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Q+A panel discussions

Q+A panel discussions


Introductory panel discussion

PAUL This morning, political scientist Dr Jon Johansson from the Victoria University. And we welcome John Tamihere, Radio Live host, former Cabinet minister, and head of the Waipareira Trust, providing social services to Maori in Auckland. And the NZ Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan. Big story of the week, Fran, for you?

FRAN O'SULLIVAN - NZ Herald columnist

Well, I guess the big story overnight is New Zealand entering free-trade negotiations with Russia, and that's actually quite interesting when you consider up in APEC right now they're talking about potentially doing a free-trade deal with America. So I think it's interesting we're dealing with the Soviet bloc a damn sight faster than we are dealing with the major player of capitalism.

PAUL We'll talk about it later this morning, cos we've got a thing from Tim Groser about it, but it's full boot, go ahead, I think that's what the Russians are talking about. Jon Johansson?

JON JOHANSSON - Political Analyst

Two things, Paul. The one overseas was Obama's support for India to have a seat at the Security Council, and I think the real impact here is on Pakistan. I mean, that is going to absolutely twig their insecurity, and given the centrality of Pakistan to the Afghani situation, I think this is a very deliberate message by the Americans, you know, to pony up from the Pakistani side. And home - I was wrong, the constitutional review did not hit the Cabinet this week.

PAUL I was waiting with bated breath.

JON The Prime Minister says variously that it's either in a few weeks or next week, and I think in the Cabinet committee there is a battle going on between the 21st-century and Jurassic wings of the party.

PAUL Mr Tamihere?

JOHN TAMIHERE - Waipareira Trust

Big story obviously was the kiwifruit and the impact, and the inability we have to defend our borders against the whole bunch of things that are in the offing. So a big debate we're gonna continue to have. I think the Mana by-election is starting to cook up really nicely. We have two formidable campaigners down there with McCarten and Hekia Parata, and Kris Faafoi's gone missing in action. The third story, I think -

PAUL His brother's been there.

JOHN That's right, cos he works at the KFC. But look, the point is the big beat-up, I thought, was on the rugby league test. And a great Kiwi performance over in Brisbane, but all this hand-wringing - I was at the park, it's my religion, actually. As a failed Catholic I've turned to league. But the point is, there was only one person charged, six arrested. There was a boisterous crowd there, right? Why don't we have a beat-up on all the valuers, the accountants, the lawyers and the financiers that stole all the millions of dollars of money? Why pick on the little fullas that drive the trucks, have their big day out and then get hammered? I think it's a disgrace.

PAUL But on the subject of money you're quite right, because John Key's now got the opportunity, perhaps, of elevating Hekia Parata to the Cabinet, which could give her nice weight in the electorate.

JON It might be a bit craven to do so now.

PAUL When was craven a problem?

JON I'm not suggesting it'd be a problem. It'd just be craven.

FRAN Maybe she might have actually earned her way in, too, which is the other side of it. I mean, she's a stellar performer, why shouldn't she be in Cabinet? And I think she should be there ahead of some of the other less stellar women.

PAUL She's got the charisma. She walked into the green room last weekend, I knew exactly who she was. And I'd never seen her before.

JOHN Outstanding performer.

PAUL But the kiwifruit business. I feel really sorry for the farmers. Those guys live with big cheques coming in, and there's big expenditure, they're working with the bank all the time, and that's just terrible if we're gonna see-

FRAN I think what it does, though, it does prove our vulnerability as a nation, particularly if we get too many eggs into dairy, what happens if foot and mouth or something happens? So I think, again, we need this sort of mulchy kind of...

PAUL Which is again why we need to do the spend on tourism, which is a very safe export industry, isn't it?


In response to Murray McCully interview

PAUL Trade, then, most interesting. There is a lot of talk now about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There seems to be some real momentum gathering for trans-Pacific partnership, and now you've got even Japan, fortress Japan, talking about joining the FPP. What do you make of it, Fran?

FRAN Well, fortress Japan really does have to join in sooner or later, because it's basically surrounded by partners. Other people in the Asia-Pacific, like Korea, who are eating their lunch when they do deals with the European Union and so forth, it basically means that billions of dollars are knocked off Japan's exports because others are getting in. Same deal around trans-Pacific partnership. I think the real issue there is, as McCully says, is does Japan actually come in this first round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will get basically pulled together in some sort of political deal which Obama will want to unveil next year in Hawaii when he hosts APEC. If Japan is still creating its domestic constituency, it means it doesn't have to confront the hard decisions in the first round, and it means we have a chance to get a better deal out of the United States. The big danger to New Zealand is if Japan comes in first time round, the US will just sort of slide around and maybe want to do a political deal to keep Japan at the table. And you have to remember when it comes to trade, Obama is not fearless - he couldn't even deal and sign off the KORUS, which is the Korean-US FTA, in Seoul this week, so that's still sitting on the table all the way through his administration.

JON And, well, that last point I'll pick up on from Fran, that South Korean deal is really instructive, and I think if New Zealanders want to have a good sense of what's going to happen with the TPP, watch what happens with the South Korea deal. Not only could they not clinch an agreement there for the leaders to sign off on - cars and cows are holding that up - but they've done some polling out of America last week showing 44% do not believe free trade is good for their country. Only just over a third of Americans think it is good. So you can see in the context of 9-

PAUL That's not bad numbers.

JON Oh, in the context of 9.6 employment and a newly constituted House, that has moved the Democrats to the left.

FRAN And a president who won't lead.

PAUL Give it a couple of years, which is what it's probably gonna take to bring it all together. And the danger of Japan coming in too early is Japan starts to tie us down. I think John Key was right to say to the Japanese, 'Do it our way or don't even bother.' John Tamihere.

JOHN It always comes back to the Yanks. You can talk to South Korea, the Japs and all the rest of it, but it comes back to the Yanks, and the American agricultural lobby is as strong, if not stronger - and you haven't seen their teeth yet - as the French and as the Japanese lobby. So you haven't even seen them roll up to Washington yet, so that's our problem. And they are dishonest.

PAUL In terms of New Zealand bilaterals, we had Tim Groser, the Trade Minister, tell Guyon this in Japan overnight.

Tim Groser - Minister of Trade

They've chosen us, I think, because they know that New Zealand over the last 10 to 15 years has been at the absolute cutting edge of FTA strategy in the Asia-Pacific. They wanna plan the game. This is one of these emerging economies. It is projected to be, by 2050, the largest economy in Europe - bigger than Germany.

PAUL So that's big projections. Tim Groser, of course, is talking about Russia. And the Russians seem to have come to this, as he said, they want to throw a rouble into the hat and say 'let's rock and roll'. Amazing.

FRAN Yeah. Well, what it is, this is careful strategy that really started in 2004, going right back to Helen Clark and Putin when they met in San Diego, and our respective trade ministers, and then Tim Groser, when he was at the WTO as our trade ambassador, and Mike Moore was the envoy for New Zealand, they set the strategy about cultivating Russia, making New Zealand the first country to get behind Russia's play to get into the WTO, right like we did with China, and we have got the payback. This is what it is, it's diplomatic payback. We are small, we are relatively inconsequential, our market of four million is not going to threaten Russia.

PAUL And they say sensible things, of course.

JON And they learn from doing the deal with us for their subsequent deals that are going to be far more important.

PAUL I was very interested to hear Murray McCully say the Chinese, so many people want to come to this country and learn from us, it's very interesting. Whether that's a little bit of small-country vanity, I don't know.

FRAN Oh, it certainly got up the Americans' nose, the amount of leaders that have come through. And it's also helped to make us more important to the Americans too.

PAUL But I think you're right, too, when you look at the kinds of things that are happening now, that Tim Groser's able to pull of now, you have to compliment the previous government as well for laying the bricks.

FRAN There's been a lovely continuous strategy, and I think everybody deserves a plaudit on that.

JOHN I think what you see in China is a very sophisticated foreign programme going on here of investment, and what they're doing is using their New Zealand arm to get access right around the Pacific, and it's just part of a very clever game, I thought.

PAUL Both sides are playing very clever games of circling each other, aren't they, at the moment. Then you've got Murray McCully on what Mrs Clinton told him, and this is a very nice royale politique, isn't it?

Murray McCully - Foreign Minister

I think Secretary Clinton and her colleagues made it clear to us that the more we could do for longer, the more grateful they would be.

PAUL In other words, 'Scratch our back; we'll scratch yours.'

JON Yes, I notice that invitation for John Key to visit Obama still has not come. And I wonder if that's one of those sweeteners as well. I think when it comes to Afghanistan, New Zealand must make its decision for its own reasons, after its own strategic judgement, because I would not be relying on the strategic assessments that are coming out of the Pentagon.

PAUL You don't always, necessarily, get things automatically back by helping out the United States of America. That's true. Whaling, what do you think? I thought what McCully was talking there to be quite good sense. He's thinking about it commercially. John?

JOHN Oh, I think he made that point that it's going to become non-commercial for the Japanese to continue to put their plant and equipment down into that type of sea. That's a time-and-motion study, though, you see, and the green lobby is out there. I think there's another discussion to be had on the whales, and that a lot of them are committing hara-kiri, you know, without the Japanese influence. So there's a whole lot of things about how much emphasis we actually put on saving a species that might well be destined, genetically or biologically for whatever reason, for extinction.

PAUL What, because they wash up at a beach?

JOHN No, we've got major-There's a whole range of species that, by natural disaster in the seas, are being exterminated. Human beings are having a big impact on that, but to what extent has anyone had a discussion - a bit like the pandas, you know, they're genetically driven to come to extinction.

JON A subtle commercial strategy...

PAUL Well, I can see the mail now

JON A subtle commercial strategy allows the Japanese to save face, and allowing them to save face is probably not a bad strategy.

FRAN Put a dragnet around New Zealand and catch them before they come onshore tonight!

PAUL Nobody wants to be a pariah, that's right.


In response to Paula Rebstock interview

PAUL John Tamihere, we'd better start you off on this one. She's got a hugely difficult brief there.

JOHN Regretfully, we should have had this discussion when the economy was raging, and then you can get at the hard-end tail of your welfare difficulties and really form solutions then. But really, welfare sits in the middle of a bigger debate, the macroeconomic debate. Is the economic orthodoxy of Rogernomics, of Thatchernomics, of Reaganomics sustainable in light of the meltdown on whole other things, so there's major questions being asked about the productivity rates that have flowed through from that. Then that then fits into how well your economy can sustain and present a whole range of meaningful jobs at a higher productivity rate. The next question is welfare. It is part of Kiwi culture since the '35 Labour Government to have a compassionate stance. Regretfully, compassion can then turn into an entrapment vehicle. I think it's worthy, this discussion, and we look forward to the tools that they report back on. But they can't be seen outside of what Don Brash's commission has reported back on and the like. It's gotta be seen as part of a wide end. And the final thing I'll say is we have a tension on the street where a number of people have been funded to manage people's problems and not fix them. And so we've got a very hard question to ask about the quality of education that is being given, the quality of welfare, the quality of health, and so on.

PAUL But again, nothing that you're talking about can be solved in less than about a 15-year period, it would seem to me.

JON No, that's it. It's actually about redesigning a process to beginning so that new generations have greater opportunity than the generations that have preceded them and which haven't given them the right cues to enable them to cope on their own. But John is exactly right, you've got the confluence of economy, economic changes, technological changes, demographic changes. So it's actually about how you design that front end. And in an economic system that is producing inequality, and increasing amounts of inequality, the problem isn't going to go away. So it's how do we manufacture and design a better process to stop people falling off the cliff, rather than our traditional approach, which has been to throw all the resources once they've already jumped off.

PAUL Maybe we can simply get too fancy in all our talk about this, and maybe simply say, 'We're gonna help you out for two years and then your on your own. Now, sort it.'

FRAN Yeah. I think also what really didn't come up in the dialogue is the role of parents. Why does a parent want some great, lulking youth hanging around the house, getting a benefit, eating the fridge, smoking dope with mates, going out in a car? I mean, this is what happens. Young people on the dole, they do not acquire it. And I think there's gotta be a message to parents, 'Look, sorry-

JON Boot camps!

FRAN Well, boot camps, no.

PAUL You can lead a horse to water, but it-

FRAN 'The state is not going to pick up the cost; you pick up the cost. And we're not gonna pay benefits till you're 20' or something. I'll tell you what, there'll be a lot of parents very quickly would say to those kids, 'I'm sorry, you go out and get a job. You're not gonna sit at home.'

PAUL Rebstock is of the view too there are jobs about, especially for young people.

FRAN But you've gotta be prepared to eat a bit of whatever sometimes when you start, while you learn to work.

JON But forget not that it is not just young people, Fran, it is also men and women aged 50 and 59, the biggest groups here, and as they try-How do they transition from one job to a life, you know, greater expectation of working, and how do we enable them to learn new skills for that to happen?

PAUL One of the problems, we didn't get to it in the interview, is the medicalisation of the benefit problem. The doctor says, 'I'll give you six more months,' with the medical certificate and so forth, instead of, 'Get off your arse and get out.'

FRAN I think there does need to be a bit more of that. How the hell have we got to the-with this huge explosion of benefits over a 20-year period?


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