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Corin Dann interviews Helen Clark on TVNZ’s Q+A

Sunday 4 August, 2013

Corin Dann interviews former Prime Minister and Administrator for the UN Development Programme Helen Clark on TVNZ’s Q+A Programme.

Fonterra

Helen Clark told Corin Dann that “transparency is extremely important” as Fonterra and the government deal with fallout from the latest tainted food products scare.

“For sure there's a feeling a déjà vu about that story. I think it’s really important that immediately Fonterra knows that there's an issue, they come to the government. When we heard about it, going back those five years or so, we immediately said this must go to the Chinese authorities. These are issues of life and death – the life of small children. So one would have hoped there’d be something learned from that episode.”

When asked if she could imagine the current administration being angry about it, Ms Clark said, “Oh, they’ll be pretty sore about it, and I don’t disagree with anything Tim Groser said. Transparency is extremely important when you’re dealing with a food product which can be life and death for those who consume it.”

Security

Helen Clark told Corin Dann that there is a need for a GCSB and she’s urging dialogue across the political divide.

“The answer is yes, you do, because you need that foreign intelligence, and not least for safety and security reasons. I think the real issue is, is there a gap in the law, which the Kitteridge Inquiry apparently found that there was, and if so, how do you deal with that and do you take the opportunity at the same time to write in more controls to protect the privacy of the individual? That, as I see it, is the debate raging at the moment.”

Ms Clark says when her government brought in the 2003 GCSB legislation ”that actually took GCSB out of the shadows and made it a government department with its own Act, which was good. But, you know, in retrospect, as Miss Kitteridge has found, perhaps there was a gap in the law. So that has to be dealt with, but I think it’s really important to try to reach across the political divide when you’re dealing with these issues.”

Ms Clark says, “Try and take the politics out of it and look at what do we as Kiwis need to protect our interests and how do we protect the privacy of individual Kiwis who should never be caught up in a giant trawling exercise across their communications.”

Gender Equality

Ms Clark says we have become complacent when it comes to the issue of gender equality.

“Well, I think we probably have got a bit complacent here. When I was around, there was a time when so many of those peak positions in government, private sector, other areas, judiciary – women held a lot of the top positions. I don’t know whether we were sort of an over-aspiring generation of post-war baby-boomers, but you look across the scene now, women aren’t in a lot of the positions. And should we be comfortable with just sitting at around the 30% mark for women in Parliament? We’ve sat there since 1996 when MMP came in. Is it time for a fresh push? Now, there's many ways of having the fresh push. Parties can certainly do better in identifying, recruiting women into positions where they can win. Some countries use quotas. Others do it different ways. But certainly I think the parties need to be much more proactive now in making sure that our Parliament looks more like the population as a whole.”

Ms Clark says, “if you're not bringing in enough women, then the issues that really matter to women and their families are not going to get the priority and emphasis they need.”

On the UNDP Millennium Development Goals, Ms Clark says governance could potentially become a future goal.

“Well, it would be a radical departure for the UN member states to prioritise this, because the common cause has been found around eradicating poverty, every child in school, children living to their fifth birthday and beyond, getting down the rate of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Who can disagree with any of these things? But when you start to look at the enablers – what is it that makes development possible – of course you come straight to the quality of governance, and if governance is corrupt, dishonest, not transparent, can't deliver anything, it’s very hard to drive development.”

Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:30pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz.   

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Q + A – 4 August, 2013

Helen Clark
Administrator, UN Development Programme

Interviewed by Corin Dann

CORIN Helen Clark, thank you very much for joining us. Before we get to the UNDP, could I just ask you about this latest food scare episode with Fonterra, because back in 2008, you effectively blew with whistle on the issue with the melamine scandal. This must be quite alarming to come back and see it happening almost all over again.

HELEN For sure there's a feeling a déjà vu about that story. I think it’s really important that immediately Fonterra knows that there's an issue, they come to the government. When we heard about it, going back those five years or so, we immediately said this must go to the Chinese authorities. These are issues of life and death – the life of small children. So one would have hoped there’d be something learned from that episode.

CORIN And you can imagine that the current administration will be pretty angry about this.

HELEN Oh, they’ll be pretty sore about it, and I don’t disagree with anything Tim Groser said. Transparency is extremely important when you’re dealing with a food product which can be life and death for those who consume it.

CORIN Alright, the UNDP – you’ve now got a second term there. What are your priorities now? I mean, you came in and there were— perhaps those Millennium Development Goals were in a sense already established. Your targets now – what is it you're looking to achieve now?

HELEN Well, those goals had a timeframe running through to the end of 2015, so there's quite a lot of pressure on all development people now to get some more progress in the last two years or so. And there's a huge global debate raging about what will come after the Millennium Development Goals, because life’s rather different to what it was in 2000, when they were launched. The world’s been through a series of really very very significant crises. The global financial crisis trickles out to every part of the world. It affects us here, even though it began in markets in New York, London, etc. The climate issues are becoming very very pressing. There is a drive to try to eradicate extreme poverty, but how do you eradicate extreme poverty if countries are dragged down by war and conflict and constantly knocked over by natural disasters. So some big issues there for a next development agenda.

CORIN Yeah, I’ve heard you say in interviews that governance is one of the things that could potentially be a future goal. That would be quite a radical departure, wouldn’t it, for the UNDP?

HELEN Well, it would be a radical departure for the UN member states to prioritise this, because the common cause has been found around eradicating poverty, every child in school, children living to their fifth birthday and beyond, getting down the rate of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Who can disagree with any of these things? But when you start to look at the enablers – what is it that makes development possible – of course you come straight to the quality of governance, and if governance is corrupt, dishonest, not transparent, can't deliver anything, it’s very hard to drive development.

CORIN But how does the UN put pressure on countries to improve their governance?

HELEN Well, it can't put pressure on, but it can, in the way in which it frames its big declarations and agendas, then encourage people to address these issues, and UNDP is a practical agency which works alongside governments to try and improve governance to the extent that that is possible. Not all governments particularly want to be improved in some particular directions, but with many you can make a lot of progress.

CORIN The move to eradicate poverty – have the goals been successful at all in terms of lifting poverty rates?

HELEN Well, quite successful, because the target was set to see extreme poverty in the world halved between 1990 rates and 2015. The World Bank estimates that was probably achieved three years ago in 2010. But that’s great if you’re in the one billion that was lifted out of extreme poverty. If you’re in the one billion that’s still in extreme poverty – living on under US$1.25 a day – not so good. So I think there really does have to be a lifting of ambition to eradicate extreme poverty, but as I say, as long as there are people who are living in places torn apart by war, armed violence, knocked over by drought, by cyclone, we have to be addressing some of these underlying issues.

CORIN I think it was the Economist only a couple of weeks ago was saying that capitalism’s to thank here, isn’t it? That’s what's getting people out of extreme poverty, moving hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Take China for example. Their adoption of market policies have moved hundreds of millions of people out of that poverty trap. Is that the answer? We just push capitalism harder?

HELEN We did a human development report released in March on what was behind the rise of the emerging economies, what had made them successful, and it was both sides of the ledger. Definitely economic growth, definitely openness to trade and investment, a preparedness to really chase certain sectors of the economy hard and put the investment into that. But the other side of the ledger was these successful countries also invested in their people, in their education, in their health system, and very importantly in what we in New Zealand would call social security systems so that people didn’t fall into abject poverty with adversity. Brazil, for example, it well known for its cash transfer policies for families – their version of our Family Support, if you like. So it’s both the economy, but then making the economy work for people.

CORIN Coming back to the Pacific, it hasn’t been a great area in terms of those Millennium Development Goals. The Pacific is lagging a bit in that regard. Does it need more effort? Should we see more from New Zealand and Australia in terms of aid and development?

HELEN Probably per capita quite a lot goes into the Pacific, and, you know, we see countries like Samoa which have really done extremely well and lifted out of least-developed country status into middle-income country status. In Melanesia, a bit tougher. Papua New Guinea will struggle.

CORIN One in three still in poverty in the Pacific?

HELEN Oh yes. And with Papua New Guinea struggling with the MDGs, that will be throwing the statistics for everyone. If you looked at, say, Cook Islands and Nuie, which are very very connected, obviously, to the New Zealand economy and living standards, you wouldn’t see that. But there are definitely significant pockets of poverty in the Pacific.

CORIN Has New Zealand got its approach right? I mean, we pulled out of UNIDO – one of the UN aid agencies. Were you happy to see us pull out of that? I mean, it was criticised by Oxfam, for example.

HELEN New Zealand’s a small country, so inevitably there’ll be choices made about where you put the aid budget of a small country. Not every country funds absolutely every UN agency. They do pick and choose a bit.

CORIN But 170 that are funding UNIDO , though.

HELEN Well, many in a very small way, I guess. But UNIDO is a partner of UNDP. It’s part of the broader UN Development Group, which I chair. And I think they do some useful things. I’m very pleased the New Zealand government continues to fund UNDP and is a good partner for us at the global level and also in the Pacific.

CORIN Did that make life uncomfortable for you, though, in terms of your role, that New Zealand would pull out of an agency like that?

HELEN No, because no one thinks for a moment that I’m calling the shots on what the New Zealand government policy is towards a UN agency. And I understand governments will make hard choices. They’ll say, “We’ve got so much money. Should we bulk it up here? Should we scatter it over a lot of smaller ponds?” That’s a decision for government.

CORIN The issue of gender equality is still a big issue for Millennium Development Goals. Looking at New Zealand when you come back, do you think we’ve got a bit complacent about that issue here? I mean, taking Labour’s example of the “man ban”, without commenting directly on the politics of that, but the backlash to that, more to the point – that talkback radio and all that didn’t want to know about the idea that you might try and get more women into Parliament through sort of an affirmative action means.

HELEN Well, I think we probably have got a bit complacent here. When I was around, there was a time when so many of those peak positions in government, private sector, other areas, judiciary – women held a lot of the top positions. I don’t know whether we were sort of an over-aspiring generation of post-war baby-boomers, but you look across the scene now, women aren’t in a lot of the positions. And should we be comfortable with just sitting at around the 30% mark for women in Parliament? We’ve sat there since 1996 when MMP came in. Is it time for a fresh push? Now, there's many ways of having the fresh push. Parties can certainly do better in identifying, recruiting women into positions where they can win. Some countries use quotas. Others do it different ways. But certainly I think the parties need to be much more proactive now in making sure that our Parliament looks more like the population as a whole.

CORIN But in terms of going that hard route of an affirmative action type programme where they say, “You must put a female into that position,” is that going too far or do we actually need that?

HELEN Well, it’s not going too far. Many countries do it. And when Tony Blair’s UK Labour Party went into office in 1997, they went in with exactly such a policy. They were very low on women. Before that, they had women-only shortlists. They boosted up the numbers. It did work. So there's different ways of doing it, but what I’d say to all party leaders in any country is have a look at who you’re bringing to Parliament. Are you bringing in enough women? Because if you're not bringing in enough women, then the issues that really matter to women and their families are not going to get the priority and emphasis they need.

CORIN To the issue of national security, spying – this issue seems to be dominating the world at the moment. You’ve been in a position where you’ve issued interception warrants, those types of things. How worried should New Zealanders be about this issue, and do we need a GCSB?

HELEN The answer is yes, you do, because you need that foreign intelligence, and not least for safety and security reasons. I think the real issue is is there a gap in the law, which the Kitteridge Inquiry apparently found that there was, and if so, how do you deal with that and do you take the opportunity at the same time to write in more controls to protect the privacy of the individual? That, as I see it, is the debate raging at the moment.

CORIN I mean, the problem for this government at the moment is they seem to have got— It’s the timing, isn’t it? Because you’ve got PRISM, you’ve got the NSA. The whole world is consumed with this issue and they’re trying to supposedly— well, they say fix a law. Did you have any issues with the law at the time that you were in power?

HELEN We brought in the 2003 GCSB legislation, and that actually took GCSB out of the shadows and made it a government department with its own Act, which was good. But, you know, in retrospect, as Miss Kitteridge has found, perhaps there was a gap in the law. So that has to be dealt with, but I think it’s really important to try to reach across the political divide when you’re dealing with these issues. In the past, there's been a lot of contact, particularly between the main opposition and the government, as you design these things. I was leader of the Opposition when amendments were made to the SIS legislation when Jenny Shipley was Prime Minister. I think we worked constructively on that. So I really urge a search for that sort of dialogue.

CORIN Take the politics out of it, if you like.

HELEN Try and take the politics out of it and look at what do we as Kiwis need to protect our interests and how do we protect the privacy of individual Kiwis who should never be caught up in a giant trawling exercise across their communications.

CORIN Coming back – I know you come back reasonably frequently, but how do you feel about where New Zealand is placed at the moment? I mean, looking back at your legacy and the things that are still in place – Working for Families and those sorts of things – are you reasonably happy with how we’re travelling?

HELEN Well, I think I’d make two points. One, New Zealand has a fantastic, enviable reputation as a global citizen. Whenever people meet you, they say, “I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand. You know, I’ve admired New Zealand.” So that is just something money can't buy. But the second thing I think is to avoid complacency. It’s not written in tablets of stone that you will always be an advanced developed country. Other countries are moving very very fast, and so the more we can invest back into our people, our research, our innovation, the way we brand and market ourselves to earn our living – I think this is incredibly important. No complacency, because you really slip down the rankings.

CORIN And are you happy at the moment? You want to continue on at the UN for as long as you can go, theoretically?

HELEN I love what I’m doing. My first interest in politics, going back to the mid-1960s, was in international affairs, and then my career was very much oriented obviously into domestic issues, so for me it’s like almost going back all those years and having the time to really focus on global affairs.

CORIN And if you get the opportunity and the support, would you go for the top job at the UN?

HELEN I always say I’ve got the best job now, because in development there's always something positive you can do. I look at the political security side of the UN and it’s often where the headaches and the really really tough issues are. Where I am, I can do practical things that will make a difference, and I like that.

CORIN Helen Clark, thank you very much for your time on Q+A.

HELEN Thank you.

ENDS

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