Scoop Transcript: 2005 National Election Campaign Manager Stephen Joyce Talks Exclusive Brethren On Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint
Story and transcript by Alastair Thompson
Since the publication of Nicky Hager’s expose Hollow Men at midday, reaction from the National Party leadership team to the book has been very hard to find. Towards the end of the day Murray McCully did tell media his opinion of the book. That it is the “product of a fevered imagination”. Don Brash himself has reportedly not yet read the book and has not been giving interviews today.
While the main section of Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint Programme was unable to get any of the major players to appear. However at the last minute, approximately 10 minutes from the end of their show, the clearly persistent producers at RNZ broke the drought with a surprise appearance on the programme from National Party 2005 Election Campaign Manager Stephen Joyce.
His answers to questions from host Mary Wilson were less than completely illuminating but are transcribed in full below in any event.
Rush Transcript from Scoop.co.nz….
Radio New Zealand’s Mary Wilson: The Exclusive Brethren thought they were doing you a favour its quite clear from their communication with you.
National Party Campaign Manager Stephen Joyce: I am sure they thought they were doing us a favour a number of times, and I am sure other people have come to the view that what they thought was favours in many situations was actually less of a favour in its outturn. You assume that we have control over the exclusive Brethren…
Mary Wilson: No I am not assuming that at all. I am just wondering…
Stephen Joyce: … and I can assure you that I certainly as campaign manager never in any stage of the process had any control over the Exclusive Brethren.
Mary Wilson: Did you advise them on any of the content of the pamphlets?
Stephen Joyce: No. What I said to them when they came to see us – and I have never made any secret to anybody whose asked, and funnily enough not that many people have asked – in terms of whether they came to see me. And they did. In terms of a number of groups who came to me before the election who wanted to exercise their democratic right…
Mary Wilson: And what did they say to you?
Stephen Joyce: Oh they said they were going to do this thing, and they thought it would be good. And I told them what I told everybody which was “you’ve got to make sure you follow the rules. You better go along and see…. Get some legal advice.”
Mary Wilson: But they thought they were helping National. Did you think on the face of it when you saw what they wanted to do that it would help National? Clearly you did.
Stephen Joyce: I didn’t see… I mean it was very early stages that meeting. I think you said it was in May. I can’t recall the date…
Mary Wilson: There was an April meeting first.
Stephen Joyce: That was… you asked that about that Nuclear thing. Um. Look. They think they are being helpful I am sure, with everything they have done. But I would have… I think a number of people would have different views on that.
Mary Wilson: … and the letter….
Stephen Joyce: .. Hang on. Let me answer the question. But I just said to them, “you have to follow the rules in these things.” At the end of the day you don’t turn down if someone says they are gonna do some things, which they are legally allowed to do in this country, which is to attack the Government, and God knows the Labour Party has had the Unions doing that for years and years and years. So you just say to them, “make sure you follow the rules. You better find out. You better get a copy of the Electoral Act. See the Chief Electoral Officer if you need to. And follow the rules and do the things you are allowed to do.” Our job was to make sure emphatically, that they understood that they were not to be seen as promoting the National Party, because the rules are quite simple, anything that promotes the National Party has to be endorsed by me. And I wasn’t about to endorse an amateur campaign, however well meaning, as part of our campaign. It would have been a ludicrous idea.
Mary Wilson: After the April 5th meeting, I think even on the same day, Don Brash was sent an email, I think by Richard Long, telling him that the campaign, the pamphlet campaign was about to start. That’s in April. Clearly he knew well before August about the campaign, about the Exclusive Brethren pamphlet campaign?
Stephen Joyce: No. I think you will find that we became aware of the nuclear one. Which I think frankly - I don’t think anyone in the National Party would have wanted raised in election year - and it was a case of saying. Well look this thing is happening and it was a case of saying we better be aware because undoubtedly we will get blamed for it.
Mary Wilson: But what I am saying is that Don Brash knew that the pamphlets were coming out in April. He knew that the campaign…
Stephen Joyce: He knew that that campaign was going on…
Mary Wilson: That’s right it involved pamphlets.
Stephen Joyce: .. that day. But that has got nothing to do with what happened later in the year.
Mary Wilson: Well I think it has because he was asked…
Stephen Joyce: …Well we certainly didn’t make that link…
Mary Wilson: Yeah. He was asked questions about campaigning by the Exclusive Brethren, and who was behind pamphlets in August and he said…
Stephen Joyce: I am quite comfortable telling you what happened between the Exclusive Brethren and the party. And telling you that there was no… despite Nicky’s best conspiracy theories… there was no… and I think he writes in the book that I went out searching for right wing groups to, you know, help the National Party. You know that’s ah… I mean good on him for all that. But I a) wouldn’t have had time. And you know. And these groups came to us. Different groups – three or so that went ahead with things – the Sensible Sentencing Trust had a go, Fair Tax for Racing had a go….
Mary Wilson: That’s right. And their names clearly plastered on the material. Not so the Exclusive Brethren. That required a bit of digging to find out.
Stephen Joyce: That was pretty silly on their behalf. But there you go. I don’t control them, so I don’t get to tell them what to do.
Mary Wilson: So. Do you think though, that the correspondence and the meetings were a mistake?
Stephen Joyce: Whose correspondence and meetings?
Mary Wilson: The correspondence and meetings with the Exclusive Brethren, in hindsight were a mistake.
Stephen Joyce: I think that from a party point of view we did exactly what we should have done in that situation. You are asking a political question in terms of where the.. how many conversations the politicians would have had. But can I tell you these people are pretty persistent people. They really got themselves into it. And it’s a brave politician that tells constituents to just go away and not annoy me.
Mary Wilson: Alright. In the next campaign do you think it will be a good idea if the Exclusive Brethren writes to National and says we want to run an extensive election campaign with the sole goal of getting party votes for National. Do you think it will be a good idea for National to say “go away, we don’t want you to do that”, or just carry on.
Stephen Joyce: That’s a very interesting question. Because obviously it’s a distraction and unhelpful in the sense that the media and a few people get really wound up about it, and the Exclusive Brethren, you know there are some aspects of their lifestyle that people don’t like…
Mary Wilson: We will have to leave it there. I am very sorry. That was National Party campaign Manager Stephen Joyce.