Political coverage upheaval at 1 News

Political journalists at 1 News are deserting faster than National MPs after a change of leadership.

NZH: TVNZ reporter quits as new leader steps in

1 NEWS reporter Jessica Mutch has been in her role as TVNZ political editor for just over a month and it seems her Wellington colleagues, Katie Bradford and Andrea Vance are a little miffed they did not get the job.

Vance has quit the national broadcaster while Bradford has asked for reassignment to Auckland after they both missed out.

TVNZ, Mutch, Bradford and Vance did not want to comment but a spokeswoman for TVNZ confirmed the newsroom had been told of Vance’s and Bradford’s moves.

Vance, from Northern Ireland, has been with 1 NEWS since 2015.

Bradford, daughter of former Green MP Sue Bradford, has been with 1 NEWS since 2013 and Spy understands she made no secret of her desire to return to Auckland if she didn’t land the political editor role.

Mutch, 33, was based in the press gallery for eight years, and was TVNZ’s deputy political editor before moving to London as Europe correspondent.

So it’s not just political parties who have power struggles and departing unsuccessful candidates.

Dann leaving, and now followed by Vance and Bradford leaving, forces major changes to 1 News political coverage.

Dann announced a move to a full time role at Q&A in January.

Vance has been reported to be going back to Stuff. Her Twitter profile:”Northern Irish journalist. Can’t stop moving.” I don’t know if that has been recently revised.

 

Are lazy journalists drug addled?

There seems to be a divide between what Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and Prime Minister John Key have said about New Zealand workers, and what media and critics are saying. This was highlighted on Q & A yesterday.

What Michael Woodhouse said a week earlier on Q & A.

I think what you’ve done is presuppose that money is the only barrier to people moving to work. Now, what we know and what we’ve said and listened to employers about is that that is one of many barriers.

Geography is definitely one. Skills, attitude, recreational drug and alcohol all prevents some of our young New Zealanders from gaining work.

Woodhouse has cited five reasons preventing “some of our young New Zealanders from gaining work“.

Key has since been heavily criticised for I have had a listen to the RNZ item and Guyon Espiner introduced it with:

The Prime Minister admits high immigration is putting strains on the country’s infrastructure but John Key says the Government will continue to bring in a large number to fill in jobs. He says this partly because many employers can’t get New Zealanders to do the work due to problems with drugs or work ethic, or that they can’t move to where the jobs are.

After some discussion Key said:

“We bring in people to pick fruit under the RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme, and they come from the islands, and they do a fabulous job. And the government has been saying ‘well, OK, there are some unemployed people who live in the Hawke’s Bay, and so why can’t we get them to pick fruit’, and we have been trialling a domestic RSE scheme.

“But go and ask the employers, and they will say some of these people won’t pass a drug test, some of these people won’t turn up for work, some of these people will claim they have health issues later on. So it’s not to say there aren’t great people who transition from Work and Income to work, they do, but it’s equally true that they’re also living in the wrong place, or they just can’t muster what is required to actually work.”

Espiner responded:

Isn’t that a major failing for New Zealand, if what you are saying is right, that these people are too drug addled, or frankly, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but basically too lazy is what you’re saying, they can’t get their act together.

Key:

Well what I’m saying to you is that, just go and ask an employer because I ask employers all the time, and we transition lots of people off Work and Income into work, but when you ask the question about why is there this group versus this demand, even in some reasonably low skilled jobs, it’s often they’re not in the right location, so they’re living in Northland and we need the work somewhere else, and that’s genuine, you can understand that, or they don’t have the skills, or there are these other wider issues, they’ll turn up for a while and then they won’t last there.

Key said that “lot’s of people” transition to work, and he cited location, skills and “these other wider issues”.

“Drug addled” and “too lazy” where Espiner’s words, not Key’s.

Jessica Mutch introduced yesterday’s coverage of Are some young NZers too lazy to do the work migrants will do? saying that what Woodhouse had said “sparked some debate” and that Woodhouse had made some “interesting remarks”. Woodhouse was quoted.

Mutch then said:

Prime Minister John Key followed up the next day saying the Government had to bring in migrants to fill the jobs because many young New Zealanders had a poor work ethic or a drug problem.

I haven’t seen any evidence of Key saying it like that.

Q & A then showed some street interviews in Wellington and showed a variety of responses, including:

Interviewer: We hear people saying that people, especially young people, don’t have a good work ethic, too lazy to work, drug problems…

Young person 1: Oh I’d love a job.

Young person 2: Some people don’t want to hire us because we’ve got criminal convictions.

Young person 1: I’ve got no one to watch my dog, that’s why I don’t, I’ve got no job.

Then three people were interviewed.

  • Hew Dalrymple, farmer and vice chairman of Federated Farmers Maize and Forage
  • Tony Stevens, one of three co-conveners of Stand-up, the young wing of the CTU
  • Calvin Fisher from the Amalgamated Workers Union

Dalrymple:

My experience has been, especially through the squash industry and harvesting squash, the comparison between the different crews that work behind the harvesting machines is dramatically different.

And probably, I’ll be honest, the biggest problem with the, what I’d describe as perhaps the people that don’t want to come to work is the lack of attendance. So the foreign work crews will be probably fifty and up to a hundred percent more productive. They earn very good money.

And that money is equally available to anybody that’s doing this manual labour.

He says that the best earn over $1000 in the hand per week, and $800-1000 in the hand is common.

The local crews you might end up with ten behind the squash harvester one day, five the next day. We can’t  operate our businesses like that.

Mutch:

Basically what you’re saying is that Kiwi pickers just aren’t reliable, they don’t turn up and they’re not as respectful.

Dalrymple:

No, some are, so I generalised with that, of course there’s exceptions to the rule, but unfortunately the system that’s in place at the moment is putting people out in that type of work that don’t want to be there in my opinion.

That sounds like an issue that deserves examination but it was not on the Q & A agenda.

Mutch switched to Fisher…

Calvin I want to bring you in on this as well, you’ve put Kiwi workers to some of these farmers, what’s been your experience? What have many of the farmers you’ve spoken to prefer, do they prefer the foreign workers or are they happy to employ New Zealanders.

Fisher: Well it really is a mixed bag…

…and he went on the say that the nature of agricultural work had changed markedly with bigger gangs now required.

Then Mutch switched to Stevens with the issue she was determined to pursue:

Tony I’ll bring you in on this, the Government coming out this week  saying Kiwis are drugged up and too lazy to work…

No, that is what media has said, not the Government.

…what’s you’re experience, what’s your reaction to those comments?

Stevens: Hugely concerned by those comments. You’ve got to think about how we as young people and young workers are receiving that message from out highest office.

Actually it’s a message from media who appear to be misrepresenting what the Government has said.

This is our Prime Minister and Employment Minister basically describing entire generations as being hopeless and on drugs.

That overstates and generalises even more than media.

You know it’s already hard enough to try and enter the labour market as a young worker without having these you know these negative almost ingrained stereotypes so we go in to a job interview and employers already have this perception of us. It makes it very difficult.

I largely think it’s untrue, there are pockets of young workers that may be like that, but um I think that to really make blanket statements about entire generations really doesn’t give us a lot of hope in our Government.

There are plenty of valid criticisms and complaints that can be levelled at the Government.

But I have major concerns if someone representing young workers misrepresents what was actually said so much.

Fisher came in:

I want to pick up on Tony’s comments, I think the generalisation from the Minister was just disgraceful.

Back to Stevens:

Mutch: Tony at the end of the day they have to turn up for work consistently, they have to be drug free, for these examples here are they creating a bad impression for everyone else?

Stevens: Um, yeah, possibly, um but I think it’s still again an over generalisation of an entire workforce.

Stevens then went on to generalise about exploitation of immigrant workers.

Unless I’m missing something said by Woodhouse or Key or the Government it appears to me that some journalists have cherry picked and embellished comments made and have created a week long story out of it.

This has been carried on by Q & A, and interpretations claims made by Stevens in particular have been repeated and not questioned.

This is poor from the media and poor representation of young workers by Stevens if he misrepresents what has been said by Government ministers so much.

I don’t think journalists like Espiner and Mutch are lazy or drug addled, but they appear to me to be misrepresenting what politicians have said, seemingly determined to make stories that are inaccurate and unjustified.

There are important issues around work ethics, immigrant workers, exploitation of workers and unemployment. These have been poorly served by this coverage.

Q & A:

 

Little reiterates bank strong arm approach

Andrew Little was interviewed on Q&A this morning. He is unlikely to make any breakthrough with winning support from his performance. One thing he seems to have become adept at is avoiding answering awkward questions.

One thing he made clear was his comments about stiff arming banks wasn’t a one -off slip. He reiterated his stance, and went further: “I stand by the stance I took, which is to get very heavy-handed with the banks.”

And: “If the banks don’t want to play ball when it comes to the way we run our monetary policy, actually, there’s only one outfit that can really take them on, and that’s the government.”

Jessica Mutch: You talk about ups and downs, has the last few weeks been an up or a down for you do you think?

Andrew Little: Oh, it’s been up and down, and I think you know you raised the issue about stiff arming the banks.

Actually I  got a huge amount of feed back from that, people saying ‘at last someone’s prepared to stand up to the overseas banks, who frankly have been, you know, flipping the bird to our Reserve Bank.

When the Reserve Bank does the orthodox thing and says ok, economy’s slowing,  we need to tick down interest rates so it’s cheaper to borrow, put a bit more money in people’s pockets, and what do our overseas trading banks do? They say ‘ah-ah, not us, we’re not going to do that’.

I’m not aware of any banks saying anything like that. In fact it looks to me that all the banks have reduced their fixed rates since I looked at them at the end of January.

Andrew Little: That’s not acceptable. It’s actually not orthodox, but it’s also not acceptable.

And what a Government doing it’s job has to do, when faced with that, is stand up to them and say no no, ah we’ve got an economy here that we’ve got to sort out, we’re all in this together, and we need you to be doing your bit.

Ah the Government refused to do that, because frankly they are scared of multinational corporates.

I think that Governments since the Muldoon led one in the seventies and eighties have refused to ‘do that’. They seem to be scared that a repeat of a Government dictated economy might lead to the country nearly going broke again.

And there may be more than a few voters a bit scared about what may happen if an Andrew Little led Government started standing up to banks and other multinational companies and stiff arming them. They may turn around and give New Zealand the finger.

And there’s more later on in the interview.

Jessica Mutch: Because another big idea that you did raise was threatening to legislate against the banks, trying to get that record low OCR of 2.5% passed on to consumers. Do you still stand by that?

Voxy has transcript from there:

ANDREW ‘I stand by the stance I took, which is to get very heavy-handed with the banks. Because the truth is when the banks fail to follow the signal that the Reserve Bank is sending, that’s keeping money out of the back pockets of ordinary Kiwis, and I will always fight for their interests and for their rights. If the banks don’t want to play ball when it comes to the way we run our monetary policy, actually, there’s only one outfit that can really take them on, and that’s the government.’

But Mr Little wouldn’t be drawn on whether his position was pre-planned policy.

JESSICA Threatening to legislate, though, is that something that you’d been planning on speaking out for a long time? Is that something that you guys had had discussions on?

ANDREW No, it was about sending a signal–

JESSICA So you hadn’t formulated this policy?

ANDREW It’s about sending a signal that when one of our most important measures we have – one of the very few measures that the government or a government agency has to assist the economy as it’s slowing down, get a bit of impetus going – and the overseas-owned trading banks just cock a snook at it, you actually do have to respond. The government should’ve responded.

JESSICA But my question is – is this a policy you had been looking at for a long time?

ANDREW The approach that I will take and in fact was signalling in that statement is that we’re not going to accept it if the trading banks want to come here, not follow the signals that the Reserve Bank is sending. Because that starts to undo one of the fundamental basis of our economic system. We want to run monetary policy. That’s what we give the Reserve Bank the job to do. If the trading banks don’t want to play ball, then you’ve got to get heavy-handed with them.

JESSICA Not answering the question makes me feel like it isn’t something you’ve been looking at for a long time. Were you caught out on this policy a little bit?

ANDREW I think what some people might be having difficulty coming to grips with is that I believe that a government is there to govern, that when the interests of ordinary New Zealanders are put at risk because, in this case, a bunch of corporates decided they just don’t care about it and they want to maximise their profit, actually, the role of government is to govern and make sure things are happening in the best interest of New Zealanders. And I don’t shrink from that at all, and somebody’s got to be the voice for that, and I’m happy to be it.

Source for the last transcript: Little ‘stands by his threats to stiff-arm the banks’

Dunne to contest the next election?

Peter Dunne may have hinted that he intends contesting the election next year. When asked how long he will stay in politics he said “that decision’s ultimately not made by me but by my voters in Ohariu in the first instance, and that’s a decision that they will have the opportunity to refresh or reject next year”.

On United Future he said “we represent the flickering flame of liberal democracy in New Zealand”

And admitted “That does wax and wane from time to time”.

This was in an interview on Q+A this morning when Jessica Mutch asked Dunne about the future of UnitedFuture.

JESSICA Let’s talk about the future of United Future. How long will you stay in politics?

PETER I have no idea, because that decision’s ultimately not made by me but by my voters in Ohariu in the first instance, and that’s a decision that they will have the opportunity to refresh or reject next year.

JESSICA Your popularity in Ohariu has been going down. You got 1400 in the last election. Do you need to have a cup of tea with the prime minister?

PETER Well, my majority actually went up at the last election.

JESSICA 1400 isn’t a huge majority, though.

PETER No, it’s not, but it’s better than it was. And I’ve been there for nearly 30 years. I don’t need cups of tea with people. I think they know me pretty well and they can make a judgement.

JESSICA I mean a cup of tea with the prime minister.

PETER Yes, I know what you mean. I didn’t have one with the prime minister.

JESSICA Will you have one, or will you want one this time?

PETER Actually, I have a cup of tea with the prime minister quite frequently. It’s just that the public doesn’t see it. (LAUGHS)

JESSICA When you say ‘cup of tea’, will you ask for one with the prime minister this election?

PETER I’m not going into that at this stage because the election’s nearly 18 months away. What the lie of the political land is at that time is far too soon to speculate upon. What I will say is this – that United Future has been around for a long time. We represent the flickering flame of liberal democracy in New Zealand. That does wax and wane from time to time. There will always be people who will coalesce, if you like, around that point of view, and we’re here to represent those points of view.

JESSICA That’s a nice place to leave it. Thank you very much for your time this morning, Peter Dunne.

Video: Peter Dunne on the balance of power (9:48)

Peter Dunne on the power of his vote

Peter Dunne was interviewed on Q+A this morning. He was asked about “how much power a one-man party has in parliament.”

JESSICA You do hold a lot of power. You’re a one-man party. We’ve seen since 2008 that you’ve actually held the crucial vote on 20 pieces of legislation. Is it right that one person, yourself, has so much power?

PETER Well, firstly, I didn’t put myself in that position. The electorate dealt the cards at the election.

JESSICA But how do you deal with that?

PETER And the second point is how I deal with it. I don’t just wake up each morning and decide what capricious thing am I going to do today. I’ve got a quite developed matrix of how we deal with things. Firstly, is the issue under debate covered by the confidence and supply agreement that United Future has with National? If it is, as was the case with the mixed ownership model, for instance, then the outcome is very clear.

JESSICA Let’s touch on that for a moment – the asset sales legislation. You obviously hold the power to get that through for National. Does that give you a lot of extra power and bargaining power back?

PETER In some senses it does, on unrelated issues. But that was a very clear case. Our election policy said we oppose-

JESSICA Like what? What kind of trade-off-?

PETER I don’t want to go into specific detail, because that actually destroys the advantage that you’ve got. But come back to that one. Our election policy said that we were, in principal, opposed to asset sales except if the government nominated the energy companies and Air New Zealand, we would agree to that provided the public shareholding was to be no greater than 49% and there was a cap on individual shareholding. That was included on our negotiations and put into the agreement. And the government at that point didn’t want to statutorily specify those limits-

JESSICA So you got some influence over that.

PETER And so it became a no-brainer to vote for it when the legislation arrived.

JESSICA Another one-

PETER So that’s the first point. The second point – because I haven’t finished what I was saying before – if it’s not covered by the Confidence and Supply agreement, is it something that was covered by United Future’s election policy? And if it was, clearly you vote for in accordance with that. That’s why I’m backing Paid Parental Leave, for instance. The third one is neither of the above, and then it just comes down to, basically, the circumstances of the time and what seems like the right thing to do.

JESSICA And one of those things will be about SkyCity. The government will need you if it needs to work out some kind of a deal with SkyCity. Have you worked out any kind of pay-off for that?

PETER My view on that is quite simple. I think Auckland needs a world-class convention centre. In my role both as Associate Minister of Health and previously, I’ve been working over the last 10 years with the structure of-

JESSICA But will you get anything back?

PETER Hang on, hang on. And the important point about the SkyCity one, from my perspective, is if you can achieve the convention centre without a blowout in the number of gambling machines and an increase in the numbers of those, then that’s the best deal. But I’ve not seen any deal at this stage. It’s premature to talk about that. If there’s a trade-off then it may well be something that occurs at the time, but if you’re saying to me do I say ‘I support this in return for your doing that’, it’s not that crude.

JESSICA So you haven’t worked out any kind of agreement with-

PETER Well, it doesn’t work- I haven’t seen the details, so there is no agreement at this point, other than I’ve indicated the general view that I’ve just expressed to you. But it doesn’t work in the way of saying, ‘you give me this and I’ll give you that’. It works in the way of saying, ‘OK, I’ll give you this thing. Now, when there are things that arise that I might want, I suppose you could say there’s money in the bank’.

Video: Peter Dunne on the balance of power (9:48)

Peter Dunne on IRD computer upgrade

Peter Dunne was interviewed on Q+A this morning. He was asked about the proposed IRD computer upgrade.

JESSICA MUTCH

Peter Dunne, thank you for your time this morning. I’d like to start off by talking about IRD and the upgrade to software. $1.5 billion seems like a huge amount of money. Why is it so expensive over 10 years?

PETER DUNNE, United Future leader

And that is simply a ballpark estimate. This is a series of essentially specific projects as you take various elements of the tax system.

JESSICA But why is it so expensive?

PETER The point is until we start the detailed work on each particular project, that figure is really only a ballpark estimate. I suspect it will differ and some projects will be a little bit less expensive; others may turn out to be a wee bit more. But what we are doing is fundamentally-

JESSICA Just to clarify, though, are you saying it could be more than $1.5 billion?

PETER No, I’m not saying that. I’m just simply saying that is a ballpark estimate at this stage. But what we are doing is changing the whole way in which we run our tax system. Without being too technical about it, when we set up the current system about 20 years ago, Inland Revenue simply collected tax. Since then, you’ve added Child Support, Working for Families, KiwiSaver, Paid Parental Leave – a whole range of other initiatives that have come on which have complicated the system. We need to have a technology that is now fit for purpose. And that’s the basis of this change, and we’ll be working our way through that over the next few years.

JESSICA Experts like Rod Drury have come out and said this is an obscene amount of money and it could have been done for cheaper. Is that true?

PETER Well, we’re working closely with Rod Drury. I’ve talked with him on occasions. I know he meets with the commissioner of the department regularly. I think some of the points he made are very timely reminders and warnings, and we’re certainly happy to work alongside him and others in the industry in New Zealand to make sure we get the best outcome. I mean, government technology projects don’t have a very good reputation, and there have been a lot of examples just of late – let’s take Novopay as a classic – which we’ve gotta learn from, and I’m determined that we will not repeat the errors. That means we will take our time, we will consult widely with the affected parties and the interests and make sure we get it right before we move from one stage to the next.

JESSICA Because Novopay, it’s cost $11 million already. I mean, do we run the risk of this blowing out with an even bigger budget?

PETER Well, I think they’re the fears. There are also fears about the governance and the supervision that clearly Novopay has drawn attention to. I’m determined, working with a group of ministers, that we’re going to work through this systematically. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We know we have a big transformation project ahead of us, but it’s important to get each step of that right and only to go live when it is right.

JESSICA Let’s go back to that cost, though. An insider told the NBR last week that if this had been done five years ago it would have been in the ballpark of about $600,000.

PETER I find that comment a rather strange one. I don’t know who the person was. I don’t recall them having had any involvement in the discussions. I think this is someone inventing facts after the event.

JESSICA So if it was done earlier would it have been cheaper?

PETER Look, what happened originally, and this goes back to the time of the Labour government, we started out then to try and do a specific, off-the-shelf rebuild, starting – from memory – with the Student Loan project. In the event that proved impossible to do, so we’ve had to come back and start afresh. Inevitably in that process some costs accumulate that would not have been there had the original objective been able to be achieved. It wasn’t able to be achieved for one simple reason – none of the retailers, the product retailers, said they could produce a product that had the capacity to meet what we required, and that’s the essential problem here.

JESSICA Let’s have a look at Australia, though. They did a similar upgrade and theirs was $800 million. I mean, we’ve nearly doubled that. Why is it so expensive?

PETER Yeah, and their outcome was disastrous, because they got the political stitch halfway through-

JESSICA So will you learn from that?

PETER So what they ended up doing was they’ve effectively got two parallel systems. That is a disaster. What we’ve got to commit to is this – if we start this programme, we’ve got to commit, even though it’s long-term, to seeing it through, and that is where both the tension and the potential cost arises. But I’m determined that we start with designated projects, we get those right, we then move on to the next one, and so on and so forth until we’ve completed the complete transformation.

JESSICA How did you manage to convince the government that this was the best place to spend this kind of money at the moment?

PETER Well, very simply. We have a system, as I said before, which dates back to 1991 when the job of Inland Revenue was a far more specific one. We’ve added on a series of responsibilities over the years that only, in a way, Inland Revenue has a capacity to deal with. The problem we have at the moment is our system works perfectly well today but that the capacity to make policy changes of a significant nature or to add any new social programs to it is zero, so we’re essentially in a time warp. We either upgrade or we end up saying that the tax system stays as it is forever and a day.

JESSICA What sort of policy changes are you talking about?

PETER Oh, major changes. For instance, if we were to invent KiwiSaver today, we probably would not be able to implement it within the current system framework. Now, I think that that is actually quite perverse – the government being told by a systems constraint what it can and cannot do, not able to implement its policy objectives, whatever they might be. So it’s important we have change; the question is how you manage a significant change of this nature in a way that’s going to deliver the positive outcome you seek at the end and learn from the lessons that have been mounting up over the years about how not to do these things.

Video: Peter Dunne on the balance of power (9:48)

Winston Peters talks Q+A sense on the Speaker

Jessica Mutch interviewed Winston Peters on Q + A this morning about the problems in Question Time with the Speaker David Carter and and opposition frustration at claimed unfaori and unbalanced rulings.

Peters gave a reasoned and reasonable response, with a fair evaluation of Carter’s performance to date. He ruled him 3.5 out of 10 so far. He said “it’s only two months. He’s got a long way to go. We do hope that he does get up to it, yes”.

You know, you’ve got to have a Speaker that works, because Parliament has got to work in the end run. And for Parliament to work, we’ve all got to make compromises, but you shouldn’t have to make too big a compromise.

It’s not a game. The fact is that you’re there to ask questions that the public wants the answers to, and it’s in the ambit of responsibility of these ministers and their capacity and their knowledge to answer them properly.

The Prime Minister and his Ministers need to do more to meet their responsibilities to the Opposition and the public.

And Labour need to enable this by being less confrontational and less obsessed with petty point scoring – they could learn from Peters (and the Greens) in their approach to question time. They should be holding the Government and it’s ministers to account, not trying to win an election every week the House sits.

Carter should be able to manage the House in his own style but needs to do more to be seen to be fair – but the parties and MPs need to give him more of a fair go as well.

Full transcript and video:

JESSICA Look, being a referee or an umpire’s never easy, and you’ve got to have the knack. And some people have got it, some don’t, and some can by a lot of hard work and a bit of humility learn it. And he’s got a long, long way to go. Out of ten, what score would you give him?

WINSTON Well, he’s about three and a half at the moment, and I would think that even he would regard that as a pretty good score, but he’s got a long way to go. And if he doesn’t work out, I think we’ll have to look seriously at an independent or some other MP doing the job, because this sort of thing cannot go on. And there’s a lot of justification for the angst and upset of a number of members of Parliament. It’s not political. It’s just not right to have an unfair environment, either unknowingly or consciously.

JESSICA You talked about having someone independent. Do you think we’ve got to that point now?

WINSTON I think we were at the point a long, long time ago, but, of course, all the parties use it as a promotion link or as an equivalent to a Cabinet post, and it comes with a knighthood now, as you know. And so this is a huge inducement for people to do what they would ordinarily not do.

JESSICA Because we’ve seen in the House this week – we’ve seen almost a bit of a tag team with Trevor Mallard, Chris Hipkins, Russel Norman and yourself. Is this a game?

WINSTON No, it’s not a game. The fact is that you’re there to ask questions that the public wants the answers to, and it’s in the ambit of responsibility of these ministers and their capacity and their knowledge to answer them properly. And frankly, I’ve seen some ministers in the past you could never nail because they got up and briefly told the truth. And it’s still the smartest policy.

JESSICA So do you think this is a principle of Parliament that basically we have to have a Speaker who works to make the whole place work?

WINSTON Well, the most unusual people have been good Speakers. The best I ever saw was a guy called Burke – Kerry Burke. People are the-

JESSICA Why was he good?

WINSTON Well, we never thought he would be, and within a week, it was obvious he was going to be because you could tell from his demeanour that you had gone too far and that you weren’t being fair. He never kicked anyone out, and he got amazing cooperation out of the most unlikely people. So I think he was very, very good, and we did not think at the start he would be. Now, he was across the divide. He was a different party’s Speaker, so it’s not so much the party, it’s whether the person understands – you’re Parliament’s man or woman, you’ve got to be independent, you’ve got to be professional, and above all, you’ve got to be fair.

JESSICA In terms of fairness, do you think that David Carter is still very much leaning in favour of National?

WINSTON He hasn’t got past his political colours. He hasn’t dropped the National Party background, and he’s got to do that to be successful. That’s what it actually means in there. If you talk about the romance and majesty of the job, it’s to be Parliament’s person above all else, fearing no party or baggage or obligation. He’s got a long way to go to get there.

JESSICA Because some people would say you’ve been kicked out of Parliament, according to the Parliamentary Library, 38 times. Are you the best judge of what makes a good Speaker?

WINSTON Yeah, I am.

JESSICA Why is that?

WINSTON Because I’ve been treated more unfairly than most.

JESSICA So do you think-?

WINSTON I didn’t come here to make friends, and I didn’t come here to be put down or shut down. And if I was in a court of law, I’d get the answer, and I’m entitled to the answer here too.

JESSICA Do you respect the job that he’s doing?

WINSTON To be fair-

JESSICA Because that’s a point-

WINSTON he didn’t want the job.

JESSICA No.

WINSTON But the National Party wanted an extra Cabinet post member to be made available. That’s why Williamson outside of Cabinet didn’t get the job.

JESSICA And he’s only been in the job for two months, so don’t you need to give him a bit of leeway?

WINSTON Well, he’s been in Parliament long enough, hasn’t he?

JESSICA Yeah, but doing that-

WINSTON He’s been here since 1994. That is almost 20 years. If you haven’t learnt something in 20 years, maybe you should have gone.

JESSICA Do you think, though, that he does need to be given a little bit of leeway – give him a break, so to speak?

WINSTON Yeah, I think that’s fair.

JESSICA Are you doing that, though?

WINSTON Well, he’s had more than enough breaks so far.

JESSICA Because it seems like you’re giving him a pretty hard time. And watching from the debating chamber, it looks like you’re rarking him up a bit.

WINSTON Well, there’s no use saying, ‘Look, we’ll let the speaker do what he likes and try and learn,’ whilst you lose the game every day trying to get at the truth. Because this is a game or business that’s a raging battle for political plow. And if you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand Parliament. And people are expecting you to put your best foot- and give your best foot forward and give it your best shot. And you cannot have something that is hindering you from doing that.

JESSICA You sued the Speaker a number of years ago for defamation. Some people would say this is personal for you.

WINSTON No, it’s not because of that. You know, you’ve got to have a Speaker that works, because Parliament has got to work in the end run. And for Parliament to work, we’ve all got to make compromises, but you shouldn’t have to make too big a compromise.

JESSICA Does that personal clash, though, make it more difficult for you?

WINSTON It’s not a personal matter between him and me at all, but, you know, he came to me before he got the job and said, ‘We need to talk.’ And my answer was, ‘Well, look, if nobody bothered to consult us about you being chosen in the first place, what would our conversation be about?’

JESSICA So he can stay in the job, in your opinion?

WINSTON Well, he can stay in the job whilst he shows that he’s up to doing the job.

JESSICA And is he?

WINSTON And that should be the condition anyone stays in their job.

JESSICA Is he up to it?

WINSTON Well, as you say, it’s only two months. He’s got a long way to go. We do hope that he does get up to it, yes.