AGENDA, AUGUST 20
CAMERON BENNET, "SUNDAY" CORRESPONDENT; PM INTERVIEW APPEARS BELOW
Interviewed by SIMON DALLOW
CAMERON Thanks Simon.
SIMON How difficult was it to get into Zimbabwe?
CAMERON It's quite a complex manoeuvre in that you have to establish a network for when you're in the country. Getting in the country you find a crossing point that’s going to be the softest as it were and then you deal with a local network to get you around.
SIMON And do all journalists sort of follow this?
CAMERON Mostly yeah.
SIMON And everyone knows the same soft point?
CAMERON No, there's a few – there's about three or four options. It's difficult to kind of get this far away but it is so hypersensitive because the cost of opposition in Zimbabwe is so high through murder, intimidation, torture, that it's too much to risk so that’s the reason keeping…
SIMON When you talk about establishing those networks of people inside the country before you go are they concerned as to whether their communications are monitored, is that the level of scrutiny they're under?
CAMERON There's an absolute paranoia there, people talk in code on the telephone, you can use telephones you can use mobile phones but no one states exactly what they mean and they keep their conversations to an absolute minimum, which is confusing, and that you have to at the end of a conversation - now do we understand quite what was said her – yes we do right, and that’s the end of conversation. So there's a great deal of phone tapping, a great deal of surveillance and there's a great deal of national paranoia about the extent of the central intelligence organisation that Mugabe's internal…
SIMON And I take it this applies to everyone beyond the media. How restricted though are journalists themselves?
CAMERON Well completely.
SIMON Internally as well?
CAMERON Well now that is an interesting point and one that Robert Mugabe dines out on. Though the state controls the media, the mass media, there are opposition viewpoints in a couple of newspapers, but the crucial issue here is that one those newspapers are preaching to the converted, two they're unaffordable and unavailable to the mass population.
SIMON So what was the attitude of the average Zimbabwean to the tour, were they in support of it, how or where were they, or was their major opposition?
CAMERON Well I'm not sure I can necessarily say on that count. We spoke to three prominent voices, the most prominent voice of dissent there is the Archbishop of Bulawao, we spoke with him, we spoke with the President of the Zimbabwe Lawyers Association and the shadow Minister for Justice, all of them were opposed to the tour on moral grounds. All of them understood the reasons why the New Zealand team was going, all of them love cricket, but there was a viewpoint expressed that couldn’t some of the senior players in that side, in the New Zealand side have taken a stand on this and said no we're not coming.
SIMON To what extent is the local media covering this issue over there, or is that subject to the controls of state?
CAMERON Well it's interesting – it's in the back pages, it's on the sports pages, it's on the government, barely watchable, government evening news bulletin, if you saw the coverage the grandstands were largely empty, there was an interest but it wasn’t major news there.
SIMON What about the everyday life of the Zimbabweans themselves, how difficult is it now in the face of the Mugabe regime?
CAMERON Nothing short of miserable, 80% unemployment, a hyper inflation that can range from anything from 300 to 500% - it's a very difficult situation.
SIMON Well let's have a look at some of the stuff you brought back because overnight our technical people here have been processing some of the footage Cameron shot in Zimbabwe, we've got some of that here now. What we're going to see is a supermarket and a petrol queue.
SIMON What's that roughly worth?
CAMERON Well an American dollar is worth about 35 to 40 thousand Zimbabwe dollars on the black market, 17.5 of government value.
SIMON And that was possibly last week anyway as well.
CAMERON Yeah that’s the standing joke there.
SIMON So what are we seeing here now?
CAMERON We're out on the streets of Bulawao.
SIMON Again you're filming covertly obviously.
CAMERON Covertly there, that’s a little flap covering the part of the lens. This is actually a petrol queue which is a standard sight around the towns there, you can get up to 250 cars waiting for three, four and more days to get a bit of gas, so these guys have run out of petrol and pushing the ute into the queue.
SIMON And this need to hide the camera, is this the same on the streets, do you see even tourists taking photos?
CAMERON We didn’t see any tourists, but if we were caught the cost is horrendous, two years minimum gaol and in a Zimbabwean gaol, that is not worth contemplating. Tuberculosis and HIV apparently the survival rate…
SIMON That’s for taking shots of anything?
CAMERON For taking shots without permission.
SIMON Let's bring the panel in at this point. Andrew and John shocked by what you’ve seen?
CAMERON Well it's a question I asked as well and he's got a superb apparatus after 25 years it's crushed all dissent. The Police, the intelligence service and so forth, the intimidation is enormous and this latest operation clean up, which was all about ridding the streets of the potential rabble that could rise up against him, in Bulawao itself we're talking of a town of about a million people a bit like Auckland.
SIMON With those numbers as John says how do you suppress the uprising?
CAMERON Because you just crush the will and that’s what he's done.
JOHN Are his forces visible in the streets, are there soldiers everywhere?
CAMERON You see a lot of military presence, army trucks, a lot of Police, Police road blocks are everywhere and there's an overriding sense of being watched, the people are very terrified of being caught out.
SIMON Did you come under any suspicion?
CAMERON We're not sure. We went to sort of follow through what happened to some of these people that have been moved on, where did they go and we followed we tracked one group about 120 odd ks out in the country to find where they were living and living in abject misery. We were concerned on a number of occasions of being caught but we got away with it, some colleagues from Australia didn’t and they got sprung filming and it was an elaborate process but we were called out late at night to hand over our truck that we had for them to make a dash for the South African border, so there was that level of risk.
JOHN You went to the test matches themselves did you?
CAMERON No I didn’t, I didn’t want to go in case anyone saw us.
CAMERON We did, I think the premise was I think journalistically there was really no choice that somehow we had to – the team was going, it was a point of some considerable national debate at the time as journalists what choice there's to go, we had an accredited team there obviously only able to do what the government allowed them to do, if we were to give some indication of what life was like there we had to go and do it, and including in the face of our own Maori Party here actually that was voicing some concern over the slant of media coverage as regards Zimbabwe, so it seemed like the right thing to do journalistically.
ANDREW It's an interesting debate because we have the same thing in Fairfax about whether we should go or just because the regime's so repugnant we should stay away from Zimbabwe, but ultimately the conclusion was precisely that, there are Kiwis over there and we should be with them, I don’t think the Herald in the end went. There were a number of media organisations wrestling with precisely that question.
JOHN Why would the repugnance of the regime stop you going and doing a journalistic job there?
ANDREW There were those who argued that we should not in any way support the regime even to the extent of having journalists there on the ground cover the team, that was one argument.
SIMON It raises an interesting journalistic debate there though doesn’t it you know, the role is to observe regardless sure.
CAMERON One thing is for certain that the feeling of opposition politicians and dissidents there – and the interesting thing about opposition politics in Zimbabwe it's not an opposition party it's like an underground movement, it's been since the late 90s subject to vicious repression so it can't function as a normal political opposition, but what was certainly made clear to us about the New Zealand team going that one way or another ICC rules aside that it was without question a propaganda advantage to Robert Mugabe and the Zanu PF Party.
SIMON Well if that is your overriding impression then did our government get it right by not acting, or should it have observed the Greens proposal?
CAMERON Well that’s difficult – politics and morality but certainly I think that the feeling of dissidents that we spoke to over there was that they appreciate an outside world that is standing by them because there's a greatly crushed morale there.
ANDREW Certainly my perspective on it would be that as far as the Cricket organisation was concerned they had no choice. Cricket internationally is not run by the white countries any more it is run out of the sub continent and unless the government was prepared to come up with the money to pay for the costs that team was going to go, I understand the problem that the New Zealand Cricket team had.
CAMERON And also which raises the curious question of why is it up to a country like New Zealand to take on a country like Zimbabwe, what about it's biggest neighbour South Africa and that’s a curious one, because South Africa of course there's a deafening silence from Pretoria about the goings on.
SIMON Which raises another question too the parallels with 1981 and the Springboks, are we propping up a regime?
CAMERON Mm, yeah, I don’t know – there are parallels of course aren’t there but I mean in this case hands were bound by ICC rules.
JOHN Did you get any impression that the presence of the New Zealand Cricket team had any influence either way on the power struggle in Zimbabwe?
CAMERON No not at all apart from dissidents saying it only serves to support Robert Mugabe's position.
JOHN What's your impression of what will happen when he finally dies, or falls, but probably dies?
CAMERON Well he's 78 now so he's gonna have to. Everyone says it's only a matter of time now, but they said if you'd asked me that question three years ago they'd have said the same thing, there's two things at stake here Zanu PF Robert Mugabe's government it's such a scene of cronyism, there's an awful lot of people with an awful lot to lose so no one's wanting to give it up in a hurry, but there is certainly a sense of optimism that when Mugabe the figurehead of it goes the edifice will crumble.
SIMON Cameron thanks so much for coming in on the programme and again welcome home.
CAMERON Thank you.
SIMON After the break National may call it a prime money waster but Helen Clark believes her latest tax package is money well spent.
SIMON Tomorrow is the official launch of Labour's election campaign. In addition to Thursday's targeted tax package for families the party's also campaigning on six pledges including interest free student loans, a 2008 deadline for Treaty claims and more cataract and joint operations. Labour's expected to announce its seventh and final election pledge tomorrow. However it's also a campaign that'll be fought on public perceptions of leadership and trust. Prime Minister Helen Clark is with me now, welcome to the programme.
PRIME MINISTER Thank you.
SIMON Last November on the eve of the party conference I asked you the same day that the six men were charged in the motorcade case for a comment, you said it was sub judice, yesterday three of them were convicted and dealt with, it's no longer sub judice what's your reaction?
PRIME MINISTER Well the convention is that ministers don’t comment on a judge’s decision and there's always the possibility with court cases that people will appeal so I'm afraid that while there are many things I would like to say I'm extremely constrained and no doubt I'll have more to say in the autobiography when I get round to writing it at some future date.
SIMON Forget the commentary on the decision, would you like to take this opportunity to express your sympathy for them?
PRIME MINISTER The letter that was read in court yesterday made it clear that the Police do a very professional job for me and they carry out their duty as they see it. I have had tremendous support from the Diplomatic Protection Squad member who was with me on that day, he's been with me for 5½ years on a regular roster and I have enormous amount of time for him.
SIMON Do you feel sympathy for those men convicted?
PRIME MINISTER Well again I'm reluctant to get into commenting on the case because that gets into commenting on a judge's decision.
SIMON The judge himself said he felt considerable sympathy for the men involved. It's a simple question, do you feel sympathy for them as well.
PRIME MINISTER That is correct and I have no difficulty in endorsing the judge's comment.
SIMON The whole case raises questions about you personally about your integrity, why didn’t you just take it on the chin?
PRIME MINISTER Well take what on the chin?
SIMON Well you’ve avoided expressing sympathy, you’ve avoided dealing with this issue specifically, you could have just said you know I understand where they were coming from and ….
PRIME MINISTER Simon it is perfectly clear that I gave no instructions, the Police are in control of motorcades.
SIMON Your critics though raise questions about how much you can be trusted. Take your memory for example, do you really expect us to seriously believe you don’t remember which way you voted when it came to Roger Douglas's reinstatement in Cabinet in 1989?
PRIME MINISTER Well I would be pretty certain that I did not vote for him, but you're asking me to recall what happened in a caucus meeting in 1989 which is 16 years ago…
SIMON It was a pretty momentous consequence.
PRIME MINISTER … and I was a great supporter of David so I would be pretty certain that I voted for him, but when I'm asked a snap question on a radio interview please Helen recall precisely what you did on a ballot paper 16 years ago, you're not going to say I'm 100% certain. I have a pretty fair idea of what I did, but look come back to trust, what we have shown in government is that we can be absolutely trusted to do what we say and that’s what the people of New Zealand are interested in, credibility of leadership and I will have more to say about that when I stand up at my party launch tomorrow.
SIMON On this programme on 21st May this year Michael Cullen said “there aren’t any magic mirrors here to produce the couple of billion dollars needed for tax cuts without hurting the majority of ordinary Kiwis.” Since the budget just three months ago Treasury's found pretty much that extra two billion dollars, you know the 500 million dollar roading package and 1.58 million on Thursday – wallah the tax relief package. Are there any more of these convenient surprises to come?
PRIME MINISTER Well actually that’s not another two billion dollars a year. Go back to the budget there was 1.9 billion of unallocated expenditure in out years which Labour quite deliberately didn’t say how it was going to spend in the budget. My experience last campaign was that if you said everything you were going to do in the budget come the election campaign you have nothing to talk about, so strategically we made a decision to hold back. Now what then happened after the budget in June was Treasury came to Michael Cullen and said you're half a billion dollars better off for the current financial year, that was the last one at that time than you expected to be, Dr Cullen immediately said the top priority for that is to go into Land Transport and that’s why we're able to announce significant extra funding for state highways, commuter rail and many other things. Now then you come along to the Treasury fiscal updated pre-election. The fiscal update came in over four years 1.5 billion dollars better than they told us three months ago. Now we have to operate on the information that we get. Dr Cullen then looked at that he came to me he said Treasury are saying do not pump a whole lot of money in in the next two years because that will drive the Reserve Bank to react, that means mortgage rates up for Kiwis, we have come up with a tax relief package for families which is carefully structured to minimise any impact on monetary policy but phase in genuine relief for families and you could see the genuine relief on the faces of many families as they heard that news on Thursday.
SIMON I'll come to more on that in a moment though, how much more is left in the kitty to spend?
PRIME MINISTER Well we still have election policy to put out and you'll just have to wait and see what it is, but what we put enormous emphasis on is credibility as strong managers of the economy and of the budget and one thing everyone would have to agree on with this Labour government it's run a strong economy, it's created more than 270 thousand extra people in work and the budgets are strong, that counts a lot to New Zealanders because they know they are dealing with people in government who are credible and trustworthy.
SIMON Again on Agenda on the 21st May Michael Cullen's called the budget already somewhat stimulatory, the BNZ has said the government could not afford to offer any stimulus to the economy, could not afford – can you guarantee now during this election campaign that your actions that you’ve taken won't provoke increases in mortgage interest rates?
PRIME MINISTER Well I don’t think an extra 19 million dollars from April to June next year as the family tax package starts provokes that stimulus at all, nor do I think the 300 or so million that comes in for it in the following year will drive the Reserve Bank over the edge because remember we're coming off the peak of growth which was still running at 4.2% in the year to June, it tails off to two point something by the end of March next year, so the fiscal stimulus when it comes phased in is about at the right time, that’s quite a different matter from what our opponents are doing where they want to chuck a couple of billion dollars in and drive interest rates up.
SIMON The package though, some families on six figure incomes will become beneficiaries, some people on the top tax rates will be paying almost no tax, what is social welfare now is it something more than just a safety net, it's no longer just a safety net.
PRIME MINISTER It is very silly to call tax relief for families welfare, that’s ridiculous.
SIMON It is because you're taking it and giving it back.
PRIME MINISTER No I'm sorry Simon, when I first entered the workforce there were tax codes that said single, married, married with one child, two child, three child, four child. Now that all went when family support came in, family support was a tax credit it is not welfare, it is delivered through Inland Revenue Department, it is about people paying less tax and indeed at a certain level of income you pay no tax at all because that is the way the tax system is now structured.
SIMON Some people on the top tax rate will be paying no tax at all.
PRIME MINISTER What we are saying is that…
SIMON You're saying it's not social welfare but you are taking money in tax and then you're giving it back.
PRIME MINISTER No Simon, it is not social welfare, it is a tax credit, it is a tax rebate whatever sort of phrase you want to put on it, you put yourself in the situation of a middle to senior secondary school teacher who may have had a partner working and that the secondary teacher may be on 65 thousand a year, now there's two of you that’s terrific you can make some progress, go into a situation where your partner is at home with two children, the 65 thousand dollars and a mortgage goes nowhere, now tax systems all round the western world accommodate those people. People on those incomes are now getting the benefit of family tax credits which were far too heavily means tested for them before they cut out much earlier and we are coming into line with other countries like Australia which stretch their family tax credits far further up the scale.
SIMON Up to 150 thousand and more.
PRIME MINISTER Well they may well do, but that is my point, it is a different thing to be bringing up a family, raising kids, arguably the most important job in our society for our future to raise the next generation of Kiwis, to do that on a single income or on two low incomes is tough and that’s what the government has moved to recognise now we have the resources.
SIMON The extra tax revenue identified by Treasury is, according to the Herald's Economics Editor Brian Fellow, in the main coming from business tax payers. Are you concerned that with nothing for business in the offing of consequence that you may be strangling your golden goose?
PRIME MINISTER Well that isn’t true either, you are well aware that this year's budget has a quarter of a billion tax breaks for business. You are well aware that the net impact of what the government announced over the four year horizon of the budget is a 1.1 billion net tax break set of measures for business. Actually business tax was one of the great features of the last budget, you may not have noticed it but it was there and those who are now in a position to depreciate short lived assets a lot quicker are well aware of the benefits of it, it's very very good for our innovative companies. What we're encouraging through the way we have structured business tax breaks is investment in technology, in innovation and the sorts of things that are going to make our economy move.
SIMON The state sector, it's grown hugely under your administration, will it continue to do so.
PRIME MINISTER I'm very proud to have added more than three thousand extra teachers over and above what the role growth required. I'm very pleased to have added many more nurses, thousands more nurses.
SIMON How many policy analysts?
PRIME MINISTER Hey we're an active government, we have policies, when you employ many more….
SIMON We've got the number for nurses, how many more policy analysts?
PRIME MINISTER No Simon, what I can tell you is the number of – proportion of nurses increase runs well ahead. You asked me about education, the National Party's trotting round figures which don’t take into account the fact that Ministry of Education has absorbed the entire special education service that’s why its numbers are up.
SIMON Okay so tell me how many policy analysts, you’ve got the numbers on the other side.
PRIME MINISTER No no I'm not spinning off numbers off the top of my head that would be dishonest if I don’t have them at my fingertips, I like to be right.
SIMON There's a lot more.
PRIME MINISTER There are policy analysts because we're a busy government taking New Zealand ahead, what we have…
SIMON But these are also the people who are helping Treasury with their forecasts and we don’t seem to have any accuracy in the numbers.
PRIME MINISTER Well you can take that up with the Secretary of Treasury why his model always seems to underestimate growth.
SIMON Have you asked him?
PRIME MINISTER Well what I can say is that forecasters generally seem to be underestimating the strength of the economy but what I can assure you is the great proportion of the growth in people on the public payroll are frontline workers from prison officer to our CYFS workers to nurses to teachers and that’s how we're able to offer better services to Kiwis and that’s what it's all about.
SIMON I've got some quotes from statistics from yesterday. There were 205,200 short term New Zealand resident departures in July this year, an increase of 21,900 or 12% on last year, the same month.
PRIME MINISTER That’s short term.
SIMON Same months, Statistics New Zealand said. In last night's campaign opening you placed a big emphasis on why you stayed here and didn’t work overseas. You told us why we should live here, does this mean that you're starting to worry about the number of young people who have gone offshore, and that’s possibly a vote of no confidence in the government?
PRIME MINISTER You just gave me short term figures, those are Kiwi holidaymakers, business people going out on missions for exporting and so on, the short term figures are the Kiwis who've actually got the confidence to travel with the dollar rather high at the present time.
SIMON And many of them may stay away.
PRIME MINISTER Well not the short termers. If you're going away on a working holiday to the UK for you OE you tick the boxes, there's 12 months or more, you don’t turn up in the short term figures, short term figures are holiday makers.
SIMON I left the country and did my OE, I ticked the box and said I was coming back that year and I stayed away for six years.
PRIME MINISTER Well I'm afraid most people don’t, most people who've got the visa and the passport to go to the UK for two years will be ticking the 12 months box.
SIMON News this week that New Zealand will be participating in military exercises with the US, is this a significant thawing in our relationship with the US?
PRIME MINISTER Well I think what's happening is the relationship is being updated, we make common cause in a range of areas, we certainly have made common cause on terrorism and we have special service defence personnel behind the lines in Afghanistan as we speak as well as a substantial contribution in Bamian Province with the provincial reconstruction team, we've had orions and frigates in the Arabian Gulf. Then the United States was very keen for us to be part of the counter proliferation initiative, but once we've been invited then we can hardly be excluded from exercise, so it's really coming up to date with reality.
SIMON Former US Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam was on the programme last week and he said there was a narrow window of opportunity next year for a free trade agreement with the US, what action are you taking to pursue that?
PRIME MINISTER Well we've constantly lobbied in Washington for that consideration, we have strong support in the Congress, we have very strong support in the business community and those voices are making themselves heard to the administration.
SIMON So we're working actively together in that narrow window that’s pointed out.
PRIME MINISTER Well we have been working actively.
SIMON What's your position on the unrest in Tonga?
PRIME MINISTER Well obviously very concerned about it, the New Zealand government has offered assistance with mediation. I understand the Tongan government is showing some interest in that. Bear in mind that wide scale industrial action hasn’t been common in Tonga so there's not necessarily the background of how you deal with a situation like that.
SIMON Let's look at your potential coalition partners. Jim Anderton last week also on the programme said that he would find it very hard to work with Winston Peters and I quote that “there's no way I could join even in a sense directly with New Zealand First.” What about you, do you share Jim's principles?
PRIME MINISTER Let's be very clear, my preferences have been stated consistently as leading a third term Labour government with Jim Anderton and his party as a coalition partner and with support from the Greens and United Future who have given us invaluable support through the two terms in government, those are our clearly stated preferences, my job now is to get out as Leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister and campaign for that outcome.
SIMON Preference among them?
PRIME MINISTER Well I'm happy working with all of them. That’s what enabled us to deliver strong stable progressive government taking New Zealand ahead.
SIMON Winston Peters in the paper this morning of course had called your actions in the motorcade case or a lack of it a “dereliction of leadership.”
PRIME MINISTER Well that’s opposition parties, that’s rhetoric.
SIMON He's also called for the removal of all references to the principles of the Treaty, could you accommodate that?
PRIME MINISTER Ah, no. I mean let's be clear this is getting into silly territory.
SIMON About the same time prior to the last election you said “with the Greens you run up against the fact that they don’t like economic growth, trade or the superannuation fund,” and you also said a coalition with the Greens is out of the question, that’s last time, what's changed to enable you to cosy up to them now?
PRIME MINISTER Well firstly we had a very good relationship with the Greens right up until May of the third year of the first time, at that point they made it clear that they'd pull the rug on our government over a single issue and that started a campaign which was actually quite damaging for both of us. Now after the election the Greens and Labour met again, we said okay it's been an awful campaign for relationships between the two of us but let's move on and see where we can find common cause and actually we've worked very constructively with the Greens throughout the term. We don’t agree on many things but we've found a way of working together in the second term as we did in the first.
SIMON Prime Minister Helen Clark thank you very much for coming on to Agenda today.
SIMON Welcome back and joining us again are our Guest Commentators, John Roughan and Andrew Holden. Gentlemen what is social welfare in the 21st century?
JOHN It's tax credits obviously.
SIMON No it's not social welfare apparently.
JOHN No, but I think it's an important question this that you ask because it's one thing to have a certain tax rate and to have that money left in your pay packet each week, it's another thing to have to go along to Inland Revenue or Social Welfare it doesn’t really matter, Inland Revenue she says, fine, and fill out a form and apply for a benefit in effect and you know I don’t know why this government does things that way rather than just simply leaves the money in your pay packet.
SIMON It could possibly be destigmatising beneficiaries, everyone's one now, even on six figures you can be a beneficiary too.
ANDREW Well I spose that’s true, you’ve still gotta go and make that effort though there's no guarantee that in fact all the people who qualify are going to apply and register and get the money back, so I mean it's a nice policy in that perhaps they don’t have to pay all the money they were initially intending.
JOHN And it must make savings in effect because you know you’ve got to (a) know that you're entitled to this money and not everybody will know who is, and (b) you’ve gotta know how to go and get it.
SIMON It doesn’t automatically come from source at PAYE deduction.
ANDREW Exactly. I was glad you raised the question about skilled Kiwis leaving New Zealand and going overseas, I mean one of the issues that will have to be answered with this is the distortion it creates between those with families and those who don’t. Now as we pointed out when we wrote it that a taxpayer on 52 thousand with no children will have the same take home pay as someone earning 40 thousand dollars with two children, so the skilled person who's making that extra 12 grand what's the incentive to stay in New Zealand, if I don’t have kids and I'm looking at the guy who's making more money than me why wouldn’t I go to Australia or England.
SIMON What about the two guys on the factory floor standing next to each other one with kids who's effectively paying no tax and the other one who's subsidising it.
ANDREW Indeed I mean it's a question of where's the incentive here, is the incentive to work and do well in your work and achieve that way or is the incentive to have children. Now I mean I've got two kids myself so in a way this policy works for me but I'm concerned that the message it's sending to a significant portion of the population is that if you don’t have children you're a lesser kind of citizen.
SIMON And that and the decentivisation will no doubt be themes that National will pick up on on Monday.
ANDREW Absolutely. It throws also that question around the whole nature of Labour's gay support, you have a Civil Union Bill that gives them the same legal rights but we now have a tax system that in fact says to them well you're unlikely to have children unless you adopt, you will always be in monetary terms a second class person or family.
SIMON Yes there's something for everyone though but some people get money and some people get other advantages. The motorcade case.
JOHN There's something wrong about it isn’t there. There's something wrong that a Prime Minister who is being driven mightn’t be aware of the speeds going but when you’ve got people who are working for you and they get into trouble and they’ve been doing their utmost to get you to a plane you would think that there would be some statement from her some letter before a trial, some appeal to say look it was my – you know I take responsibility here.
SIMON A mea culpa can be very humanising.
ANDREW I've gotta say I take it back to the actual journey itself, I haven’t been in the Prime Ministerial car it must be one hell of a vehicle if you can go 150 kilometres an hour and not look out the window and think gee we're going pretty quick here, and the opportunity was always there for the Prime Minister to lean over to the front seat and say guys I think you're going a bit quick here perhaps you wanta come back, because as soon as they broke the law we have an anti speeding campaign, somebody had to be prosecuted that was inevitable.
SIMON Why has she refused to front up to it do you think, do you think tactically it was seen as too big a risk to accept to have some degree of responsibility?
JOHN Well she doesn’t do this, you know right through her government there's been a tendency to when a minister gets into trouble they're on their own, she is very demanding and very quick to cut them off at the knees and send them out to you know to suspension when they're in trouble, this is unusual, in previous governments that I've seen there's been a code of loyalty and a code of responsibility where the leader defends their troops to the hilt, it doesn’t happen now, it's the character of the leader I think.
SIMON Even then we seem to have accepted or so many of this administration's ministers do, the responsibility but not accountability but in this case we don’t seem to have either, and Winston Peters calling it a dereliction of leadership.
ANDREW It certainly opens the opportunity as she's said quite clearly that tomorrow at the campaign launch that she's going to push on the element of leadership and you would expect her on Monday night at the Leaders Debate to attack Brash on that element, here's an opening for him, an opportunity to say well what are you talking to me about leadership when your own character in terms of Painter Gate and this particular incident raises the question of character about the ability or the desire to say look that was me as you say the mea culpa, I was at fault here and I accept some responsibility.
SIMON At this point how much is it policy and how much is it presidential style leadership, the opening addresses last night were – gee they looked good didn’t they, Helen Clark and Don Brash you know they both look 20 years younger and air brushed. Is it them or is it the policies, the mother of all elections?
JOHN I think it's them you know, I and I think it should be them, I mean policies are important but ultimately we're electing people for their character, for their instincts, for their likely response to problems.
SIMON Their vision and leadership?
JOHN Yeah and so assistants of the leaders are the best indicator of what sort of government we might get I think.
SIMON Thank you gentlemen.
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