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Q+A: June 13 Panel discussion transcripts

Published: 9:26AM Tuesday June 14, 2011 Source: Q+A

In response to LT COL TEVITA MARA & MURRAY McCULLY interviews

Time to welcome the panel this morning. Jon Johansson from Victoria University; we have also Michelle Boag, former president of the National Party, now the executive director at ad agency Ogilvy NZ; and Willie Jackson, broadcaster and chair of the National Urban Maori Authority. So, welcome all of you. Reaction, first of all, to Murray McCully and his preparedness to give Mara an exemption.

WILLIE JACKSON - Chair of National Urban Maori Authority
Oh, I think he's a disgrace, actually. I think McCully should hang his head in shame. Uh, here we have Mara. And this National Government should be looking at itself too. We had Mara talking about being in the room watching Bainimarama beating up women, and he was too scared for his own safety.

PAUL  Now, that was dramatic stuff. Carry on.

WILLIE Yeah, no, no, no. That's a reflection of where Mara's at, and, 'Oh, yes, we'll give him an exemption. We'll bring him into the country.' He stands by because he's worried about his own hide, watching three women getting bashed up by Bainimarama. That's a good enough reason, Paul, to make sure he doesn't come here.

PAUL You think that was a cowardly stance?

WILLIE Absolutely. The guy's a coward. Clearly he should be allowed anywhere near the country.

JON JOHANSSON - Political Analyst
 Yeah, but you can see why they're letting him in here, mate.

WILLIE Come on, Jon.

JON And that is because what's in his head. They want to know what's in his head, and, yeah, they risk raising the ire of Bainimarama again, but, you know, the man is volatile, to say the least. This is Mara. This is a Mara. Right since way back to '87, it was his father losing that election that actually precipitated this path of dependency that has destabilised it&

PAUL Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, of course. Oh, yes&

JON So he's a powerbroker.

PAUL As Murray McCully indicated, oh, yes, they're all powerful families aren't they?

WILLIE Why doesn't he just ring him up?

PAUL Michelle, this was dramatic stuff - him putting Bainimarama in a room beating up three women while he was watching.

MICHELLE BOAG - Former National Party President
Oh, it was indeed, and I think we will see a reaction from Bainimarama. Uh, I suspect Guyon's right when he says this is the beginning of the end. I think there's a long way to go yet, but clearly the government is keen to get the intelligence from Mara in order to help to move this forward, and so it's been very difficult for them. Let's face it, they haven't had the ability to access real information, and if they can get some real information from this guy, I think it will help.

PAUL Here's some other information. This is Tevita Mara speaking in Australia yesterday about the Fijian economy.

 The sugar industry has shrunk from 330,000 tons in 2006 to only 130,000 tons this year. We are certainly going backwards.

PAUL So, there he is saying the Fiji economy is tanking. But Fiji struck out late yesterday afternoon. It didn't come directly from Bainimarama. I think the statement was unsigned, but it was the Fiji government saying Rudd and McCully are neo-colonists, purveyors of malice, deceit and lies.

WILLIE They're probably not far off the mark here. I mean, the reality is& Michelle, I'm surprised that you& We have these women getting beaten up, and you say, 'Oh, we need the information.' What about email, what about Skype, what about a telephone? You know, does he actually have to come into the country, Michelle?

MICHELLE Willie, this is not a free country. This is not a free country where you can say things freely, where you can community freely. These statements, I gather, came from the person who runs the Ministry of Information in Fiji. I think that it's all very well to say that man was a coward. I'd like to&

WILLIE You don't think he was a coward?

MICHELLE Of course&

PAUL You do not know the circumstances that were going on at time. Oh, Willie, that's easy to say.

MICHELLE And if a man with six men with guns are standing round beating up people, what do you do? Bravely go in and get shot yourself.

PAUL I think Michelle makes a very good point that it made us sit up this morning to realise how dysfunctional Fiji is. And maybe we do need him in here, Willie, just so we can pick his brains.

JON Yeah, but even if Bainimarama is the beginning of the end& the end of what? But the beginning of what? You know, let's face it there& four coups, each one destabilises, and you just cannot see how Fiji has a path back to democracy. And the problem is actually the Maras and the Bainimaramas, all the elites in the military and in the civilian leadership. I think Fiji is only ever going to change when it's a groundswell from below that demands it.

WILLIE And that's the point, Paul. Is there a groundswell there? Friends of mine who have been over the Fiji say it's wonderful.

PAUL That's exactly right, but there's no freedom of media either. That's the thing. If you do your reading about the Nazi regime&

WILLIE Oh, cut it out.

PAUL One of the ways& If you can really control media, then, man, you can control things.

WILLIE The only problem is with people like you, right? And the media who want all this free access. The normal people, the normal people over there love what's happening. We hear it all the time on talkback. You listen to RadioLIVE. I know you listen to RadioLIVE, Holmsey. Now, we hear it everyday on talkback that, you know, from the ground, people are feeling good. Let's get this Mara into perspective. He's only got all principled and contentious right now. You know that, and I know that.

JON Because he's under the gun for sedition.

WILLIE Absolutely.

MICHELLE It's all very well to sit here and say those people are happy. Those people do not have freedom of travel, they do not have freedom of access, they do not have freedom of speech, and it's very easy for us to sit here in our nice little utopian world where we have all those things and say, 'They are happy.' It may well be that you can go to Fiji and go to the resorts and have a good holiday, but at the end of the day, those people are not in charge of their own destiny. They have a bully who's running the country with the barrel of a gun, and that will change. I think Jon's right. It will be the people that do it eventually&

JON That's the only way it will stick.

MICHELLE That's right.

JON Because all the top-down solutions have not worked.

WILLIE No, no. This is absolute nonsense coming from Michelle, Paul. The patronising, arrogant attitudes shown by McCully and Goff telling the people over there what's right. Let the people decide. We're like a little&

MICHELLE They can't, Willie.

PAUL There can't decide. But there I've got to leave it.



In response to TE TAI TOKERAU interview

 Welcome back to our panel, Dr Jon Johansson, Michelle Boag and Willie Jackson. All right, where do we start with that? Both quite impressive this morning, both those candidates.

MICHELLE BOAG - Former National Party President
 I thought, actually, they were constructive. I thought it was great to see the focus on education and work. I thought it was great to see Hone expounding, essentially, the National Standards policy. I mean, he was saying we need all these things for our kids, and that's exactly what National Standards is all about. But, you see, one of the issues here, and clearly Kelvin Davis is aware of this, when they talk about the quality of teaching, if the government said, 'Ok, we are going to pay teachers in Te Tai Tokerau for going there and working with these difficult children so we get the best people' - not the difficult children, but the difficult environments - you watch the teacher unions.

PAUL Well, exactly the same. But even with Hone Harawira, there's slight disconnect between what we've got to do to get the people out of the jamies in the morning, and where the sustainable finance for that is.

WILLIE JACKSON - Chair of National Urban Maori Authority
 Are you talking about his budgeting?

PAUL No, his idea of just paying people just straightaway to get into work.

WILLIE Well, he's driven by principle, Hone. Just on the debate, though, I agree with Michelle. It was excellent hearing both of them. They were both, I thought, exceptional, this morning. It's going to be fascinating how it pans out. I think that Te Tai Tokerau, in Kelvin they've got a good person, but I think a lot of voters up there will see they've already got Kelvin. You see, Maori voters know how to vote, I think. We saw it in '96 with Winston, and again you've got a couple of candidates there, so a lot of them will look at Kelvin.

PAUL Yes, he's already in the stampede.

WILLIE You're already there.

PAUL He's 43 years old. He was a school principal at 26.

WILLIE He's got a lot& Look, he did some work with me when I was a chairman in Kura Kaupapa. Excellent advocate for our people. But up there, the politics are fascinating. I think the Maori Party& I was surprised with their selection. He's a good man, the man they selected, Solomon Tipene, but a lot of thought they'd go for Wasi Shortland&

PAUL Could we talk about the Maori Party? Why didn't they appear this morning? Why would they have turned down an opportunity to come on this programme this morning just a couple of weeks out?

JON It's ridiculous. It really is. They either have no confidence in their candidate, in which case, why did they select him? Uh, they're quite happy for Kelvin Davis to be Hone, which is no credit to them. It doesn't grow their movement. Um, so a bit perplexing. But I've got to say between those two, Paul, Hone talking about the attitudinal stuff - 'Let's do something' - but Kelvin's also right. And, really, in a way, the Far North, to me, is the greatest national tragedy because, like, you get sheeted home when you're up there the amazing physical beauty of the place, and yet the dreadful, horrible human situation up there. And the market hasn't solved it. 25 years since Rogernomics, the market hasn't solved the problems up there. It has to be the government that intervenes. So maybe between the two of them, and, as Willie said, the people of Te Tai Tokerau are well served if both of them are in Parliament.

WILLIE And you've got Jonesy too. So you've got Shane Jones, and you've got Tau Henare down here. They need advocates, so that's just the reality. I know it's hard on Kelvin, who's an excellent advocate, but Maori can't afford to lose advocates, because those electorates are so big.

MICHELLE But there's one thing you're both overlooking with what Hone's done in terms of the leaving the Maori Party - they don't have an advocate in government. And you can say all you like about how good they are, but the north does not have an advocate apart from&

JON But I reckon they'd swap& If they could get 10,000 jobs instead of a flag up on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, they'd rather have the jobs.

MICHELLE But they're only going to get those jobs if they've got a voice in government.

PAUL And he's going to be Mr Loner.

WILLIE Oh, no, no.


PAUL Now, I've got to move on to Darren Hughes, the business of Darren Hughes. Is it all over? Is it resolved? Did Goff handle it well?

WILLIE No, he didn't handle it well. You know he didn't handle it well. He should have put him on suspension, and he might have been an MP today. I think the news this week is probably the worst possible news for Labour because they look silly. This young man who has apparently got a huge future is now out of Parliament for a few years yet, and it's all very, very sad. I think Trevor Mallard did a great job the other day.

PAUL Yes, he did.

WILLIE He did a great job. Maybe he should be a night watchman and take over in the Labour Party.

JON I think what I did originally. I haven't changed one jot. It was very poor judgement by Hughes to expose his party and its leader to that risk. The leader compounded that problem through his initial set of decisions. Whether Hughes comes back or not, I think, is actually more or less irrelevant.

PAUL Michelle.

MICHELLE Yes, I think that Hughes probably will be back, but they just can't afford to have him back right now. There were too many questions unanswered. Yes, he didn't get charged, but there clearly was sufficient evidence for some sort of complaint.

WILLIE Does he have to front up on those answers before he comes back?

MICHELLE Well, that's up to him.

JON He's on private life now, so&

PAUL We worry too much about MPs in the bedroom and God knows&

WILLIE Yeah, but New Zealanders want to know, don't they?

JON But there's that old saying from Louisiana, right, and I'm not sure I should say this on a Sunday, but the two things you never want to get caught with are dead prostitutes or live men. (WILLIE AND PAUL LAUGH)

MICHELLE Even though it's legal.

JON Even though it's legal. There's a reason why that's an old truism.

PAUL On that wonderful line, we shall have to leave it.



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