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Q+A: Little’s Position on the TPP Wrong: Mike Moore

Little’s Position on the TPP Wrong: Mike Moore

Former Labour leader and ex-ambassador to the US, Mike Moore, says while he doesn’t want to criticise current Labour leader Andrew Little, but he disagrees with Mr Little’s opposition to the TPP agreement. He spoke to Q+A’s Jessica Mutch at his Auckland home on Friday, where he is still recovering from a serious stroke 18 months ago.
He agreed the current Labour opposition to the TPP was a political stance – one he disagreed with.
“Look, a lot of the disagreement I disagree with. I think it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t go far enough. Our dairy farmers are getting very little, nothing, so we can ask for more. So maybe we’re opposed to it because it doesn’t go far enough.”
He said globalisation and free trade were positives for New Zealand.
“What we’ve done in the last 30 years has been remarkable. We’ve produced more wealth in the last 40 years than the rest of civilisation put together. Look what’s happening in China — 400 or 500 million people out of extreme poverty. India the same. Europe the same.
And look at New Zealand. We’re going quite well, thank you. What are we going to do? Knit our own aeroplanes? We can’t do it, and we need to be involved in the global supply chain, and I think we’ve managed quite well. Thank God Labour was in in the ‘80s to fix this country so it could stand up.”



Q + A
Episode 34
MIKE MOORE
Interviewed by JESSICA MUTCH

GREG ‘Pity the old body gave up,’ the words of Mike Moore as he regretfully gave up his mission as New Zealand’s ambassador to the US at the end of last year. 18 months ago the former Labour prime minister and WTO director-general had a serious stroke, and that led to the end of his time in Washington and a long recovery back to health. But when Jessica Mutch interviewed him at his Auckland home on Friday, Mike Moore was adamant his long political career was far from over. He has at least a few books still in him, he said. Jessica began her interview by asking how he was doing.

MIKE I’m doing well. About a year ago I had a stroke in DC, and I can just move that hand just slightly. Now we’re okay, except I can’t move. I can’t walk as far as I used to between meetings and things. So I’ve had one stroke, and two more and you’re out.

JESSICA How are you getting your head around it? Is it a tough thing for someone in your position?

MIKE No. I think I’ve done okay. I was going to retire anyway from DC. It took six months off m. And I think I got what I wanted to do in DC through in the main, so I was at peace with that.

JESSICA Because one of the things that you did do in DC, obviously a big focus was the TPP.

MIKE Mm.

JESSICA You know that inside out. Is it dead in the water? Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump have both publicly said they’re not interested.

MIKE Yes. Well, Hillary is strong for trade. She’s spoken for trade. She likes trade. She understands. She’s not a fool. So it may have to be dressed a little differently and rewritten some of it, but I think in the main she understands how wealth is created. And the rest of the world thinks the TPP is a jack-up by the States, and the States thinks it’s a jack-up against them. So that’s how it is.

JESSICA Do you think it’ll just be TPP by another name? Do you think it was a political decision for her and she needs something to change so she can come out and support it?

MIKE I would think so. I would think so. But, you know, the world has gone against trade in a number of areas.

JESSICA Because, interestingly, Andrew Little has come out and said that it means the government loses its right to make laws and it won’t be the economic benefits that’s promised and there’ll be thousands of job losses. What’s your take on that?

MIKE I don’t want to say that I disagree with my leader, but it’s not the position.

JESSICA Do you think that he is perhaps taking a political stance on this as well? Perhaps similar to Hillary Clinton’s?

MIKE Yes, in a way like Hillary Clinton. They’ll want to tidy up one or two things. Look, a lot of the disagreement I disagree with. I think it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t go far enough. Our dairy farmers are getting very little, nothing, so we can ask for more. So maybe we’re opposed to it because it doesn’t go far enough.

JESSICA In terms of globalisation, that’s another thing that you’ve become a world leader on. You speak out on it often. Do you think in New Zealand with things like our selling off our forests and our water and our land, is that what you intended with globalisation?

MIKE Sovereign governments can do what they like over the land, electricity and that sort of thing or schools. That’s not to do with globalisation. That’s by-products. Some do, some don’t. I would not like to see a sell-off of some of our key assets, but a government may intend to do that.

JESSICA You call it a by-product, though. Is it something that we’ve perhaps lost control of, do you think, as a result of globalisation?

MIKE No, I don’t think we’ve lost control of it at all. I think we’ve got arrogant. We’re too busy doing the job, not busy explaining to people what comes of it, and therefore the public resent it.

JESSICA What do you mean by arrogant?

MIKE Well, when you’re a minister and you’re working on these sort of things, you work so hard, you travel so much, you’re doing so much work that you sometimes leave the people behind. And it happened to us. It happened to the Labour Government. It maybe happened to this one in this one area.

JESSICA Because some people say that globalisation is failing a lot of people. What do you say to that?

MIKE It is failing those people at the bottom, some of them, but wait a minute. Hang on, what we’ve done in the last 30 years has been remarkable. We’ve produced more wealth in the last 40 years than the rest of civilisation put together. Look what’s happening in China — 400 or 500 million people out of extreme poverty. India the same. Europe the same. And look at New Zealand. We’re going quite well, thank you. What are we going to do? Knit our own aeroplanes? We can’t do it, and we need to be involved in the global supply chain, and I think we’ve managed quite well. Thank God Labour was in in the ‘80s to fix this country so it could stand up.

JESSICA I want to talk to you about the US election as well. How well do you know Hillary Clinton, and do you think that the US is in safe hands with her?

MIKE I know Hillary Clinton quite well. She understands New Zealand. She went to the Rarotonga meeting. She is a friend of Murray McCully. I think she’s prepped and she’s ready to go. But our interests will not replace America’s interests, and they never will, and they shouldn’t.

JESSICA What’s she like? Was there any moment where you met her when something stuck with you or resonated with her?

MIKE No, she’s very professional, and she’s spot on in her arguments. But she knew who she was talking to.

JESSICA Yeah.

MIKE But therefore, it’s good, though, that she’s done her homework.

JESSICA Do you think America is in safe hands with her?

MIKE I think so, yeah.

JESSICA Why do you think people dislike her so much? Can you give us a bit of context, having been in America for so long?

MIKE I think she’s been in it so long that she’s robotic and you can predict what she’s going to say, and it’s always to the point and well briefed.

JESSICA And do you think that’s what grates with the US people, they see her as the establishment?

MIKE She is the establishment.

JESSICA You talk about her being robotic. Does she have charisma behind closed doors?

MIKE Oh yes, she is a very bright person. She’s on top of the subject, and what you’re saying, you’re criticising her because she knows what’s going on. And as for Trump, well, God help me.

JESSICA What do you think of Trump?

MIKE It’s not printable.

JESSICA Give us a little glimpse. Have you had much to do with him?

MIKE No, I have not. I have not sought it out.

JESSICA It’s not realistic that he’s going to be the president, is it?

MIKE I have too much faith in the American people to think that they could vote for him.

JESSICA But why is his anti-immigration and his—?

MIKE You have a look. Anti-immigration is quite a popular position to take. It’s taken in New Zealand by some and by American business. Some in New Zealand do the same. It’s a position globally that’s acceptable— well, not acceptable, but you can understand why it’s happening. But I think it’s worth 30% of the vote, 40% of the vote. I shudder to think we’ll have a world where these kind of primitives control it.

JESSICA He’s got something, though, doesn’t he?

MIKE Yeah, he abuses people.

JESSICA Do you think that’s what it is?

MIKE Yes. Well, it’s more than that. Those who are hurt and feel they can do better, and he speaks to them. And so America’s an interesting place. The poorest constituencies, electorates, white ones, the Republicans hold. The Republicans hold most of the states in America.

JESSICA You’ve been exposed to all these leaders. You’ve been prime minister yourself. You’ve seen up close the best prime ministers in New Zealand. What advice do you have for Andrew Little at the moment?
MIKE Oh, Andrew’s got to stick to his guns. He’s good, and he ought to look at changing the party rules.

JESSICA What do you mean by that?

MIKE Party leadership should be controlled by the caucus.

JESSICA And why do you think that’s so important?

MIKE Because you get 5000, 10,000 party members, and they’ll go in a bloc, but they aren’t the caucus. If every member of the Labour Party lived in my old electorate and voted for me, I would still lose the seat.

JESSICA Why as a former prime minister is it important to have the backing of the caucus?

MIKE Because you need to lead people and take them down roads they’ve not travelled before. It’s a very lonely job, and the roads we haven’t travelled in the next few years are going to be important to us. The jobs we’re going to have in the future are not like the jobs we have now. And you’ve got to talk your people through it. If you can’t do that by working the base and working it out, you’ll become a conservative party.

JESSICA You talked about Andrew Little before as ‘my leader’. Has he sought advice from you?

MIKE Before he became leader and we’ve talked on the phone, I think, yes. And I have no problem with Andrew. I wish him well.

JESSICA Is he resonating, though?

MIKE I don’t know.

JESSICA Our latest polls say he’s not. He’s 26% at the moment for the Labour Party.

MIKE It’s very seldom you get a leader of the Opposition who wins. I won for three years, except for one month, I won those polls, John Key won them. But we’re the last of only two. You can’t expect— And Norman Kirk didn’t win the polls, but once he was in, bang.

JESSICA He has to do a bit better than 26%, do you think? How does he get out there and resonate with the public? Is it the message? Is it the person delivering the message?

MIKE I think he needs to think carefully about what he believes in and go for it.

JESSICA What do you mean by that?

MIKE Well, what do you believe? We’re driven too much by opinion polls. You’ve raised this. Just do what’s right, and the opinion polls will come the other way. And opinion polls should be a mechanism to judge policy to see how it floats, but it shouldn’t decide policy. You can’t do it. When your banking system’s collapsing, are you going to run an opinion poll? Well, after the decision to see whether it’ll float or not, but not really.

JESSICA Do you still feel any bitterness or resent for how you were treated in Labour? Labour’s hard to its leaders.

MIKE I do feel a little resentful. I got the biggest swing to Labour except for 1935. I think it was 29 seats. To walk into the room and to be attacked for that, I think they should have at least stopped and said thank you. But, anyway, that’s politics. It’s tough, and that’s the way it is.

JESSICA In hindsight, though, do you feel like you would’ve done anything differently at that time?

MIKE Well, I’d have done a lot differently.

JESSICA Can you think of anything?

MIKE We had no money. We didn’t do opinion polls in the last month of the election campaign.

JESSICA Really?

MIKE Don’t tell anyone that. We’ll seem like amateur hour. But that’s how we operated, and a lot of work inside the Parliament. There’s never been a National Party defeated in three years. It’s a hell of a job. And a lot of the members of Parliament were just tired. They couldn’t get up in the morning, couldn’t do the hard work any more.

JESSICA How annoying was that, though, as prime minister?

MIKE Well, it was annoying, and I went over the top of them and they came right.

JESSICA But did you feel like getting out a cattle prod with some of them?

MIKE Well, actually, I think I might have. Yeah, there were those who were just too tired.

JESSICA What about for you going into the future? What are you thinking short-term at the moment?

MIKE I’ll get myself walking again. I’ve got some writing to do. I’ve still got a couple of books in me. Maybe this one will be read.

JESSICA Because you’re still in hot demand. That’s the thing.

MIKE Well, that’s nice to say. But I’m in hot demand because I’m not saying anything. I believe in the Labour Party. I believe in the principles of the party, the leadership, and I wish them well.

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