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Patrick Gower interviews Labour leader David Cunliffe

Patrick Gower interviews Labour leader David Cunliffe


David Cunliffe won't rule out Internet-Mana from Labour-led government: “I’ve been quite frank that we will have our door and phone line open to whoever wants to change the government.”

However says if Labour forms the next Government he doesn’t expect Internet-Mana to be in his Cabinet and “extremely unlikely” Hone Harawira or Laila Harre would be ministers outside Cabinet.

“I’ve ruled out the Conservatives, I’ve ruled out the Act party, I’m not ruling out talking to anyone else but frankly I’d be surprised to see anybody, perhaps other than the Greens and NZ First around the cabinet table.”

New 3News-Reid Research polls tracks David Cunliffe's dwindling performance ratings:
Performing well - 42.2% in November 2013, 26.3% June 2014
Performing poorly 24.6% in November 2013, 50.1% June 2014

When asked if he stands by his apology for being a man, Cunliffe says: “I’m really proud to be a non-violent man. I think nobody should be proud about the statistics, the numbers in our society where we have got one in three women experiencing domestic violence.”

Labour’s education policy will see every child have a computer or digital device through discount scheme available to all.

Hints at support for National's 'super teacher' policy in some form, saying voters won't have to choose between more for teachers and more spent on computers and donations

Says plans some strong statements around National Standards, “we don’t agree with charter schools, we don’t agree with league tables, we don’t agree with National Standards”

Says made it clear to Trevor Mallard that bringing back the moa was not part of Labour’s policy or campaign.

Patrick Gower: David Cunliffe just picking up on those poll results; the people who think you are performing poorly have doubled in the ten months you have been leader. Do you take personally accountability for Labour’s poor poll ratings given what that shows?

David Cunliffe: Paddy, I lead from the front, I’m the leader of the party, I’m absolutely confident I have the team, the policies and the plan to win this election.

But what’s the polling telling us about you, if more people, double the people think you’re doing a poor job after they’ve had a good look at you? What is it telling us about your leadership?

Well let’s have a run through that. Obviously, when you come off a primary campaign there’s a wave of enthusiasm and then of course reality sets in and there’s a lot of work to be done both in internal building and external people getting to know you. I think we had a very successful beginning with a great conference, with a successful Christchurch East by-election -

Where’s it gone wrong? Because let’s pick up on yesterday when you apologised for being a man, I take it you still apologise for being a man today?

Look I’m really proud to be a non-violent man. I think nobody should be proud about the statistics, the numbers in our society where we have got one in three women experiencing domestic violence.

And no one is arguing with that, what we’re saying here though is look at the headlines it’s created, look at what it’s done, it’s not staying on message is it, talking about apologising for being a man?

Paddy, yesterday the conversation was all about Labour’s policy against domestic violence. We’ve lead that debate and I’ve stuck my neck out on this.

So you wrote what you said yesterday?

I wrote that. And I stand by every word of it. I believe –

Because where do you stop, do you apologise for being a Pakeha for colonial aggression, do you apologise for being a middle-class male for white collar fraud?

Let me give you an example. When we got serious about the problem of drink driving we said don’t let a mate drive drunk. Now we’re confronting another really serious problem in our society, last year, here’ s the numbers, last year 20-thousand women and children had to be cared for by Women’s Refuge alone. One in three women experiences domestic violence. And only 1-percent of alleged rapes actually result in a conviction. Now that’s not to say all men are rapists, that’s not what I said. But what I do believe is this is a huge problem and need to all step up and take responsibility for our society.

It’s almost what you said though isn’t it? It’s almost what you said isn’t it by apologising for being a man.

I feel deeply, personally that this is a stain on our society and as the incoming prime minister I will personally lead through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet a cross-portfolio solution that will work to eliminate sexual and domestic violence.

Let’s look at Trevor Mallard then this week, another off-message incident talking about bringing back the moa.

Well Trevor’s entitled to make a few comments.

Did you discipline him though?

I made it very clear to Trevor that that was not part of our policy or our campaign.

So Trevor Mallard talks about the moa and what, he gets told off by you or what?

He gets guidance on what’s in and what’s off the script.

Because it looks like he doesn’t want to win, it looks like he’s sabotaging you?

Well actually when you see how much canvassing Trevor and his electorate have done in Hutt South I think you’ll be very clear that he does want to win.

But if the shoe was on the other foot, if one of John Key’s MPs was talking about bringing back the moa you’d be all over him?

Look I understand very well that we need to work together as a cohesive team to win and we are a terrific team, Trevor has done some very good work on immigration just the week before, he contributes very well to our economic debates.

Mallard is extremely experienced, Trevor Mallard is one of the most experienced MPs you’ve got, he’s a key member of ABC, he knew what he was doing?

Ah, look I don’t think that’s about that. I think all our team want to win and I have no doubt that I have the support of my whole caucus, we’re a united team and we’re going forward to win this election.

I want to look at winning that election if we can pick up on that. Now if you need to use Internet-Mana, if they get in and you need their numbers, will you use them?

Look we’re being really clear, we’re playing this with a straight bat, we’re campaigning hard for the Labour vote –

If Internet-Mana get there and you need their numbers will you use them to form a government or will you rule them out?
We’re not doing any pre-election deals with anybody.

I’m talking about a post-election deal. Will you work them in government? Voters want to know.

I’ve been quite frank with we will have our door and phone line open to whoever wants to change the government. I’ve ruled out the Conservatives, I’ve ruled out the Act party, I’m not ruling out talking to anyone else but frankly I’d be surprised to see anybody, perhaps other than the Greens and NZ First around the cabinet table.

You’re not ruling it out thought, you’re not ruling out Internet-Mana because I want to pick up on this, Phil Goff, one of your senior MPs, says that Internet-Mana deal is a rort and Dotcom is buying influence. Chris Hipkins calls them unprincipled sell-outs. These are your MPs. David Shearer says Internet-Mana is going to end badly. Stuart Nash calls him a discredited German. Yet you won’t rule out

I’m not here to defend Kim Dotcom or Internet-Mana. What I am here to do is to campaign for the Labour vote and to change the government. I am running from here to the election with my team, with our team, with all these wonderful people at this conference…

But you would perform-

…Paddy, with this team to win the election, campaigning for the Labour party vote. After the election we will work with whoever we need to work with to change the government. Now we’ve offered Mr Key the opportunity to rule out coat-tailing, we’ve put a bill up there which he’s welcome to support, he’s said no-no he’s not ruling out doing deals with Colin Craig Conservatives or what’s left of the rump of the Act party or what’s left of the rump of United Future. That is his decision, those are his rules. Labour will campaign cleanly for the Labour party vote but our job is to change the government.

So what’s your decision on what your MPs call unprincipled sell outs, Internet-Mana?

I’m not here to defend Internet-Mana, what I am here to do is to change the government after we have campaigned for every single Labour party vote there is. That’s my answer, you can ask the question as long as you like. That’s my answer.

Even with unprincipled sell-outs?

That’s my answer Paddy.

Now does that mean that Laila Harre and Hone Harawira could be ministers in a Labour led government or will you rule that out?

No, it does not.

Will you rule that out?

I think that’s extremely unlikely.

Extremely unlikely they’ll be ministers?

Extremely unlikely.

Looking now at your leadership launch, I was there, you’ll remember.

You were.

You talked about becoming a true red Labour party. We asked about taxes going up, you said you bet.

That’s right.

But here we have you accepting Treasury’s 1.5-billion dollar spending cap. Also talking about tax cuts, where’s the red bit?

The red bit is a 5-billion dollar capital gains tax, the biggest single shift in Labour’s tax structure since Adam was a cowboy. It’s also a fact that we are closing determinably a whole bunch of avoidance loopholes that have allowed the top couple of percent of get away with blue murder with people’s budgets.

Picking up on blue murder, it looks like blue?

Not it’s not like blue at all. Not at all.

You’re talking about tax cuts?

I think it was your producer who said it looks like we have a well integrated comprehensive programme of change and Labour has finally joined the dots. And that’s a very kind thing for him to say and I agree with it Paddy.

Let’s turn now and talk policy, education, a policy out today you want every student from intermediate upward to have a tablet, to have an iPod?

Absolutely, from year 5 to 13 under a Labour led government, every student will have their own personal digital device, it will be subsidised for parents to get into and there’ll be a very low cost payment plan with a hardship fund for those larger families who perhaps couldn’t afford it.

So how will that payment plan work?

You get a hundred dollars up front from the government, you buy a very low cost device which we are able to purchase in bulk, you pay based on the Manaiakalani model which is working in Point England in Auckland at the moment, about $3.50 a week for which you get service, insurance and out of school access to the Internet.

So how many tablets are you talking?

Oh, we’re talking enough for every student in the country.

Do you know how many?

We’ve based it on an estimate of 70-percent of pupils taking this up.

So how many?

I’ll come back to you with the exact numbers. I’m not going to give you an exact number-

And how much is it going to cost?

It’ll cost 19-million dollars in the first year, 41-million of operating expense in the second year and then cruises down to about 30 million a year after that.

Because looking at this, this is universal isn’t it, iPads basically?

They’re not necessarily iPads. In Manaiakalani they’ve used chrome books or notebooks.

Every kid gets a tablet, son and daughter gets a tablet.

Not necessarily a tablet. You want the best learning device at the best cost.

Everybody gets a computer

Everybody gets a computer. Some kids will have their own.

So what’s the difference here with your donations policy which is going mainly at lower to mid decile schools, we’re already got the higher decile schools looking at work around, saying that they’re going to miss out. Why didn’t you go all the way with donations and make that universal?

The donations are universally available, that subsidy of a hundred dollars a student can be taken up by every school, it’s just that some decile 8-9-10’s typically take more in donations than the subsidy will allow. The subsidy’s pitched so that most schools will be better off and most parents won’t need to come up with donations. Now some schools may still try and ask for more, parents don’t have to pay that.

Yeah, but it’s not universal is it?

The ability to have the subsidy is universal Paddy, it’s just we recognise some schools will choose not to opt it up *and if we forced them to you’d be calling it nanny state.

So looking at National’s policy, the super teachers and super principals, I take it that’s out under Labour?

Wait and see.

Well are you going to pay teachers more or not?

We’re got a whole long weekend to go Paddy, I’m not going to tell you everything on the first day of the conference.

Yeah but it’s important isn’t it because we’ve got to look at a change here.

Today we made three key announcements. We made an announcement about devices per child, we’re sinking another 25-million dollars into technology training for teachers and a 15-year rebuild plan to make sure we have got 21st century leaning environments. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about some other issues, including what we’re going to be doing with the teachers.

In principle, do you like super teachers as an idea, good teachers getting paid more?

In principle I agree that having excellent teachers is really important but it’s not the only thing we have to do and you’ll find out more tomorrow.

In principle, do you agree with them being paid more though?

In principal I agree with great teachers and great schools. And you’ll find out more tomorrow.

Because will there be a choice here between having an iPad and no donations or having your good teachers paid more?

No, we can do both.

Will parents face a choice?

No, they won’t.

So they’ll have the option under Labour of having super teachers are well?

Um, you’ll see tomorrow how that pans out,

Yeah. And on that tomorrow are we going to hear more about what you’ll do with National Standards?

Ah you will see some strong statements about National Standards. You will see the whole shape of our education policy, more detail to come but you’ll have a very clear idea of where we’re heading. The principle here Paddy is that Labour is committed, absolutely fundamentally committed and I’m personally really committed to the idea that we need a strong public education system where cost is not barrier and every Kiwi kid, no matter where they come from, gets a first class education at their local school. So no, we don’t agree with charter schools, we don’t agree with league tables, we don’t agree with National Standards that are neither national nor standard. We are going to go back to some core values here and make sure that strong, low cost public education is available for every single Kiwi kid and its fit for the 21st century and that’s what today’s about.

David Cunliffe that’s a good place to leave it, thank you for your time.

Thanks very much.


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