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Transcript: Brash Roundtable Emails & Race Policy

Scoop Transcript: Brash on Roundtable Emails and Race Policy

Transcription by Rosalea Barker

Wednesday, 31 August 2005 - 1pm - National Party Caucus Room Parliament

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Dr Donald Brash (National Party leader): As long as you're clear that the primary purpose of the press conference, of course, is to talk education.

Alastair Thompson (Scoop Media): I'm aware of that. This is an opportunity for the press gallery to talk to you this week, and you did indicate that you would answer some questions.

Brash: That's correct.

Alastair: In relation to the race relations policy announced on Monday, would you be willing to say that Roger Kerr and Roger Douglas provided you with good advice about race relations?

Brash: Look. I got advice from all kinds of people in the preparation of my Orewa speech last year. Roger Kerr and Roger Douglas were among those people, but there were many, many others.

Alastair: Your supporters have suggested this is simply a matter of unsolicited advice. Is that how you would characterize it? But I notice that in this case you actually followed the advice.

Brash: I have to tell you that Roger Kerr was one of the people who strongly opposed my using that particular speech at Orewa last year.

Alastair: That wouldn't tend to be supported by the facts.

Brash: I can assure you that was the case.

Male: Why did he advise against using it?

Brash: I'm not going into that. That's his view. I decided to make a speech on that issue. When I became leader, my first speech in the general debate, early in November of 2003, listed my five main priorities for my leadership. And that is still true.

Alastair: Okay. What is the business angle on race relations policy? How has it linked to the economy?

Brash: I've got no idea.

Alastair: Why has the Business Roundtable got an interest in it?

Brash: You ask Roger Kerr that.

Alastair: Well, we will ask Roger Kerr that.

Brash: Good. And the key point is that Roger Kerr was one of many people who sent me advice and comments over a period of months.

Alastair: He sent you lots of other advice about corporate tax and sales of state-owned enterprises which you didn't follow.

Brash: That's right.

Alastair: You followed the advice about race relations.

Brash: Because National Party policy is made by the National Party. Education policy is made by Bill English, not by--

Alastair: The race relations speech was very controversial within the National Party.

Brash: Twenty-six members of my 27-person caucus endorsed that speech.

Alastair: Apart from Georgina te Heu Heu, who is the only Maori, of course.

Brash: The point I make is that that policy was announced by me. It reflected National Party policy. *National Party* policy, not the policy made by somebody else.

Alastair: Did you take the remark from the headline of the email from Roger Kerr which was "Tool of the Business Roundtable" to be a joke? If so, did you think it was funny?

Brash: Listen, I don't think this discussion gets us anywhere at all. I've made it clear that these emails were sent to me at late 2003. Bringing them out at this point is an attempt to divert attention from the really important issues of this campaign, and frankly, I will not be diverted.

Alastair: Why haven't you appeared on any television interviews or radio interviews when you've been invited to discuss this matter? Did you specifically tell John Campbell that you wouldn't discuss it if you did appear on the John Campbell show?

Brash: I'm not quite sure which John Campbell show you're talking about.

Alastair: Campbell Live.

Brash: I appeared on Susan Woods' programme the other night.

Alastair: I know, but I understand that they said they wouldn't discuss this specific issue.

Brash: I was not involved in that decision. Did we say that?

Alastair: TVNZ said that.

Press minder Richard Long taps his watch…

Reporter: Dr Brash, just how damaging do you think this email {poses?} for your campaign?

Brash: I think it's an attempt by our political opponents to distract attention from the important issues of the campaign, and I will not be distracted.

Reporter: (Question not discernable)

Brash: Well, listen. Emails received months and months--nearly two years ago, in fact--are not relevant to this campaign. I've made it clear that National Party policy is developed by the National Party and not by anybody else. And as the Sunday Star Times pointed out in their article, anyone in the Roundtable who backed my leadership must be pretty disappointed by our policies.

Alastair: Except for this particular aspect of it, which is race relations. It seems to be the only part of their advice that you have in fact followed.

Brash: Listen. Every single aspect, every single policy specific in that Orewa speech last year had been announced by Bill English. Every single one.

Alastair: Can I ask a question of Bill English, then? Do you believe that the Treaty is a partnership? Between Maori and Pakeha? And is that partnership a living partnership?

Bill English (Former National Party Leader): The Leader's outlined the position in the Orewa speech and again yesterday. Or the other day. And everyone in the caucus supports that.

Alastair: We're talking about education here. I'm pretty certain that in primary and secondary schools, they teach the children of this nation that the Treaty is a partnership between Maori and Pakeha.

Brash: That's not a view which we hold.

Alastair: Will you be instructing the education service to change the curriculum so they no longer teach that?

Brash: Of course. Of course.

Alastair: Will you also tell the Court of Appeal that it's not a partnership when that's in fact what the Court of Appeal said?

Brash: The Court of Appeal was obliged to interpret reference to the principles of the Treaty because Parliament left that expression in law.

Alastair: And the expression means, as the Court of Appeal has defined it, that there is a partnership between Maori and Pakeha.

Brash: Okay. That's not a view we hold.

Reporter: You've got one problem in dealing this on your political opponents, and that is that there are faxes and emails that appear to only have been able to be obtained from someone very close to your office, which the press have broadcast. Have you got to the bottom of that issue? And will you get to the bottom of that issue?

Brash: Not yet. But we are investigating it.

Reporter: And are you concerned that it is someone who has or is working for you in and around these offices?

Brash: I think that's unlikely.

Reporter: Then how on earth did anyone get their hands on faxed material?

Brash: That's a very good question. I don't know the answer to it.

Alastair: People are pointing their finger at Bill English's former executive assistant.

Brash: I think that's very unlikely.

Kevin: You mentioned political opponents. What proof do you have that it's political opponents when it's come out of your own office?

Brash: Nobody who's on my side has any interest at all in causing embarrassment.

Kevin: But you don't have any proof.

Brash: That's why I've said I've refrained from blaming any party.

Reporter: They say that--the stated reason of the newspaper was that a National Party source was concerned with your links to big business. There is a motive.

Brash: I haven't found anyone yet who might have had access to that information who has a motive.

Alastair: Did the Herald on Sunday's email, that they used, did that come from your office?

Press minder Richard Long: cut this off now.

Brash: Absolutely. Thank you very much.

Kevin: [asks about Herald on Sunday eMails]

Reporter: Dr English, how do you react to suggestions about you being involved?

English: Whatever happened two years ago is water under the bridge. My focus is the same as Dr Brash's: mainstream New Zealanders want lower taxes, they want standards in education, and they want the Treaty sorted out. And when I'm out and about, that's what they're talking about. I have to say that this has now become a Beltway issue, irrelevant to the campaign. National is picking up support.


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