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Audio & Transcript: John Key Defends Don Brash

Transcript: Key Defends Brash's Right Wing Credentials

Interview Alastair Thompson - Transcript Kevin List

National's finance spokesperson John Key

Prior to the Sunday Star-Times, publishing a story linking National's leader Dr Don Brash to the 'hard right', Scoop interviewed National's finance spokesperson John Key.

In the final six minutes of the interview – originally posted last week - Mr Key defended his leader Dr Brash from criticisms about a possibly hidden neo-liberal agenda.

Mr Key implied that Dr Brash's previous desire for neo-liberal free market reform had been tied up with his role as Reserve Bank Governor.

Scoop asked Mr Key if he thought Don Brash had changed in the period since. Below is a transcript of the portion of the interview Scoop Co-Editor Alastair Thompson conducted with Mr Key (Click on the following links to hear the interview excerpt in MP3 Audio).

Scoop had just been discussing the sale of State Owned Enterprises under a National Government, a policy that John Key had unequivocally ruled out for the coming term. Note the audio starts slightly before the beginning of the transcript that follows

Listen to the audio of the interview in streaming MP3.
Download the file ( Windows users right click mouse on link -> "save target as")


Scoop: A lot of people on the left are very concerned that an election of a Brash Government means bringing back a group of ideologues of the same mind as the people that were here in the 80s?

John Key: I think that they are the scare-mongering tactics of the left. I think most people who know me well… I don't think anyone has claimed I am 'hard right' at all. I think I've surprised the press gallery and probably my own caucus and many other people... because the assumption is that I would be 'harder right' because of my financial assets. In fact that is not the case.

What I do think is, that I'm the sort of person that has a very strong belief that New Zealand can do a lot better. And I'm prepared to be open-minded and listen and learn and do things that are in the best interests of the country. But I'm not someone who sits there and says sell assets because someone in a textbook says we have to do it.

Scoop: So you agree with Michael Cullen that taking the advice of the OECD and the IMF is not necessarily in our best interests?

John Key: In a lot of cases – why would you? They [the OECD] are one commentator and they contradict each other across various departments. We get advice from a whole lot of places and you do what you think is in the best interests – you don't take one source as gospel. In the end surely that is the reason you have a Minister of Finance and of course ultimately a Prime Minister who is paid to disseminate that information and make the calls.

Scoop: When you say that you are not 'hard right' - Michael Cullen clearly makes a big differentiation between his attitude to you and his attitude to Don?

John Key: I think his attitude to Don is that he sees him in a category of a 'harder right' view. My view would be that there is no argument that Don has given speeches in the past where he has espoused fairly right wing views but he did that as a Reserve Bank Governor in the requirement… in the role of a Reserve Bank Governor [for] what he believed was a single focussed attitude. That is what Reserve Bank Governor's do – they can give speeches that solely look at that aspect – and that aspect is economic growth.

I can deliver you a tax plan that might deliver greater economic growth arguably in day one. But it would have aspects that the country would be screaming about – you know a much lower top personal rate, for instance. I mean, there's some economic evidence that [lowering the top personal rate] has quite a big impact on economic growth. But I have to make decisions that I think are in the overall best interests of the entire country. I don't see myself as a potential Minister of Finance to represent one tiny small segment or to take things out of context. The Government is there to represent the people of New Zealand not one or two people in New Zealand

Scoop: That is very interesting, in which case who is running the finance policy in a National Government. Is it you and Bill English or is it Don Brash

John Key: Don and I totally agree. Don and I were involved totally in that policy [referring to National's tax package]

Scoop: Well he has agreed to that policy. But that vision as you pointed out is a far more pragmatic vision than you'd expect from Dr Brash?

John Key: My point was that when he gave those speeches he wasn't in the job he is today.

Scoop: So [Dr Brash] has changed his views now – a new softer Don Brash?

John Key: It's not a matter of a new softer [Dr Brash]. You reflect the role you are in at the time. If your role is to represent one sliver of New Zealand society or one aspect of New Zealand society then you obviously have thinking and some stuff on that. But I think in terms of when you are the Prime Minister of the country you have a broader perspective and he has that now.


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