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Agenda 10/3/07: John Key Interview Transcript

AGENDA 10/3/07

©Front Page Ltd 2007 but may be used provided attribution made to TVOne and “Agenda”
Presented by Lisa Owen

LISA Almost from day one John Key was seen as the National leader in waiting but when he got the job last November his party's own polling showed that many voters didn’t know what John Key stood for, a perception even he's acknowledged, so in Key's first speech as leader he explained he's all about families and he followed up with a speech highlighting the plight of the poor, the socalled underclass, but when his next move was to arrange free muesli bars for a low decile school questions were again asked about whether Key was all publicity and no policy. John Key joins me now. Good morning Mr Key.


Good morning.

LISA What's the difference between Don Brash's leadership style and your leadership style?

JOHN Well I think leadership's always a very personal thing, it's the way that you approach the issues the image that you put off, the things that maybe you want to discuss, I mean fundamentally Don and I share the same view which is that we think New Zealand under performs and we think that the future can be much brighter with a National government with the policies that we want to invoke, so I don’t think our fundamental aim was different, we may choose to focus on - in the very short term some different issues and you've possibly seen that in my approach since I've taken over as the leader.

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LISA So where's your focus then as leader?

JOHN Well the focus is going to be on a number of areas, the first is ensuring that we can put together coalition arrangements with people and I think that’s a very important part of MMP. We've always understood one part and that is that the party vote's the only vote that counts, but there's also a critical part that means that you're likely to have to form a coalition arrangement and I intend to make sure that in leading National into the next election we have the widest smorgasbord of options available and that’s I think an important part of understanding the voting system we have in New Zealand.

LISA So you're taking amore inclusive approach than say Don Brash?

JOHN Well look I mean it's not really a situation my leadership versus Don really, I mean I just have a vision for where I want the party to go and ultimately where I want New Zealand to go, and I make no apologies for saying that you know I think that when you have unity in anything whether it's a political party or a country you have strength, and we as a country have to have unity, we're four million people, our challenges are with intercepting with the rest of the world and beating countries like China and India that are progressing extremely quickly, ensuring that our people have jobs and have opportunities and have a lifestyle and incomes that they want, otherwise we'll loose them at the rate that we currently do, so I think unity is very important, but I think it's really also about you know I believe that the leadership team of myself and Bill represents a new generation if you like, a new approach, and that’s all about the aspirations we have for New Zealand and the timeframe under which we want to achieve those.

LISA Let's then look at some quick fire policy positions, you tell me where you stand on it. Iraq, where do you stand?

JOHN Well we made it quite clear that National wouldn’t have sent troops to Iraq, we did support the coalition of the willing and the United States ability to send troops to Iraq because we believed as I think the world believed at that time that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

LISA So you’ve got a dollar each way on that one, like you wouldn’t send troops but you support the States. What about a strike force, reinstating a strike force?

JOHN My personal view is that’s very unlikely, we're going to have…

LISA So you’ve gone back on National's earlier position with that?

JOHN Well it wasn’t our policy last time, but we're gonna have a white paper on defence, so I think you know I don’t want to second guess those things but my view is that you need to be spending wisely in defence, we need to do a stocktake of what we require, but you know a combat crew is extremely expensive and we have to compare that against other options like building up the number of people and their pay and various other issues.

LISA So you’ve yet to get a hard and fast policy then. Foreshore and Seabed legislation, repealing it or not?

JOHN Well we've said that we don’t like the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, but the reason that we didn’t support the Maori Party's bill was that took us back to the pre Ngati Awha decision and it took us back to a position where in our view that wasn’t resolved.

LISA What's your absolute long term position on the Foreshore and Seabed legislation, will you repeal it or not?

JOHN Well it's not on our agenda but that doesn’t mean that …

LISA So no.

JOHN Well it's not on our agenda, it doesn’t mean that it won't become on parliament's agenda, I have no doubt that it will be raised again, it's an issue the Maori Party care very passionately about and if they can come up with solutions that are better than the ones we've got we'll look at it.

LISA So which way are you gonna vote if the Maori Party …?

JOHN Well I can't tell you about a piece of legislation that’s not in front of us, what I can tell you is we won't be voting for something that takes us back to the status quo, but I can tell you that I don’t think the current bill in its form is in the right one.

LISA So you're leaving the door open aren’t you Mr Key? That’s what you're saying your leaving the door wide open here.

JOHN Well what I'm telling you is we live in a parliament where any issue can be raised and we'll address those issues as they come along and we'll make sure that they are resolved in the best interests of everyone and as best we possibly can.

LISA Okay, Employment Contracts Act, repealing it or not?

JOHN Well Kay Wilkinson our spokesman Industrial Relations gave a speech this week…

LISA And said no you won't.

JOHN Yes she said we won't, but what we've also made very clear is that there are elements of employment legislation in New Zealand we don’t support or that need changing, and I personally think that Wayne Mapp's proposal on a 90 day probationary period was very important because I think you need flexibility in your labour markets, but look…

LISA So you're not going to repeal it but you'll tweak around the edges. Given those policy stances why would people bother going to the effort of changing the government?

JOHN Well because this government's failing, you know it's failing in everything it does, I mean this is a government that came in and said that they would take New Zealand to the top half of the OECD for incomes, we were 20th when they came in out of 30 countries, today we're 21st, we've gone down not up. This is a government that came in and said we'll fix law and order, we have now you know 50,000 violent crimes occurring not 40,000.

LISA But if you're not going to take some firm policy stands or push the boundaries how can you turn that around?

JOHN We'll absolutely push the boundaries and we'll absolutely be making significant change to New Zealand, but if you're asking me whether having a combat strike wing will be the thing that will revolutionise New Zealand and take us to a new level which will provide opportunities and better incomes and a better lifestyle for New Zealanders then I'd say to you Lisa I think you’ve got that wrong, and I think it's all about a lot of other areas.

LISA Let's look at some areas that you have highlighted, underclass, define it, what is the underclass?

JOHN Well the underclass as I said in the speech is those where they believe the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have been broken, they feel completely marginalised, and my view is that…

LISA But that’s nebulous isn't it Mr Key, you could be describing half the population, how can you solve a problem if you can't accurately define it?

JOHN I don’t think half the population see themselves as the underclass, I don’t think half the population feel as though they're so disenfranchised they have no future, but I also think that New Zealanders know and we've seen that in two polls that have been run where 80% of New Zealanders think there is an underclass despite Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Steve Maharey, the rest of the Labour Party think there is not one.

LISA What are you specifically going to do to eradicate the underclass.

JOHN Well there's a lot of things, we have to start in my view with some pretty serious issues like education, and you'll see over the course of the next 12 months we'll be putting a lot of emphasis and focus on education. One of the reasons that people feel very disenfranchised and marginalised is because they don’t believe that they're on an education track, they don’t believe that they're actually going to have a future job and opportunity, so education's very important.

LISA So it's another wait and see though, wait and see what we've got coming up on education policy.

JOHN We're 18 months from an election now realistically…

LISA What are you going to do in the welfare area then, are you going to take a hard line on welfare?

JOHN We made it quite clear in the speech in Burnside that we're going to put obligation back into the welfare system and I think that’s very important, I've always argued that the State has a responsibility in welfare and that responsibility is to ensure welfare is there as a safety net for people when they need it and I think New Zealanders support that and I was a product of that and I won't turn my back on it, but it's very important…

LISA Labour has a social security bill that is working its way through the House, it would have financial penalties for beneficiaries who don’t meet their working requirements – we already have it.

JOHN Labour have argued since they’ve been in parliament that they do things around welfare, what they’ve done is transferred an awful number of people from the unemployment benefit to sickness and invalids, they’ve done actually very little, I mean yes they’ve had a by-product of a growing economy which has brought down unemployment, but the facts of life are is that’s an economy they inherited, it's been no different in Australia, no different in the US, no different in the UK, this is a country New Zealand that has 300,000 people of working age on a benefit.

LISA You are a right party why not go further, why not adopt a policy like the States and say after 40 weeks that’s it no more welfare for you?

JOHN Because that would require an awful number of New Zealanders to basically line up at food banks, there would be overt signs of poverty and I don’t think that the New Zealand that New Zealanders dream of, it's not the New Zealand I intend to lead, but I do think that you can put into a system both carrots and sticks and we've made that quite clear, we will be detailing in very specific detail in the next 18 months a work for the dole scheme which will see I think ….

LISA We already have work for the dole though we have Task Force Green and voluntary work for benefit, we have Task Force Green that’s working for your money isn't it?

JOHN Look I don’t think New Zealanders would count that as work for the dole, it if was we wouldn’t have the enormous number of New Zealanders that have been on long term unemployment with no hope of getting back into employment, because they are so marginalised, the Labour Party response is chuck some money at them, pretend the issue's not there.

LISA Alright in a nutshell how do you think say your welfare policies are going to help you form a government with the likes of the Maori Party?

JOHN Oh well I think they’ve made it quite clear actually, go and talk to Pita Sharples, he'll tell you that he thinks welfare is killing a lot of the aspiration of Maori, I mean look I've been around a lot of the Maori groups in the last two or three months, I was in Ruatoria just two weeks ago talking to Ngati Porou, they’ll tell you they don’t want welfare, they want economic sovereignty, they don’t want an issue where they're dependent on the State the whole time.

LISA So is the Maori Party going to be the party that you’ve got your eye on as the kingmakers post election?

JOHN No the issue is quite clear, as I said I want to be in a position where National can form a government with any other of the smaller parties in parliament, I don’t see a Green coalition taking place, but I do think it's possible on the various number of forms that we could form a government with a whole range that would include obviously ACT, United, New Zealand First, the Maori Party, potentially the Greens. Now it may be that they abstain it may be they're in a form of coalition I don’t know that’s something we'll discuss after the election.

LISA John if we can move on to economic issues, the Reserve Bank raised the cash rate this week, you're spokesman, the finance spokesman claimed that Labour's binge spending is a big part of the problem, so what would you cut?

JOHN Well I think that was backed up by evidence from the Reserve Bank and we've seen it through the state sector wages bill amongst other places. I mean Michael Cullen has been spending and getting very little for it and that’s the evidence.

LISA So what of that spending would you cut?

JOHN Well what we certainly made clear in the last election campaign was that we would finance our tax cuts by increasing spending but at a slower rate than Labour had proposed, and in my view that would put some tension into the system, we've made it quite clear actually that we don’t think they're getting value for money at all and so does Treasury agree with our view, so I think it is a matter of tightening up the parameters if you like, making sure that they actually justify what they're spending and look we know that 95% of government expenditure has not been reviewed since it's been put in place, so I can't believe for government expenditure which has largely almost doubled in the last sort of decade that there isn't waste in that system, and we're not gonna sit back as a political party and waste taxpayers' funds.

LISA So what waste, what waste have you identified, what departments, what people within what departments, what would you get rid of?

JOHN Well I think it's enormous potentially, I mean go and have a look at the health system, they’ve taken health from six billion dollars to a ten and a half billion dollar spend and yet productivity's down, waiting lists are up, you know the number of operations they're completing is down.

LISA So what would you cut out of heath?

JOHN Well I think you’ve just gotta go back and look firstly at the system, see whether there's any competitive tension in it at all, I mean one of the real issues here is that Labour thinks that the State is the solution to everything, health, education, whether it's – they don’t even like the charitable sector as Steve Maharey made clear, you know he thinks New Zealanders give money it's Tory charity. Well look we actually think – we want a competitive system where there is not just the State as the sole solution to everything.

LISA Look let's be clear on your tax cuts policy can we because the Reserve Bank singled out Working for Families as an issue with spending and not enough women going back into the workforce perhaps, so what is your clear position on tax cuts, 7.2 billion dollars was what was promised last election, can people still expect to get it?

JOHN Well we're not gonna write our 2008 manifesto for tax in 2007 but we are firmly committed to tax cuts, and I personally believe that tax cuts send all the right incentives. You know I think we're going backwards from a tax system. One of the reasons the wage gap is widening between New Zealand and Australia is because consistently over the last eight years Australia's cut taxes at a time where effectively New Zealand's raised taxes in a number of things. So look tax cuts will be on the agenda. The whole point is that they’ll be phased in over time, there won't be a big bang approach, they never were going to be even in the last election, I wouldn’t describe it as a big bang approach they were phased in over a period of time where the upside is shared, some goes back to those who are paying the taxes, some goes back into the strengthening the state sector.

LISA So in your view you haven’t changed on that?

JOHN No we haven’t changed.

LISA Let's bring out panel in here going first to John Roughan, your question John.

JOHN ROUGHAN – The New Zealand Herald

Well I was interested in your answer to Lisa's question about why change the government, and you said this government's failing, it's failing on every front or something which I don’t think is credible to the electorate. I think here we are it's won two elections we're coming up for nine years, nine years of prosperity on the whole, cost and growth, stability, a fair bit of contentment in the country. Now come to the ballot box next year, what are people going to think when you’ve put to the question to them change the government, why change the government?

JOHN KEY Well I think if we've done our job properly, we would have mapped out where we see New Zealand going in the timeframe under which we think they can achieve it. I personally think this government did inherit economic conditions it did very little to create and they were consistent around the world and yes we've had economic growth but our growth per person's been less than 2%, it's nothing terribly flash, we haven’t had real wage growth of any great magnitude, yes we've had some but we're hardly a wealthy country, I mean we're a country with full employment but a country where an awful lot of New Zealanders can't afford to buy a house, so if we want to be successful going forward then I think we need to change some things dramatically, they are an education system that delivers and doesn’t mean that 25% of young New Zealanders leave with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills, it does mean that New Zealanders don’t have to leave if they want to have a good job and a highly paid job and necessarily go overseas and not come back, that doesn’t mean that some won't go, of course they will, but I think if you look across the board whether it's in health and delivery of the state and the competitiveness of the system, whether it's in law and order, I don’t think you can say the government is succeeding, I think that they’ve been in conditions which have kept other governments with similar economic conditions in power but not necessarily because they're doing a great job, and I honestly believe that Michael Cullen and Helen Clark's view of New Zealand and their whole strategy is one of the self preservation for the Labour Party, it's not about making New Zealand a lot stronger.

LISA You mentioned bold change there John, let's bring in Tracy.

TRACY WATKINS – The Dominion Post

I'm just going to pick up on the point you made about New Zealanders, you know a lot of New Zealanders not being able to afford a house. I think this goes back to the issue that was raised after your underclass speech, where one issue that National can be attacked by Labour is its former policy on state housing, it doesn’t believe in income related rents and Labour would argue that’s one of the major contributors to poverty. That makes it a difficult one to sell doesn’t it?

JOHN KEY Look I mean we are doing a review of our housing policy and I see housing as very important and one of the core principles of National is home ownership, we believe passionately in it. I would say I don’t favour a move back to market related rents, and I don’t think the party will support a move back to market related rents, we were a bit fuzzy on that in terms of our policy in 2005. What I'd much rather do is focus the attention on things that we can change and things that will actually make a difference. There are roughly 66,000 houses in the state housing stock, around 6,000 are rented by people who are currently paying market rents anyway. You know we would much rather support a system which allows them to buy their own home if they want to, to buy their state house, that will allow those people to get a rung on the ladder if you like of home ownership, it'll also mean that we can replace that stock and get people off the waiting list. There are other ways I think we can manage that stock and other issues around home ownership, so rather than get into some endless ideological battle on market rate rents versus income related rents I think we should change our focus.

LISA So just to be clear on that then you're abandoning are you any idea of going back to…

JOHN KEY Well the caucus has got to discuss that issue in detail, but my view is we shouldn’t go back to market related rents, I just don’t think that’s where the debate is at, I think the debate – you know we're talking about a slither of housing stock that’s 66,000 when what we know is that there's a much broader issue out there and how we can get New Zealanders either into a state house but actually ultimately into their own home, that’s where I want New Zealanders to go, I think the aspiration for all New Zealanders should be to own their own home.

LISA Let's bring John back in.

JOHN R And what's your solution to that one?

JOHN KEY Well it's difficult but I mean there are issues around both land release, I think that’s part of it, I think there are also issues around planning rules, the Resource Management Act, and others play a role. We've gotta make sure that bureaucracy doesn’t kill the cost of building housing because that I think is very expensive, but there are schemes that can operate where you can assist people into those homes, I mean you know there's a great debate around Hobsonville for instance where I live and the government criticises me because they don’t like state housing, well Hobsonville would provide I think a perfect example to let first home buyers come in with maybe some shared equity where the Crown owns a bit of the land there for a period of time.

JOHN R Do you think the tax system is favouring real estate?

JOHN KEY Yes, I mean there's no doubt the tax system does favour real estate, I mean in effect – one of the things around the housing debate at the moment is that you know we hear a lot from the Reserve Bank and people confuse that with people owning their own home, that bit of it we absolutely like, but there's quite clearly an enormous amount of savings goes into housing and nothing else.

LISA So would you do something to even the playing field in terms of people who are buying second houses for investment, are you going to introduce something that makes that less appealing?

JOHN KEY Well there's two ways you can go, one is you can make housing less attractive and that seems to be model that either Alan Bollard and Michael Cullen are loosely flirting with which is do something around deductibility of mortgages for instance for rental properties.

LISA What do you favour?

JOHN KEY Well I favour reducing taxation on the other investments, I mean if you look at what George Bush did in the US, a very interesting policy but he basically had 15% tax rate on other vehicles of investment whether it's a fund, whether it's a dividend, whether it's a stock, very similar to actually what Peter Costello did in Australia last year. I mean people talk a lot about his tax changes last year in terms of reducing the top personal rate and the thresholds, the really big changes were the ones he made to the personal contributions you can make to your superannuation scheme and what we know in the US was when that happened as US Treasury pointed out it cost 20% on George Bush's tax cut plan and delivered over 50% of the economic growth, so maybe let's level the playing field in terms of other investment options for New Zealanders.

LISA Well when most of us reach 65 an invitation to keep working would probably be declined but a new book "Avoid Retirement and Stay Alive" says that’s exactly what we should do. According to co-author David Bogan humans are genetically hardwired to keep going, so the solution to avoiding rest homes and paltry pensions is simply – don’t retire. David Bogan joins me now. If retirement is such a death sentence David why are people queuing up to retire, why do they aspire to retire?


I think it's because most people are so caught up in their job, most of them don’t actually like their jobs, they see as a way of escaping, they see it as the light at the end of the tunnel.

LISA So how do you turn that around then if they're so focused on getting to that finish line?

DAVID I think part of it is for them to realise that they do have options and to realise that if your job is dreadful they should get out of it now, they shouldn’t wait for some date 15, 20 years down the track to try and escape from it.

LISA Early retirement though in the past has kind of been seen as a badge of honour do you think?

DAVID It has, it has indeed and a lot of people have aspired to it.

LISA Why do you think that whole idea though if you can bow out when you're 45 you must be on to a good thing?

DAVID Oh I think it's because people think that escaping is a good idea. I think part of it is tied up with a whole concept that somehow there's something wrong with work, that work is somehow a drudgery, and indeed the retirement thing came in as a sales process for the people that were manual labourers, it was to let them know that after 40 years of being at some mind bending awful job there was a promised land at the end of it, and it kept them at their job thinking that things were going to get better. They never did of course.

LISA But if you do have a nasty back breaking job that you’ve been doing for umpteen years and you want to get away from it what are your options there?

DAVID Your options start when you actually take the word retirement right out of your vocabulary, it acts like a block, as long as you’ve got it sitting there people sit around thinking it's okay because I'm going to the promised land, your options start when you actually get rid of that word and they start 20 years probably before you are going to give up that job, or 10 years before you're going to give it up.

LISA But let's say you do have that job, what can you move on to?

DAVID All sorts of things, it depends on the job and it depends on the individual, it actually comes down to attitude. If people believe that they can do something different they will, and if they believe they can't do anything different they won't.

LISA So you do think it's achievable for everybody?

DAVID Absolutely.

LISA So how if you're not going to retire do you get that elusive work life balance that everybody talks about, how do you achieve that?

DAVID I think that’s a trick for all of us to try and achieve, and I think it's something that we achieve through practise and through each day trying to get a better balance than we had the day before.

LISA And in practical terms, how do you do that, when an employer wants someone to work in a position five days a week you want to go skiing during the winter, or spend three months in France in the summer, how do you get people to buy into your idea of retirement.

DAVID I think that if you don’t have a huge amount of commitments, and if your overheads are at a level that you can control them then you can go skiing for three months – well three months summer in New Zealand three months somewhere else, and I think it's about having options and realising that as you get older perhaps you don’t need as much money and you can work in a lesser job and a lesser position but just keep going.

LISA But isn't that retirement by another name though you know lowering your overheads, saving so that you can do all of that, that’s everything they're telling us to do at the moment towards retirement.

DAVID The difference is people need to keep working and the reason they need to keep working is because that keeps them involved in their communities, if you give up working and you retire and the whole word retire means to become invisible, that’s what actually happens, they become invisible. If they keep working and they stay integrated with their communities…

LISA Let's bring in our panel here, John Roughan were you planning to retire at some point?

JOHN At some point but I sort of half agree with you because I'd like to carry on doing what I like doing, but doing it without being obliged to turn up anywhere at a given time and stay there for a given time and do other things. So is that what you’ve got in mind that you sort of wind down your job and rather than retiring completely you just end up doing the bits that you really enjoy?

DAVID Exactly, it's like life is – you go up one side of the pyramid, you come down the other side, you don’t go up the pyramid and suddenly you go off the cliff, straight off the edge, and it's exactly what you're saying.

JOHN What do you envisage doing differently when you're 70 than what you're doing now?

DAVID Nothing.

JOHN Really?

LISA You're going to continue to work right up to the day you drop dead?

DAVID Absolutely.

LISA Look I think we should mention here that John Roughan spent some time on the Queen Mary over the summer, did you feel like you were waiting in the waiting room for the after?

JOHN That would be a great way to go I can tell you, it would be a great retirement too, and people do I think, if you can afford it I think some people do just go on cruise after cruise and probably think that one day they will quietly peg out on a cruise somewhere.

LISA Tracy do you imagine working until the day you die?

TRACY I hope not.

LISA Well see that’s what you say.

DAVID I know, I know.

TRACY Do you think are there enough employers out there likely to have the same relaxed attitude to work as you do after a certain age? The other thing of course is that say in the States retirement age isn't such an arbitrary thing is it?

LISA Well that's a valid point, where some research indicates that people do still harbour prejudices towards older workers, how do you get around that kind of thing?

DAVID They do, but society is changing, and there is a huge need now for a workforce that most western countries simply don’t have, and they're looking at getting those work forces from third world countries and other places to come in and do those jobs and it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. In America recent survey has showed that 47% of all the people that were retired didn’t want to retire but they retired because of ill health, and what we're saying in this book is that your health is a really important part of the equation, it gives you more options and part of it also Lisa getting back to employers I think is that as people get older they have to change their attitudes as well they’ve gotta get away from the old attitude, they have to get away from thinking that they're old and they're entitled to sit around and do nothing.

LISA How much of this is choice really not to retire because isn't the sad reality for some people, a lot of people perhaps that basically working to your death is a necessity now, they're not well enough prepared to bow out full stop, and not work and live the comfortable life that they may want?

DAVID And in a lot of ways that’s lucky isn't it, because they do get to work right till the end, and I don’t say that facetiously, I think that working is a really important way that people stay integrated in their communities, and it's the integration in the community that really counts and what happens when a lot of people retire is they bail out of their communities, they leave and they go somewhere else and they lose all that support.

LISA They get on a cruise ship perhaps?

DAVID They get on a cruise ship.

LISA John do you think it's becoming a necessity rather than choice to continue working for people?

JOHN No I don’t really, I think pensions are still okay, and I think there's people in menial jobs that I wouldn’t like to see them working in their 70s and 80s, some jobs you have to retire from, but I take your point that it's not good for those people to cut themselves off completely. And even I mentioned before I didn’t want to go into work any more I wanted to just sort of do what I wanted to do in my own time, but I'm not sure of that either because people who have retired from our office often come drifting back in you know, they call in for years afterwards just keeping in touch with the people they know and the business they know and the life they know, so yeah you're on to something there I think that we'd all be better off if we could just carry on keeping our hand in for a while.

LISA Tracy do you see retirement as a luxury now for a lot of people?

TRACY I think for a lot of people it is, it's sort of in the same boat I think as women actually taking time off work to have children you know, it's that same thing, but also I'd say there's some people who they might retire and not be in a paid job, but a lot of them are still you know just as busy as ever. I spose it depends on how you approach your retirement as well.

LISA Thank you very much for joining us this morning, David Bogan.


LISA Turning to our panel now you saw that piece John just before the break McGeehan Close residents, how do you think that has played out overall for John Key?

JOHN Not too badly – I think that people watching the reaction from McGeehan Close will think yeah well anybody would say if their street was identified they would say no you know it's better than he says, you get conflicting reports, the first reporter that the Herald sent in there did a good job, talked to people seriously didn’t just go in and say John Key says you're the underclass what do you think about that, he went in there and talked to people about their lives and their problems and it wasn’t too far away from the way John Key had described it, and I think the public probably sensed that you know the problems he's talking about are real, I think we know they are, naming a street might have been a bit risky.

TRACY Yeah I think at the time I wasn’t too sure, it's one of those sort of questions of when the timing's with you it all goes your way doesn’t it, I mean we can all imagine maybe if Jenny Shipley or Don Brash had tried a similar stunt it probably would have been a disaster. I thought maybe naming a street like John I was a bit concerned about how that would go down in the polls and actually identifying a 12 year old girl as a member of the underclass I thought that was highly risky, but the polls speak for themselves you know he got a huge lift in support after that and it really worked.

JOHN It's interesting how some people can say things and others can't, we had Pita Sharples a few weeks ago talking about work for the dole, saying he thinks that people shouldn’t just get money for nothing, now if John Key had said that we'd have been jumping all over it.

LISA And John Key made that point himself that he was at one with the Maori Party on that.

JOHN That’s right, Pita Sharples says it and he can say it.

LISA But is John Key better able to say these things than say Don Brash was?

TRACY Well actually I had to take issue with what he said in his speech he made it clear that there were gonna be obligations on beneficiaries because it was very lightly skipped over there wasn’t a lot of detail, I mean it was implied but work for the dole was going to happen, but it was never really spelt out, so they probably do need to spell it out a bit more clearly than they have so far.

LISA You raised policy there, have we seen enough move towards publicising policy and talking real hard and fast policy to go with the publicity of going and taking Aroha to Waitanga talking about the underclass?

TRACY No we haven’t, but it is as John said it's 18 months out from the election and his first job, I thought it was actually interesting in your questions the first point he picked up on was his priorities were to show that he could put together a coalition, so what he has been doing is smoothing out the differences, making it clear he can work with the Greens, he can work with the Maori Party, because the Maori Party were being told by their voters that Don Brash's policies repelled them, it was going to be impossible.

JOHN Is he the first National leader to say that, to say he could work with the Maori Party and the Greens as well?

TRACY Well possibly with both yeah.

JOHN Did Brash say anything like that?

TRACY Well certainly he tried to stitch up a deal with the Maori Party but not necessarily – I think the Greens looked a lot more problematic.

LISA So while he steers away from that word inclusive and being more inclusive you think that’s step one on the agenda?

TRACY Step one on the agenda is to show that he can – and this is where Helen Clark's strength has always lain, she's been able to show that she can put together deals with other parties and National has never been able to show that particularly well, so the first job for John is to show that he can do that, and that’s what he has been doing, but they're not gonna get away forever without putting the details into policy.

LISA Policy on the table – what do you feel about that John Roughan because the fact is they have changed horses part way through the race so how fast do they have to work on that detail now?

JOHN On the policy? Not much I don’t think. I think John Key needs to work on the kind of image and vision he projects about National, you see we're coming up for nine years of the same government and on New Zealand's record we'd be inclined to change next time just for the sake of change, just because we get sick of governments, but he has to give the country a sense that there's a point to a change, that there's something new, there's a next step that we're going to take in some way that he will take and Labour won't, and I think that it's all about expansion, it's all about investment and building on a pretty strong economy now and John Key is post Rogernomics, post all the 80s and 90s, he's not part of that debate, he's talking to a generation which is not part of that debate either, and he's concerned about our general income levels and our prosperity and our exports and our trade and our potential and he's got the background to be quite credible about talking about investing in New Zealand and expanding us a bit.

TRACY The danger is I mean as we saw today he's effectively announced that National's reviewing its state housing policy, I mean you're talking moving away from market related rents and adopting Labour's policy of income related rents, now that is a huge shift, it's one of the major points of difference between National and Labour, and there's going to be a lot more of these sort of political deadlaps is what they're called, being swallowed over the next sort of probably to the end of the year, they’ve got Kiwisaver which they’ll probably adopt in some simplified form, there's interest free student loans, there's the second trench of Working for Families, that squeezes them out though in terms of defining what the differences are, it's all very well to close up the gaps …

LISA So do you think that announcement this morning on the housing policy's going to land him in hot water with some within his own party?

TRACY It depends on how much taken by surprise they were and I suspect some of them were, although I think his housing spokesman Phil Heatley had been talking similarly sort of about these issues earlier in the week.

JOHN He's not a strong party man is he, he's quite new to the party and you know hasn’t been there very long, and that could be his problem just taking them with him.

LISA Is he making it as Tracy pointed out perhaps harder to differentiate between National and Labour on those sorts of issue?

JOHN Yes he is but that’s not a problem really I don’t think, I think there's a lot of continuity in New Zealand politics, and when we change governments after a long time we don’t want a lot of change actually.

TRACY Yeah and I think that’s what they’ve been trying to do.

LISA Alright it's time for us to go, thank you very much to our panellists.


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