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April 5, 2009: Helen Clark and Peter Davis interviewed by Paul Holmes

Published: 3:04PM Sunday April 05, 2009 Source: ONE News

Q+A - April 5, 2009: Helen Clark and Peter Davis interviewed by Paul Holmes

PAUL Welcome to you Helen Clark and congratulations again on the job and Professor Peter Davis welcome to you as well. Once again your wife's up and off.

PETER DAVIS - Medical Sociologist That's right, no this is part of the lifestyle that if you're hitched to the powerful and famous this kind of thing happens to you.

PAUL Did you think things might calm down a bit this time though after the defeat last year?

PETER Not really because I mean Helen's an extremely competent and capable person and she's available so why not use those skills on the international stage and I think it's a great natural next step for her.

PAUL You essentially are a political spouse aren't you?

PETER I guess so.

PAUL I don't mean to demean you in saying that at all but&

PETER No no no no, I don't look at it that way but yeah I guess I am, but we've led our lives sort of a little bit in parallel you might say and Helen's given me the space to do what I have to do in my job and vice versa.

PAUL Some people would say parallel universes.

PETER Well that's true you know.

PAUL Sometimes - did you think about staying home at all, or did you automatically just want to move on to another career?

HELEN CLARK - Former Prime Minister
Well New Zealand's a small country and once you've had the wonderful privilege I've had as being PM for nine years where else do you go, I'm far too young to retire, I've got a lot of energy, I like to do constructive things, I certainly didn't want to be Leader of the Opposition again, been there done that, so rather than sit here and grumble best to get on and find something constructive to do.

PAUL So you head off to New York, Peter stays here with his work and of course academics are notoriously dedicated to their work as well, of course people probably underestimate that don't they how dedicated he is to what he does?

HELEN Sure, sure and Peter leads a research team and that team is very dependent on his expertise and international reputation for all the grants that come in, so it's just not an option for him to walk away and let people down, but we've had a sort of long range commuter relationship for many years, it's just the distance has got a big bigger.

PAUL Do you phone each other every day when you're away?

HELEN Phone or email, Peter is always on the email so I'm more likely to get him to answer that than a phone call sometimes.

PAUL And here you are off to New York for four years is there a possibility he may become totally independent of you?

HELEN Oh I don't think so.

PAUL Why not, he's got places he can go.

HELEN I'll still be rung and asked where things are in the house.

PAUL Will you know?

HELEN I would think so.

PAUL Seriously as a couple again, as a married couple,
is there a possibility your worlds will diverge so much that you'll have nothing much to say to each other?

HELEN Oh definitely not, look we've been together since 1977, we have common interests, common hobbies, we do a lot of things together and Peter's own job involves quite a bit of international travel with conferences, I'm sure we're gonna be seeing each other a lot of times a year.

PAUL Catching up yeah. Did you think of going to New York City?

PETER Actually it's come a little bit suddenly to kind of imagine that, and people are starting to sell the idea to me. Yesterday - we've got the back door there, we've got the lawn the birds, the bird bath the sun those sort of things, hey this is quite a nice life style but then people have been saying to me you know New York's like a little village so I think well I'd like to be in a village as well, so yeah it's definitely worth a try.

PAUL Well of course there's wonderful bird life I know that you're a bird watcher, there is wonderful bird life up there you could take Helen on weekends away to watch birds, though you told me once she doesn't have the patience for it.

PETER No that's right.

PAUL Anyway Helen Clark the United Nations Development Programme what kind of stuff does it do, give us a micro idea of what it might do,

HELEN Well some people have focused on the five billion US annual budget, I put that in context and say that can only be about 80% of what we Kiwis spend on our health system with 4.2 million of us, so it's gotta be spent very strategically, they do have 135 country offices around the world and the resident reps is really the poor of the system, the UNDP rep in country, and there's a very important co-ordinating role with other UN agencies, for example UN High Commissioner for Refugees isn't everywhere, FAO isn't everywhere, the Population Fund isn't everywhere, so the UNDP often by default is the UN voice in the developing country.

PAUL Yeah it does some very nice little specific projects as a matter of fact I looked up a couple yesterday, for example they've got a programme going on at the moment, there are two elections in Indonesia this year, some sex workers in the slums of Jakarta are going to little day classes where they're being taught about voting and what a vote represents in terms of the electoral process, there's another fellow who lost his legs years ago he's in a wheelchair but he learnt sign language and he goes round teaching deaf people in the slums - and this is all United Nations Development programmes, they seem to be very nice little projects.

HELEN That's correct and they've made governance selections transition to democracy one of their key things and they do it very well, most elections particularly when you're emerging from a different sort of government to the democracy they play a big part in.

PAUL Stop right there though, does democracy work for everyone? Are you gonna have to think about that?

HELEN Well it works for us, works for a lot of countries but of course there are a lot of countries where there isn't democracy, some develop fast, some don't.

PAUL And they've tried it and they don't like it they're uncomfortable with it perhaps, they get rid of it and they carry on.

HELEN Some have never had it and I think sometimes it's a bit unrealistic to think you can transplant the institutions and the history we've got that underlies our institutions just holus bolus into countries with a different history.

PAUL I wonder too if there's a bit of wastage at the United Nations Development Programme, another little bit of my research says that recently the UNDP hosted 600 business leaders in Paris, I quote incorporating - and the business leaders were lectured on incorporating sustainability principles and their corporate social responsibility, what does that mean?

HELEN Well if we don't we're going to be a pretty sad planet aren't we because we know that if everyone was to live on exactly the pattern that we in developed countries live now we need not one planet we need two three four or more, so we have to move to a low carbon form of development and I'm sure that's what it's getting at.

PAUL I suppose so but I wonder if there's not a disconnect because in the same statement I see the UNDP says the private sector has destroyed a lot of the world's wealth. I spose you could say really the private sector's raised the money which the UNDP so happily throws about the place do you know what I mean is that an entitlement attitude there?

HELEN But look at what's happened in the last couple of years in our world with the shenanigans on Wall Street and in the city there's no doubt private sectors created a lot of wealth in the past but it's actually destroyed quite a lot recently too.

PAUL That is a famous old bureaucracy a lot of career servers in there and time servers in the United Nations of course this is not really I spose disputed but the advantage you've got with your 8000 employees is that you're going in there un-house-trained aren't you, you're going in nice and new.

HELEN I'm a fresh face from outside and I think that's what the Secretary General is looking for, he's looking for shake up generally, he finds bureaucracy frustrating and I've been brought into the leadership level to give a new direction I guess.

PAUL Is he good?

HELEN Well I have enormous respect for the Secretary General and he's a new broom through the organisation.

PAUL Exciting times. Looking back, what was the biggest mistake you made as Prime Minister, I'm sure you're not gonna tell me your biggest mistake, can I change the question. What is the thing that you did which if you looked back you might do differently?

HELEN No I wouldn't even go there because I never look back, that's part of my style, I know journalists often got fed up with me saying move on move on, but I do. You know in politics there's always an opposition employed to pick over the things you've done and why this why that why not the other way, well let them do it but I'm moving on to the next thing.

HELEN What is the best decision?

HELEN The best decision&

PAUL Oh we look back on that one.

HELEN Well, there's so many things I'm proud of, I'm even reluctant to single anything out.

PAUL Judith Tizard, Helen, should Judith - I know that you are close - Judith Tizard should she try to go back into parliament or should she stand aside during this period during which Labour must rebuild?

HELEN Well we have a list process and that process has
to have integrity, it means that if list members retire or move on into an electorate seat in the course of a parliament then the next person on the list comes in, Judith was selected through a process with integrity, she's absolutely entitled to take up that seat if that's what happens.

PAUL Do they want her?

HELEN Well who's they?

PAUL Well the front four or five.

HELEN Look the process has to have integrity, gotta be remembered Judith put in 18 years, a lot of people loved her, some didn't, her family has a very very proud history in the New Zealand Labour Party and I think some of the comment that's been in the columns of the media has been pretty unfair.

PAUL Election night you said that you hoped that so much of what you'd done didn't disappear on a bonfire of right wingers, do you think it has?

PAUL I think the bonfire's started, I just hope that the flame can be put out before it goes too far.

PAUL But they've hardly been rabid, they're not 91 are they, not 1991 National Party they've hardly been rabid.

HELEN We haven't got to the budget yet. What we have had is the total undoing of the whole sustainability agenda which was pretty substantial and put us into a better position going into climate change talks and so on but&

PAUL We do have the total unbundling though of the world economic financial system.

HELEN Yeah but offshore if you listen to President Obama, Gordon Brown the EU Leaders, everyone's saying the new deal for the economy has to also be the new deal for the environment, that's not happening here.

PAUL Mr Key who's been Prime Minister now about five months he seems to be, I mean you were a very shrewd worker of the public pulse the public mood I think we could say, John Key appears to be tapping into it well, do you agree, is he showing skills there?

HELEN Well you know I'm moving beyond partisan politics I'm not even getting involved in that, but can I say for the record John Key was very very supportive of my candidacy for this position and having the support formally of the New Zealand government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs was incredibly helpful.

PAUL Yes and he was gracious in the parliament the other day.

HELEN Absolutely.

PAUL Not so the one MP who's name we cannot remember who did not stand up. Peter can I ask you this seriously, what was Helen like in the weeks or the days and the weeks after last year's electoral loss?

PETER I think she felt rejected basically, because she felt she'd done a good job which I also believe and had put her best foot forward and had been frankly an almost incomparable Prime Minister and yet somehow the public had not seen that the same way. So it took some time for her to frankly come to terms with that and if I was in that position I'd feel the same way I guess.

PAUL But she's moved on?

PETER Yes yes, I think she's shown true character frankly because in politics you realise that you've got ups and downs hero to zero etc and you have to come back all the time and she has, and I think she's shown her true character in that respect.

PAUL Moved on, do we leave parliament wounded, or do we leave parliament satisfied, have we moved on?

HELEN Well I think ready to go because I don't feel there's anywhere else to go here for me and that's why this time is pretty important. Paul I looked at you know how a lot of former PMs had gone, some had dignified exits and some didn't, I wanted mine to be dignified.

PAUL Well I've enjoyed interviewing you over the years, this may be the last interview ever.

HELEN Oh I doubt it.

PAUL Because you are - like the poor you would always be with us. You are off to Broadway. Thank you very much for coming in, Helen Clark and Peter Davis.

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