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Syed Akbar Kamal: Lockwood Smith Interview

Syed Akbar Kamal: Lockwood Smith Interview

Darpan-The Mirror: Do you think public interest lies at the core of the secret tapes fiasco?

Lockwood Smith: I think there will be mixed feelings in the public-I think some members of the public will be quite disgusted that someone would lie about who they are to gain entry to a private function and then in speaking to someone claiming to be person they are not and then try to, you know, force the person they are talking to and taping and to saying things out of context can be harmful. I think some members of the public would be quite disgusted by that. The New Zealand politics has reached that level. And you know Labour is behind those dirty tricks. I think they ought to think very carefully before they pursue that kind of thing any further.

Darpan-The Mirror: Do you think the contents of the tapes are indicative of likely agenda of National government if it comes to power?

L Smith: Not at all, I mean, there is no such agenda-I can absolutely assure you of that. What I was referring to was when issues come up in the front of the government, once the government is in office; the government has to deal with. And you have got to deal with those in an upfront, transparent kind of a way. That’s why I spoke of discussion document process because issues do come up that that we haven’t thought of in developing policy but, no, there is no secret agenda. We will have major policies laid out before this election for people to evaluate and make their judgment on.

Darpan-The Mirror: Is National concerned more about the identity of the person or the contents of the tape?

L Smith: I think we are just concerned that New Zealand politics has reached this new low. And, it is, it is really sad when delegates from political parties in their conference can’t talk freely to their members of parliament ‘cause what this means now is we won’t be able to have open discussions with National party members; we will have to make sure at all times to simply repeat the policy lines and that’s unfortunate for our members. They often want to find out thinking behind things and clearly now with this new trend of the possibility of people bugging private conversations is just not possible to have more open conversations.

Darpan-The Mirror: But don’t you think private conversations, private thoughts are also indicative of what the position of that person is with regards to certain issues?

L Smith: I don’t think so because often what our delegates want is to understand some of the thinking behind the development of the policy. And that’s not possible now if you take that out, out of context, it can be made to look sinister. And I think that’s really unfortunate. And also I think, it’s actually not legal to record private conversations and broadcast them. I think there are some actually technical issues there with respect to legality and, and, to me that’s not the worst. The worst feature is, just, it is a new low for New Zealand politics this has happened.

Darpan-The Mirror: If the public interest is dominant factor then do you see it as a legitimate means of putting some information in the public domain?

L Smith: If the public interest was hugely an issue. But if you look at what I was recorded as saying, hardly I don’t think there is any public interest. All I said is that if you have to deal with issues that are not part of the policy; you have not done proper transparent process that involves consultation with the public, if you are to deal with them properly and there is nothing particularly sinister in public interest in that kind of comment.

Darpan-The Mirror: So, the person who taped is more important than the content or is it the other way round?

L Smith: To me (shaking his head) I don’t believe, you know, either issue is the end of the world. To me the sad thing is that this is the new low standard because we have not had this in New Zealand politics before. You know the thought of actually going into a private function, claiming of someone who you are not and trying to trap a person, a public figure into making comments that you meant to take out of context and use them against that person, a political party, has to be a disgusting development that I am very sad it has happened to New Zealand.

Darpan-The Mirror: Now what outcome do you foresee from the fallout of the secret tapes?

L Smith: Hard to know, as I said many members of the public would simply be disgusted that it has happened. Some may be concerned by the content, invariably or probably, not be helpful to National. I think it would be a fair way of putting…at the end of the day most people are interested in the real policy issues. What National will be offering New Zealanders and we have got a very clear programme-reducing their taxes, cutting back the bureaucracy, the regulations that the people suffer from, doing something about the infrastructure that’s totally inadequate for New Zealand, and doing something about the educational standards, improving the health service, making sure people feel safe in their communities. Those are the issues the public is really concerned about. And those issues, National is very clear, its policy will contest upon.

Darpan-The Mirror: So do you feel that this entire episode is going to have some sort of impact at the hustings when the voters go to vote?

L Smith: Who knows; as I say I think the people of New Zealand actually are more interested in what the parties and probably the candidates are really offering for the future and I think that is, one of great interest to the public.

Darpan-The Mirror: Therefore, selling Kiwibank is not on the agenda at all?

L Smith: Certainly not. We have made it very clear that no state asset will be sold in the first term of National government. That’s only possible if we actually put it in front of the people at elections, say, you support that? So, in the first term we have got a policy of selling no assets. There will be no assets will be sold. We said we will be keeping Working for Families and we will be doing that.

Darpan-The Mirror: Is there any likelihood of Kiwibank being sold in the second term then?

L Smith: Only if we go to the public with such a policy. And Kiwibank is extremely unlikely candidate ever.


Syed Akbar Kamal is the producer/director for the current affairs program Darpan-The Mirror on the World Wide Web. He has written extensively on a wide range of issues for numerous domestic and international publications. He can be reached at


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