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Cunliffe on The Nation

Interviewed by SEAN PLUNKET

Sean First question, why aren’t you more popular in the Labour caucus?

David Cunliffe – New Lynn Labour MP
Well firstly you’ve got to ask this question whether that is in fact true or whether it's a bit of a myth.

Sean Are you saying it's a myth?

David Yeah I think it's a bit of a myth frankly.

Sean A bit of a myth or a myth?

David Well I would say I call a spade a spade and I like to be straight up with people but I also like to bring people together. now some people like that style and some people don’t, and so there may be one or two who find that they are some distance, but I'm sure we can bring that together.

Sean So our straightforward manner has cost you some friends in the Labour caucus?

David It may have done.

Sean So that is the reason that you are not more popular in the Labour caucus Mr Cunliffe?

David You are telling the story. I seriously do think that that’s a line that some people have picked up. I know National Party bloggers run it consistently, and you know if I'm not flavour of the month with the National Party attack dogs, that probably tells you that they don’t want John Key running against me, and that’s probably a healthy thing.

Sean Alright I want to go back to the campaign and what Narelle mentioned in her report. Do you take any responsibility for this?

'John Key: Show me where the money's coming from, show me the money, show me the money'.

The low point in some ways for Phil Goff in that campaign. Do you take any responsibility for the fact that Phil Goff didn’t have the numbers?

David Well he did have the numbers, the numbers that he was specifically asked there were around the Capital Gains Tax taxflows, they were public from the middle of July. I'm not criticising Phil in any way for the bounce of the ball in that debate.

Sean You had provided him with the numbers, you'd given him a briefing on how to answer that question?

David He had the same team briefing him that were briefing me and working with me, I had my phone on and computer on all that day, I didn’t get any request for anything extra from his team.

Sean Okay so you're essentially saying Phil Goff mucked that one up all on his own.

David I'm not criticising but I would very flatly reject any suggestion that I let Phil down or worse, that I was in any way disloyal, that is just not true, and you can imagine that it's somewhat hurtful.

Sean Could I ask you, would you make that mistake if you were Leader of the Labour Party up against John Key on the campaign trail?

David Well I think it's easier for a Finance spokesperson to have their heads around a layer of detail around the numbers than it is for a leader who has got to cover a much wider canvas. So I think the probability is that I would have known those particular numbers, but there may have been other questions I could have been asked that I wouldn’t have been as aware of as Phil was. So as I say bounce the ball on that.

Sean So would you be a better campaigner than Phil Goff was?

David Oh look that’s for the party to decide, and I think Phil campaigned very …

Sean Well I guess it's for you to convince the part of actually Mr Cunliffe.

David Well I think Phil campaigned very well, and I think that a lot of people were impressed particularly in the last couple of weeks, and I also think a lot of people liked the policy platforms which we brought out which were bold and courageous and went to the heart of the problems facing our economy, and obviously I was heavily involved in that good stuff. So we did our best, but the end result was 27% isn't where we need to be. We need to hard look at ourselves, and I'm looking forward to helping the party forward on a programme of change that will mean that we win in 2014.

Sean Okay are you committed to the platform that Phil Goff presented and you presented at the last election. GST off fruit and vegetables, the Capital Gains Tax the superannuation change. Are those locked in as soon as you're concerned?

David Well I think the general feeling around the party is that a lot of good work's been done on the basic building blocks, but every caucus is sovereign and I think the next caucus will want to look at some of those issues. My personal view since you ask is I think Capital Gains Tax is a must do. I think getting our savings rate up sharply by a universal Kiwi Saver is a must do. I think there are some elements of the GST tax issues and the tax free zone that we could look at again.

Sean Okay so you're gonna rework some of those key policies?

David I think there could be some room to rework some of them.

Sean Okay do you rework them with a mind to making them more palatable to centre voters, or left voters?

David Well Labour's gonna have to do several things. It's going to and especially in a parliament where you’ve got New Zealand First back in strength, with Winston rampant in the House, and with an enlarged Green block on the other side. it is essential that Labour fills its space and leads from the front. That’s got to happen day one, that takes experience and I'm looking forward to that challenge. We need to be reaching out to our base, running with Nanaia Mahuta who is a superb operator in her own right, that assuming also a very strong signal to both Maori and Pasifika that Labour is there for them. We also need to reach to the middle ground, to the small business people, to the boardrooms, to the upper income liberals. And I think my experience in business and in diplomacy allows me to have that broad reach as well. So our ticket I believe can help front a new Labour Party that has broad reach across the New Zealand community, that will be a government for all New Zealand.

Sean And you say you're a diplomat. Have a look at this from the campaign in Avondale.

'You want your assets kept and you don’t want some money trader that made millions trading against the New Zealand dollar, selling out your future. You’ve only got one chance to stop the greasy little fella in the blue suit.'

David Cunliffe that the old politics of envy, that’s what many would say has turned people off the Labour Party.

David Well you know you're seeing something completely out of context, that’s Avondale Market.

Sean Your message is different in Avondale than it would be somewhere else?

David No. But you're talking to a particular audience and you're identifying with the challenges in front of them, and for most people at the Avondale Market it's about putting food on the table, it's a very low income group and it's West Auckland, and I've won five elections in a row in West Auckland, and I know how to communicate with my constituents, and my constituents like straight talking. Now the fact is that a billionaire financier is not as in tune with their needs as somebody who has worked their way up through the streets….

Sean Do you know something about John Key's income that we don’t?

David Well, I use the figure in round numbers, millionaire, there you go. So that may not have been the best speech I've ever given, but I don’t resile from a sense of righteous indignation about the way that the poorest and most vulnerable New Zealanders have been treated by this government, and will continue to be treated in the next three years.

Sean Do you consider if you win this leadership battle, that your primary role in let's say your first 100 days as leader, is to rebuild and reform the Labour Party or beat John Key?

David Oh it's to start internally with the Labour Party, it's firstly to reunify. I've said to David Shearer privately and I've said publicly, I'd love to have David in a senior role on our front bench. I think he's a great chap and with his skills and his strength with the very best lineup we can get. We've got some very strong new talent coming into the caucus, we've got some proven but younger up and comers, like Grant Roberts and others who need to have front bench roles. Now if we're going to do all of that, then there will be some who've been around for a long time that are gonna have to play more supportive …roles.

Sean We're going to address that very issue a little later, David Cunliffe thank you very much for coming in, and we'll hear from you later.

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