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Q+A Panel Discussion - In response to Helen Clark interview

Q+A 4 August, 2013

Panel Discussions

Hosted by SUSAN WOOD

In response to Helen Clark interview

SUSAN I would have to say, Mike, that was – and Helen can hear me say this – a typical Helen Clark interview: assured, confident, she had all the answers. She just gets better and better, doesn’t she?

MIKE WILLIAMS – Former Labour Party President
Class act, absolutely right. Yep.

MICHELLE BOAG – Former National Party President
And a very diplomatic performance, I thought. The way that she handled some of those issues of domestic interest—

SUSAN But some good points about avoiding complacency and actually taking the politics out of the GCSB, Raymond – not that that is going to happen.

RAYMOND Yes, that right. Now, we’ve been well served by our political leaders over the last 14 years, thinking about today’s poll, for instance, and also the nine years that Helen Clark was leader of this country, and it only reminds us how blessed we have been as a country to have a lot of unity around our political leadership. When you look across the Tasman at Australia, for instance, and look elsewhere, we really have had very stable political leadership and very competent leadership now for quite a long time.

MICHELLE And I thought it was a very interesting point that she made about the transparency and openness of governments and how important that is in the living standards of their countries, because we all hear stories about corruption and countries where massive aid is poured into them, and the fact is if you can't have confidence in those democratic processes, then you're not going to see living standards increase, and again I think that’s something we take for granted, because we do have an open democracy and we forget that many countries around the world simply do not have that.

RAYMOND When you look at Helen Clark’s performance at the United Nations, you have to remember that she has long had a strong emotional commitment to many of the causes of the UNDP: poverty, healthcare, women’s inequality and so on. And coupled with that, of course, was this length political experience that she had in Parliament and in government, and I know she's in the studio so she probably can't reach me, but she probably wouldn’t welcome speculation about the future, but with the second term of the present secretary general ending in 2015, we must remember that the United Nations has never been led by a woman, and I don’t think has ever been led by someone from an English-speaking country, so one would have to say if Helen Clark, who has a prodigious appetite for work, was still willing to do it, that she’d be a strong candidate.

SUSAN She certainly does, doesn’t she – the work aspect, Mike. I don’t think I can think of any harder worker I have met in my life.

MIKE No, no, Helen just worked her guts out as leader. I can recall that during election campaigns, she could call me up to 11 o’clock at night and after 6 o'clock in the morning, and I was quite happy with that, and where politicians would do four things in one day, Helen Clark would do 10. I don’t know where the stamina came from, but it’s obviously still there.

SUSAN Interesting too Helen's comments, Michelle, on women in the parties – trying to get more women in and not being complacent. That was a very sensible point, I thought.

MICHELLE Yes, and of course there is quite a focus on how to do that.

SUSAN Other than “man bans”.

MICHELLE Other than “man bans”, and it’s really interesting, because it’s actually much easier to do in the National Party selection processes, because of the way they have this pre-selection system where they could very easily produce a shortlist of only five women without any controversy whatsoever, and—

MIKE Have they ever done that?

MICHELLE Not five, but there have been pre-selections where, yeah, the majority of candidates have been women.

MIKE Look, I think in New Zealand we’ve got this unique opportunity where we’ve got the list and you can select your candidates for the seats you know you’re going to win in advance of constructing the list, and if you’ve got a shortage of anything, that can be rectified by the list, and I saw that happen two or three times when I sat on the— chaired the list-making moderating committee. So I think that the focus the New Zealand council had on the “man ban” – which was called the “man ban”, and that’s unfortunate – probably unnecessary when you’ve got this MMP situation.

MICHELLE That’s right, and the list has made a significant contribution to the diversity of Parliament.

RAYMOND That’s all true, but the problem is that after some initial progress, we seem to have stuck at about 30% women in our Parliament, and that’s not just the fault of one party, that’s the fault of all the parties in the sense that there haven’t been ways of getting more women into Parliament, and I think that’s a really important issue for the future of our democracy that we have parity or as close to it as possible. We’ve fallen behind in that goal in recent years, and I think both major parties need to look at their selection methods.

SUSAN Very good. Thank you, panel.


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