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Q+A: Panel response to interviews - transcript

Published: 4:21PM Sunday May 08, 2011 Source: Q+A

In response to RUSSEL NORMAN interview

PAUL Time to welcome our panel.  Dr Jon Johansson from Victoria University, and this week we welcome political strategist and former adviser to Labour leader Phil Goff, John Pagani, and of course with us also the Auckland Chamber of Commerce boss, chief executive, Michael Barnett.  Thank you all very much for coming along to Q+A.  So, the Greens first of all, Russel Norman.  Let's deal with this first of all, then we'll get to Rodney Hide and matters to do with ACT.  The Greens are trying to shake off I suppose we could say the tree-huggers, kind of, tag.  But when we hear Russel Norman talking about the way in which Osama bin Laden was taken out does that decrease his credibility?

JOHN PAGANI - Political Strategist
 It sounds naïve, but I think it's a reasoned position.  Um, what he seems to overlook is that there is no question that bin Laden was clearly a valid military target.  He speaks as if he was some corner criminal who the local law enforcement was sent to arrest.  Look, he inflicted an act of war against not just the United States but against humanity, and for that reason he was a justified military target.  But having said that, it is a reasonable thing to say, you know, the Nazi monsters after the Second World War were tried at Nuremberg, and democracy and justice were strengthened by that, as they always are by judicial process.

PAUL Yes, and when they were convicted they were hanged.  But when they were hanged they were then taken to the ovens at Dachau.

JON JOHANSSON - Political Analyst
 Yeah, but also, back in-

PAUL Certain things are primitive.

JON In Nuremberg, Paul, they didn't have 24-7 saturation media.  I mean, can you just imagine the circus of a live-? It was just not an option.  The complications from a live Osama bin Laden would have been catastrophic, uh, I think, in terms of Obama's position.

PAUL Well, it would have made the United States a hell of a target again, I suppose.  Dan and Roger in feedback both say, 'If bin Laden had been taken alive, there would have been a raft of hostage-takings with more people put at risk,' for example.

MICHAEL BARNETT - Auckland Chamber of Commerce
And if I have a look at Nuremberg at the end of that, we were at the end of a war. Today we're talking terrorism; bin Laden was the face of terrorism.  It's something that is totally different.  If he had been left, the acts of terrorism would have continued.  He was a brand for a way of thinking.

PAUL What about Milosevic though?  Milosevic took more people out than Osama bin Laden, and he got a trial.

JON Yeah, I know.  But it's a unique problem, isn't it, uh, because terrorism is global, and it is now part of our permanent condition.

PAUL I mean, in the end you've gotta remember what he did.  You've gotta remember those pictures of 9/11.  You've gotta remember those buildings collapsing, those balls of fire.  They were always going to kill him.

JOHN Could you imagine what we'd be talking about today if he was sitting in a jail somewhere in New York, for example?  The United States would be ripping itself apart in a debate over-

JON But that's part of the problem, John.  He wouldn't have been in a court in New York.  He would've had to have been sent down to Guantanamo Bay, and-

JOHN So they'd be tearing themselves apart over that.

PAUL Now let's move on to something else that came up with Guyon's interview with Russel Norman.  He presents very well, I have to say, Russel Norman.  And you're right, the arguments are very reasoned.  But he talks about defence; he says you can train with the Americans, the British and the Australians, but it appears we can't fight with them in the way they fight.  And he brings up this controversial issue at the moment of our handing over Afghani civilians to the Americans and possibly they've been tortured.  Jerry Mateparae was Chief of Defence Staff when that was happening.  He wants an inquiry into Jerry Mateparae, the Governor General designate.  What do you think?

JON Uh, Russel is not just reflecting those on the left and their concerns about this issue of, uh, essentially our SAS being put in a compromising position, which is really the argument here.  There's a much wider groundswell that believe that inquiry is needed here, not just those people on the left.  You know, and I'm a flat-out realist when it comes to world issues, and I believe that Mateparae needs this stain removed, and that stain will remain.  And the government, honestly, just ostrich in the sand here, just stonewalling.

PAUL So we've got to see if he's completely clean, I suppose, is what you're saying.

JON There are enough doubts here.

MICHAEL I'm not in the same space.  Mateparae had a role to play and he fulfilled that role to try and-

JON But we don't know what that role just quite is, Michael.  That's the problem.

MICHAEL But we keep on going into conspiracy theories, and we'll now do an inquiry.  To my mind, for him to have got to the status of Governor General they should have done that, confirm it or deny.  I don't care.

PAUL But in the end, if you read your history, war's filthy.  War is dirty.

JON Yeah, I know, and the NZ public have a genuine right to know what the direction of our civilian leadership is taking us in that war, Paul.  That is what many of us are simply asking, because this prime minister has said he intended on being open to us about what is going on.  That is not happening.

JOHN This story has come, it's been given to the journalist who wrote it by people who were knowledgeable about what was happening inside there.  Those are not the sort of people who would normally talk to reporters, therefore you know that some of the people involved in this are disgusted about it, worried about it.  And so there is some stuff there that needs to be examined, there are some legitimate questions.  But, you know, in the end, NZ troops are entitled to rely on the fact that our partners in that place have signed the same international conventions that we have, and when we hand things over we're entitled to rely on that.  If we know that there's a problem, though, we shouldn't be part of it.  International law is the only thing NZ has, and we should be pillars of responsibility in the application of it.

PAUL So inquiry - yes or no?

JOHN There has to be an inquiry.

PAUL Jon, inquiry?

JON  It's inevitable.


PAUL Very good.  Now let's go to the politics of the Green Party.  Russel Normal talked about reaching out further to get the green vote:

Russel Norman: There is a distinction between what a Mana Party vote might look like and what a Green Party vote looks like.  The challenge for the Greens, I think, is to actually move out, move more into the suburbs and to appeal more to suburban NZers, if you like.

PAUL Someone texted us, someone said, 'The opinion of Russel Norman is not credible.'  I don't know which particular opinion he found not to be credible.  'Reaching to the suburbs', what does that mean?

JOHN He's right, they do need to.  Guyon picked up on an important point there - there is no realistic pathway to government for the Labour Party that doesn't involve the Greens, so the Greens don't need to extend their relationship more in that direction. They do need to make it look as though they're more of a centrist party, and I have to say banging on about cannabis for teenagers and conspiracy theories about Afghanistan are probably not the mainstream way to do that.

JON Come on, John.  I mean, Russel was not banging on about cannabis.  You'll never hear Russel Norman talk about cannabis.  Russel Norman actually spends most of his time talking about the environment and the economy.

JOHN That's true, but he has to answer the questions about a policy that isn't gonna be swallowed very well.

JON The Greens are the one stable minor party in our electoral system.  Look at the wreckage around them that we've been canvassing these last few weeks.

PAUL That is true, but here is, I think, one of the fundamental things about the Greens.  Now, Hone Harawira came on this programme last week and he said, 'Look, the Greens have done very well on the cross-benches.  Don't push me into coalition with anybody.'  And of course, he thinks the Maori Party completely messed up their remit by teaming up with the Nats.  Pita Sharples, on the other hand, says, 'Hone can say what he bloody well wants - he's free and he's nowhere.  He's nowhere.  But we are in government.  And we might have to swallow a few dead rats, but we're part of government.'

MICHAEL  And to me, Russel looked like he was swallowing a rat when he was talking about cannabis.  He was uncomfortable.  I'm gonna go to the point.  You know, when you have a look at whether it's Hone, whether it's Russel, it doesn't matter who it is, the diversity that we're getting into Parliament right now, to me, is good.  You know, it's a different line of thought.  And I don't care whether it's far right or far left.  We've categorised for too long - left and right.  Diversity of thought, we don't do it in the boardrooms of this country well, we do it quite well in employment, but we don't do it in Parliament.  If I get some thought that ends up there's some compromise on middle ground, that's new thinking, that's us moving forward.  I think it's great.

JOHN I think they're doing a good job of trying to reposition themselves, as you say, on some of these issues.  The hard part for them is that there are some policies that a lot of their activists are committed to - and  the cannabis one is a good example - that they really need to jettison to give themselves the opportunity for growth.

PAUL Yeah, cos it's there in black and white: 18 years old, you can smoke it legally.

MICHAEL But even blue has now got a tinge of green, and so has red.  If they don't capture some new ground they'll stay a 5% party, and that's it.

JON And the problem of every minor party that's gone, there's always a lot of fuss about the, uh, tail wags the dog; well, actually, the experience of MMP is the tail keeps on falling off the dog.

PAUL Yes, yes, yes.  Any minor party that takes a ministerial post gets less of the vote next time round.

JON And just a last word on the Greens there.  They have actually managed a leadership transition better than they've ever been given credit for, and certainly compared to other parties.

PAUL  He certainly speaks a very modern greenness in the way the German greens do.

MICHAEL Yes, but the German greens, if you have a look at them 15 years ago, you'd get to about item 14 on their manifesto before you hit on a green issue: they broadened their base to make themselves a wider appeal.  If these guys don't do that, they'll be the third biggest party in Parliament.

PAUL They went to the suburbs, exactly.

JOHN We are seeing some maturity there that we haven't seen.  If you looked at the WikiLeaks document this week that came out of the United States- uh, that came out of the reports the United States sent back about their meeting with Russel Norman, his trip to, uh, the United States, they're saying, 'Actually, off the record, these guys are being reasonable.'  Now, a couple of years ago the Greens wouldn't have done that, but they are being moderate, at least in private.



In response to PETER ARNETT interview

PAUL You came up with a most interesting point about Osama bin Laden running everything from that house in the middle of Pakistan - no tyranny of miles there.

MICHAEL Absolutely not.  It demonstrates, as we know in business, you can do it from anywhere in the world.  The fact is this guy, he was the shock jock of terrorism.  What we should be afraid of is the fight by the franchisees.

PAUL You make a point about the amount of intelligence stuff the Yanks have found in his house.

JON 100 flash drives, 10 hard drives.  That's gonna give them a very very good picture of the current state of Al Qaeda.

PAUL  They'll break Al Qaeda with that stuff, won't they?

JON It also shows, actually, the hubris bin Laden was enveloped by, because he got too comfortable, didn't he?

PAUL Well, why was he so comfortable?  Was that because he was there with the compliance of the Pakistanis?

JON I think Arnett nailed it on the deal that went down there.  But can I just also add, Paul, that I think the real opportunity here for Barack Obama is that this sort of action gives pause to all the other political actors, both domestically for Obama, but also internationally.  And during that pause period he has the opportunity of shifting that dynamic in Afghanistan.  Now, I accept what Arnett says, we could be there for another 10, 20 years, but an opportunity is now there to get the hell out.

MICHAEL He'll have to be quick.

JON He'll have to be quick.

PAUL We spoke to a former CIA Islamabad chief, Bob Grenier, and he said the Arab Spring that we're seeing at the moment changes everything.  Al Qaeda's message was about victimhood, and the Arab Spring's about empowerment.  Fascinating, isn't it?

JOHN And that's the thing, that Al Qaeda was telling those disaffected young men in the United States that the way out of repression was through terrorism and Al Qaeda, and in fact they're finding a much better way out.

JON But let's not get too carried away about the Spring just yet either.

PAUL No, we'll see what happens.  We'll see if it becomes a summer. 



In response to RODNEY HIDE interview

PAUL Just quickly on Rodney Hide.  Duncan Pitman says, 'Without giving any credence to nasty rumours about a love child, could Don Brash be a problem?  Brash will be toxic for National- was toxic- could be toxic for National, could lose National the election.'

JOHN Well, this is someone who campaigned on family values. That's why the Exclusive Brethren backed him.  And they're- Whenever you hear that, who could have predicted that these sorts of rumours are gonna start?  But I dunno, I don't think anyone's got-

PAUL It's crap politics, isn't it?  It's crap politics, that is.

MICHAEL It is.  When I have a look at ACT, what they've done in the past, they've done too much about what they're going to do, not why they're going to do it.  They don't talk of consequences.  They haven't had young people giving a young, fresh, new message, and they've got some pretty uninspiring people.

PAUL But as Derek Fox said, you know, stop the mad spending, stop the mad borrowing of 300 million dollars every week and you'll get riots in the streets.

MICHAEL  Yeah, but tell us why, the consequences of taking some of those-

JON They have absolutely lost the plot on the why.

PAUL Quick word on Rodney Hide.  Will he be there after the next election?

MICHAEL He should be, should reinvent himself, he's a nice guy.

JOHN No, but how do we end up in the position where he can't stand on the list, be he should be left in the ministry?

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