AGENDA, NOVEMBER 5
Interviewed by SIMON DALLOW
SIMON Just over two and a half percent in the election, however with the retention of Peter Dunne's Ohariu Belmont seat the party has three MPs in parliament. In agreeing to support the government on confidence and supply it's also secured a position outside cabinet. Dunne is both Minister of Revenue and an Associate Minister of Health. I spoke to Peter Dunne earlier this morning and began by asking him about his behaviour on election night, you might remember this.
"I wanted to come and talk to you first, I've been standing outside being threatened with being wired up by TV1 and everyone else, but I want to say to Mr Sainsbury of TV1, I'll talk to you soon Mark, but when you couldn’t even remember us in your introduction tonight you’ve got a bit of apologising to do."
SIMON Mr Dunne your behaviour that night surprised many, do you regret that outburst?
PETER No I don’t and in fact when I see the tape of it I think it was pretty mild compared to the way in which it's been reported to me afterwards, and in any case the events of the last week within Television New Zealand I think gives some credence to the point that I was making.
SIMON How satisfied are you with what United Future achieved in negotiations, the Greens has measurable concessions, your gains seem somewhat vague.
PETER No in fact they're very successful given that we were not even a player, given that our numbers weren’t critical to the outcome to get 15 key policy achievements all of which will be delivered during this term plus the ability as a Minister to drive some of them, I think it's a very satisfactory outcome and I'm very pleased with it.
SIMON Well for instance in your agreement, 'appropriate private hospital capacity will be used to reduce waiting lists where this is feasible', where's the …?
PETER Well that’s a major step forward, you’ve got people on waiting lists today for a whole range of routine procedures that can't get those because there is an ideological obsession against using capacity in the private sector – the fact that we have agreement…
SIMON Yes but it's conditional upon feasibility which can be….
PETER Well I think in many cases you look at the reality, it is feasible to mix those sectors together where you’ve got over capacity in one and shortages in the other, I think many many people will benefit from that and that’s a great step forward.
SIMON Your policy platform opposed the Kyoto Protocol on the basis of debatable science and economic harm, yet the agreement with Labour promises a new cost benefit analysis.
PETER Exactly, the government's original proposal was to bring in a carbon tax from 2007 which we've opposed and this agreement means that before there's any steps taken in that direction there will be an independent cost benefit analysis.
SIMON Which means of course if it comes down in favour of Kyoto that you're prepared to back it then and turn around from your pre-election platform.
PETER Well I think when one looks at the science, one looks at the information that’s happening world wide and it would be a very very brave person that would say that the outcome of that review would be positive.
SIMON So despite opposing it before the election you're prepared to turn around on that if the cost analysis …
PETER Well if the independent evidence is clear then we'd be foolish not to, but what I'm saying is all of the material that I've seen and all of the international evidence that’s around, take even the British case just recently for instance would indicate that such an analysis would show that the carbon tax is an unwise move and I certainly agree with that.
SIMON How much confidence do you have in Winston Peters in the Foreign Affairs role?
PETER Well I think we'll wait and see, I think that we've gotta look at the incentives that there are to perform. I don’t think Mr Peters would want to be remembered as someone for the third time who had brought a government to its knees, and I think that he's got tremendous pressures on him to make this role work and I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt in that respect.
SIMON The new Iranian President of course promised to wipe Israel off the map, Mr Peters called it unhelpful, is that how you'd describe it?
PETER Well I think it certainly was unhelpful I think it was an unfortunate statement, I don’t think it is in any way conducive to world peace, but I think New Zealand's got to remember where it sits in these types of debates, we're a very small player a long way from the scene of the action to be tub thumping about them I think would be equally unhelpful.
SIMON So unhelpful and unfortunate. What does it say about the state of trans-Tasman relations when Helen Clark finds out about a specific terror threat in Australia and to Australia through the media?
PETER Well I'm not sure of the circumstances there, I did think it was very clever politics on Mr Howard's part to get everyone agreeing to pass his controversial terrorism legislation, but I'm not sure you can say that that’s a reflection on the state of trans Tasman relations but having said that …
SIMON So you wouldn’t expect to be advised by the Australian Prime Minister?
PETER Well I think it would be reasonable to expect that in that sort of event if there was particularly a risk to New Zealanders, as obviously there would be given the numbers involved that there would be some coordination, the point I was going to make really was I think we do need to be working on improving our relations with Australia, they are our major trading partner, they're our major cultural partner, we keep saying there are not two countries on earth that are more alike, we need to develop a closer relationship and I think that’s a priority for any government.
SIMON In a past press statement last year you said since when has New Zealand Foreign Affairs policy been set in Canberra, do you still believe that?
PETER The incident that I was referring to was essentially one where we were simply taking the same line as Canberra on I think from memory issues relating to China, I still think that New Zealand needs to be independent, New Zealand needs to make its own call and its own decisions but we don’t operate in a vacuum, we've gotta work with our traditional friends and allies, it doesn’t mean we always agree with them but we've got to work to strengthen our relationships, respect our mutual differences if you like, but certainly not just take in isolation this path.
SIMON On the same day you made that statement since when has New Zealand Foreign Affairs been set in Canberra, about the same issue you also made the statement it's time for Mr Gough to own up to admit that New Zealand's foreign policy towards Taiwan is dictated by Beijing. Do you stand by that statement?
PETER Yes I do, I think that’s absolutely correct and I think that at the moment and I understand the reasons why New Zealand is desperately keen and I support the moves to get a free trade agreement with China, and doesn’t want to do anything to upset them, I understand that, but I do think that we ought to be developing a more flexible approach in our policy to Taiwan, I've held that view for a long time and I'll continue to hold it.
SIMON So you're happy to be in open conflict with the government on this issue, the government of which you're a cabinet minister.
PETER Well I'm not a cabinet minister, I'm a minister outside cabinet, but as part of the agreement that we have, the collective responsibility applies only in the areas relating to the agreement itself and to my specific portfolios and on matters relating to foreign policy or any other issue that are not governed by the agreement I'm perfectly free to speak out and to promote my own party's policy and I'll do that.
SIMON So you're happy to undermine the chances of a free trade agreement with China?
PETER I'm not seeking to undermine the chances of a free trade agreement with China.
SIMON Your statement's though New Zealand's foreign policy towards Taiwan is dictated by Beijing…
PETER I was going to say I think that the notion of saying that New Zealand shouldn’t have a close relation with Taiwan which is after all our eighth major trading partner I think is simply inconsistent with what our traditional principles have been, but if we can negotiate a free trade agreement with China and get the benefits from that I'm all for it, but I don’t think at the same time we have to be so obsequious as to simply say therefore we won't do anything that upsets China in the meantime.
SIMON Let's look at your Minister of Revenue role, in that role will you be working towards a lower corporate tax rate as every party including your own looked at before the election, or has Labour vetoed that option?
PETER No in fact there's a review which we're about to commence very shortly of the whole business tax regime and that obviously is designed to make sure firstly that we end up with a regime that’s more attractive and competitive with Australia, it's designed to ensure that not just the headline rate but the whole range of mechanisms such as compliance are addressed and we have a regime that’s fair, efficient and attractive, and I think that your comment about the fact that every party in parliament bar one supports a lower corporate tax regime really gives you the answer.
SIMON John Shewan from Price Waterhouse Coopers, senior partner there said the key issue is whether you go the rate route or the incentive route, which will it be do you think?
PETER Well I can't prejudge the outcome of a review that’s yet to commence but what I would expect is that it would be a combination of both.
SIMON You mentioned that we need to be more competitive with Australia, what's your vision to achieve that?
PETER Well New Zealand's gotta work out that we're a dynamic, a small innovative society, there are some things we do remarkably well, we don’t often have sufficient confidence in those, we need to structure our business operations in a way that will ensure that our business people particularly our traders have the opportunity to foot it in the international environment, have the confidence to get their products both recognised and to market and I think that we've gotta look from my vantage point at what sort of tax disincentives there are to achieving that, how they can be minimised and how we can actually ensure that when people go out to sell their wares internationally they're trading as best they can on an international level playing field.
SIMON One of United Future's key planks of course was the income splitting policy, when can we expect to see that?
PETER Well what I have agreement to do is see a government consultative document which is part of the way in which we change tax policy prepared during this term and I would expect to see that released probably 18 months to two years from now.
SIMON Your former colleague Mark Alexander said two weeks ago, 'this'll be a practise run for you as the new Jim Anderton, unencumbered as he will be from his two useless appendages.'
PETER Yes I think that Mr Brian Connell's comments of the last 24 hours have a sort of a similar air to them and I'd put both in the same category frankly.
SIMON At the end of the day you end up as Minister of Revenue but really aside from reviews and consultations and a lot of talk what does the party get?
PETER Oh the party gets the ability to achieve a lot of key policies, if you look at the agreement and you look at our key policy mix, many of those things are reflected in that agreement and they will be achieved over the next three years and for us the determining factor as to whether to accept this agreement or not was simply the fact that we could now go and look forward over the next three years and at the next election to go out to our supporters and saying this is what we've achieved and that’s a huge goal.
JENNI Yes Mr Dunne the Friday before the government was announced you were in Don Brash's office and you were putting the finishing touches on a letter to Winston Peters and I think you and Don had a conversation on the Sunday the day before the government was announced and you were still with the programme, what was it specifically that changed your mind?
PETER You're correct Jenni, I had a number of conversations with Don Brash and I even had one with him on the Monday in fact the day the government was announced. I think he would say as I would that in all of those discussions I made it absolutely clear we were still negotiating in good faith with Labour and until those negotiations had been completed I wasn’t in a position to enter any detailed negotiations with any other parties.
JENNI Oh yes I understand that, but what was it that changed your mind between the Sunday and the Monday?
PETER What was it was in fact we had a discussion within our party board and party caucus overnight and went through the agreement that was on offer at that point and decided it was simply too good to turn down, it's as simple as that, but I had been exploring with Dr Brash right from election day really what the options might be if there could not be a government put together led by Labour and that was prudent to do so because the mix of numbers delivered by the electorate dictated that.
JENNI But the electorate did surely expect you to go with the centre right.
PETER I think the electorate didn’t have an expectation of what we would do and as I said our numbers weren’t critical either way and so we had some freedom in that respect and in the event the fact that the deal that emerged between Labour ourselves and New Zealand First came into play fairly late in the piece did shift things.
SIMON Leader of United Future and Minister of Revenue outside cabinet Peter Dunne, thank you so much for joining us on Agenda today.
SIMON John, what do you think of what Peter Dunne had to say?
JOHN Well I'm in the embarrassing position for a journalist of agreeing with almost everything he says and I find I usually do, and so I listened to him talking about using the private health system, to using the capacity there to try and address waiting lists, and his tax proposals, talking about Kyoto and I think he's right and I think it's great that we have a system now that can inject that kind of viewpoint into a government that doesn’t agree with those things.
SIMON The electorate doesn’t agree either though does it I mean they’ve been halved, they’ve been decimated as a party, commonsense suggestions, those noble vague sentiments just don’t seem to wash.
JOHN No and yet with what 2.5% of the vote and three seats in parliament he is having a little bit of influence, now not very much influence but a little bit, he's just injecting a little bit of consideration of things that I think are important, as some people do.
SIMON Feel grateful for MMP then?
JOHN Yeah I am actually, I like it.
SIMON You agree with John Jenni?
JENNI No well you might agree with what Peter Dunne says but how likely is he to achieve any of these things, I mean everything he's promised to do or said he'd like to do is contingent on X Y and Z, how on earth he's going to reform the health system single handedly God only knows, I mean yes of course it needs something done to it.
SIMON Reviews and analyses.
JENNI Reviews and analyses they don’t result in any action necessarily and they probably won't.
JOHN That’s the point, he hasn’t got a mandate to do any action, he's got 2.5% of the vote and three seats in parliament, that would be wrong if he was able to go in there and reform the health system, all he can do is inject a little bit of consideration of a good idea and hope that it gets traction from that point.
JENNI But good ideas don’t do anything, I mean I think the whole government is going to be paralysed for the next three years, we should be quite thankful for that because there'll be minimal meddling in our lives because nobody will be able to do anything, however it's an awful waste.
SIMON What do they get though John, I mean yeah okay we talk as you say noble sentiments and ideas improving the health system after a review with feasibility and so forth, this gives Labour so much wiggle room surely.
JOHN Of course and it should, Labour got what was it nearly 50% of the vote, Labour deserves to be the government and Labour deserves to get most of what it wants done, but it is good I think and healthy that I has to deal with very small parties that can bring a different perspective to things.
JENNI But doesn’t this mean that nothing is likely to get done?
JOHN No I think that a lot of things will get done and …
JENNI What makes you so confident that things will get done when you’ve got 50/48?
SIMON Yeah where's the track record for it?
JOHN Because there are so many parties in parliament, and there are different coalitions that a government can form for different purposes and you heard Dunne there say that there'll be things that they will do that he won't support.
JENNI But doesn’t this mean there'll be so much time spent in consultation over the next three years that nothing ever happens, they’ll be doing analyses, they’ll be doing reviews, you notice there's no time limit on any of those they could easily go on for there years and then come up with an inconclusive answer. Dunne's moved his position on Kyoto, he was very firmly of a view before the election and now he's watered that down a bit. I don’t think it's going to happen. It's good though.
JOHN I think that’s a problem if things need to happen quickly and that’s where the system really comes to the test, we've had it now for a period where we haven’t had to do anything drastic with the country you know slow incremental change has been okay and I think that happens, it can happen.
JENNI But the thing is for the business community things have to start happening, I mean people tell me that the economy has slowed down drastically over the last four or five weeks, I mean it's across all industries, advertising revenue in the media which is a good early warning sign of bad things to come is down everywhere, it's not just the Independent, NBR's down, television's down. But what those people I think have done Simon is just written off the rest of the year, most employers they’ve said well look it's a deal loss let's wait and see what happens next year and there's no growth, there's just nothing.
SIMON John Barnett was one of New Zealand's first independent TV and film producers, his South Pacific Pictures company produces Shortland Street, New Zealand Idol and produced the film Whale Rider among other things. He's also an old friend of former TVNZ CEO Ian Fraser. Simon Pound spoke to him on Thursday and asked him if he can see any problems with the dual public service and commercial model thrust on TVNZ.
JOHN I think that the problem is really very fundamental and I think that it isn't something that you can just lay at the door of this government, I think if you look back over the last 15 or so years you'll see that there is a structure that is really dysfunctional. What you have is an owner, the government, who until recently had no view about what it should do with its asset, yet appoints a board that in its entirety in every five years gets replaced, and I think that currently what you have is a wish list which actually in the environment the real commercial environment cannot be met.
SIMON What is the way forward now, can they be reconciled?
JOHN Well I personally think the thing should be sold, I don’t think that you can have an owner who doesn’t have clarity of purpose and I think you can impose certain criteria and sell the company and you know I just think that if you look at its competition, look at those media and in every case the owners have a very very clear focus and philosophy, they appoint boards who know what they're doing and they appoint chief executives who are there to carry out the wishes of the board and the owner. In the case of TVNZ the owner doesn’t know what television is about, the board is not appointed from its knowledge it's appointed by gender, geography, friends of the minister, political favours, and the chief executives are replaced within every three or four years, there's no continuity.
SIMON With the selling off would that involved selling off the commercial or the public service?
JOHN Sell the whole thing, you know it's not impossible to have a television broadcaster that has criteria attached to its license, and the other thing that you have to consider in the New Zealand environment which is really important is that the main funder of New Zealand programming is New Zealand on Air and as long as New Zealand on Air is in the environment and is this significant funder and sets criteria which it does about the funding of programmes whoever buys TVNZ even if it's the most rapacious person in the world is going to avail themselves of that New Zealand on Air money.
SIMON What sort of person should be the next CEO?
JOHN Somebody who knows how to get a million dollars a day in the door, someone who knows how to entertain New Zealand audiences, inform them and hold them, someone who provides leadership for all the staff, someone who has a vision about which way the company goes and someone who clearly can interface with the board and the owner, but you know you think about the number of chief executives that they’ve had in the past 12 years and they just keep getting turned over and it's who'd want the job, who'd want the job when there isn't clarity of purpose?
SIMON DALLOW Well there you go for a moment I'm gonna have to play like a politician and say I can't possibly comment, but I'm sure you both have plenty to say.
JOHN Well we agree I think for once that the charter is a disaster, you know I mean I don’t know how TVNZ imagines it's sposed to follow two directions at the same time.
SIMON They are inherently in conflict.
JENNI It's a dysfunctional structure and the problem is yes you have lost the corporate governance between what a board's meant to do and what management is meant to do, but of course you’ve got a board that is largely non commercial, they're political appointees and the two or three people on the board who are commercial people are starting to get very very frustrated because this separation that’s meant to occur between the board and management isn't happening, because nobody actually understands how it's supposed to happen, so until you do fix the structure and get rid of the charter the next CEO's going to have exactly the same problems as Ian Fraser.
SIMON What about the wider role of the majority shareholder?
JOHN The public service role you mean?
SIMON No no I mean the wider role of ownership, the government owning it.
JOHN It's not a healthy situation, you know TVNZ could easily be privatised and do very well and do a very similar job to what it's doing now.
SIMON So do you both think that should happen, privatisation?
JENNI The government has no place in owning a television channel.
SIMON TV1 and TV2 are owned by the public though, isn't much of their asset value based on the fact that they can be complementary?
JOHN Yes I think that’s working very well, has worked very well for a long time, and I don’t think that the idea of selling off one is a very good one, I think …
JENNI The package, you have to sell the package.
SIMON So okay sell the package that means you’ve got a private operator, so can you imagine that a programme like this would even go to air on a privately owned channel?
JENNI Everything is market driven you see.
SIMON In which case you know information based news and current affairs would go by the wayside.
JENNI Not necessarily, people used to love the Ralston Group on TV3, people used to actually watch the thing because that was the market, and if people nowadays want to watch programmes, reality shows, disease of the week, whatever it is they watch you have to give them that, you can't force people to actually watch stuff on television that they don’t want to watch, they’ve got too much choice.
SIMON That’s the role of the public service broadcaster in some ways isn't it to bring that wider range of views to cater for those minority interests.
JENNI What at 500 million dollars a year which is what it's cost, we don’t want to pay a license.
SIMON But what you're saying is we don’t end up with a public service broadcaster at all?
JENNI Well we're quite happy to pay double the license fee to Sky to have choice.
SIMON Why can't the government set up a public service channel why can't one just be ….
JENNI Why should you impose upon people things that they done want to watch.
SIMON Well some people do want to watch it though that’s the point isn't it, I mean public service broadcasters all over the world have viewers.
JENNI Yes but somebody's gotta pay for it.
SIMON And you're not prepared to?
JENNI I'm not prepared to.
SIMON So you'd be happy to have a diet of reality shows.
JENNI No no I watch Sky I watch overseas TV.
JOHN Dare I risk saying that the print media which is privately owned do they do a diet of cheap and worthless material, I don’t think so I think we get serious discussions, to the point that people are interested and want to absorb it, there is no point I think in having worthy programmes that nobody's watching, and having the State pay for it. The private sector would make sure those programmes were popular and accessible to people.
SIMON Earlier this week Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett was elected Labour's new Chief Whip. An openly Gay MP he was a key figure behind the prostitution law reform and civil union legislation. Critics of those laws accuse the government of being too politically correct. Barnett's now proposing that MPs consider a ban on the public sale of fireworks, he with me now from Christchurch. Welcome to the programme Tim. You want to stop children from enjoying what many consider is a Kiwi rite of passage – more politically correct social engineering?
TIM Well since David Carter, National MP was the first to actually call for it I was interested that somehow banning fireworks isn't politically correct but banning smoking in bars is, so I think there's an interesting debate that may come out of this one. No I mean we've had a flood of phone calls to my office concerned about the sales for private use, apparently the amount being imported this year is about half as much again as previously, there've been big incidents involving the fire service in the last few days and I think it's an issue which we need to be listening on.
SIMON So what exactly do you want?
TIM What I want is to get a review as a result if there is evidence that we need a review, I mean I'm about evidence-based law change, prostitution law had to change because it wasn’t working well under the old law, civil unions are there because there were couples who needed legal rights, and if there was evidence that the current law relating to fireworks isn't working well, if the harm being caused is greater than the pleasure given then I think a review is appropriate.
SIMON Can you ever accurately determine that really though?
TIM Well I think I mean the fire service can give a view, the health services can give a view and we can get views from those who think we should keep the current law.
SIMON At the end of the day though those are just views though and we're looking at another review based on more research, you know do you yourself want a ban on public sale of fireworks?
TIM I haven’t seen the case yet, what I know is we had 30 calls in my office yesterday morning and in previous years when we floated the issue after getting a handful of calls there's been no interest, so what I want to know is if it's an issue next week and in a month's time then if it is then it's appropriate if there's across party support for that.
SIMON What's your viewpoint?
TIM My viewpoint is a nervousness about bans unless they can be effective, I'm a progressive and a liberal person and I think banning things isn't always effective, but if there is good grounds for a ban if it can be effective and if there is strong public support for that then I think that’s appropriate, but I mean this isn't a party political issue, this is a good example of the media in Christchurch, The Press raising an issue, going to local MPs across the board, getting an interesting range of reactions from all of us that don’t relate to party position and we're going to feed back to them in the next few days depending on the views we hear and I think that’s a good model for democracy in action listening to the public view, getting some evidence back and then feeding back to our parties.
SIMON What about people's personal responsibilities and the need to apply commonsense and to learn from mistakes all those sorts of things, I mean how far do you go with prescribing people's social behaviour?
TIM Good question and I can't give you the answer. The balance between personal freedom and the need to prevent preventable risks and harms is absolutely – and that balance was there in the other reforms that I've been involved in and prostitution law reform in particular was about trying to get law to minimise harms to sex workers, to wider society to communities and so forth and I think we got the right balance on that. We can apply the same kind of mindset to this one but there's a process to go through, so all I'm saying is yes it's an issue we don’t take 30 phone calls in an office in a morning and say this isn't an issue, what we then have to do is to apply some rigour and commonsense not in the heat of the day when things may happen.
SIMON By next Guy Fawkes will you have an answer?
TIM My role as an electorate member of parliament is to feed back to the minister responsible the views I've got, it's obviously up to the ministers in government to decide where to go next.
SIMON Okay you mentioned prostitution reform we've got civil unions we have the smoking bans, what else is on Labour's social policy agenda over the next three years?
TIM There isn't anything which I call a social policy agenda in terms of the issues you're talking about.
SIMON Similar subjects.
TIM I don’t think there's anything very much, I mean there were two particular issues I was involved in civil union and prostitution where there were problems where the law was clearly not allowing people to express themselves in the way they should be able to do, where the law was out of balance we solved it. I don’t feel any burning need to push for law reform in other areas where I don’t actually see that imbalance.
SIMON Isn't the reality that you don’t have anything else on the social policy agenda simply because research has shown you it cost you votes?
TIM No the last research on civil union indicated about 75% support for what we'd done so I think a lot of these issues do actually settle down once the law is passed, but there are periods when it is appropriate to reform and there are periods when one does other things, I mean I think there's a lot to do in terms of further improving the quality of public services, I think there's a lot to do in terms of ensuring that we as a nation can move forward, I think we have a different balance in parliament and a different group of parties such as Peter Dunne you were talking to earlier to work with, and that means under MMP a different balance of parties and different priorities. There certainly isn't an agenda of upsetting radical reforms sitting on a shelf waiting for a different kind of balance in parliament.
SIMON That’s the way you're putting it, I'm just asking you what is on the social policy agenda. I want to ask you though why has Helen Clark now canned Georgina Beyer's transgender anti discrimination bill?
TIM The reason that bill may not go ahead is that the Human Rights Commission four months ago came out with a new policy position saying that they would accept complaints from the transgender community and treat them as though they were covered by the Human Rights Act, the purpose of that bill was to add transgender status to the Human Rights Act and if the Commission are going to act in that way anyway it's not appropriate. The second thing is that it doesn’t look as though there's a majority for that bill to go through parliament, the detailed lobbying hasn’t been done yet.
SIMON Georgina Beyer railed against what she called a climate of intolerance. Is there?
TIM No there isn't a climate of intolerance at all, I mean there's a climate of getting progressive things through where it's appropriate, but where there are other ways to achieve it fine, I mean in terms of civil union we kept being told you can make a legal agreement and you don’t actually need civil union, but it turned out to be nonsense, as the body which is taking complaints ….
SIMON Again Georgina Beyer says they want to appease the more conservative elements that have come to the fore. Who exactly is she talking about?
TIM I've no idea you need to talk to Georgina about that.
SIMON You haven’t discussed this in caucus?
TIM No, I've discussed with Georgina the bill but I mean we've taken a very practical line, I mean it's pointless pursuing something in parliament without having a reasonable idea there's a majority, I mean you take a risk sometimes like we did with prostitution law reform but that level of lobbying hasn’t been done, and secondly if there was another legal route to achieve the purpose of a legislation then go for that.
SIMON You’ve just been appointed Chief Whip, how difficult is it to manage the wide range of sector interest groups that make up Labour's famous broad church?
TIM Well thank goodness a whip doesn’t have to do that, I mean the role of the whip is really to make sure that the individuals in the caucus and the caucus as a whole can perform to the best of its ability and their ability, so that’s about managing resources, it's about working with people, if there were concerns to feed them up the system to make sure that the leadership and the ministers and back bench are working together, I mean that’s a management and a coordination task and there's a bit of a link to the party within that but it's an interesting task in a parliament where Labour have 50 out of 121 MPs, so there are inevitably going to be challenges in that.
SIMON You're a fourth term MP how disappointed were you when you didn’t get a cabinet post?
TIM Actually not in the least because what I'm interested in is challenges, and for the last two terms I was in the middle of two big projects the prostitution and the civil union law reforms, that’s now completed, I've chaired a select committee of six years, I felt that challenge was one that I'd managed to deal with, this is a challenging position and as someone with a management background I think it's something I can do to the best of my ability.
JENNI I'd like to just go back to fireworks Tim if you don’t mind. How are you going to measure harm versus pleasure in any fair or definitive way?
TIM That’s a very good question I think you start off looking at the kind of harms which fireworks can cause, I mean there's clearly a wider social harm, everything from the impact on pets to the impact on people who are injured to the cost of fires to the community, whether that is always about fireworks or about other things, you then look at whether you do some research and whether the number of home based events as opposed to community based events has actually gone down over the years, I got my first invitation for seven years to a home based firework party tonight, so it seems to me that most of the things now happening are community based and then you look at what other countries have done, whether a ban could be effective, and that’s the kind of balance you do, it's never going to be an exact science.
JENNI But that’s the harm side of things, what about the pleasure, how are you going to measure pleasure? How do you measure pleasure?
TIM The pleasure side is about the number of home based events and whether the sale of fireworks is going into those events or whether it really is people who are taking those fireworks and using them in a harmful way, and that’s not an exact science.
JENNI No it's measuring sales figures not pleasure.
TIM No no it's actually seeing what the impact is in the community. That’s all you can do at the end of the day, you then look at what other countries have done, if it's effective and whether it's appropriate to go forward on that, and that’s absolutely the job of the local MP in an area with a good campaigning newspaper with a real concern with a north west wind coming today and this being November 5th, and those are all the combination of factors you look at which is why you have a voice as an electorate MP, that’s why we have local MPs.
SIMON Tim Barnett Christchurch Central MP and Labour Chief Whip, thank you so much for joining us on the programme.
SIMON Time for the final thoughts now from our panel on the week that’s been, the week that’s coming and just basically what's on your mind regarding the news agenda. I want to go back to what Peter Dunne said about the Iranian President's you know stated desire to wipe Israel off the map, every country in the world's condemnatory, our new Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says it's unhelpful, Peter Dunne called it unfortunate, this is hardly a strong line.
JOHN No it's not, what interested me in that was that it told me how Peter Dunne and Winston Peters will conduct themselves in this coalition or semi coalition arrangement and they don’t know yet probably either but these things work themselves out but they have a choice of speaking like ministers on everything that isn't even in their portfolios or sticking to their portfolios and acting like oppositional politicians on everything else, and we don’t know how they're gonna do it yet, but Peter Dunne's reply there showed that he's probably going to be a very inside kind of operators, even on things that aren’t anywhere close to his portfolio perhaps.
SIMON But there is going to be direct conflict between party policy and government line isn't there?
JOHN Yes often.
SIMON And what are they gonna do, deal with that on an ad hoc basis?
JOHN Yes they will but I'm getting the impression that we won't see it in public, we won't see big public spats between New Zealand First and Labour, United Future and Labour on areas that are way outside the interests of both of them.
SIMON It seems not between New Zealand First and United Future either, if that’s anything to gauge it by.
JOHN No well maybe not, you know we may see that they’ll act like a real tight coalition even though they're not.
SIMON Is that gonna work Jenni?
JENNI I think the first time you do see a spat we'll be back to the polls, it's as simple as that.
SIMON So you're not looking at three years.
JENNI I'm not looking at three years, maybe one year.
JOHN No I think it'll last three years and I think that even if there are spats it will still work, I mean it can work that way there's no reason for Peter Dunne to say oh it's very unhelpful that the Iranian should say this, he could have come out with a very very strong statement yeah and it wouldn’t have affected, in theory it wouldn’t affect the government's foreign policy or Winston Peters' attempts to sort of be diplomatic if he wants to be, because it's not Peter Dunne's role, and the theory of this whole arrangement is that they each have their roles and outside those roles they can do what they like.
SIMON Just before we go I want to talk about Pania of the Reef, Pania was recovered yesterday a week long saga, Pania gone missing in Napier.
JOHN What a relief.
SIMON Are you relieved, can the nation now rest in pleasure however you measure that Jenni?
JENNI It just amazes me the things that people get excited about.
SIMON But is she a national icon?
JENNI I don’t think – I think most people outside Hawkes Bay had never heard of her.
JOHN That’s true, well I do when I think about it, but if you'd asked me two weeks ago what was that thing on Napier's waterfront I wouldn’t know.
SIMON She's not the equivalent of the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen.
JOHN No but now we know, now she's a national icon.
JENNI Well are we better people for it?
JOHN We are we're richer for it, we have a little icon in Napier that we all know now and care about.
SIMON Well there you go, the nation can rest at ease.
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