AGENDA, OCTOBER 8
PROF. DR. ANDRE KAISER
SIMON On the same weekend that New Zealand went to the polls so too did Germany, the result was a minority win to the centre right's Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel over the centre left's Social Democrats led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. In an unusual move these two parties are now negotiating a grand coalition. Political scientist Dr Andre Kaiser joins me now from Cologne. Describe for us a little more Dr Kaiser the main contenders for power.
DR KAISER Well at the moment the main contenders are the centre left Social Democratic Party and on the centre right the Christian Democrats and they try to find a way out of this situation which is quite unusual in German post war history. We had one grand coalition in the late 60s but that was a very different situation, now it's really impossible to find a way out other than the grand coalition.
SIMON So you think it is inevitable?
DR KAISER Well though there are other options, the socalled Rainbow Coalition was one option discussed which means that the Social Democrats the Green Party and the Free Democrats a very neo liberal right wing liberal party could form a majority coalition or even more unusual the Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats would form a coalition together with the Green party which is a centre left party and of course there is another option which is something New Zealanders have a lot of experience now that is a minority government, but the major party leaders are in my view afraid of this option of having a minority government, so the most possible outcome will be a grand coalition and one has to say that due to the fact that Germany is a federal system there are governments which have to be formed on the sub national level that on the sub national level there is a lot of experience with grand coalitions and they are formed from time to time. So it's not so unusual if you have the complete picture.
SIMON Why are the major parties so fearful of joining with the minor parties, why would they prefer to coalesce with each other?
DR KAISER Well all these coalition options together with the minor parties leave open the problem that there is a centre right party in between. If the Social Democrats form a coalition with the minor parties then they have to form a coalition with a right wing neo liberal party which is to some degree similar to ACT in New Zealand and the Christian Democrats if they want to form a coalition together with minor parties they would have to form a coalition together with the Green Party which in many policy areas is to the left of the Social Democrats, so it would be a rather difficult structure in this coalition government, and if you look at the distances, the policy distances the distance is the smallest when a grand coalition is formed at the moment.
SIMON What is the fear that you alluded to earlier of a minority government, why is that such a frightening prospect?
DR KAISER Well I really don’t know, I think that one should try to form a minority government in the situation where all these majority coalition government options are not really options the major party leaders believe in and really want so it is an option. Why are they afraid of that? Maybe history plays a role, maybe they believe that minority governments by definition have to be unstable which is wrong if you look at New Zealand as well as many many European parliamentary democracies.
SIMON If you do end up with a grand coalition how is power likely to be shared who is likely to be the leader?
DR KAISER Well the party leaders had a private discussion about that yesterday German time and there will be additional discussions in the party organisations over the weekend. In my view Mrs Merkel will be the future Federal Chancellor but they have to find a role for Gerhard Schroder the former Federal Chancellor coming from the Social Democrats. There are rumours that they will make a deal that the Christian Democrats get the federal chancellorship and the Social Democrats get more cabinet seats, that could be a way out of this very difficult situation.
SIMON How respected is the MMP system in Germany?
DR KAISER Well with regard to the public and with regard to the parties there's no public discussion about well the major principles of MMP, there's a consensus that Germany has to have some sort of proportional representation. There are discussions going on with regard to minor aspects such as overhang seats. We have a lot of overhang seats since 1990 which is mainly due to the fact that in Eastern Germany you can't really say that there are two major parties and some minor ones, there are basically three major parties and therefore a lot of overhang seats have to be distributed to the parties, so there are discussions about minor aspects. On the other hand a number of commentators as well as political scientists after the general election result began to talk about having a new discussion about the electoral system and there were even experts who argued that some sort of first past the post would help in a situation where Germany has to face quite difficult political economic reforms where it would be nice to have a decisive majority government, a single party government such as in Britain, one of the political systems German party leaders compare to.
SIMON Dr Kaiser I'm going to ask John Roughan who has studied your system, I know that you have studied our system, John you have a question.
DR KAISER Well that is the problem at the moment. The Social Democrats the Greens and this new party on the left have a majority in parliament but this new left party consists of two parts and both parts are difficult or would be difficult coalition partners for the Social Democrats. One part the major part is the PDS the former state party of Eastern Germany, the other part the minor part consists of disappointed Social Democrats and trade unionists who just left the Social Democratic Party so there are even some private difficulties involved. On the other hand the Social Democrats argue that in a grand coalition they are the more powerful partner because of this situation that they could find a majority in policy decisions in parliament.
SIMON With your understanding of New Zealand politics as well do you believe MMP is the right system for New Zealand?
DR KAISER Well I would at least argue that MMP is a rather nice system in normal times but in difficult times when you have to make hard decisions such as those decisions that have to be made by the future government in Germany, well proportionality may be a nice principle but it doesn’t help to come to decisions, even fast decisions. I know that the former New Zealand Prime Minister once argued that fast laws are not necessarily very good decisions but if you look at the German situation where it takes a lot of time to come to a decision it's at least an option, and the second thing I would argue is that proportional representation does not mean proportional influence and of course not proportional power in government, so to some extent in my view it's an illusion.
SIMON Dr Kaiser, danker shun from Cologne thank you very much for joining us on Agenda.
DR KAISER You're welcome.
SIMON John Tamihere alienated his Labour colleagues earlier this year with his comments on the influence of unions, homosexuals and women who he described as front bums. The former minister had been tipped for a return to cabinet. Tamihere did not seek a place on Labour's list saying that he didn’t want to be an MP without a mandate from his electorate and he didn’t get one he was defeated at the Auckland Maori seat of Tamaki Makaurau by Maori Party Co-Leader Pita Sharples. John Tamihere is with me now. Welcome to the programme.
JOHN What a wonderful intro Simon.
SIMON Well it gets better. You lost your electorate, you're not on the list, you're out of parliament you must have regrets but it's your own fault isn’t it?
JOHN Yeah that’s right and I acknowledged that on election night and what you do is when anything like that happens, obstacle happens you’ve just gotta dust yourself off get back in the ring and keep going.
SIMON Where did you get it wrong?
JOHN Oh I think it's that you always when you come from where I've come from you try and do a lot of things in a hurry and so the process in Wellington doesn’t lend itself to that if you're not high enough up the food chain, I wasn’t, so that makes it difficult, and secondly I just have a character and a personality that likes to sort of speak my mind…
SIMON That’s a problem isn’t it?
JOHN Well no the more honest you get the worse you get.
SIMON The more trouble you get.
JOHN Well it's an indictment on our system to an extent and so we're gonna have to start to – and I think I was opining this way to you previously we're gonna have to start to be a lot more honest about how things work, you only see how 20% of things work in this country at the political level and that might be people might think that that’s statesmanlike but it would be nice for everyone else to be in on the action as well as to how things actually do work.
SIMON Well honestly then did the party give you the support you were entitled to?
JOHN Oh well I lost, I'm eating that and I'm moving on.
SIMON So no comment.
JOHN Well hey the party was there and I fought as tough and hard a campaign as I could but just didn’t get over the line.
SIMON Can you be a bit of a lad a bit of a rebel within Labour ranks or is the pressure to toe the party line too strong?
JOHN Oh there's pressure not just in Labour there's pressure in every caucus to toe a range of lines.
SIMON Yeah but you're in Labour. How strong is that pressure?
JOHN Oh you know solidarity forever I don’t know the words to that song, but you know like there's no doubt the requirement for solidarity and discipline, I wasn’t the most disciplined member of my caucus there's no doubt about that.
SIMON How do you rate your own parliamentary career, what sort of score would you give yourself?
JOHN Oh I don’t, that’s for others, and obviously not very well, not from the electoral result, but it's a wonderful experience and it's a wonderful privilege if you can maintain the privilege and that’s what it is, it's a gift given by constituents and voters, it's not a grant of patronage and that’s why I wasn’t on the list either.
SIMON What are you most proud of?
JOHN Oh the work that we did in breaking open Maori land that was land locked to come into the great economic good. Secondly the closure on the Maori fish fight with our bill in 2004 and I've gotta say Foreshore and Seabed I'll stand by because that had the opportunity to set race relations back in this country and also had the opportunity for some certain greedy people in the Maori elite to crowbar themselves up further than they rightly …
SIMON But they did have a point didn’t they, it did impact on the property rights that they had under the system previously? They didn’t get the right to go through due process.
JOHN That’s right they didn’t and for two reasons, the first one is that if they were allowed to go through due process the end result would have been freehold title on the foreshore and seabed, that is not a Maori tikanga, that is not a Maori customary right, that is not Maori, it's from our Westminster traditions and so straight away we had a difference of opinion. They were out after freehold title for what they could lever out of it. I stood for a foreshore and seabed entitlement that was fair to everybody but more particularly evidential rights is Maori and we will have a regime that recognises them, that’s what we've got.
SIMON Maori spoke quite loudly though, they wanted the Maori Party.
JOHN Maori Party like the Green Party is a natural MMP brand, the New Zealand First brand the United Future brand the Jim Anderton brand they're individuals who broke away from mainstream. It's a sustainable brand, it was a matter of when rather than if it occurred.
SIMON What happens to Labour Maori MPs now though, aren’t they sidelined because Labour doesn’t have to pay as much attention to Maori issues now that the Maori Party is there to do that?
JOHN Well that’s a quandary as we evolve MMP that Maori people have to work out. There's no doubt though that Labour has a strong relationship with Maori dating right back to 1935 and the fact that certain Maori are ungrateful and thankless for that I their view.
SIMON Labour also has a strong connection with the union movement and four new recruits this time all with union connections, is this good for the party?
JOHN The party's going to have to really reflect very carefully on its list next round and its gonna have to have a big clean out as we front, it would have to front against 23 new MPs just from a National Party.
SIMON Clean out of who?
JOHN Well you have to have a look at for the want of a better term, the dead wood.
SIMON Is there some?
JOHN Well you know after a fair while there is.
SIMON So who? Who is the dead wood?
JOHN Well you know it's not for me to say that, though once again the constituency ruled me as one, so as we move forward to the next election…
SIMON But there are people in Labour who are not pulling their weight, that are past their use by date.
JOHN Oh yeah but as you know there are people in every team that don’t, like there's 120 MPs down there and for the life of me half of them could be deemed to be jetsam and flotsam.
SIMON It seems you’ve got new unionists but you’ve got a lot of old academics as well, who is the party controlled by?
JOHN Look the party is in an interesting phase in development and evolution right, and it's not for me to determine that because I'm not part of that process at this particular point in time.
SIMON And in the infamous Investigator you said the unionists do not deserve to have that level of influence, why not?
JOHN Oh no, what I'm getting at there is that like all upper class bureaucrats they can have far too much influence because they haven’t been back on the shop floor enough, and so I always have a go at administration and bureaucracy as opposed to on the shop floor, so there's always room in New Zealand for a union movement, it's whether the leadership of that movement justly deserves its position and its leverage and you’ve always got a question there. The day you don’t question the power and the leverage of certain people that demonstrably have it well what do you have, you have a tyranny and this is not on.
SIMON Former Labour MP John Tamihere.
SIMON Former MP Nandor Tanczos had to wait until the counting of the special votes to see if he'd be returned to parliament as the Greens seventh MP, he missed out by approximately 1200 votes. One of parliament's more colourful characters he's best known for his stand on the decriminalisation of cannabis. Former ACT MP Ken Shirley was sixth on his party's list and therefore unlikely to return, ACT has now just two MPs in parliament. A former Labour Cabinet Minister Shirley stood last year for both the ACT Party leadership and Speaker of the House. Welcome to you both gentlemen.
KEN Good morning Simon.
SIMON Ken you’ve been in parliament on and off since being elected as part of the 1984 election.
KEN You make me sound like a recidivist. Perhaps I am.
SIMON I'll leave the psychologists to determine that one. How as New Zealand better off as a result of the reforms of the 80s.
KEN Oh critical, I believe be wouldn’t be in the position we are the position of strength today as an economy if it weren’t for those bold determined reforms of that Labour government back in the 1980s, followed for a brief period with the Ruth Richardson period and unfortunately I believe we're off the pace now, we haven’t carried through.
SIMON Let's look a the election performance, everyone's blamed National for cannibalising ACT's votes but surely the party must take a lot of the blame?
KEN Oh partly I think the fact that we're in such a perilous position we must put our hand up and say why and there's a lot of questions around that, that’s a valid point, but then that was compounded by what I think was a very foolish strategy from National of instead of building a centre right coalition they went about cannibalising it in the somewhat arrogant belief they could achieve 51% of the vote and under MMP that was never going to happen, so I think both of those factors contributed.
SIMON What about Rodney Hide's leadership, I mean immediately it seemed reverted in the Taito Phillip Field allegations to the poop busting persona is that an asset or a liability for the party?
KEN Oh look he's a tremendous campaign in Epsom I think people recognise that, that’s was an extraordinary effort to pull that off and ACT wouldn’t be in the parliament today if it wasn’t for that achievement in Epsom and it was really Rodney's character and energy that actually won that for ACT so no one can take away from that performance.
SIMON There is a danger though that you become the Rodney Hide party in the way that Jim Anderton …
KEN Absolutely and that was one of the problems right through like we were the Roger Douglas party then the Richard Prebble party and potentially now the Rodney Hide party and actually ACT is all about ideas and excellence in public policy, so that will be a challenge for the party moving forward.
SIMON In June there were reports that said in the press that senior party members have asked you to challenge Mr Hide for the leadership, will you?
KEN I never said that in the press that was reported but I certainly never said that in the press.
SIMON Will you be? Will you be challenging him for the leadership?
KEN Oh no I have no intention of doing that.
SIMON You rule that out categorically?
KEN Well I'm not in parliament it would be totally inappropriate, I'm actually pursuing other options at this time.
SIMON Down the track though would you consider it?
KEN Oh you never say never in politics, who knows what the future's going to hold but my intention is I want to look forward to a new career, I've been in parliament two terms now or actually five terms all up, but in two sessions and as I said earlier I'd be a recidivist if I went back for a third session.
SIMON Greatest memory from all that experience?
KEN Oh extraordinary memories, it's hard to pick out one. I think the exciting transformation in the post 1984 period would have to be right up there, just an extraordinary period of change and to be part of that, part of history I'll always remember and cherish but my three terms of ACT in parliament too, thoroughly enjoyed it, it was fun, a great bunch of people, challenging, I've not regrets at all.
SIMON Nandor Tanczos your ranking in 2002 would have seen you back into parliament this time, how fair was your demotion?
NANDOR Oh it was a democratic decision by all of the Green Party members.
SIMON Was it fair though, do you think it was fair?
NANDOR Well fair's always in the eye of the beholder isn’t it?
SIMON Quite true, you're the beholder and what does your eye tell you, do you believe your demotion was fair given your performance?
NANDOR Well of course if it was up to me I would have been high up the list wouldn’t I?
SIMON Was it fair?
NANDOR Was it fair? Well I think that the party membership took a decision based on the information that they had.
SIMON That’s a fact, was it fair?
NANDOR It's an irrelevant question.
SIMON I'll ask Ken then, Ken was it fair, do you think Nandor's demotion on his party list was fair?
KEN Oh I think only the Greens can answer that, actually party list formation's quite a strange process and it's nothing to do with fairness let me assure you of that.
SIMON So was yours fair?
KEN Grossly unfair.
SIMON Grossly unfair, there you go Nandor you’ve got a precedent would you like to say that?
NANDOR Now look the point I'd like to make is that the Green Party as far as I know it's the only political party where every member of the party gets an equal vote, fairness is you know each individual person who votes has to decide what's fair and what's not fair and I was put there by the party membership not by the leadership.
SIMON This is all understood, I just want to know whether you think it was fair?
NANDOR Well I would have liked to have been higher up of course I would you know.
SIMON So you don’t think it was fair? Alright the Greens have faithfully given Labour support but what have they actually got from that, and you may be marginalised again, Labour can just ignore you can't it.
KEN They're good mates I think.
NANDOR Well I think the Greens are in a really difficult position this time because the result is so narrow and so Labour's trying to cobble together as many supports as it can. If you look at the last term I mean we were in an oppositional role in the last term of parliament, we still managed to achieve a number of things.
SIMON You would have achieved a lot more being in parliament though wouldn’t you, in government wouldn’t you?
NANDOR Oh of course and that’s the whole debate that’s why we went into this election saying we want to be part of government.
SIMON And you may still not be despite that overt support.
NANDOR Well yeah I mean that’s right, the election threw up what it did and so everyone's gonna negotiate on the hand they’ve been given and the Green negotiators will go for the best deal they can get and whatever they get the caucus will make the most of it and I'm sure we'll do really well with it.
SIMON You’ve been perceived of course as the poster child for cannabis law reform, do you believe that’s been damaging to the party?
NANDOR I think that the net effects of our cannabis policy is probably zero and that I think there are some people who vote for us because of our cannabis policy and there's probably some who don’t vote for us because of it, and I think it probably evens up.
SIMON Doesn’t that lead to the problem of mixed message though you know I mean isn’t the Green Party traditionally about the environment, the environment the environment, and here you have something that may turn off people who are pro environment.
NANDOR Well you know I was at the global Green Convention in 2001 and Green parties have autonomously started up all over the world and their charters are all very similar, they're not just about the environment they're about ecological wisdom, social justice, non violence and democracy, and Greens all over the world have that full – yeah they understand that these things are all …
SIMON At the same time cannabis is a polarising issue and you can take away so many of those votes.
NANDOR Well as I say I mean I think there's a lot of people who also vote for us because of the policy and for me cannabis policy is always a litmus test for a party because if you actually talk to most MPs even those who on the face of it oppose cannabis law reform very often privately they’ll agree prohibition doesn’t work, we've gotta do something different, are they gonna be honest about it that’s the key question.
SIMON Let me drag John Tamihere out of the sports section for a little bit. What do you make of this because the Greens and Labour I mean the Greens aren’t getting the traction they should are they?
JOHN Oh no it was an unusual election in regard to the two major parties hovering up quite a bit of minority vote, and a number of people made a number of tactical decisions in voting, so the Greens were not the recipient of some largesse that they had been previously so they’ve got less numbers. It's regretful that Nandor's in the House because whilst I disagree with him on quite a few things at least he's able to rationalise his position in a very considered way rather than the new thug from Epsom. But the Greens there's a greater fit in some policy areas with Labour than obviously they’ve got with National and you’ve got Jim there and …
SIMON But they still again might not have the leverage?
JOHN No they’ve got numbers and the way it works at the moment is they’ve got very good numbers and as we come to certain policy areas as the legislation goes through the House and the blow torch comes on it won't be labour in at the blow torch it'll be the minorities, and that’s why the government will hold together and Clark's been very good at managing those processes.
SIMON Let's now deal with the other mob, 21 new National MPs, big names, Alan Peachy, Tim Grocer, Tau Henare, formidable opponents?
JOHN Oh well Tau would sell his own Mum to be there and that’s why he is, but the reality is that they’ve got some great talent, they're a package waiting to be explored so therefore in terms of media identification and media highlight they’ve got a roll on, they’ve got another 21 attack weapons in regard to research projects, to put the blow torch on ministers so they're coming in with a lot more firepower but there's a greater expectation. I did note that Don did acknowledge that he's got factions in his caucus, it's gonna be interesting to see…
SIMON Where those caucuses are a problem.
JOHN Where that new blood positions itself and whether he can discipline it.
SIMON Gentlemen thank you all very much, thank you for making the time to come on the programme.
SIMON Welcome back, John Tamihere, Nandor Tanczos and Ken Shirley were just with us and now we're back with Chris Baldock and John Roughan for their opinions. Gentlemen.
JOHN ROUGHAN – Columnist, NZ Herald
SIMON He's a natural born politician isn’t he?
JOHN He is but he's not a natural born Labour politician, and you’ve gotta wonder now whether all Maori MPs aren’t looking at the Maori Party ultimately.
SIMON The voice of representation. Now how sidelines are the Maori going to be within Labour?
CHRIS BALDOCK – Editor, Sunday News
JOHN Yes I'm sure the Maori Party doesn’t want to be in coalition in any way, it's important to be independent and to stand aside and to create a new Maori presence there, and they need to talk to both sides for that. Winston I think that story this morning is very interesting he might well go for Attorney General, you can see that being a satisfying ultimate achievement for Winston.
SIMON Personally but what about is it sufficient for the party?
JOHN Well Winston is the party let's face it without him they're nowhere and they all know it.
CHRIS I think you made a good point I mean he would be there kind of under sufferance in one way but at the same time it would probably be hugely beneficial for Helen to have him onside.
SIMON Very juicy bone isn’t it?
JOHN He'd do it very well actually.
CHRIS But yet again the Greens squeezed out of this in terms of the cabinet table, she ain't gonna go there is she?
JOHN No well if Winston's on the side his votes plus the Greens as I work it out give her an overall majority, she needn't worry about Peter Dunne or the Maori Party or anybody else, it's a simpler more manageable coalition I think with New Zealand First voting positively for it when it counts rather than abstaining, that makes a big difference to the ultimate equation. If she can get Winston to actually give her a positive vote rather than abstentions then she has a Labour Green New Zealand First coalition which would be a very strong thing.
SIMON Greens in government.
JOHN Greens in government yeah.
SIMON But they're not assured of it still.
JOHN No they're not because they scare people and Helen …
CHRIS I think we saw part of the problem when Nandor there not being able to answer the question you know it's firm leadership decisions, just a bit too nice you know and are they able to make the tough decisions and the strong stuff…
SIMON Well there so much speculation going on about what comes next what about our three protagonists who were here a few minutes ago, Ken Shirley?
JOHN He's a survivor in politics.
SIMON Do you think we'll see him back?
JOHN No I don’t think so somehow and I'm not sure whether he would really want to, I'm sure after having two bites at it he's probably got other things he wants to do, I don’t know.
SIMON What about Nandor though I mean taking him out of the mix does this make the Greens a more attractive option?
CHRIS I think you'll have a certain type of New Zealander who would be scared of a person like Nandor and that is a problem and it's a kind of an image thing for the Greens and I think a lot of people will always come back to Nandor, you know they see him as embodying what the Greens are about, but he could come back, I mean he made a contribution.
SIMON And John Tamihere was quite positive about him.
CHRIS Absolutely I'm sure he'll continue to do so within the party.
SIMON Which of course leaves JT himself, John Tamihere.
CHRIS Oh he'll be back.
SIMON As what?
JOHN I think he will be too.
CHRIS Local politics?
JOHN Ah no I think he'll be back in national politics in some other party.
SIMON He told me a couple of days ago he was enjoying the fact this was the first time in 20 years he wasn’t representing anybody but that is what drives him I would have thought.
CHRIS Yeah and there's always a place for a John Tamihere isn’t there, you know he is non pc he won't always toe the line and he will ask questions and make things slightly uncomfortable.
SIMON There's always a place for him, but is that place ever gonna be at the top.
CHRIS Possibly not.
JOHN No, more like a Winston really.
SIMON We'll wait and see.
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