Q+A Epsom debate
Sunday 16th October, 2011
Q+A Epsom debate.
The debate has been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on tvnz.co.nz at, http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news
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EPSOM DEBATE moderated by PAUL HOLMES
PAUL We welcome John Banks, the ACT candidate in Epsom; David Parker from Labour; and National's Paul Goldsmith. And so we're going to see you debate the issues, but first you’ve got 30 seconds in which to explain to the voters in Epsom why they should vote for you. We'll go alphabetically. Mr Banks, you first.
JOHN BANKS – ACT Candidate
The good people of Epsom want John Key to be the prime minister after the election day. They want a National Party centre-right government after election day. The people of Epsom clearly understand that a vote for me is a vote for an additional number of high-quality centre-right members of Parliament. The polls are closing, and on election night – 26 November – Epsom will be critical as to whether John Key will lead the next government or not. It’s a strategic vote, and the people of Epsom clearly understand that.
PAUL Mr Goldsmith.
PAUL GOLDSMITH – National
A lot of Kiwi families are facing tough times at the moment, and as we go forward, what we need is a John Key-led government that can provide strong and stable leadership for New Zealand in uncertain times. And the government’s got a real plan that doesn’t involve complicated new taxes or raising new debt, and it’s about getting on top of our debt sooner, it’s about creating real jobs by, you know, having good solid tax and welfare incentives, and so it’s important to give National your vote in November.
PAUL David Parker.
DAVID PARKER – Labour Candidate
Well, I’m standing in Epsom because I want to promote the Labour Party vision for New Zealand to the voters there. I think it’s pretty clear that New Zealand’s got serious structural economic problems, underscored by the downgrade recently. We need structural economic changes to tax, monetary policy and savings if we’re to overcome that. National’s denying that’s necessary. On the other hand, I also want to give the voters of Epsom a choice. They’ve currently got a National candidate who’s saying, “Don’t vote for me Vote for John Banks.” And we know that that will bring back the ACT circus, and I don’t think that’s good for New Zealand.
PAUL Very good. Now, let me go to you, Mr Goldsmith. Do you really...? Do you want to win this seat or not?
MR GOLDSMITH Well, the priority, as we’ve made it very clear, is that party vote, because that in MMP is the one that decides who’s in government.
PAUL Of course.
MR GOLDSMITH And, you know, it comes around every three years, which is just long enough for people to forget that you get two votes, but one is critical, and that’s the party vote, so that’s what we’re focusing on in Epsom and just about every other electorate in the country.
PAUL So you don’t particularly want to win this seat?
MR GOLDSMITH Well, what happens in the electorate vote is up for the people of Epsom to decide, and, you know, it’s no secret in the last two elections, they decided... the majority decided that it’s worthwhile sending an ACT person in to support the National government. It remains to be seen what happens this time, and I think people will make a judgement as we get closer to the election.
PAUL I mean, are you really ACT? As you say, you’re only standing in order for there to be a John Key-led government.
MR BANKS Choice, self-responsibility, investment, growth, jobs, financial responsibility. Borrow, tax, hope and spend, which is what the Opposition parties are parading – borrow, hope, tax and spend won’t fix this economic structural problems. The ACT Party wants to go to Parliament. I want to represent the good people of Epsom in the Parliament so that we can put some steel in the policy platform of the next John Key government.
PAUL So you are ACT? Have you become ACT? Are you an ACT person?
MR BANKS Well, I’m fiscally responsible. I care about the 27% of young kids that are on the dole. I worry about $360 million a week of borrowing. I worry about our economic sovereignty. I worry about the fact that 20% of kids leave school with poor numeracy and literacy. I want to put some reinforcing steel into the next National Party-led, John Key-led government.
PAUL But if you don’t win, will you continue to be ACT, or will you drop away?
MR BANKS Well, my philosophy concept and principles are aligned to the people of Epsom.
PAUL But you’ve already disagreed with your leader. You see, I wonder if people can really vote for ACT these days without holding their noses.
MR BANKS Well, there's nothing wrong with free thinking. The ACT Party list – the top 10 on the ACT Party list – is as good as I’ve ever seen ever before, and a vote for me in Epsom means that a John Key-led government can have a number of MPs... Paul, my friend, is going to be in Parliament anyway. The people of Epsom can vote for me. They’ll get Paul Goldsmith, they’ll get John Banks and they’ll get five or six or more other ACT MPs to strengthen a National centre-right government.
PAUL Right, so they’ll get an electorate MP who is National – Paul Goldsmith – and they get the party vote goes to ACT. Alright, what do you know about Epsom? You’re from Dunedin.
MR PARKER Well, my background in business and law means that I understand the issues that are facing Epsom voters pretty well. Can I say something that John Banks just said? He says that we’re tax-and-spend in Labour. When we were reducing debt, government debt in the last government, John Banks was tripling council debt, so I’m not going to take that one, please. Do I understand the issues that Epsom people face? Yes, I do. New Zealand’s got serious economic problems. We need to have some structural changes to address them, and this government is not presenting them to the electorate, and I will.
PAUL Is this part of really...? What you’re doing in Epsom, is that part of your leadership aspirations?
MR PARKER I’m standing in the Epsom electorate because I want to sell the Labour Party vision. I do so with Phil Goff’s support. No.
MR BANKS It’d be very hard work in Epsom selling the Labour Party vision, because what they don’t want in the homes of Epsom is spending, taxing, borrowing and hope. They want economic sovereignty for this country...
MR PARKER What they don’t want...
MR BANKS They want jobs for their kids and they want us to pay our way.
MR PARKER What they don’t want is a repeat of the perk-buster David Garret, the brain-farts from Don Brash and a return to the Chicago school of economics theory which has led the world to the debt that we have currently.
MR BANKS Well, what they do want, Mr Parker...
MR PARKER And the diminishing status of the middle classes.
MR BANKS What they do want, Mr Parker, is they want someone who understands the people of Epsom.
MR PARKER I do.
MR BANKS I live on Victoria Ave. They don’t want someone parachuted in from Dunedin, and what they don’t want is spending, borrowing, taxing and hoping to come our of this problem. They want a John Key-led...
MR PARKER You can say that as often as you like, but it’s not true.
MR BANKS Let me assure you, they want a John Key...
MR PARKER We reduced debt. You tripled it.
MR BANKS They want a John Key-led government. In the last six years, Paul... Listen, this is a significant figure. In the last six years...
MR PARKER In the last six years, you tripled Auckland debt.
MR BANKS In the last six years, there’s been 20% economic growth in this country, and in the last six years, government spending has gone up 43%. These people want to borrow another $200 billion a year for the next 10 years.
MR PARKER No, we... We do not. That is not true.
PAUL Can we just go back to the election itself. What are the issues going to be in this election?
MR GOLDSMITH Well, I’m out on the doorsteps a lot in Epsom, and people are very concerned about, you know, the general health of the country and its economy. They’ve got their children and their grandchildren. They want a place where it’s going to be exciting and dynamic for their children and their grandchildren to want to stay in New Zealand and not feel like they’re having to opt out, and my sense is that they are a lot less panicky than they were three years ago. This government has made good progress over the last three years. But New Zealand’s future still hangs in the balance, and they want to have a continuation of sound, solid, sensible National Party government.
PAUL Well, how can you say it’s been sound, sensible National Party government when we’ve just had a credit downgrade by a couple of international credit-rating agencies?
MR GOLDSMITH Well, you know, these are not easy times, internationally. The whole world is struggling with a structural change as the old welfare state countries all around the world are having to come to terms with the fact that you’ve actually got to earn your living in the world. You’ve got to work hard and you can’t rely on the state paying everything.
MR PARKER But that’s the problem. If you change nothing, nothing changes, and this government has changed very little. You know, the world’s changed, but National hasn’t. We’ve got structural problems. We need significant changes to our tax system to encourage exports rather than investment in the speculative sector.
MR BANKS Well, let’s talk about...
MR PARKER We need changes to monetary policy...
PAUL Hang on, John. Hang on, Mr Banks Hang on.
MR PARKER We need changes to monetary policy and saving. These are levers that only the government can pull, but this government’s not willing to pull them. I’m going to tell the people of Epsom, who do understand these issues, that these levers need to be pulled if they want their children and grandchildren to live in New Zealand instead of all heading off to Australia.
PAUL The people of Epsom probably don’t want too much change, I think is one of the aspects of...
MR BANKS This is what... Paul...
MR GOLDSMITH There's a fruit and vegetable shop called Jack Lum’s – David Parker won’t know it – but how does it make sense to take the GST off asparagus that’s flown first-class from Scandinavia for the dinner parties in Victoria Ave? You know, how’s that going to advance social justice, taking the GST off that? I mean, it’s a crazy idea. It complicates the tax system, and nobody is in favour of it. Same with the goods and services... uh, capital gains tax.
MR PARKER Paul, change nothing and...
PAUL Well, the problem with Labour going on about taking the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables is that you’re the fellows who put it on.
MR PARKER Well, there's plenty of people waddling around New Zealand now with rising rates of obesity and consequential costs in the health system...
PAUL No, you were... How do we...? How can we take you seriously when you were the people that imposed it in the first place?
MR PARKER Oh, look, I’m actually in favour of GST. I just think the higher the rate...
PAUL Yes, but vegetables...
MR BANKS But...
MR PARKER The higher the rate of GST and the bigger problems you have with rising obesity, the greater the case is for change.
MR BANKS This man’s in favour of more taxes, more spending, more borrowing, more hoping. Look...
MR PARKER It’s a tax which... It’s a tax which stems from us, but it’s a tax...
PAUL You know, Mr Banks, he makes a very good point – obesity is a huge problem around the country.
MR BANKS Yes, struggling..
PAUL You only have to go to the supermarket on a Thursday to see that.
MR BANKS Paul, what is a huge problem for the people of Epsom – they’re aspirational people – is struggling to make ends in business. It is very difficult in business. I’ve been in business in this city for 45 years and employed thousands of people. It is very difficult for business right now – notwithstanding Rugby World Cup – to make ends meet with regulations, costs, additional taxes, additional borrowing, additional government. The people of Epsom don’t want Labour Party taxing, borrowing, spending and hoping. They want a National Party, John Key-led...
MR PARKER But the big issue there is where is our money invested in the economy? Too much in speculative enterprises, not enough in our export industries. To change that, you’ve got to change tax, monetary and savings policy, and the National government won’t.
PAUL Nevertheless, the polls say that Mr Goldsmith is going to win for National and the polls don’t say too much about whether people are going to vote strategically again for ACT. They’ve seen the fellow they did... I mean to say, they’ve seen rather cruel treatment, perhaps, of the fellow ACT owed everything to over the last six years, Rodney Hide. He made some mistakes, but people might have forgiven him in the end. He’s been turfed out. And people see a party where you disagree with Dr Brash and they don’t particularly like Dr Brash any more, so how do we know they’re even going to give the party vote to ACT?
MR BANKS Well, I care passionately about this country, about this city. I’m well-connected to Auckland. I’m experienced. I’m hard-working. I want to represent the people of Epsom in the Parliament, and I’m not going to Wellington just to bounce dead cats. The people are Epsom are deeply blue. 364 days of the year, they are National Party supporters. Once every three years, they decide to vote strategically. Paul’s going to be a fine member of Parliament If they vote for me, I’ll bring three or four or five – a number of other high-quality ACT members of Parliament to the table so that we can have a continuation of John Key’s sensible government.
PAUL On the current polling, that is a pipe dream.
MR BANKS It isn’t a pipe dream. 50% of the people on the doorstep are saying they haven’t yet made up their mind. They want a National government. They don’t want a coalition Labour Party government with Hone Harawira, the Greens and the rest of them. They want to make sure that John Key’s the prime minister, and, Paul, on election night with the polls closing, Epsom will be critical to John Key’s future and the National Party government of New Zealand.
PAUL Give me just a few sentences on how you think the government’s handled Rena.
MR GOLDSMITH Oh, well, I... You know, it’s a terrible situation in the Bay of Plenty, and I think they’re doing everything they possibly can.
PAUL Were they too slow?
MR GOLDSMITH Oh, I think, you know, it’s a complicated problem. You can’t just call the Thunderbirds.
PAUL Were they too slow?
MR PARKER The first four days seem to have been a dark period, and we don’t know whether enough was done during that period. It seems to me there's some questions to be answered.
PAUL Mike Williams before was saying perception is everything in politics, and he’s right, isn’t he?
MR BANKS Absolutely. Mike Williams is right, and the perception is it has been slow. One of my worries is, as a former minister of civil defence, is we did not have a...
MR PARKER Is that before you were kicked out of Cabinet?
MR BANKS ...we did not have a blueprint for a disaster like this when we’re a shoreline country that relies on a lot of work going up and down the seas around the shores. We did not have a blueprint. We maybe could have worked faster. But everything’s interesting in hindsight. One thing’s for sure – it’s closing the polls, and on election night, the voters of Epsom will be critical as to whether we get this lot and their friends...
MR PARKER Can I respond to that?
MR BANKS ...or whether we have a John Key-led government.
PAUL Of course you can, yes, yes. You can respond.
MR PARKER ACT was brought in on the coattails of Rodney Hide last time. It was an embarrassment to the people of Epsom in the end. Now we’ve got Don Brash, who believes so righteously in his own views that the ends always justify the means. And I think the people of New Zealand are actually marking ACT down to around 1%, because they recognise that he’s just as extreme on one side as Hone Harawira is on the other, and neither lead to economic prosperity or happiness for New Zealand.
PAUL Final word from you, Mr Goldsmith. Quick, quick final word.
MR GOLDSMITH Well, look, I think the party vote is the critical one in this election, and that’s what I’m working hard for, and it’s up to the people of Epsom to decide what they want to do with the electorate. I’m not telling them what to do.
PAUL But you don’t want them to vote for you.
MR GOLDSMITH No, I want the party vote. That’s the main thing.
PAUL I thank you all.