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Prebble Spits Dummy Over Arts Interview

The wheels temporarily came off the ACT machine over the weekend when National Radio played a pre-recorded interview with party leader Richard Prebble on ACT’s views on funding for the arts.

Played on the popular Arts Week programme Prebble was being interviewed by widely respected arts interviewer Paul Bushnell when the leader of the party of discipline started to lose the plot. Eventually he lost not only the plot, but his rag also and, after repeatedly accusing Bushnell of being a liar, Prebble started shouting, grabbing at recording equipment and stormed out of the studio.

While the interview made for hilarious listening, the debacle revealed a number of interesting issues for ACT – the differing approaches of the party’s members and the desire of Prebble to appeal to his Wellington constituents.

ACTs arts spokesman (all ACT women call themselves men for some unfathomable reason) Donna Awatere Huata was explicit on Backchat that ACT did not favour funding the arts because it was using taxpayers money to fund things that only a small section of society enjoyed and patronised. In that interview Awatere Huata got back to ACTs fundamental libertarian roots in saying that people should have the right to support whatever they liked and used the good example of a Porirua family preferring to support their local rugby club instead of their money being used by government to support the NZSO or the ballet.

This is basic honest ACT policy – getting the government out of our lives and leaving the individual free to choose how to spend their own money.

ACT candidate and press secretary to Prebble Kathryn Asare has also said at candidate meetings that ACT does not favour government funding of the arts. However faced with a very tight race for the seat of the affluent arts capital of Wellington Central, Prebble now disagrees with his candidate and indeed even his own arts spokesman.

Prebble told Bushnell that ACT did intend to fund the arts and that the comments of Asare and Awatere Huata were their own thoughts, which they were entitled to, but their comments were not reflections of ACT’s policy on the arts.

Prebble has seldom, if ever, sounded so rattled, ill-composed and downright angry than when Bushnell repeatedly challenged him on the split of opinion within his caucus and his own comments which seemed so out of synch with his party’s ideology.

Bushnell claimed to hold a piece of paper which outlined Kathryn Asare’s comments on ACT’s approach to the arts and this infuriated Prebble beyond belief. He claimed the piece of paper was worthless, meant nothing and could have come from anywhere. In the end he repeatedly accused Bushnell of being a liar, claimed the interview was the most stupid he had ever been involved with – and Prebble has been in politics for a very long time – and despite being warned not to touch the recording equipment grabbed at it, shouted into it and eventually stormed out.

After the interview ACT revealed they have no policy at all on the arts.

Fascinating. Who would have thought Prebble would have lost his rag over the arts of all things? Tax, the Treaty or the justice system maybe, but the arts?

Revealing stuff from the man who prides his party on discipline and who has so far run a very successful and tight campaign through the media. ACT’s campaign has this time been largely run on populism and picking the issues that they guess will gain them most support – ‘fixing’ the Treaty, ‘truth in sentencing’, cutting tax rates.

With ACT polling around nine per cent now Prebble no longer appears to need to win the seat of Wellington Central to get his party into parliament. But it is a super insurance policy and now is largely a matter of pride. Prebble is campaigning vigorously in what is now a two horse race in Wellington Central and he knows where his support lies.

The Prebble vote will largely come from the well-off and educated Wellingtonians – arts patrons in short that couldn’t possibly stomach the thought of their beloved orchestra or ballet being downsized through reduced government funding.

Prebble knows his success in Wellington Central – the seat of power – is a great aid in his own, and his party’s presence in the House. He is desperate to win – as the weekends interview proved beyond doubt.

ends

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