Guyon Espiner interviews Rodney Hide
GUYON This morning, readers of the Sunday Star Times will wake up to front-page treatment of a story saying that you and your supporters are behind rumours that Don Brash has a love chid. Have you and your supporters got anything to do with this?
RODNEY HIDE - Former Act Leader
Not at all, and I categorically deny that.
GUYON Have you been doing anything that could be seen to undermine Don Brash in terms of, uh, spreading rumours about him?
RODNEY Not at all. Quite the reverse. Um, I've always wanted Don to join the ACT Party because his policies square with us, and, um, he announced his- it was a rather unorthodox bid for leadership. I reached a conclusion Monday or Tuesday, and I've worked assiduously to provide for the best transition, and it's crucial for the country if it's gonna prosper for Don Brash and for ACT to succeed.
GUYON That story claims that insiders say that around the time that he launched that unorthodox coup, you and your supporters started spreading stories about him.
RODNEY No, not at all, and I don't think you'll find any critical comment from me about Don. Don's been a friend of mine and a family friend of mine. Gosh, my mother babysat his son through the 2005 campaign when he was leader of the National Party. So I would never do anything to undermine Don at a personal level. Um, I don't care about politicians' private lives, um, I don't deal in that sort of thing. NZ faces some big challenges. It's my view that ACT has to succeed. We need a strong National/ACT government, and I have a view that Don Brash is the right person to lead it, and I'm very proud of that, that I've got ACT to where we have: survived in '05, took it into government in '08, changed the government in '08, and my legacy will be Don Brash succeeding well at the next election. And I've told, consistently, all my supporters, um, and all my staff to act professionally and to support the leader of the ACT Party.
GUYON Cos we saw this with David Garrett, in a way, didn't we, that there was something in his background that came out to haunt him. Do you know of anything lurking around in Don Brash's life that is going to be embarrassing to the ACT Party?
RODNEY Categorically not. I mean, to be fair, I haven't dug into his background. But I have to say that, um, when Don was leader of the National Party he took them to 39% in the 2005 polls campaigning on exactly the policies that the country needs and which National have moved away from, and so there's no doubt he took a big hit then. He was targeted then because he was a very successful politician, very successful leader, and I suspect he's gonna come under attack now. It won't be from the ACT Party.
GUYON The attention that he seems to have got this week, as Paul mentioned in his introduction, has been on race issues. Funnily enough, he was brought in to refocus the ACT Party on economic policy. Do you think that again we're going to see the ACT Party either driven by the media or driven by the public or driven by what interests people, led away from its key focus on economics and into this 'one law for all' race debate?
RODNEY Well, that won't be my call.
GUYON Are you worried about that, though, because you are a torch-bearer for ACT, aren't you?
RODNEY No, I'm not worried about it, because I actually agree with Don, and I think it's a tragedy in NZ that when you stand up for the equal treatment by the law of all citizens you now get accused of the exact reverse, because that is actually the opposite of racism. And when you stand up for one law, like ACT consistently has, and Don did as leader of the National Party, you're the opposite of a racist.
GUYON You said that in an interview with Duncan Garner on TV3 yesterday, or you indicated that time was up for Rodney Hide in politics.
RODNEY Oh, you'd have to say that. I mean, what I've done is, um-Don, over Easter, said he wanted the leadership. I'd been trying to get him into the ACT Party. I had to handle that; the critical thing was what I did. Um, by the Monday I'd decided that it was best that we get Don in - best for ACT, best for the party. I didn't believe we could withstand - the ACT party or the government - a sort of fight, so by Tuesday I'd reconciled myself to that and I worked assiduously to get a smooth transition.
GUYON OK, but now you're saying time's up.
RODNEY Well, I've concentrated on that, Guyon. Don said to me that he didn't want me to stand in November, he doesn't want me as the MP for Epsom. And I said, 'Look, I'm not going to stand, Don, without your support, because you're the leader of the ACT Party.' But my job is to be absolutely - and I've always regarded this a huge privilege - MP for Epsom-
GUYON Sure, but can we just clarify this, Mr Hide, because there's that position that you get to, Don Brash doesn't want you to stand. Earlier in the week you seemed to be saying, 'But if I could convince him, then maybe he'd change his mind.' I guess what's changed, or seemed to have changed, this weekend is that you are now saying that come November 26, 'That's me out of politics.' Is that the case?
RODNEY No. Because as you'll appreciate, in the last couple of weeks a lot's happened, right? And what I've said is it's very clear that Don thinks I should go. Well, I accept that, he's the leader. But I've got till November the 26th to be the best that I can be as a minister and as the MP for Epsom. I'm gonna do that. I'm not making any hasty decisions. What I did say on TV3 - and, I mean, they tend to distort things - I said you'd have to say, given what Don said, that chances are I'm off. But my focus has been to support Don, and I've said this to Don in front of the whole caucus, and this is very clear: I'm his best adviser and supporter because, you know, you learn a bit as leader of a small party in government. And also I know how hard the job is.
GUYON So you're leaving the door open to stay on after November 26?
RODNEY I've had to make a whole lot of big decisions, right, in the past couple of weeks. I've had the responsibility of saying, 'OK, how do we handle this?' I've then had the responsibility to the political party ACT, which I've been a big part of for a long time. I then had an extraordinary responsibility to the prime minister and to the government, and indeed to the country, because it's not just ACT affected here. And so I've been dealing with that and getting Don established and introduced to the party. So I've said, 'Let's just make that decision.' Don's been very clear, he says, 'I'd rather you didn't stand in November.' It's all a bit of a shock to me, obviously, and I said, 'Look, I won't stand if I don't have your support.' I couldn't be clearer than that.
GUYON Sounds like you're still leaving the door open.
Thanks very much, Rodney Hide, appreciate your time.
A web-only panel discussion will go online on Monday on the Q+A page on tvnz.co.nz.