Pacific Television.
There were some exciting advertisements for Fanta, Tibs tablets for cats and Bob Martin’s tablets for dogs, The Hite Report, and … bathroom cabinets.