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Q + A - Steven Joyce

Q + A
Episode 29
Interviewed by CORIN DANN

CORIN Steven Joyce if we could start with how things are going to look now with your support partners. Can you just run us through, National can technically govern alone on what you’ve got at the moment, do you think that'll hold?

STEVEN JOYCE – National Party Campaign Manager
Oh I think there's always a chance you'll lose one in the specials. We don’t know that yet and in fact I think I heard you saying earlier this morning that it's been surprising how well the votes held up right through the night. So we don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that the Prime Minister will want to have relationships with the three support partners that we've had, and those conversations will happen pretty quickly. So I think you'll see a government with ACT, United and the Maori Party, and that’s the most likely outcome at this point.

CORIN Let's work through some of the others, what about Winston Peters, would you consider getting on the phone to him just to add a bit of extra lining?

STEVEN Well my suspicion is that Winston last night was lining himself up to be the Leader of the Opposition, just as he did pretty much in 2002 I can remember when I came into the National Party, Winston was declaring to all and sundry that he was the new Leader of the Opposition, and that National was hopeless I think he was lining himself…

CORIN What about Speaker?

STEVEN Oh well I think he made that clear he wasn't interested in that either, but I think what we will be looking to do, not necessarily, I think it's highly unlikely that the PM will want to reach out at this point, but what we will be obviously looking to do is build a relationship with New Zealand First a little bit over the next couple of years, we've got to keep an eye on 2017, but of course there's a lot of water to fly under that bridge too. I mean is Winston going to stay around and contest next time?

CORIN What about building a relationship with the Greens as well. Do you do MOUs with them or try to?

STEVEN Well I think it's a bit of a matter for them. They have moved their economic policy pretty far to the left and so has Labour, and in terms of the Greens you know in 2008 when we did that Memorandum of Understanding there was quite a lot of common ground, but that progressively reduced over time.

CORIN But if you could find common ground you wouldn’t rule it out?

STEVEN Well I think they’ve got some interesting questions to answer, which is you know here they are at 10% again and they had big plans to get to 15 and beyond, and it didn’t turn out again on the night, and I think there's some questions for them in terms of, do they want to always position themselves to a left of the Labour Party and I think that'll be the open question. But that’s one really the Greens will have to answer not me.

CORIN How quickly can you get this done. I mean will you look to do it quite quickly and get on with things?

STEVEN Well I think the Prime Minister has shown in the past that he likes to get on to things and so while I don’t think you'll see a massive amount of things happen today, but I think you will see it move pretty quickly over the next week or so.

CORIN The Maori Party again you don’t technically need them possibly, but you would look to bring them into the team and Cabinet as well?

STEVEN Well we had a good relationship with the Maori Party over the last six years. The Prime Minister's on the record and I think a number of us alongside him as well, probably the whole Cabinet would say that we've actually been a better government because of the involvement with the Maori Party for the perspective that they bring, and I think he'd be very keen to see them involved again in some way. But exactly you know how that works, who ends up with a ministerial slot and who doesn’t, that’s all got to be worked out.

CORIN The moment of truth in the last week, is that what got you that final burst that pushed you up to 48? The backlash on that?

STEVEN No I don’t think it was that on its own, and I think if people are saying that they're being a little bit too simplistic. It certainly helped firm up intentions. I actually think fundamentally and this is the bit that the Labour Party are already showing signs of missing, is that fundamentally New Zealanders think that this country is heading in the right direction economically, that actually there is some truth to the economic story, that despite three years of Labour telling them that it's all a mirage, they're actually saying no actually things are getting better for me. We look around the world and we think the country's moving in the right direction. And so I reckon when they got into the polling booth yesterday, they said actually we don’t want a change of direction. We don’t want a reasonably radical prescription that would turn the place up on its end.

CORIN Give us some things you're going to do in the first 100 days. Is the RMA at the top of the list, will you be saying to those support parties you’ve got to back us on the RMA changes.

STEVEN Well I think the RMA reforms are important. They're important economically for New Zealand and now we have a mandate that will allow us to proceed with those changes. They won’t all happen in 90 days because they’ve got to go through parliamentary process. There's the Employment Relations Bill obviously, but there's a number of bills that we've still got to get through. There's one of my own in terms of tertiary education and so on. So those we will all want to get through. We will be very conscious, one thing we've learnt from being in government six years actually is it's the legislation you pass in the first year which probably will have the biggest impact on the economy and how it goes in subsequent years, because otherwise you run out of time to see those things take effect. So I think those are very important changes. But we're not going to see very radical shifts in policy. I mean I've already been asked this morning will you throw out your manifesto and do something else now?

CORIN But you do have an extraordinary amount of power now. I mean for a third term government you can effectively govern alone, you’ve got one of the most popular Prime Ministers. That’s an extraordinary amount of power, you could do whatever you want.

STEVEN Well the reason the Prime Minister is popular, and well liked, by New Zealand is because he does not abuse the trust that they place in him. He actually takes that responsibility very keenly. I know without even asking him that what he will do is stay very close to what he said he's going to do, he's done that all the way through to this point. People ask why is it that after two elections our vote's gone up each time, and I think it's because of the trust they place in him, because what he says he'll do is what he does.

CORIN What about the Dirty Politics, the Nicki Hager element of that. There are a number of inquiries. Will you make changes after that book. I mean there were some things in that book that disturbed a lot of New Zealanders, it may not have changed their vote, but there were a lot of concerns about the way politics were being done. Will you make changes in the way politics is done by National?

STEVEN There's a couple of things there. Firstly there is a couple of inquiries, but there's another point as well. That book at the end of the day was Nicki Hager's catalogue of things he didn’t like, and there were some of them that had been well traversed in the public domain earlier. So for example the Labour Party's website and so on, and were presented as new shocks and new horrors in a very cynical timing relative to the election. And so I think that’s why the public discounted quite a lot of that, they saw it for what it was, which was a fairly…

CORIN Are you comfortable for the relationships with Cameron Slater for example to continue in the way that they were outlined in that book?

STEVEN Well you see most of that is actually nothing to do with the National Party per se. Most of that is actually…

CORIN It certainly was for Judith Collins.

STEVEN To be fair that wasn't actually what was in the book. There's an issue there and there's an inquiry and that will solve that issue, and there’ll be an answer to that question. But I think what we will see is a number of people perhaps on the outer circles of the National Party, and frankly I think a lot of people in the Labour Party who will be thinking carefully and reflecting on whether the approach of potentially paying for opinions on websites…

CORIN What about the Official Information Act. That’s one area where I mean in the next government, will that be sort of tidied up and made a little bit more accessible.

STEVEN I'm a little bit cynical about this whole Official Information Act. I'm reasonably new I've done six years in this job, but I'm old enough to remember that every Opposition doesn’t think the Official Information Act happens quickly enough, they want to see everything now, they're always in high indignation and high dudgeon about anything that’s withheld.

CORIN Nothing's going to be changed?

STEVEN I think in the fullness of time we'll go through an exercise which will show actually that National's been no different with the OIA than other parties. There are grounds sometimes to withhold certain things, and in fact Labour's ability to use official information when they were in government in interesting ways is being catalogued historically, so I think you're going to see two things. One you will see a more sensible level headed look at this and perhaps a less partisan look at this over the next few months, but yeah I think the OIA stuff will evolve. I'm certainly as one Minister, you know you try to get everything out as quickly as you can, we don’t always succeed, but actually I think New Zealand is well served by the Official Information Act. It does a good job in ensuring that information if brought out. I don’t think there’ll be any problems making sure it's upheld and looked after.

CORIN Steven Joyce, thank you very much for your time.

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