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Q+A Panel: Holmes, Arseneau, Bob Harvey & Ron Mark

Sunday 26th April 2009: Q+A’s panel this week – Paul Holmes, Therese Arseneau, former MP Ron Mark, Waitakere City Mayor, Bob Harvey
The panel discussions have been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be seen on tvnz.co.nz at,
http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news

PANEL DISCUSSIONS LED BY PAUL HOLMES

Response to Rodney Hide interview


PAUL So what do our panel have to say after Rodney Hide's few minutes, political Scientist Therese Arseneau, Bob Harvey the Mayor of Waitakere City and Ron Mark. So Bob quiet determination there.

BOB HARVEY – Waitakere Mayor
He's pretty determined to do the Super City and let me tell you the mayors of the region also feel that the Super City's going to happen, but I feel disappointed that this terrific document written by the Commission, huge amount of time, huge amount of money has been reduced Paul to this brochure, it's as simple as that, I mean he said not the highway or my way, it's basically if you're not part of the steamroller you'll be part of the road.

PAUL But no one's going to read the whole darned doorstopping report Bob, it's very handy to put out a pamphlet isn't it?

BOB No, we're talking about the biggest change in New Zealand's history, this is not about Auckland this is about New Zealand Paul

PAUL It's really very simple instead of a whole lot of councils you have one.

BOB It's not that simple, in fact this is massive, hey I reduced his book called The Year of Living Dangerously, very interesting for the minister down to ten pages, how would he like this, this is his great little opus. That’s what we feel about this but maybe it's gonna happen but it's the bits that are missing, the community bits that we're talking about. So we're almost there.

PAUL Right we'll come back to that, again Ron you'd have to say he's determined isn't he?

RON MARK – Former NZ First MP
He's on song with core ACT philosophy and if you go to the website and read their views on economic policy, their views on local government their views on government and particularly their aims to substantially reduce taxes and that includes rates, he's on song, and this is part of that drive, they don’t like – the ACT Party does not like local government, they consider them to be incompetent, they don’t like businesses or state owned enterprises being owned by the public, they want to see them in private hands and they want substantive tax cuts and hence comes in the capping, the idea of capping local government expenditure. The question I would have had from Guyon to him would have been well so are you gonna cap government are you going to go back to them and leave the public decide whether the budget should go ahead yes or no, if the public don’t like the way local governments spend they vote them out in three years time, but this is core ACT philosophy and it will result in privatisation of core services taken that are normally provided by local government which is exactly in line with what ACT wants.

PAUL Well of course there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of local government assets and he was quite interesting, this is what he said about Auckland assets –

'Rodney Hide: I'm always in favour of more private ownership and commercialisation but I could tell you this government under John Key is very firmly against that, I've accepted that, that’s the government's decision that’s the people's view.'

So he's on song with core ACT beliefs but he's part of a team.

THERESE ARSENEAU – Political Analyst
Well and it's interesting that he talks about wanting to sell assets and the public is concerned about selling assets but the more important question is sell the assets to whom, and at present who would be financially liquid enough to buy these sorts of assets and that’s what concerns the public, it's foreign ownership, we learn that from the 1990s. But the other thing to take from that message I think it's really interesting but even when I compare him to the night after the election it's like Rodney Hide has understood a bit better that he is a small party working with a very large party, and even mentioned what percentage of the vote ACT had and I think that was an important point, and the point is that ACT is what we call a captive party, they're off on the right flank of National they’ve got nowhere else to go and they do not want to be seen to be the tail wagging the dog, so he's being much more careful publicly.

RON What's emerging here I see is a dilemma that National is going to have to control. National has made a commitment, it's not in line with their core philosophy either, but they’ve committed that they will not sell state assets in the first term of governance but on the side here you have ACT and in fact National are signed up to passing that legislation it's in the ACT coalition agreement with them, so what you’ve got is enabling legislation will actually make it possible for local government to actually have to go outsourcing those services and you'll see a mechanism put in place by which private enterprise can get a hold of those assets. ACT have also been very active in the Defence stuff and we'll come to that in talking again about the prospects the ideology of selling off those state assets, something which the National Party is determined to not do to honours their commitment...

PAUL But when it came to local government Ron all he's saying is it's not my business I'm simply going to set up a city which can retain ...

BOB Sure and then he sits back at leisure and watches the whole thing massacred.

PAUL Why is it going to be massacred?

BOB Well pensioner housing for a start.

PAUL He said that’s up to the people of Auckland.

BOB He says up to the new council, the new council if we've got a taste of the old council pensioner housing goodbye, assets the Airport – gone, Port – gone, the fact is that is what we're saying. Hey if we don’t nail this down, unless we get this right they will go.

PAUL Very quickly what's he gonna have to do to make this reform go through?

BOB I think he's gotta talk with us more, the mayors are not in dispute about many things, we're not in dispute with each other, we just want to make sure that what we've got is our communities with a voice, we don’t want this elected at large nonsense we want people that can represent our communities in the Auckland region.

PAUL Yeah but the whole world's at the end of a phone isn't it Therese?

THERESE Well see I actually think the elected at large people get a bum rap, let me speak for them for one minute, I mean it does depend on how they're elected, but on a council that you're looking and remember at the central one you're looking for strategic direction and what you want is a mix of people, you want people who represent their wards or represent their locality but you also want people who have a broader representation across the city, so I actually think the members at large can work depending on how they're elected. The problem is there's so much we don’t know yes, and there's too many questions that haven't been answered yet.

PAUL Let me move on now – and very good pamphlet – let me move on, now he was also asked – Guyon asked him about the size of government and Rodney's concern about the size of government, then of course identified Heather Roy as being No.25 in the Cabinet this is what Rodney Hide had to say –

'I think we have got too many Ministers I think we have got a great deal of overlap and confusion within Cabinet that was bequeathed to us from the previous government, I think it does need a tidy up.'

Your views on that Ron Mark.

RON Well it's interesting, it's a bold honest argument that we've got overlapping confusion amongst the ministers and lack of transparency, I don’t think some of his Cabinet colleagues or the government colleagues are gonna be too happy with that, but if you're saying that that’s the result of the past government okay, I guess it does concern and it will concern the rank and file of the Defence Force that their Associate Minister is No.25, and there have been some announcements made that cause some concern and consternation in the ranks and I think if Rodney is true to the core values of ACT he would do two things to support what he's said here this morning, one he would advocate more strongly for reduced Cabinet and for reduced reduction in bureaucracy within the government itself and he would advocate for the capping of government spending and empowering the people to approve or not approve the budget, neither of which is going to happen.

PAUL Still it was a nice big of ginger wasn’t it when he was talking about the size of government reminding him that his Heather Roy is No.25 and Associate Defence Minister.

THERESE The thing I would be hotly suspicious of is this Bill of Rights, having been in Colorado and studied it there and let me tell you that some very weird things come about in Colorado through those initiatives and referendum and the problem is you get a real disconnect and sure you can ask people do you want to raise taxes but unless you put it together with what the money will be spent with you get a real disconnect, if you ask people do you want to raise taxes they're gonna say no, but if you ask people do you want increased spending on issues that really matter to them then all of a sudden yeah they do want that, so I don’t think ruling by referendum is the way to go.

BOB We talked about the Bill of Rights we didn’t talk about democracy. This is about democracy being shredded, that’s what's happening in Auckland and that’s what he's gonna do possibly through the whole of New Zealand, how about that Paul?

PAUL What are you talking about Bob there's going to be you know people are gonna vote for their council aren’t they?

BOB What we talked off is capping the rates, which of course is nonsense, I mean they’ve gotta have libraries, they’ve gotta have footpaths, and they’ve gotta have things they want, capping the rates you don’t get it.

*****

Response to Wayne Mapp Interview

PAUL Ron any points stand out in that interview for you?

RON Well I think what he's signalling is that the situation we have with our Defence Forces now is a critical one, the issues are wide, he's got some huge expectations been placed upon him, if you look at the polling booths that came out of the Defence Force basis there was overwhelming support for National from Defence Force personnel, there are expectations that their remuneration review will be enacted and that that will progress which will mean increased spending, there is an expectation that recruiting retention will be incentivised.

PAUL Right so a lot of pressure on him, what about some of the purchase decisions, I mean you’ve had big criticisms of the purchase, some of them seem to have been incompetent.

RON History is there, but we are where we are and the issue I see glaringly right now Paul is a test of confidence for him the Minister from the troops and that will be right now there is a degree of concern and alarm within the ranks that suddenly the vehicles that they’ve been training on preparing on developing doctrine in, preparing to deploy in, may well be sold, and that has an impact immediately on the troops.

PAUL Therese what did you make of what he was saying?

THERESE Well it made me think back to the comments that came out of Australia when decisions were made by the previous Labour government they said that we'd taken the bludgers option in terms of our Defence Force, it's really a crass term but the point is that can we actually because of our capabilities and because of the decisions we made about the Air Force and about the Navy can we really hold up our end of our international obligations even in peacekeeping and that’s the question.

PAUL Actually you know Air Vice Marshal Bruce Fergusson when he stepped aside – he said it's nonsense that we've taken the bludgers option he said no Defence personnel from Canada the United States Britain or Australia have ever said anything like that to him.

THERESE I'm not agreeing that we've taken the bludgers option but the question is it's not just how much money we spend it's about how we're spending it and the modern world it's not that we're going to be invaded, I mean there are all these questions about who's gonna come and invade New Zealand that’s not the issue. The international wars now are basically civil wars that spill out and affect us, we are threatened through that and so we need to be more modern in terms of what our Defence Force does.

PAUL Exactly, before I come to you Bob Mr Mapp spoke about the stability or changes in stability of our region, here's what he had to say –

'Wayne Mapp: Things have changed since then that’s for sure and you only have to look at the instability of the Island states themselves that’s clearly taxing our Defence Force, I mean we have substantial deployments in Timor Leste, been now going for ten years.'

So substantially more unstable regions.

BOB What's he saying, that Fiji's going to attack us, the Cook Islands going to attack us, who's going to believe that nonsense, Obama last month said let's put an end to nuclear proliferation ... what a terrific statement, I mean that stuff is just type.

PAUL But hang on he wasn’t saying that. He was saying that we've got to go round and try and ....

THERESE No if they're unstable its ways for the threats that can come through the Islands like terrorism like the drug trade, threats are different now.

BOB Do you need an army to do that, come on.

RON The fact of the matter is Paul is that our Defence commitments our international commitments are increasing, there's increasing demands on, we're staring a 50 billion dollar hole in our economy, and he has got expectations within the Defence Force that they will continue to develop their tactics, their strategy and ability to deploy, the last annual report pointed out that the biggest challenge Defence faces is recruitment and retention of personnel.

BOB And that all means money.

PAUL I got to him a bit later on on recruitment and retention but some of those numbers are extraordinary, 20 to 30% of places unfilled in the Navy the Air Force. Why would a kid Ron, why would a kid a bright smart kid, a university graduate kid 20 years old want to go into the New Zealand Defence Force as a career?

RON Look I'll tell you why and this is by ACT again is on song with ...

PAUL With ships that can't sail properly, plane's that can't make it to Darwin...

RON Not quite Paul, because the reason you would join and ACT is focused on this in their part of the Defence review is a free education, is to get professional skills, professional advancement an overseas tour and some OE and one of the most satisfying things that a young person can do is end up in a place like East Timor or the Solomons or Afghanistan helping people rebuild their lives and that’s pure job satisfaction.

THERESE But we've got to provide them with the equipment they need to do that well.

PAUL But we don’t know that they don’t have it do we?

THERESE I think the other problem too is why they can't retain staff, I mean we've gone through a period of full employment and the private sector has attracted them away, it might be different in a time of a recession.

RON And the recession may well assist Defence as more and more people become available.

BOB What he was talking about was Whenuapai, it's back in the hands of the Air Force and possibly no I think this government may also give us a slice of it to have a commercial operation, couldn’t be more happy.

RON The question that ACT should have been asked, in the election they talked about the capital charges which sucks 350 million dollars out of the Defence budget straight back into the government coffers, the question will be if you want to get the biggest bang for the buck why don’t you take that stupid capital charge out and allow the Defence Force to keep all the money they're currently allocated.

PAUL So looking ahead for the next week, what would you think is going to be of interest Therese?

THERESE Well at least the House is sitting again so we'll see some more stories. I'm really keen to watch what is spilled out or how Bill English prepares us for what's coming in the budget, there used to be a time when the budget was a very secret document that came out on the day, now there tends to be lots of leaks about the budget or hints about the budget.

PAUL What are we gonna see next Bob do you think, uprising in Henderson?

BOB No, AUT is going to have a day's seminar on Super City and Peter Salmon is coming back the author of this terrific report and we'll start hearing the truth about what is in the Commission, what the Commission wanted and what we should do not a bad debate.

RON Thirteen first readings on the order paper and amongst them is the private security and private investigators' bill which I worked on for three years, search and surveillance legislation, will be highly controversial, and the Wanganui District Council prohibition of gang insignia bill for its third and final reading and enactment.

PAUL Ron Marks, Therese Arseneau, Bob Harvey, thank you very much.

ENDS

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