National Library of New Zealand
Harvested by the National Library of New Zealand on: Sep 20 2005 at 21:11:01 GMT
Search boxes and external links may not function. Having trouble viewing this page? Click here
Close Minimize Help
Wayback Machine

Public Address - Poll Dancer (Home)

Made by...

Winner - Best Personal Blog - 2003 Netguide Web Awards

Recent Posts...

PreviousPage 5 of 7Next   Archive

Out of the Trenches! | Jul 27, 2005 22:51

I have to hand it to Bill English - it took some balls to come and speak at Victoria University today. The student crowd is generally unpleasant for right-wing MPs, but for a right-wing MP trying to convince them that no interest on their student loan is a bad idea, it was downright hostile. They treated him like... well, like he was Max Bradford, and though he put up a good fight, one man was never going to be able to fight the crimson tide that is sweeping over the campuses.

There's little doubt that Labour's policy has really hit the mark. Just last week, National took a shot at the same thing, trying to create incentives for graduates to stick around and work in New Zealand, but was met with a lukewarm response.

I mean, making student loan interest payments deductible from your income for the purpose of calculating how much you pay in tax? Sure, the policy center may be chewy caramel and the money-in-pocket coating may be delicious chocolate, but when that candyball is being stuck up the tax policy wazoo, the taste gets replaced by an altogether more confused response. And a bribe not understood is a bribe not taken.

Labour aimed at the same spot, but shot a cannonball through National's arrow. It was as clear as it got - no interest, period. It was so clear, in fact, that I had trouble figuring out whether I actually understood it properly. Dumbfounded, I called Mallard's Press Secretary:

Me: "Uh, I just wanted to clarify - does that mean no base interest?"
MPS: "It's all in the press kit."
Me: "Yeah, I just read it. But there is still an inflation adjustment component, right?"
MPS: "No. It says 'no interest', doesn't it?"
Me: "Um... yeah, but... I mean, there's still an inflation adjustment, right?"

I was seriously expecting them to say that there is no interest, just an "inflation adjustment". And beside, who'd be crazy enough to offer an interest free, non-inflation-adjusted loan? After all, such a loan is not a loan in any conventional sense.

And that was the point. The student loan scheme has mutated to the point where it's no longer a loan, it's more like a universal allowance on one end and a 10% graduate tax on the other, with how much you take affecting how much you pay.

How is this different from a loan? Sure, there's a choice to pay more or borrow less, but there are no incentives and no pressure. The system is not governed by price mechanisms, but by government policy alone. I don't have a word to describe what it has become, but it doesn't look like any other loan schemes out there.

It won't behave like any other loan scheme, either, and that's why, even though it breaks the fundamental mechanisms by which loans operate, it's still possible for it to work, via the very visible hand of government, which dictates how much you can borrow and how much you have to pay back.

The real issue, as National points out, is the cost. All the smart money right now says it'll be well above the $300m costing that Labour has put out. John Key has just thrown into the hat a figure of $550m, which, to be honest, still seems quite small. Total student debt was expected to climb to $13b by 2015 anyway; if there was indeed going to be an "explosion", with more people borrowing and voluntary repayments declining, a $15-20b debt wouldn't be unreasonable. And if the current 7% interest rate was applied to a debt of $15b, the government would be missing out on revenue that would, in theory, be just over $1b per year.

It's a curious position that National have found themselves in - they're complaining that this scheme will benefit us soon-to-be capitalist parasites, at the expense of the proletariat running our factories. I wonder how that'll work out for them, especially when they finally launch their tax policy.

Is anybody else slightly perturbed, though, at how hard and fast these first four days have been? If Labour drop a nuke like this for the opening volley, what will they do for a follow-up? For that matter, what on earth have they got stashed away for the end-game?


[I was at an Australasian Parliamentary Study Group seminar tonight, featuring Jordan Carter and David Farrar. I'm sure one, or both of them will talk in detail about the contents of the seminar, but I found the contrast in style between the two quite refreshing. David, being the pollster, had a Powerpoint presentation on the typology of blogs, demographics of blog readers, number and trends of readership; Jordan, being the lefty intellectual, expressed his contempt for Powerpoint and talked about blogs as a medium for democratic participation and public debate. They should do joint gigs more often!]

View Printable Link to this Post Send Feedback to Author

Duck and Cover | Jul 25, 2005 16:27

I'm not nearly as excited as I thought I'd be. It's kinda like declaring the start of WWII after the panzerkrieg was on the wrong side of Poland.

Still, I'm looking forward to having policy to look at.

As everyone start firing their opening volleys this week, I'll be keeping my head down. Will return when the smoke settles and the substantial material comes out.

Next Tuesday: Simon Power on being conservative at 30-something and the virtues of small government.

View Printable Link to this Post Send Feedback to Author

Two Titanics | Jul 18, 2005 08:44

Squirrelled away in a cosy shoebox at Victoria University, Political Scientist Jon Johannson specialises in political psychology and leadership. He has just published a book called "Two Titans", a comparative study of Rob Muldoon and David Lange, and he talks to Salient, about their less titanic successors...

About a year ago, the election seemed like it was going to be a non-event. Do you think think this election will be exciting?

My feeling, since Brash took over National, is that this election signals the end of a phase, not the beginning of anything new. The last time there was a whole fresh nomenclature of terms around politics, well, you have to look back to '84, which coincided with a generational change in the leadership of the country with the Fourth Labour Government.

I think '05 is the final argument about the efficacy of the whole reform period and the politics that succeeded it, because Brash is so identifiable as the heir of Ruth Richardson, the neo-liberal purist. Despite the current packaging, that really is the real Don Brash.

In a sense, it's galvanised around the tax cut: the 'give New Zealanders their money back', trickle-down theory of economics versus Clark emphasising social cohesion and social policy.

If this is the end of an era, what would it mean if Brash wins? Is it a victory for Rogernomics?

In the absence of some unprecedented high level of support - around 45% - the only way there's going to be a centre-right government is a coalition or some arrangement between National and NZ First.

I'm of the school that does think that whoever wins this election might well prove the ultimate loser. It will be very unstable, and both parties - certainly Labour - are going to have real problems in 2006 whether they win or not.

If [Labour] wins a third term, I expect there'll be a lot more positioning and a lot less discipline exerted over the factional elements of the Labour caucus, because most of them - the ambitious - will have an eye to the post-Clark Labour Party.

In National's case, if Brash wins, it would require NZ First [to form a government]: Again, I think this is unstable. I think that if Brash ultimately delivered policies different from what he goes to the election with, it'll be a very short-lived government, and screw National for a considerable period afterwards.

This has always been an unlikely, one-time shot by Dr Brash and his supporters and backers.

So what you're saying is, even if they win...

...they lose.

The risk factor for the National Party further downstream remains high.

People very much focus on the race and the current standing of the polls, The point I make a lot is that there is a big difference between registering and reacting to transient events and recording those in monthly polls, versus the actual cognitive process that determines your vote on voting day.

It's long been my theory that if Brash doesn't come off during the campaign, National could actually lose a significant amount of support. The only piece of empirical evidence we have is that, in 2002, they recorded 20.93% of the party vote. That requires at least as many people again as voted for them in '02 to actually change their minds on the day to deliver them a government.

These are two different psychological processes, so that's why I've stuck, in terms of my analysis of this election, to the fundamentals rather than the transitory poll movements.

So do you see the recent poll movements as significant at all?

It's significant in the sense of the trending. I agree with that school that says the trend does matter. National would surely be emboldened... well, enormously gratified, that they have lifted themselves as a player. That was the problem in '02 - they weren't seen as having a legitimate chance of winning, therefore - you saw what happened in the campaign - the votes flew everywhere. This time around - and Brash's rhetoric is reinforcing this at every opportunity - it's a two-horse race, which serves to remind voters that National are in the game.

They have been very successful in the period since he has become leader to achieve that, because as you say, a year ago, it looked like it was just going to be another sleepwalk to victory [for Labour].

These people have done their focus groups. One thing that stands out as an improvement in National, when compared to the pre-Brash period, is that the political operation is now competitive. We've seen that with the billboards, we've seen it with how cleverly they have exploited cultural prejudices - race being only the most obvious. That use of Maori vs non-Maori creates a supermajority: everyone against Maori, who are using taniwha, etc., to [disrupt] our lives.

Do you think that "mainstream" was an attempt to soften the image of people like Brash?

'Mainstream' is essentially the collection of prejudices that Kiwis share, which is being exploited by Dr Brash. From my lecture today: "The political leader who can appeal to national ideals will win more often than the demagogue." I'd suggest, in 2005, that that's going to be put to the test.

You can drive a bus through Brash's vision of 'mainstream New Zealand'. Look at the embarrassment caused to one of his list candidates, when Brash declares gay people, by definition, not part of mainstream New Zealand. Then of course [he] has to quickly change that to 'some gay people are allowed to be mainstream New Zealand', because one of them is on his party list! This is disgraceful, this whole approach, and I say that not from any partisan position, but as someone who studies leadership.

The other thing about "mainstream" is, how the hell can you legitimately claim that you are connecting with mainstream in NZ, which is comprised of 50% women, when the first woman on your list comes in at number 10?

Two women who actually made stands on principle - [Katherine] Rich on welfare policy, and [Georgina] Te Heuheu on treaty and race issues - he both got rid of; sacked them.

If there's a sleeper issue in this election, I reckon it's gender. There's only a 5% differential in the female demographic in the last poll breakdown I saw; with National ahead, there's still 5 points more in favour of Labour.

The questions I would ask Dr Brash on the treaty and race front: What does he think would be the impact on this country's social cohesion if the Maori seats are removed because there's enough white votes to make it happen?

What does Dr Brash think it says about his credentials to be Prime Minister of this country and to lead us to wherever he wants to take this country, when he knows, by his own admission, so very little about where we have come from? He hasn't read any of the standard texts on New Zealand history. To me, this is just shocking that we have someone offering a cultural interpretation that doesn't even know where the country has come from, isn't familiar with Orange, Belich, Sinclair, and so on.

That's two of my substantive criticisms about Brash's relationship to his party's treaty and race policies. Apart from everything else, I think it's bad policy, given the demographics of this country as well.

Do you think they'll still bring their race policy out as their "trump card"?

I think the posturing over tax shows you that they want to set the agenda at the beginning of the campaign over tax. I've got no doubt that treaty and race is going to come back into it, because in many respects, Labour - and the Prime Minister particularly - have resiled from principle over the treaty and race, which has allowed this vacuum that Brash walked into last year. And even their behaviour since the Owera speech has not [been] to assert principle, not to explain to NZers the type of NZ they see in terms of the relationships between its many peoples, but rather to try and dampen down the blue collar/elderly revolt.

Do you think that the "leadership vacuum", if that's an accurate characterisation, extends to other areas as well?

Yes. Foreign and defence policies. It is impossible to have a rational, educated debate about foreign and defence policy in this country because of the centrality of the anti-nuclear legislation - and we just saw evidence of this post Swindell's speech last week.

I believe this is going to be a rare election where the incumbent Government is going to raise foreign and defence policy as an electoral issue, because it goes to what I think will be the key Labour attack against Brash, which is the question of authenticity: Is the Brash that we're seeing now the real Brash? What will Brash do after the election?

I've noticed, for example, creeping into the Prime Minister's rhetoric is 'people like leaders that do what they say they're going to do'. And clearly the implication is that Dr Brash can't be relied upon on that front.

Do you think that Labour will get the agenda back?

I think that the dynamic will change, because what you've had - certainly for all of this year - is the Government [being] on the defensive. The media have been very much following the many missteps that the Government have made.

The tax [adjustment] has obviously been a horrendous blunder, and if Labour were to lose this election, then that probably will be known for all time as the Chewing Gum Budget. It'll go down with the Black Budget and the Mother of All Budgets as the most political negative budgets [in NZ history].

Everything that I'm hearing is that there's going to be a period of concerted Labour negative attacks that will bring many of these issues I've talked to you about to light.

There's been no focus on the National Party or its leader. I really enjoyed that Jonathan Milne piece in the Herald on Sunday where he revealed what a potential National cabinet looks like. And when you go through them individually, there're a lot of retreads that are already damaged goods, and a whole lot of untried people.

And it'll be interesting to know where Milne got his sources from. Clearly they were close to the Leader's Office, I think, and that being the case, you can see there's still a rat's nest of divisive relationships and attitudes within that caucus - but that has been completely camouflaged by the main story being Labour's stumbles, National's resurgence.

Do you think that a negative campaign by Labour will fill that leadership void?

It won't be a negative campaign. I think it'll be a negative couple of weeks, and then immediately shifting to positive when the campaign starts. They have been [positive], that's one of the stark contrasts between [Labour and National]: 'More NZers working at anytime for 20 years, prudent handling of the economy, long-term debt', all that sort of thing. They haven't really been able to emphasise those points because they've been on the defensive. That's what I think they'll try to do more of during the campaign, and then stay on the high-road.

But of course, it's a completely dynamic process, and a lot of that will be determined by the events that impact during the campaign. If you're a half-decent strategist, you've got a series of strategies, both negative and positive, at the waiting, depending on how the dynamic pans out for you.

But it's a desperate election, because you've got Brash who's going to turn 65 - this is a one-time shot for Brash. In Clark's case, this is legacy. If she gets turfed out of office in '05, she'll be known, at best, as a competent manager during a period of economic prosperity. Imagine if you got the best economic data for a generation, and you contrive to lose the election because you got too far ahead of the public on social issues and you allowed your opponents to frame everything you did in the way National have. It's a desperate campaign, so anything can happen.

Do you think that social issues is where Clark is losing the vote?

This is why the right have been very successful in using this 'too PC' tag, because political correctness, mate, it's such an amorphous term. Political correctness could be anything from abhorrence of the prostitution legislation or civil unions, down to some working-class bloke scratching his nuts like Homer Simpson [and] being told off by his wife.

It drags in a lot of muck and it's very hard to fight, but if I was Helen Clark, the way I'd respond is: if it's too PC to care about the social cohesion of this country, then guilty. If it's too PC to actually want to reduce the inequality that was cause and accentuated last time National was in office, I'm guilty.

That's not her style at the moment, is it?

That's the question. In my analysis of the whole political dynamic, there are a number of assumptions and premises. A lot of them have to do with the individuals involved.

One of the key planks was believing that Clark's political operation was highly competent and very rarely got things wrong. That premise is the one that's wobbling for me, because you can see with the Budget just how enormous a misjudgement was made there. They might say it was inadvertent, but it never is.

I often wonder if, once you've been in government for two terms with the inner-circle, you get [too] used to using a model that always works.

I think evidence of that was first shown with their response to Brash's Orewa speech on race. They brandished him a racist and all it served to do was further alienate the people that said 'well at least this man has said what I've been thinking for years but haven't been allowed to say'.

My key point here is, you wonder whether they're so used to using tried and tested methods that they agree about, that in a new environment they're not getting enough different advice and competing advice.

By 'new environment' do you mean a National Party that's doing it's job?

Yeah, a National Party that's absolutely competitive in terms of marketing. One of the things I believe about the National Party, one of the reasons why they're now successful, is that they've given up trying to view their fundamental problem as a political one. They now just see it as a marketing one, and they've come up with a very effective marketing solution, with the billboards being the primary example of that, projecting Brash as the plain speaking, not-quite-politician.

For the first time, the Nats have money. They never had money under English. That's one of the reasons, unfortunately, that poor old English got the chop, because the money wasn't going to be loosened until he was replaced. So now they have money, so they're doing focus groups. I don't know if you saw the Herald today, but TV3 are going to do a worm debate. It'll be dreadful, but anyway...

They'll have the focus group key words?

That's what a National Party insider said. 'Now we'll have to do some focus groups to find out what the buzzwords are.' Brash will come out: 'Unity', 'Mainstream', 'Common sense'.

It's just ridiculous. As a leadership scholar, every three years it's the one period where the New Zealand public are truly tuned in to their choices and to politics. That is the opportunity where real leaders would try and educate their citizens about the nature of those choices. It'll be lamentable if this is yet another campaign where it's just distortion versus distortion, manipulation versus scapegoat and the same sort of bland discourse that characterised 2002.

Can I just go back to Helen Clark again, you said that she no longer basically sticks up for her principles, that her response to being challenged on a particular issue is to follow public opinion...

...rather than to lead it... you think that's problem for her in terms of presenting herself as an authentic leader?

I think it's a challenge for her. I'm actually very complimentary of Helen Clark as Prime Minister. She rejects any use of political rhetoric because a) [it's a] function of her personality, and b) she thinks, well, David Lange did and it didn't get him very far. She's much more focused on achievement than making people feel good.

But in this campaign, if she does not frame the purpose of her government, this is what's really come into question: What is the purpose of this government? Where is New Zealand going to be in three years, ten years, twenty years? What is her vision for the country?

If only she could find the right words to articulate what I believe she has always felt, then people would see that as authentic, I've got no doubt.

She is an inclusive politician, and New Zealand is very much tagged to the idea of fostering greater social cohesion. So are [Labour's] policies, but she's never really found the right words to get that through, and you can see the difficulty she's had now, where your opponent is framing you as pandering to minority interests and the rest of it.

Do you think that she'll take the path of articulating her vision, or take the path of saying what focus groups want to hear?

I hope the former, I expect the latter.

View Printable Link to this Post Send Feedback to Author

Just Cos it's a Just Cause | Jul 15, 2005 04:39

Henry Olonga is a man who has paid his dues. Giving up his career, his livelihood, the game that he loves, going into exile for his troubles - *that's* walking the walk.

At the public meeting in Wellington last night, Rod Donald said that we should be more concerned with our sense of morality than with the Black Caps' contractual obligations to the ICC. Right on! (Kant can go shove it.)

I try not to write when I don't have anything new to say, but while I don't have any fresh insights to offer, I just want to use the meagre resources I have at my disposal to help this cherub of a campaign along.

Please - turn your sentiments into action. The Greens will be holding a public meeting tonight at 8pm at the Aotea Chapel on Queen Street - go and hear for yourself what made Olonga decide to go to all the trouble of making himself a marked man.

The "It's Just Not Cricket" march is on tomorrow at noon, starting at the corner of Queen and Customs Street.

If you've ever talked the talk, tomorrow is the time to walk the walk.

(Kudos to the Greens - they've created a swell of public sentiment from nothing, and they've rallied it for a worthwhile cause. That, in my books, is what leadership should be.)


Coming on Tuesday: We talk strategy and personality with Jon Johannson, Victoria University politics lecturer and author of "Two Titans", a comparative study of Muldoon and Lange.

View Printable Link to this Post Send Feedback to Author

It's Not Easy Being Green | Jul 12, 2005 00:55

She doesn't go to work in a skateboard, is not a vegetarian, and has - Jah have mercy! - a law degree from Auckland University! At the tender age of 35, though, Metiria Turei is the Green Party's youngest MP, as well as its newest. In the first of Salient's election year profiles, we talk to her about the environment, how the Greens keep so hip and down with the yoof, and life as a former anarcho-feminist in Parliament.

[In case you missed my earlier posts, Salient is the Victoria University student magazine, where I work as the News Editor. I was going to link to a hilarious article that was in this week's issue, but it's not up on the net yet. Check back on Wednesday, when the link should be up - it's worth it, I promise.

As part of Salient's election coverage, I'm interviewing some of the young MPs around Parliament to find out where they think this country is heading. I was originally going to entitle this series "Thirty-Something-Parliamentarians are Our Future", but nobody else found it funny - but that's the theme, anyway.

These people (I'm looking at you, Darren Hughes and Simon Power) are well-positioned to lead the country in a few decades, and their vision for the future of this country will be (they hope) more influential and (we hope) more far-sighted than that of the current generation.

Or, at the very least, I can have a good laugh throwing these back at them in 20 years' time.]

If the Greens' ecological efforts fail, and we keep doing things the way we do them today, what do you think New Zealand will look like in 20 years' time?

The changes over time to our ecology from the failure to be responsible now will take a long time to kick in seriously, but what we will see is more polluted rivers, we'll see more damage from flooding and climate change effects.

There are various climate change effects happening at the moment. We've just had a huge number of floods, and they have cause a massive amount of damage to land that we use to grow food on, because we have invested so heavily in deforestation. So there will be much more of that sort of damage.

We'll see a decline in our ability to produce our own food. It won't be completely wiped out, but it will be a reduction. And when that happens, then there'll be an increased use in agri-chemicals to boost production, which is going to cause more pollution, and it'll probably lead to a much more urgent need for some people to invest in genetic engineering technologies as a way of solving the problem.

What about in terms of energy usage and oil peak?

We're already seeing the effects of increased demand and lower [production] capacity. It's getting to the point now where it takes 4 barrels of oil to produce 5, and we're seeing an increase in the price of petrol as a result. So we're talking about a much more limited use of private vehicles - at least by those who can't afford it, so [there'll be] a greater separation between rich and poor, in terms of using certain kinds of services, transport being one.

If we let our public transport system, including our rail, continue to decline, then transport issues will become much more serious for those on low incomes, and even middle income. It's already difficult for people paying $1.20, $1.30 for their petrol as it is.

So if the changes that the Greens want were implemented, how would that change?

We would see a much greater investment in public transport and the reinstitution of rail. The urban use of public transport would increase. Part of that is cultural - you just need to look at the use of the rail system in Wellington compared to that of Auckland, which is embedded in the way Wellingtonians live, but not yet embedded in Auckland city's way of living.

In terms of electricity generation, we need to diversify our generation capacity, so that we have wind-farms, we have solar, we have localised generation so we don't need huge power-lines shifting energy from one end of the country to the other - and losing large quantities of it in the process.

And much better education on reducing consumption, [which] doesn't mean going without, it just means basic things like new houses being required to have insulation, or when hot-water cylinders are put in, they are insulated as well. It doesn't mean people miss out. I think that's a really important message that we need to get across to people, because whenever you say energy conservation, they immediately think turning off their heaters and not being warm and stuff. That's just not true.

So you think the cumulative effects of those small measures will be significant?

Oh, absolutely! They'll be huge! If we invested more in public transport than we do in roading, we would have a major reduction in the use of private cars. It might take five years to kick in, but it will happen. And that would have a huge impact on our energy use, pollution into the air, and road deaths. Don't forget that the number one killer of children in this country is cars. All of those measures will be effective in fixing the problem that we've got, because they're about taking very real, practical steps.

Will those changes have flow-on effects on how people live?

If you're talking about things like insulation for new houses, it has a massive effect on people's health, particularly the health of children. If you have a public transport system that people can use and get access to all the places that they need to go relatively cheaply, you're reducing the cost of transport for those people, insulating their houses so that they don't get as sick as often, so that they don't need to access healthcare as often, and therefore they're not using their income for those sorts of things.

Better food production - we're still very committed to organics as an industry - and more localised food production as well, all of those things have huge benefits long-term, for people. And that's the point, you can't think short-term when you're trying to deal with serious issues like peak oil, energy consumption and people's health. None of them can be fixed in the short-term, but you need to get started.

Why do you think the Greens do so well with young voters?

I think because we're very broad thinkers. We think outside the square, and we're prepared to challenge the dominant ideologies - particularly economic ideologies. We're also committed to decision-making that is much more localise and participatory, rather than domineering, and that has a huge resonance. It's interesting, because not all our MPs are particularly young, really. We have the same average age as other [parties], but most of our stuff is about quite thinking outside the square.

Why does that particularly attract the youth?

The dominant power structure that we have, and that most Western countries have, is very much structured on the maintainance of power in the hands of those who already have it. There's a traditional group [which has the power], and that group wants to maintain power for itself and tends to identify people as "Others".

You can see that happening with National, talking about "mainstream New Zealanders". What they're talking about is people "just like them", and a very narrow definition of who those people are. And young people are - it sounds a bit naff to say it - young people are exploring what it means to be themselves - who they are, what their beliefs and philosophies are... but they're being identified as "Other".

That's a very fierce and direct exclusion of those people from what some people define as the mainstream. And because we know that's happening, and we talk about it, and because we're very inclusive of broad [range of] ideas, we aren't seen as exclusive in that same way.

Also, we're infinitely sensible, in terms of direct things, like student loans policies, we're infinitely sensible.

Speaking of thinking outside the square - would you still describe yourself as an anarcho-feminist?

Oh no, certainly not! I'm a politician now, I couldn't possibly describe myself... No, no, it would be completely wrong of me to do that. I still do hold my anarcho-feminist views very strongly, but I certainly could not call myself one.

You can't, or you won't?

You can't be an anarcho-feminist and a politician at the same time - they're mutually exclusive. So I certainly can't and I certainly won't describe myself in that way. For me, having those kinds of views and having been educated in those ideas mean that I have a much better analysis of the use of power. I have no idea whether that will protect me in the future from abusing it or not, from exercising it wrongly or badly, but at least I have that analysis and I think there are lots of politicians and lots of people with power who don't have that analysis, and I think it's a real shame.

Do you find it difficult to work in a parliamentary system?

Yes. It is a system that doesn't respect anything but the exercise of power, so it's very difficult.

It's very sexist, it's very racist, it's very ageist, it's very us-and-them, it's very exclusionary. My personal view is that the way the system is set-up completely marginalises significant parts of the population. It's a screw-up from the beginning. But one of the purposes in my life is to make whatever difference to people's lives that I can, so I'm not going to give up the opportunity to do that. One of the things I continually remind myself is that I might be wrong - it might have been a wrong decision to leave activist politics and to go into establishment politics, but I won't know that for a wee while, and I don't think I should give up the opportunity to make change where I can.

To those people who say that, just by participating in parliamentary politics, the Greens have sold out, what would you say to them?

I don't see how we've sold out on anything, actually. And the fact that we suffer the continual litany of abuse from the rest of those in Parliament, I think, is a demonstration that we haven't sold out at all; that we've stuck steadfastly and firmly to our principles. We continually repeat them, and we're getting growing support for them, but it's still a real struggle. I can't imagine what people could say we've sold out on.

How do you find working with some of the other parties? In particular, I'm interested in what you think about the Maori Party, especially in light of their recent statements on Zimbabwe.

I have a good working relationship with a number of people in the [Maori] party, and so do Greens across the board. It's a very good, effective relationship, but we'll never agree with them on everything - that's part of the way it works.

I am disappointed in their position on Zimbabwe. I think I understand where they're coming from... they're suspicious of what they're being told, and they want verification. I think that's understandable, but I don't think there's any reason to be suspicious. If they're saying we need a more consistent approach to human rights abuses across the world, I completely agree - and the Greens have been fighting the free trade agreement with China and Thailand for precisely for those reasons.

Would you agree with the subtext of what the Maori Party is saying? That the current antipathy towards the Zimbabwean regime is a result of the beat-up of a racist media?

No. I don't think that's it. I think that the feeling towards Zimbabwe comes from the community and political pressure from groups like ourselves and from human rights organisations in the country. I do think that the media does exhibit racist tendencies on a number of occasions...

In regards to Zimbabwe?

Possibly, previously. But most importantly in regards to our indigenous people here. What I do think is important from a Maori point of view - and I'm surprised [the Maori Party] haven't talked about this yet - is that we've had bulldozers destroy communities in this country, that belong to indigenous people. The township of Turangi was built in the 60s on Maori land, the Crown had a choice. It had its own land further up the road, but they chose to take Maori land under the Public Works Act.

As far as I am aware, there was very little or no compensation paid to the people of those towns, and the Crown made a huge mistake in their process - they didn't tell people that they were turning up. The Waitangi Tribunal Report shows really clearly people saying that they were at home, the bulldozers turned up in front of their doorsteps, they were told to pack and get out, and then they watched the bulldozer smash their house to bits.

Frankly, I don't understand why [the Maori Party] are not talking about that, because that highlights that we must fight human rights abuses in other people's countries, but we cannot forget that we have had them in our very own. This [is the] exact same issue of people's houses being bulldozed and then being left homeless by our own government, in the 60s.

I can understand where the Maori Party are coming from, but I don't think that their justification for their position is 100% legit. And I do think, though, that their concerns are legit and we have our own examples here that we should turn to.

Would you see their socially conservative views as intrinsically linked to the Treaty?

The Maori community is not the Borg. We don't all think with the same mind. Some of us will be socially conservative, some of us will be very liberal. And it just so happens that the predominant view in the Maori Party is a socially conservative one.

It doesn't surprise me at all, but I'm very interested in seeing what their economic policies look like, because they could be quite economically conservative as well. And it's not relevant to their Treaty approach. We might find that, just like National and Labour, which are predominantly Pakeha parties, we may find that other Maori parties, or other parties with a predominantly Maori membership arrive that have quite a divergent view on other things as well.

Back to the young voters - do you think that once they get older, start earning real money, get mortgages, do you think that they will "grow out" of voting for the Greens?

No! You just need to ask Green Party members - they haven't grown out of it yet! Our membership is quite a bit older, generally, than our voters.

The Greens' challenge is to remain relevant to the times, and that will always be a challenge for political parties, because political parties come and go. We will have to change over time, to some extent, but I think that if people hold the same values that we do and are voting with us now, then it would take quite a dramatic thing for people to change their minds to such an extent that they would change their voting patterns in the future.

And as you can see from our growing support, we are collecting people. We don't have a [situation where] once you hit 45, you stop voting for us. We're actually collecting people over time, and growing our support base. As the young ones get older, they are staying with us.

How committed are the Greens to their student support and tertiary education policies? How far are they willing to go to make sure it happens?

We can't make any guarantees or promises about those kinds of discussions until we're in them. And that is really hard. We've said we'll only enter into those discussions with Labour, because we think their policies are so much like ours and we can work together. We have refined and better identified our policies, so we can introduce them in a way that is fiscally responsible, and so I think there's a good chance of our policies becoming part of government policy if we're in a close relationship [with the next government]. But we certainly couldn't make any guarantees or promises about what's going to happen in coalition discussions. That will always depend on things at the time like what numbers we've got, what their positions have been over time and the relevant issues at the time.

Can you give us an indication of how high a priority this is for the Greens?

It's priority issue for our campaign [and] for the party as a whole, so it will be an issue that we'll take in our kete of issues if we went into discussions with Labour, but it would be irresponsible to make any promises about that. It is a very strongly held policy, and we've had it for a very long time. We're the only ones that recognise the betrayal of Labour in the past.


Thanks, Metiria!

View Printable Link to this Post Send Feedback to Author

Sympathy for the Devil | Jul 06, 2005 00:57

"What? No horns?", asked Alistair Campbell - of himself.

Currently embedded with Lions justifying their invasion of New Zealand, The Man Who Sold the War fronted up before Kim Hill and a theatre full of barbed Wellingtonians last week - and he emerged unscathed. Was it the power of faith? Or the gentle, guiding hand of the Prince of Darkness?

The evening was organised by Kensington Swan (cheers for the invite, Hayden!), who packed a few hundred valued clients and a handful of freeloaders into Te Papa to have a go at Campbell, who took the opportunity to raise money for leukemia research.

I have to hand it to these lawyers - they sure have their fingers in a lot of pies. Scores of Parliamenoids were there; a friend from the PM's office signalled me with a complex series of hand gestures that I interpreted as: "In case of emergency, exits are located to the side and rear". Turns out, she was trying to warn me that I was sitting on National's figurative front-bench, moments before a cluster of present and future National MPs plonked themselves down...

(Campbell also had dinner with Helen while he was in town - perhaps Labour will pick up their game now?)

Earlier in the evening, I was discussing Campbell's career choice with someone from the Nats. They thought that the Lions job would have been a huge let-down after so long in Downing Street, hell - any job would be a let-down after that. I thought that it would be pretty cool; after working in a job carrying so much moral weight, copping so much shit, being hated by so much of the world (not to mention the actual work), it must be great to hang out with a rugby team and travel the world. Surely, it must be great to wake up in the morning *not* to have the weight of the world on his shoulders - that, in itself, is practically retirement!

I must be too far from real power, because it wasn't until later that I really understood the point I missed - it wasn't how good it would be to not have the responsibility, but how difficult it must be to give up that sort of power.

Devil or not, Campbell was a different sort of fellow. He worked the crowd like a world-class pro, as expected; he took the full brunt of Kim Hill - and made it look fun.

Most people who can work a stage like that have to love the crowd. With someone like Winston Peters, for example, you can usually see him start off trying to pull his standard bag-of-tricks, but once he succeeds in getting the crowd going, he becomes a man possessed. He would feed off its energy and channel it back into the crowd. But at the same time, if the crowd or the interview turns against him, he'd get really defensive - hurt, even.

What really amazed me about Campbell was the complete opposite: he was immune to - but perfectly aware of - what other people thought. Even talking about the suicide of Dr David Kelly - when the question obviously implied that he bears some guilt in the matter - Campbell didn't flinch.

He said that Blair knew that going into Iraq was going to be an unpopular decision, but it was simply "the right thing to do". In turn, Campbell truly believes that he did the right thing in advocating the invasion of Iraq, and from that moral certitude came his aura of invulnerability.

The sense of privilege that came from his work, he said, makes the the shit thrown at him "just slip off".

He talked down the election victories, but said that his best moment on the job was feeling the "buzz" as he was flying back from the Good Friday Agreements, feeling that he had been part of something that people didn't think was possible. That kind of achievement - politicians coming together and making things happen through their collective will and effort - was what did it for him.

And he says that the nobility of politics is being destroyed by the relentless negativity on the part of the media, who, for example, would rather credit Bob Geldof with solving Africa's debt problem than to give praise or acknowledgement to any of the politicians involved. (Who is Bob Geldof, anyway? Is he, like, a musician or something? That's whack.)

He says that the lowered standards of journalism has led to "more noise, less understanding" around the important issues, and that at the end of the day, it's polluting the political debate and keeping good people away from politics.

It's fascinating to see someone who has seen power up-close express such a high opinion of it. But it wasn't his faith in Blair that was inspiring, but his faith in politics as a whole, in what he did, and in himself.

"It's about knowing when it matters and when it doesn't... don't buy into the [media] frenzy."

He rolls with the punches, but inside, there is a real core of hard stuff that won't be moved so easily, and it's that core that stays the course when the going gets tough. And it's also what allows him to leave.

As Campbell received his well-deserved applause, there almost a coy manner about him - as if he was content to let the love slid off him as readily as the hate. And so he took a bow, and departed.

[In other news, Kristen from TV1's Breakfast got me on the show with Chris Trotter last week to talk about Brash's potential coalition with Winston Peters and to give the word on whatz goin down with da kidz. Did better on the former than the latter. I'm not as much an expert on the hip and happenin' with the yoof as I ironically pretend to be. That's whack.

However, I have been reliably informed (after I asked) that I am "sexier than Chris Trotter".


View Printable Link to this Post Send Feedback to Author


PreviousPage 5 of 7Next   Archive