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TRANSCRIPT: 95bFM Noelle McCarthy IV with Dr Brash


95bFM Noelle McCarthy IV with National Party Leader Dr Don Brash, September 8, 2005

Transcribed By Rosalea Barker

Click here for 95bFM Audio.95bFM AUDIO: 95bFM’s Noelle McCarthy interviews Don Brash over the Brethren-National link

McCarthy: Good morning, Dr Brash.

Brash: Good morning, Noelle. How are you?

McCarthy: I'm well, thank you.

Brash: Good.

McCarthy: Now, is it true that two weeks ago you met with members of the Exclusive Brethren who are behind this anti-Government leaflet campaign?

Brash: I can't tell you exactly when I met with them. Oh yes, I have met with them; I've made that quite clear. Certainly it was within the last month. They told me they were utterly fed up with the Government and I agreed with them.

McCarthy: There is talk that there was some prayer at this meeting. Was that what happened?

Brash: No, there was no prayer at that meeting, at least not that I could observe. There may have been people praying silently. The Herald report this morning suggesting we met for prayer is quite wrong. At least, I didn't say that at any point. What I did say was that they indicated they would pray for me and pray for the National Party.

McCarthy: Lovely. So, um, apart from indicating that they were going to pray for you, was anything else of a campaigning nature discussed?

Brash: Oh, yes. They indicated they were going to campaign against the Government. They were going to issue some pamphlets, but I did not read those pamphlets and have had absolutely no part in reading them, writing them, funding them or distributing them, and it's high time that the media pointed that out. Labour and the Greens have been arguing that the National Party was behind those pamphlets, and we were not. The people who have been behind it have now said who they are.

McCarthy: So you were aware that this group was going to use other methods besides the power of prayer to support the National Party?

Brash: I knew they were going to issue some pamphlets attacking the Government, and I said, "That's tremendous. I'm delighted about that because the Government is lousy and should be changed."

McCarthy: Two callers to 95bFM yesterday told Russell Brown on The Wire that Brethren members have been active in putting up National Party billboards in Auckland, and that they've also been distributing--we have reports--National Party leaflets along with their own leaflets in Dunedin and Christchurch. Were you aware of that?

Brash: I was not aware that they were distributing pamphlets for the National Party and their own pamphlets together, certainly. But people from all kinds of religious backgrounds help the National Party all over the country, and there are Catholics and Presbyterians and agnostics and atheists and all kinds of people helping us.

McCarthy: Absolutely. So how come Gerry Brownlee was able to say on the telly last night that there is no relationship whatsoever between National and the Brethren if they're actively campaigning on National's behalf?

Brash: Wait a minute! Hold it a second. There is no organisational relationship between the National Party and any religious group. There are individual members of various churches--and as I say, a whole variety of churches. I am not Exclusive Brethren; I don't think any of my colleagues are Exclusive Brethren. But they are of a variety of religious backgrounds and they are actively supporting a change of government. As I am.

McCarthy: So why was Gerry Brownlee at such pains to distance National from the Exclusive Brethren?

Brash: Because Labour and the Greens have been trying to portray this as a National Party plot, and it is a lie. Frankly, I'm getting fed up with it. In the last month, Noelle, we've been accused of being in the pockets of the Americans, then of the Australians, then of the Business Roundtable, then of ACT, then of Exclusive Brethren. Yesterday, I think Helen Clark suggested we'd be responsible for a Katrina-type catastrophe if we were in government. This has gone far enough.

McCarthy: But Dr Brash, the issue here is one of secrecy. It's the secrecy, or the perception of secrecy, that adds an air of sinisterness to all of this. Why didn't National come out and say, "Yes, they are supporting us."? Why didn't Gerry Brownlee say, "Yes, they are active in our campaign."?

Brash: Because they are not part of our campaign. We're not funding them, we're not distributing them--

McCarthy: They're giving out leaflets on your behalf and putting up billboards.

Brash: Hold it a second. Hold it a second. The individual members of the Brethren, maybe. Individual Presbyterians, maybe.

McCarthy: Nobody in the Brethren does anything as an individual, Dr Brash, that's more or less widely acknowledged.

Brash: Well, maybe that's right. You could maybe say the same of some other donations as well. But the point I'm trying to make is--

McCarthy: So why not accept that the group, the Brethren, are supporting National?

Brash: That's up to them to say whether they support National as a group. It's not up to me to say that.

McCarthy: They're showing so, obviously, by distributing leaflets on your behalf nd putting up billboards.

Brash: Well, I'm delighted. I'm absolutely delighted. I accept support from anybody who wants to get rid of this lousy government.

McCarthy: So you're accepting support from an antisocial, secretive sort of group who have been classed as a cult by one of your own MPs?

Brash: Look. The Labour Government gets regular support from a bunch of unions who have nothing to say for this country other than, "Support the unions." The PPTA, for example, has spent a third of a million dollars in the last couple of months actively campaigning against the National Party.

McCarthy: Dr Brash, are you equivocating being in a union with being a member of an organisation that actively shuns the rest of New Zealand?

Brash: What I'm saying, unambiguously, is the National Party had nothing whatsoever to do with that campaign. And, yes, I knew they were going to oppose the Government. I'm delighted about that. I receive help from anyone who wants to get rid of this lousy government.

McCarthy: So why didn't Gerry Brownlee acknowledge that last night? That's what I'm interested to know, and I think a lot of people are interested to know that.

Brash: I didn't see what Gerry Brownlee said last night.

McCarthy: Well, he went on Campbell Live last night, and on several occasions yesterday, and said the National Party has no relationship whatsoever with the Brethren.

Brash: We don't!

McCarthy: Yeah, but he seemed at pains to distance himself from it. Why not accept their support?

Brash: I do accept their support. But we don't have any organisational relationship. They're not funded by us. We're not writing their material. We're not distributing their material. What they do is up to them. Look, let's get back to the important issues of this campaign, and it's not whether one particular religious group supports us or not.

McCarthy: The problem is really that the story that there are secretive cult-y types of people backing National is a lot more sensational than tax-cut arithmetic.

Brash: Look. I think if we can provide 85 percent of taxpayers with a tax rate no higher than 19 percent, that is sensational.

McCarthy: The Brethren think so too, obviously.

Brash: Maybe they do. I think most New Zealanders think so.

McCarthy: In 1992, one of your own MPs--Nick Smith--talked about this group and called them brutal and sinister and described how they brainwash children. Have you asked him about how he feels about their endorsement--

Brash: No, I have not.

McCarthy: --of National. Will you be discussing it with him?

Brash: No, I will not. There are more important things I want to deal with in this campaign than worrying about what Nick Smith said 13 years ago.

McCarthy: Well, Nick Smith has always been a campaigner for family rights, and he considers--

Brash: Absolutely, and I think--

McCarthy: --the Exclusive Brethren are someone--

Brash: --I think Nick Smith is a great MP and I'm a strong admirer of Nick Smith.

McCarthy: But you haven't asked him how he feels about this high-profile endorsement of his party by these people?

Brash: There's a helluva lot more important stuff going on right now. A helluva lot more important stuff. The fact that the Exclusive Brethren are supporting the National Party--great! I'm delighted. I'll accept support from *anybody at all* who wants to get rid of this lousy government.

McCarthy: Okay, Dr Brash. Thank you very much. Good luck. Where are you today?

Brash: Today I'm in Auckland.

McCarthy: You're in Auckland campaigning?

Brash: Yeah.

McCarthy: Good stuff. All right.

Brash: Bye now.

McCarthy: Bye bye.


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