Sludge Report #14 – Rodney’s Speech In Fiji
Sludge is delighted to provide the following transcript of the speech delivered by ACT MP Rodney Hide at the Investors International conference in Fiji in January last year.
In September last year the Securities Commission issued a warning about Investors International – after a principal in the company was arrested and charged with Securities fraud.
Rodney’s Speech begins with a discussion on the relative merits of self-interest (greed) and love as motivations for making the world go round.
He then moves on to a sort of Rodney’s greatest hits section – describing his arrival in Parliament, his exposure of (now Speaker) Jonathan Hunt’s taxi chit bill, and his part in getting rid of the Parliamentary Palace.
Earlier Stories in the
Free Money For Greedy Mystery…
- The Sludge Report #12 – Rodney’s Trip To Fiji
SLUDGE TRANSCRIPT BEGINS:
NZ on $100 Million a day
Rodney Hide’s Speech To Investors International conference in Fiji – January 28th 1999
Thanks Dave Thanks Blair, It’s wonderful to be today, it like you come all this way. I’ve never been to fiji before. And you come to fiji, and meet all the people here from all over the world and you feel at home. And that says something about us doesn’t it. You feel at home by the people that you’re around rather than, by the country that you’re in, and so being here this week, certainly has made me feel at home certainly more at home here talking to the people here than I feel sitting in parliament and talking to politicians and the civil servants.
Aristotle observed that man is a social animal, and that's certainly true and we spend so much of our lives, most of our lives, very little of our lives doing anything else other than doing things for other people. And have other people do things for us.
That's how we live, and if you think about it for a moment there are three ways, and only three ways to get another human being to do something for you. The first and I believe it’s the most powerful, is love. We do things for our wives, for our husbands, for our children and like wise they do things for us, simply because they love us, and we can ask them to do things, and they will do them no questions asked. We have close friends that’ll do things for us if we just ask. Well love is an amazingly powerful force for people doing things for other people.
The incredible thing about love is that it quickly attenuates it doesn’t reach down the end of the street, so if your neighbor at the farthest end of the street asks you to do something that you wife or your husband or your children might ask you to do and says please do it for love, you’r unlikely to feel moved, that way. So love is powerful. But it’s just for a few people in our lives, our family and our closest friends.
The other great motivator, the other way of getting people to do things for us is through trade. Were we say you do this for me and I will give you this. You give me that and I will give you this. And that ladies and gentlemen is the most powerful mechanism for social organisation, right around the world. It’s what we do in our work.
Look around this room and realise that everything in it is produced by trade, by the capitalist spirit, by markets, by business for the search for profits, that's the power of trade. And it’s terribly respectful because it recognizes that the other person doesn’t have to do it. And so it gives them something in return. And if they choose to do it, and the price is right, they will.
There’s a third way of getting people to do things for you. whats that?.
( Audience - FORCE.)
R Hide: Force. The gun. You put a gun to a persons head and you say, to their head and say do this I’m gonna pull the trigger. That is the third way of getting people to do things for you, ladies and gentlemen. I am an MP. a member of parliament. I’m part of the Government. I’m a politician. Today I stand before you and I represent the gun.
I represent the force in our society to get things out of people. The gun and force has delivered nothing good in the world. This past century that we live in has been a terribly destructive century. Millions killed because of the gun, because of politicians and because of government. And that's what I stand before you, to represent. And you people, you folks, our friends we represent the traders. The people who produce, not through the gun but by getting out making a living and trading.
The socialists of all descriptions are interesting, because they hate to trade.They hate the thought that you can go to someone and do a deal. They hate that, they think it is somehow exploitative, and they believe that everything should be done for love. For love.
They want all of society to organize like we organize our families. And what happens when they try that. they quickly discover everywhere it’s been tried, all through the ages, that love doesn’t stretch far enough, that it doesn’t reach down the street. And so we end up with totalitarian dictators with the gun at the peoples head, and saying, well if your not going to do it for love, your gonna do it for this reason. Because if you don’t do it I’ll pull the trigger.
I think it fair to say, talking to people here and listening to the conversations, that you think that government wastes money.
I think it’s fair to say that people sitting in the audience think, that we have to much government, to much bureaucracy. By the time I finish here today, you’re going to know it.
Because, because I’m going to take you on an insiders journey into politics. What the, what the politicians don’t tell you about how it works. And I’m going to take you right back to the very day, that I turned up in parliament and some of the things I’ve learned about what they are doing with your money.
We campaigned for three years to get into parliament, with the new party, less tax, less government and we achieved 6.2% of the vote and got 8 seats. I’d worked very, very hard but it’s like the dog chasing the car, having arrived in parliament, following the election. I didn’t know what to do. No MP gets a job description, you don’t have a boss and I flew to Wellington and I went in and I got an office. And I was sitting at my office wondering what does an MP do?
There are people that have been there for 20 years and still ask that question. And there’s a telephone there so rang all my friends in Wellington, he wasn’t home (Applause) and I looked across and there was this computer, so I turned this computer on. This to me symbolize so much and that computer starts. I’d never heard a computer like this before go cajonk cajonk cajonk cajonka oh it’s just not connecting with the network or something and I went out like all politicians do to get a cup of coffee, and have a rest, and I came back with my cup of coffee and it’s still going cajink cajink cajink, and then after several minutes of this, there are windows, amazing and then I pushed the little icon for word. cajink cajink cajink cajink and again, I finished my cup of coffee and then it appeared word.
I started to type and it couldn’t keep up with my two finger typing, hay this is not good enough this isn’t going to work you know I’m in Parliament you gotta have the gear. So I got the parliamentary directory there is a thousand people that work in parliament in NZ. I should say on the payroll in parliament, that’s a thousand on the payroll and I found theres a man incharge of computers called John Prevel, and I rang him up said “hello John it’s Rodney Hide here” he said “what can I do for you”?. I said “it’s about my computer” he said “hang on I’ll be there in a minute”.
And the door opened and, I’d never had service like that ever before in my life when I’ve had computer problems, And he wheels in and he’s got a whole box, brand new computer and he unplugs the computer. Well puts it to one side pulls out this brand new computer puts it on the desk plugs it in. Puts the old computer in the box and I’m just looking at this saying “what the hells going on’ here he says “You’ll be right now” .
And I said.“How did you know that it was the whole computer”
He said “oh it was a 286 it would never work connected to this network” I said “so what was it doing here?” he said “well every MP turns up here and they want a computer so we just put all the old disc cards that we have over the years and we put them on there desk and we plug them in and if we have any complaints we just replace them.”
And I said “do you get many complaints?” and he says “no not really, you’re the first”.
It was at that point ladies and gentlemen, it was at that point that I realized I was in a strange and wonderful world. Because nothing works like that does it in the world, no one has 286’s plugged into a network, on one has it there for show, and yet in parliament we do.
Next time by the way you see a politician being interviewed on TV and you see the computer screen in the back have a great laugh, because it’s a 286 and doesn’t work.
It’s like the rest of government.
So right from day one I knew that I was in a strange place and then what happened is, is I got told about- and the New Zealanders will appreciate this - I got told about the marvelous taxi chit , right, and so I was given this big book of taxi chits and I said “what’s this for? “ and they said “oh that's when you go in a taxi” “just fill it out and give it to the guy”. Oh that's very kind.
I was conscious in Australia that some politicians were having trouble with there allowances and I was determined that I was going to play it real straight it was tax payers money after all, so I said “when can I use a taxi chit and when can’t I?” no one could tell me.
Every MP senior MP’s that I spoke to across all the political parties couldn’t tell me, the staff couldn’t tell me. The best answer I got a year later by the way - a bit like Hendos story - was to say “whenever you think it’s appropriate”.
So I thought this is nuts, I have never in my life had an open cheque book for taxi’s.
Well this lady down here laughs, shes paying for it.
That's what I love about kiwis you see they hear these horrible stories, all around the world we hear horrible stories about there government and what do we do, we laugh you know what can we do we laugh. So I determined to put in a few questions about taxi chits and there useage, and I discovered that one MP had spent $29170.00 the previous year driving round in a cab.
That’s equivalent to two and half months in a cab. Two and half months driving around the streets of NZ in a cab. The story broke over Easter, no one knew who it was it was real hot running in the news who’s the scum bag that's spent this much money.
On Tuesday when the Parliamentary office opened the man that's in charge of the taxi chits got back to work he got rung by 8 MP’s saying “is it me?” “is it me?”. They didn’t know what they were spending. The best part of it was that it turned out that it was Johnathan Hunt.
Who has been, for those who aren’t in NZ or don’t follow politics has been in parliament for 33 years. He is the father of the house. He is the most respected member of Parliament, from other MP’s, cause he’s been there the longest, the reason that hes been there the longest is he does nothing.
Right, he’s also one of the few MP’s that's fatter than me, and so I can make jokes about him being overweight and get away with it. So he had to put his hand up, and you’ll remember the cartoons and all the fun that was going on about Johnathan Hunt.
By the way the Labour party had put, and I’m not picking Labour cause National’s just as bad. Labour had put him in charge of all MP’s spending. And it was his job to keep an eye on what all the MP’s were spending, and he himself didn’t know what he’d spent.
But you can see the logic of it, put Johnathon in charge and we’ll never get caught. He’ll never kick up a fuss so he was in charge of all MP’s spending but this to me just symbolized something, like, the government had just announced they were going to spend an extra $5000 Million dollars. And everyone just yawned, oh yeah, but they heard about that $29170.00 spent on cabs and they said “that is an outrage”.
Because that is an amount that we can feel. That is amount that represents something and then you have to ask yourself how could you spend $29,000.00 on a cab. By the way that enough to go from Auckland to London and in Johnathans case still go on the odd trip into town for dinner.
5 billion dollars that's what the Government just announced. Does anyone know what a billion dollars looks like?
Well I tell you imagine you had a bundle of hundred dollar notes, it’s that thick. Theres 10 thousand dollars in it you slap it down on the table bang, put another bundle on top theres 20 thousand, another bundle on top that's 30 thousand. That's Johnathan’s taxi bill, its only this high, another bundle 40, 50, 60 thousand.
How high does a billion reach?. It’s a kilometer, it’s a kilometer. We were worried about this much money. And the government has just announced spending of 5 kilometers high of hundred dollar notes. That's how much a billion dollars represents.
And so behind that campaign to clean up the MP’s and to fund them properly and to reveal there accounts was a very serious message, that these guys have got to get real with your money, which seems a reasonable ask, I would of thought. The next big thing that happened that highlights about government was the plans to build the new executive wing.
I moved into new office tower and it was very nice and then I got wind of the fact that they were planning a new executive wing. Sounds like something out of the Whitehouse doesn’t it. And I asked around it was going to cost $100 million dollars and I have to say I was new to politics and $100 million still sounded like a lot of money to me.
And so I enquired a bit more and then discovered that we didn’t need this building so the act caucus 8 MP’s meet, convinced ourselves that we didn’t need, and we organized a campaign against it. Richard Prebble whos the act leader decided to dubb it the Parliamentary Palace which did more to kill it than anything else that we did.
And went out and said we’re against this Parliamentary Palace and it’s got to be stopped. Two over two hundred thousand New Zealanders signed a petition in three weeks that's 10 % of the voting public, against the palace socialist signed, it right wing nut cases signed it, everyone signed it.
People like us signed it too. Sane, reasonable, intelligent people like us signed that petition. That petition came into parliament from it and force a parliamentary enquiry. I forced it into the public, and so the select committee had to sit there and we heard from every interest group under the sun, from the CTU that's the union the hard core union to the business round table which is the sort of hard core business representative interest group lobby in NZ, and they were all against the palace submission after submission after submission said “this palace is nuts”.
There was only one submission we got by the way that was in favour of it and that was from a little union in the construction industry based in Wellington, and they had some very cogent arguments that the committee picked up on.
We had 3 days of public hearings and we went back into committee, now I’m not allowed to tell you this and if I do I could end up before the all powerful privileges committee again.
But I’ve been there, done that, and it wasn’t that bad, so here goes. We went behind the doors in secret and the chairman says, Clem Simich …….says “oh I think that's pretty straight forward everyone’s in favour of it?”.
All the other MP’s agreed with him. And they were going to proceed with the palace and I said “well I got another point” and this taught me a great lesson about politicians.
Holding them to a count and making them say what they believe in public. So I said “Well that's alright lets vote on it, I’m against who’s for?”
“oh I’m not going to vote”
I said “why not”
“oh you’d just tell everyone how we voted you’d just going to go into our electrics and leaflet everyone and say you know that Clem Simich and that and we all voted for the palace”
I said “that's right lets vote” well no one wanted to vote we need to talk about it some more well we meet for 3 further weeks to discuss it.
Who’s in property development in the audience?. OK who’s done a $100 million dollar development it big isn’t it $100 millions big I said “lets have a look at the financials”.
Don McKinnon who’s the senior national party politician on the fiscally conservative side he said “look it’s not a lot of money Rodney what are you bleating about. It’s $100 million I now know what he was getting at politicians in NZ spend $100 millions dollars each and everyday 365 days of the year $100 million to a politician is not a lot of money but it’s a million New Zealanders pay $100 dollars and a $100 dollars is a lot and the million people certainly is a lot and $100 millions dollars is a lot.
We discovered that there were no financials done, there was no comparisons of costs. I kicked up about this and the financials were duly prepared. It’s a bit like Hendos story, government discontinues, and they were prepared, and I used to teach this at university - financial accounting - and I got them, and I have seen numbers ladies and gentlemen that have been cooked.
These weren’t cooked, they were poached. They were fried. They were scrambled, everything was. All the benefits were triple counted, all the costs needed out and it’s just garbage.
Turned out by the way, that to build this $100 million dollar building for nothing. Which is pretty impressive even by NZ government standards.
We had the minister in front of us, and I said ah I started to question him and his officials about these numbers. I got three minutes into it ladies and gentlemen, and the chairman of the select committee and he said look we don’t want to get bogged down with minutae here do we, and shut me up.
Talking about spending $100 million dollars to a politician is getting bogged down in the minutae can you believe that. I was bought up a protestant.
I’m not religious now but my parents were methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican sounds like I had three parents no we moved around in the country. And it left me with this terrible thing about having fun. I don’t know what Methodisim was like outside of North Canterbury, but in North Canterbury in NZ having fun was sinful, and the next sin was spending money and to this day I still struggle spending money.
I sit in this beautiful resort and I’m struggling with it, oh god what’s it costing you know. Because I was brought up you just got money I know what you did with it you just put it in your sock like my father did and you just let inflation take care of it.
And so I have this terrible problem about spending money, and here I am a politician spending millions and millions and millions. I go home most night with a knot in my stomach, just from watching millions and millions and millions.
You can imagine how it feels, and you walk out of parliament or you come home to Auckland or you go on the road and you go to the Taranaki or you go to the Gisborne you go anywhere and you see how hard people work, and you see what $10 or 20 or 30 dollars a week means to them.
And you knew and realise the contempt with which politician and government spend that money. And it makes me personably ill because it’s not our money to spend. It’s your money and I think you should spend other peoples money much more carefully than you spend your own, of cause we do the reverse.
By the way, politicians get off on it, just like the IRD get off on watching you shiver and shake, politicians get off spending money and I know this for a fact cause I was sitting in the committee once and the politician slumped down beside me and give his due he was from a left wing party and so I guess by wasting money he was following there policy line but he just said, “you won’t believe what just happened at a meeting we just had I said what’s that he said we just agreed to spend another 2 million dollars imagine that and started laughing, I said ………….. but 2 million imagine that I said I might tell audiences that. And he shut up.
Three months previously he had been a tow truck driver got elected to parliament suddenly had access to all the people in this rooms back pocket and had just raided it and spent some dough it felt good felt good, hey, felt that he was doing god’s work, improving the ministry of women’s affairs cause they work hard do lots of good work.
But back to this palace, you see so we struggled around some of it and they wouldn’t want to vote I then we got all the plans out and everyone was trying to look for a way forward. And I was obstinate. And what I’ve decided to do in politics is I don’t fight all the battles that one can fight. I just pick one or two, and I just be obstinate on those one or two, let everything else sail past, and I decide to obstinate and difficult and annoy them.
They had all the plans out, and you’ll know the parliament had beautiful old stone building built in the depression, and then decide that ugly Beehive building built in the 60’s, and someone said isn’t it a shame the beehive is right where it is because if it wasn’t there we could finish parliament, so I am telling you, by the way, very sensitive information - we could finish parliament.
I said well, why don’t we shift the Beehive? I said it as a joke. The next week, we came back and the officials had prepared the plans for shifting the Beehive. The beehive weighs 20,000 tonnes. It’s solid concrete it would have been the third largest building in the world ever to have been shifted.
All you need to know about the economics of shifting large buildings is that the other two were all in the former USSR.
I’m sitting there, with a typical political dilemma, what do I do. Everyone’s jumping saying yeah we’ll shift the beehive what do you think? Rod and I decided of a cunning plan, it was Nick Smith by the way that recommended came up with the plan of shifting it, he’s an engineer, never put an engineer in charge of any building project around parliament I discovered.
I decided I had the cunning plan well they’d say that's a good idea lets look at it and we’d write the reports saying we’d shift the beehive subject to getting the cost checked out, and that would get the committee moving, everyone would laugh like you did about shifting the beehive, and that would kill and kill the palace with it cause we recommended against the palace, so all that happened .
The report was prepared and Nzers, you’ll remember, this probably reached Australia, they just roared with horror, laughter, disgust, that here they had prepared a 200,000 signed petition, they had gone in the select committee and beaten up the politicians, and they had gone away and thought about it, and said the people of NZ don’t want to waste money on the palace so we will spend twice that and we’ll shift the Beehive!
People at that point started the think that their government was out of touch and I thought that's great, that's it, dead. Three weeks later I get a phone call from the Holmes show saying the Prime Minister has just announced that as a part of the millennium project, they are going to shift the beehive. I couldn’t believe it.
I went on the Holmes show by the way and I debated, back bench MP debating with the Prime Minister lots of fun and he was losing. I didn’t have to say much and they just keep saying, put it on wheels minister that big building on wheels, and I developed a new TV technique which is just to shake my head like this and, go he’s nuts, you know, I didn’t say anything. I just shook my head, what’s wrong with this guy, and then, Bolger, Prime Minister Bolger, got on the attack, and he said but Rodney Hide you were part of the committee that recommended this?
And I was sitting in the camera just went on me, and I felt like saying it was only a joke. I never thought anyone would be stupid enough to ever take it seriously. But I faded at the critical moment, I said something a bit softer than that and of cause the public were outraged, and that was killed.
But think about it ,$100 million, we spend 100 times that in NZ on welfare a year, it’s disgusting, 100 times that on welfare in a year and what do we buy - misery, broken homes, kids not being looked after. Do we see a petition being generated about that, no. Australian is no better, United States is no better, Canada is no better. But those examples illustrate the politicians propensity to spend money with out regard to the people that earned it to the people that it actually belongs to, to the people that we represent, and who give us this money, presumably for good purposes, not for bad purpose. And that's what’s happened around governments around the world.
END OF SIDE ONE…
See next Sludge Report for side two….