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Q+A: Colin Craig interview

Published: 2:08PM Sunday October 27, 2013 Source: Q and A

MICHAEL PARKIN Colin Craig, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

COLIN CRAIG - Morning, Mike.

MICHAEL How are you a different leader from the one we saw in the 2011 campaign?

COLIN Well, look, I don't think I'm a different leader. I think what we've done, though, as a party is we've grown an awful lot stronger. And I think that means that we will be a contender - a very good contender - next election, and we're going to get a good result. And that will probably involve us then in the subsequent negotiations.

MICHAEL But you used to be someone who seemed to court controversy. Of course, you came out at one point saying young New Zealanders were the most promiscuous in the world. Have you learnt that not all publicity is good publicity?

COLIN Well, look, I always say it how it is, and in that case, I was quoting a scientific study - 100 cooperating scientists and psychologists, um, that study out of Bradley University. And I haven't changed that at all, so if something else controversial comes up, I think New Zealanders can be confident that I'll continue just to say it how I see it.

MICHAEL Speaking of controversial issues, I guess gay marriage, gay adoption, euthanasia - these are all things you continue to oppose. So, at its core, is the Conservative Party a Christian party?

COLIN No, but we are a conservative party, and, I mean, I'm a social conservative. We haven't actually taken a formal position on euthanasia, although we wouldn't have backed the legislation as it was proposed. We saw some issues with that. I'm quite happy that it's been withdrawn. But certainly on the redefinition of marriage, uh, we took the socially conservative position and said, 'No, we don't think New Zealanders want to change this', and it should be a decision that the NZ public had made.

MICHAEL But are you appealing to religious conservatives primarily?

COLIN No, not primarily, although I expect that they will find the social conservative nature of our party quite comforting. We're fiscal conservatives. A lot of our support comes from the business community. At our conference this year, it was really interesting. Over half the attendees were small business owners. So I think we know where our constituency lies. I think also we sit well with older New Zealanders who feel that the type of NZ we talk about, especially tougher on law and order, for example, is one that they would like to see.

MICHAEL In our latest Colmar Brunton Polls, you're kind of hovering around 1 per cent to 2 per cent. Why do you think you'll be able to reach that 5 per cent threshold?

COLIN Well, look, I think- We have our own polling, and as does National. I was quite interested to hear that their results are similar to ours.

MICHAEL What are your results?

COLIN In Auckland, we have ourselves about 4, a little bit over. So, I think National said they had theirs at 4.5, so there's not a lot of discrepancy there. They had NZ First lower than us, which was really nice to hear, and I hope they're right. But, look, we know that small parties always rise during election campaigns. We've continued to sit almost consistently in fifth-highest place. We do want to be fourth. I've made it very public that that's our goal, and we expect to pass Winston Peters in the next election.

MICHAEL You mentioned Auckland there. You'll be running in this new Auckland seat?

COLIN Look, we haven't made any final decisions. We don't know where that seat will be yet. If it is in north Auckland where I live, I have to say that it's pretty likely that I would be.

MICHAEL Do you think you could win it?

COLIN Yeah. If it's in Upper Harbour, I do. I mean, we've recently stood candidates in the local elections up there. They both got elected to the board. It's a very strong area for us.

MICHAEL Does it matter if you win a seat? Do you think it's important? Do you think you derive credibility from it?

COLIN I think it helps. We're taking a two-pronged approach, not all eggs in one basket. We are aiming to get more than 5 per cent. We got nearly 3 per cent last time with a seven and a half week campaign, and we believe we can do an awful lot better. Certainly, there are now people who have heard about us, joined us, supporting us, that weren't there last time. I mean, our members and supporters has increased from 1000 to well over 5000. So just bodies on the ground for the next campaign will make us a lot more credible and a lot stronger.

MICHAEL You've talked about this battle with NZ and Winston Peters for older voters. What are you offering that's different from NZ First?

COLIN You know, I think the biggest thing that's making a difference is style. Winston Peters has lost a lot of credibility along the way. I think a lot of New Zealanders remember the big 'no' sign when he lied to the public about donations.

MICHAEL But he came back.

COLIN He did. It cost him a place in Parliament only for one term, and so it should have. But it does make a difference long term, and I think it's a style. We're a very functional, united, clear party of where we're going. I'm not sure you could say that about NZ First all the time.

MICHAEL What are the similarities between the two parties, though, obviously, if you think you can draw some of their voters over?

COLIN Look, there are a lot of similarities in policy. So, for example, they would say they're all for binding citizens-initiated referendums as well. They'd say they're tough on law and order. So those are areas where we've got very much similar policies. But I think we're a little bit more pro-business, pro-entrepreneurs. We want to see a lot more done in the small business space than NZ First.

MICHAEL The last campaign, you reportedly sunk $1 million worth of your own money into that. Will we see that repeated next year?

COLIN Oh, look, I've always made it clear I'm 100 per cent committed to this. This is my job, and I am totally committed to changing NZ so that we've got a better country. So whatever that means - if it means money, if it means time. I mean, I work around the clock now on the party because I said I'd give it the time that it needed. So, yeah, look my commitment is 100 per cent, and if that means I've got to put more finance in, I certainly will be.

MICHAEL So $1 million? You'd put in another $1 million to fulfil this?

COLIN Well, we have got a lot more donors nowadays because, of course, we're building a lot more support. So I don't know what I'll need to put in. But I'm committed to this, and everyone should know I take it very seriously, and it's what I do.

MICHAEL That money you made in the property market, and I'd be interested to know your thoughts on how your foresee, I guess, dampening the property demand in Auckland and the problems that it created there.

COLIN Well, look, um, I mean, I'm an entrepreneur. I've started five successful businesses. I do have one of those as a property management company which has done very well. I think that the discussion around what's happening in Auckland lacks some expertise from time to time. We've had some politicians come with some pretty fanciful ideas.

MICHAEL So what's your idea?

COLIN Look, the fact of the matter is- It's very simple. We do not have a property market in Auckland. We have artificial boundaries that create limits on the land that can be used, and then we have certain developers, some of whom I know reasonably well, who have bought up that land. It's called land banking, and they're sitting on it. Two things I would do to free up land in Auckland. Number one - move those boundaries, move those limits. And number two - I'd be writing a letter to all those developers who have locked up all that land and be saying, 'Look, you've got five years to build houses, otherwise we'll be buying it off you under the Public Works Act.' I tell you what, you'd have a lot more houses being built. Because at the moment, they've bought sections for 30 grand, and they're selling them for over 400,000, and they just don't need that much money. And I think it's time we got them out there.

MICHAEL Do you think it's time we got compulsory acquisitions there from developers and land owners?

COLIN Give them five years, and you watch the houses go up. We've got a supply problem in Auckland. It's not primarily a demand problem; it's a supply problem, and we need to get serious. If we want houses built, let's build them, and I'd say to the two biggest landowners - central government and local government - they've got a big role to play, and it's time that they got off their bottoms and actually started freeing up that land for housing.

MICHAEL Fiscal conservatism - what do you make of the LVR policy and the impact it has on people in the regions? Should they have to pay a 20 per cent deposit?

COLIN Yeah, look, we had to do that because we've got an artificial price bubble. Reserve Bank are very aware of that. They know the risks. We need to fix the market so that we don't have to be limited. Speculators are driving the price up in Auckland. Investors are driving the price up. It's getting beyond the reach of an ordinary NZ household. So we've got to get that market functioning. The Reserve Bank are right, I think, to have taken what is a protective measure, but we need to get that market working.

MICHAEL Just finally, John Key sort of fessed up this week that he holds a bit of a dirt file on politicians. Are there any skeletons in your closet that we should know about?

COLIN No, see, fortunately not. I'm a pretty straight shooter. I think people know about me. I'm quite happy to talk openly about who I am and where we're going as a party. So, no. We're very upfront, very honest. I think that's what a lot of people like.

MICHAEL Do you have your own dirt file on people?

COLIN No, and I'm not really interested in one, to be honest. I find that the issues, the policies, what we need to do for this country, it's not about attacking people personally, in my view. It's about moving them from a state of doing nothing to getting them actually on to the main issues.

MICHAEL Would you have outed Len Brown had you had that information about his affair?

COLIN Uh, look, I probably wouldn't have. I would have gone and seen him and said, 'What the hell are you doing, mate? Get yourself sorted out.' It was really disappointing. I know him, obviously, because I campaigned with him during the first mayoral campaign, and the reality is he's let himself down, he's let his family and a lot of Aucklanders down, and it's really disappointing. And I can't believe that someone close to him who knew what was going on couldn't have 'intervened' and said, 'Len, get your head on straight here, mate, because this is not what you should be doing.'

MICHAEL Yes or no - should he resign?

COLIN I think he should take time out and go and spend it with his family. That's personally what I think. There's no obligation for him to resign, but I think it would make a great statement about what he always said, which is family comes first.

MICHAEL I think we'll take that as a yes. Colin Craig, Conservative Party leader, thank you very much for your time.

COLIN Thanks, Mike.





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