Green MP, Sue Bradford, is without doubt one of the party’s most effective parliamentarians. She is liked and respected by many in the house and was described by Deborah Coddington as one of the “nicest people in parliament“.
Unfortunately, from my point of view, she is also one of the most destructive.
This is the first part of a profile of Sue Bradford which will lead up to her present day activities.
Sue Matthews grew up in Mt Albert, Auckland, the daughter of Auckland University micro-biologist, Dick Matthews. The family was left “liberal”. Dick Matthews was in the Communist Party at university and was active in the Labour Party in NZ.
According to the Green’s website “at the age of 14, Sue Matthews attended an American school, in Wisconsin. There she attended meetings protesting the Vietnam War. Already interested in politics, she moved in 1965 with her family to live in Madison, Wisconsin for a year – the site of one of the largest airbases in America. Some of her classmates had boyfriends leaving for the Vietnam War. She was right in the middle of the vast upheaval of politics in the mid-1960s, Vietnam War protests and the threat of nuclear annihilation.”
Back in NZ she attended Auckland Girls Grammar School where she was threatened with expulsion for carrying around Mao’s “Little Red Book”. Outside school hours she read Marx and Lenin and attended Communist Party run study groups.
Sue Matthews “was arrested for the first time in 1969. Only sixteen years old, she had taken part in the first sit-in in New Zealand as part of an anti-Vietnam War demonstration, an occupation of the US consulate in Auckland. ….By that stage, Sue was a Communist. Although never a member of the Communist Party, she had become a member of the Progressive Youth Movement in Auckland in 1967. She voraciously studied political theory and history, and was to go on to study the same subjects at university. By 1969, however, she rejected totalitarian communism and became a hippy, albeit at the political edge of hippydom.
The Auckland PYM was the youth wing of the Communist Party. While not so directly under the Party’s wing as the Young Communist League of the ’30s, or the Progressive Youth League of the ’50s, it was lead by several CPNZ members such as B Gabolinscy and Barry Lee.
Sue Matthews started study at Auckland Univesity, aged 16, studying politics and history.
She left the PYM and began mixing with the Maoist/Anarchist crowd, running “Resistance Bookshop” in Queen Street. According to her Green Party bio “Sue lived above Resistance Bookshop, a political organising base with its own printing press and shop. She dates the next step in her political development to 1970, and Women’s Liberation. Inspired by an awareness of the situation of women in other countries as well as in New Zealand, she was involved in setting up the first Women’s Liberation group in New Zealand on the floor of the Kiwi Tavern in Auckland
At Resistance, Sue Matthews mixed with some of NZ’s leading radicals of the day. They included;
Don Cooke and John Bower. Both convicted of blowing up the flagpole at Waitangi.
Roger Fowler, later with the Communist Party and once briefly famous for being punched in the face by Prime Minister Muldoon at a protest outside the Auckland Town Hall.
David Pa’apa’a, a leader of “Polynesians Against the War”
Odo Strewe, a former member of the Communist Youth in Nazi Germany. His father was a high ranking official in Berlin and young Odo claimed he used to steal government papers from him and pass them on to the German Communist Party.
Graeme Whimp, ex PYM and later a Central Committee member of the Socialist Unity Party.
In the early ’70s, Matthews, like many Maoists of the time travelled to China to study. From what I’m told, she did not enjoy conditions and came home early. She was also appalled by the racism of her Chinese hosts, particularly towards the black African students studying there.
In 1974 Matthews attended Canterbury University to do the one-year postgraduate journalism course. In 1975 she worked as a journalist in Wellington. A year later she moved back to Auckland in Auckland and for a time went on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.
According to her bio. “she continued to be politically active, taking part in protests right up until the end of the Vietnam War and picking up new issues such as women’s liberation and gay rights.”
She returned to Auckland University part-time to study Chinese again and eventually gained a masters in the subject
In 1981 she went back to China on a Foreign Affairs scholarship – “a fantastic, amazing experience”.