Gordon Campbell Talks To Jim AndertonJuly 17th, 2008
It is unusual to talk about a 70 year old in terms of untapped potential, but the aura of ‘what might have been’ will always hang over Jim Anderton’s career. New Zealand never got the full benefit of his skills – and conversely, Anderton has never found the right outlet for them, not after his true political soul mate ( ie, the Labour Party) ran off with a bunch of flashier types during the 1980s.
Opinion is still divided on the extent to which Anderton brought that calamity on himself. The pattern did repeat itself somewhat down the years, with other, more transient political partners. Yet much of it also seemed inevitable. An accident of history made Anderton the immovable object in the path of Rogernomics the unstoppable force, and hubris on both sides did the rest. Irish to the core, Anderton has never backed off from a fight – and especially not during the 1980s, when the only alternative was capitulation. A few of his colleagues did manage to rationalize their caving in as being only a tactical retreat, but neither Anderton or Labour ( or arguably New Zealand) have ever completely recovered from the experience.
The Progressives are his current vehicle. If Rodney Hide had lost in Epsom in 2005, the Progressives would have Matt Robson in Parliament as well. It was that close. In his current incarnation as a one man band though, Anderton seems reasonably content. Since 2000, he has been a serious parliamentary insider at last – feted for his administrative skills as a Minister, and still formidably articulate in the debating chamber,
As the tide went out on Labour at the last election, Anderton greatly increased his majority in Wigram, and – these days at least – he’s a team player around the Cabinet table. Thirty years too late, it is a vision of what might have been, if Anderton and his times had been more in sync. Scoop’s Gordon Campbell talked with Jim Anderton on Tuesday morning.
Campbell : In the 2005 election Wigram had by quite a long shot, the highest percentage of informal votes of any electorate in the country. Why do you think that is ?
Anderton : I haven’t got the faintest idea.
Campbell : Your majority last time was 8,500, so re-election shouldn’t be a problem this year. Are you committed to staying in Parliament for the full three year term?
Anderton. Yep. I wouldn’t stand if I wasn’t. That would be pointless.
Campbell : The Progressives got 26,000 nationwide last election. Outside of Wigram, where are your main centres of support?
Anderton : Auckland. Mainly around Matt Robson, really. He’s got quite a large following – both traditional supporters, and among ethnic groups he’s worked with in various ways, as new immigrants and so on.
Campbell : In that respect, does the Immigration Bill pose a possible critical division between the Progressives and Labour, given the concerns being expressed by migrant communities about some of the security aspects of the Bill?
Anderton : No, I don’t think so. I haven’t had any representation from any migrant community on the Bill. Basically, we’ve had to adjust immigration policy over time, both from a social perspective as well as security perspectives. By and large, the immigrant community I’ve spoken to understand these imperatives. New Zealand hasn’t been as extreme as many countries.
Campbell : Your own party, Peter Dunne’s and New Zealand First were founded by established politicians. Personally, do you welcome the day when MMP outgrows this ‘personality party’ phase of its evolution?
Anderton : Its inevitable that it will. Its also inevitable that it did happen that way. After all, I was in Parliament before MMP as an MP elected outside of the two party system – which was considered virtually impossible [under FPP.] In fact, I was the first MP to leave a major party and get re-elected to Parliament. That’s how hard it was. Peters was the second. Dunne sort of, the third, though (laughs) I’m not sure which of the major parties he left at the time. We were the precursors of MMP….
The pressure for change in the electoral system came first from the failure of Labour to honour its policy promises, and then National added to that sense of betrayal. There was inexorable pressure for something to happen, that would change that way of acting. I think my election in 1990 was a signal the electorate was prepared to act.
Campbell : By ‘phase of evolution’ I meant that you, Dunne, Peters now face the challenge of handing over the reins and ensuring that your vehicle survives you. What steps are you taking to manage the transition?
Anderton : I don’t have that sense of…sort of, survival, in terms of parties. Parties come and go. I’m not a historian, but if you look back at all the parties that ever existed in democratic societies that are still the same – or are even ( laughs) in existence..(shrugs)
Campbell : I’m not talking about your legacy, I’m talking about your baby, the Progressives. How do you ensure its survival ?
Anderton : I don’t know that you do. And I don’t know that you have to concentrate your mind on it. In many ways, political parties and political philosophies and policies are creatures of their times. That comes and goes. At one time in my life, I was the most popular politician in New Zealand. Now I’m not. You’ve got to get on with the reality of what’s happening. Its not a matter of ensuring some kind of legacy, or whatever – it is a matter of facing the political realities of the day and doing the best that you can. At the time I opposed Labour, that seemed the right thing to do. Now the right thing seems to me to be working co-operatively with Labour.
Campbell : So if the Progressives are to survive, its up to the Progressives to make that happen ?
Anderton : Yes. That’s right.
Campbell : You once told me that being an electrician was never really a career option – since you’re colour blind, and can’t distinguish between red and green. Were you aware that the Greens Co-Leader, Russel Norman, has the same condition ?
Anderton : I’ll give you the dignity of my silence on that one. (laughs). His performance in the first week of Parliament was enough for me.
Campbell : Currently, this administration’s achievements – reducing child poverty, record numbers of people in work, raising the mimimum wage, lowering state house rents, making Telecom act competitively, rescuing Air NZ, buying back Rail, and making it cheaper to get to the doctor – are simply not getting any political traction. Why not ?
Anderton : That’s political life. What happens when you change things, people bank them…. And then they say, what’s next? All these things, like Kiwibank, are there now. And although I still get identified with it, there would be many, many younger New Zealanders who would not even remember that there wasn’t a Kiwibank. Many young New Zealanders at university, I’m told by academics, don’t know who Roger Douglas is, and have never heard of Rob Muldoon. Now, for someone coming from my era ( laughs) that seems impossible! But it’s the reality.
Campbell : They’d probably see you only as the fussbudget who banned their party pills. Does that bother you at all ?
Anderton : No, it doesn’t bother me. I know we were right to do that. A heck of a lot of parents who have got a lot more life experience and wisdom than their children know its right, too. Whether they thought it was right or not, was not something I’ve ever taken into calculation. If you look at my track record, I never worried whether fishermen would oppose me closing down the Marlborough Sounds for blue cod fishing – because of course they would – but it was the right thing to do.
Campbell : If the current poll trends continue, you could be re-fighting in opposition the same battles against the New Right that you had in the 1980s. Have you got the energy to do it all over again?
Anderton : Well, I get up at quarter to six every morning, I’m here at twenty to seven, and I go home at about eleven o’clock at night. If you talk to some of the my colleagues, I think they’d say I was one of the workaholics of the outfit, and have been all my life. When I can’t do that anymore, or don’t want to do it, I won’t.
Campbell : Mentally though, is there an ‘oh no, not again” factor?
Anderton : No, I stare down the barrel of the reality of life. When you’re ten, or eighteen, or 30, 40, 50 …at each stage, you have a view of life. Now I’m 70. Ironically, and its one of those things that constantly amazes me, it hasn’t changed much. I still feel that I have to keep fighting for things that I believe in, pretty much as I did when I was eight or nine years old. I’ve often found myself in a minority of one. (laughs)
Campbell : Someone will have to rebuild the Labour Party after this election. Is that a task that could inspire you to finally rejoin them?
Anderton : No. I’ve often had that put to me. I think…once you know things, you can’t un-know them. I’ve had the experience of being part of Labour, and even of leading it in an organisational sense. We had a parting of the ways, quite significantly, quite deep. And I can’t undo that, and wouldn’t want to. It would be like re-writing history in a way, if I said that none of that really matters.
Campbell : The 1980s battles left too indelible a mark ?
Anderton : Yes. The scars are fairly deep. That doesn’t cloud my judgement. Was it right to encourage Helen Clark to come to the Alliance conference in 1998 and prepare to go into coalition government in 1999 and I think the answer is yes.
Am I sad that the Alliance imploded ? Yes. But were the reasons for me standing against what the tide was in the Alliance at the time, right? I viewed them as correct at the time and still do. I don’t regret one single step at any particular point. That’s not said as an arrogant thing, because I’ve had to think very carefully about the steps I’ve taken in my political career, and always have. They weren’t off the cuff. I didn’t leave the Labour party after 26 years as a sort of whim, or because I was feeling a bit aggrieved. I didn’t start the New Labour Party and didn’t stand against forces in the Alliance who wanted to bring down the government, lightly. I did it deliberately, and would do it again.
Campbell : This decade, has there been anything this government has done in office that you fundamentally disagree with ?
Anderton : Not fundamentally. There are always nuances and emphases and decisions that might be untimely. Where you might say, I wouldn’t advise that myself, and I wouldn’t do that, myself.
Campbell : So you’ve disagreed in a backseat driver sense this time, rather than over the direction the car has been headed in ?
Anderton : Yes. As in, I don’t think that’s a wise decision now. Might be okay in principle, but if you try it, I think you might get clobbered around the ears….
Campbell : What have you and the Progressives achieved in government that wouldn’t have happened otherwise ?
Anderton : Kiwibank was under the Alliance, to be fair. But the same process that I used with Kiwibank I’ve used everywhere else. Like the Fast Forward [ agricultural science research and development] initiative. Where we got $700 million in an election year, from a Minister of Finance under pressure for all sorts of things to be delivered – and this was delivered to a constituency that demonstrably, wouldn’t reward the government. I actually give Michael Cullen a huge amount of credit for that.
If you think about it, the agricultural community for the next 10 or 15 years – and probably forever – is going to benefit from this step. The industry has stumped up with an equal amount of money. It will be about $2,000 million in the end.
Campbell : So, you’ve basically put up the venture capital for farming’s r&d for them ?
Anderton : That’s right. And that’s for a constituency that won’t reward Michael Cullen, or the government. When I first put this up in 2006, I didn’t get too much support for it. I got a little bit – we got a foot in the door with a little bit of help for the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, and Pastoral 21 – and we got some millions. But it was relatively small beer, and they were all a bit disappointed. And I said to them : look, we’ve just started to say to the government that hey, we’re way behind the eight ball on all these areas, so lets step it up. And if you want government to do more, you’ve got to match it – and then rely on me to open the door a lot wider the next time. Which is what they did.
Campbell : While David Parker is the Climate Change Minister, you’re managing agriculture and forestry, two of the main front end sectors. At the very least, why shouldn’t the nitrous oxide contribution to farming’s emissions come into the Emissions Trading Scheme earlier than 2013?
Anderton : Well, it might do. We’re working on that. Even 2013, is a question mark. That’s our goal. You’ve got to remember – no other country in the world will include agriculture in the emissions trading system. Agriculture is our most important economic driver, 50 % of our emissions come from agriculture. So it’s a huge call for us (a) to put it in and (b) to expect agriculture to stump up with emissions reductions based already on 90 % of the 2005 emissions. The clock is ticking already.
Campbell : The counter argument is that dairying at least will never be in a better position to pay for its own pollution.
Anderton : That’s a bit fortuitous, to be honest. Dairy prices have doubled in the last 12 months, while planning for climate change has been under way ever since I came to this building. And the drought, that no one predicted either, has had quite a significant effect. As I said, putting agriculture [into the ETS] was a hard call, but without it, 50 % of our emissions would have had to be met by everyone else. That’s demonstrably unfair.
Campbell : Right okay, there are contrary forces. But assuming we can’t hit farmers for their methane until we find some alternative way of dealing with it, is it your belief regardless that at least part of farming’s share should be in the ETS before 2013?
Anderton : In one sense, agriculture is in now. This business of being benchmarked against 90 % of the emissions in 2005 is a very real matter. If agriculture doesn’t take steps between now and 2013, then on January 1st 2013 there will be all these liabilities. Its disingenuous to think that will happen.
You would be right to think the government is working assiduously with agriculture – and with the dairy industry in particular. And you’re right, that’s partly because they’re in as good a position now as they’re likely to be, to try and do something about it.
So yes, we are talking with Fonterra and other dairy industry representatives to see how we can take some mitigating actions between now and 2013 to (a) increase our knowledge and research capabilities and (b) to pilot schemes that would give us some idea of where we can use effective mitigation measures, and how effective they are.
Campbell : Such as nitrogen inhibitors ? Reportedly, they have their limitations in hill country conditions…
Anderton : Yes, and that’s the problem. You can’t just say, everyone should use nitrogen inhibitors.
Campbell : Some older people in Wigram would still be carrying the flow-on effects of saving the planet last time round, from Nazism. Are you willing to let them bear the extra costs that the ETS will impose, unaided ?
Anderton : No. The climate change issue and the extra costs that will almost certainly fall on the energy sector – and therefore on consumers – have to be mitigated to some extent. You can’t ask an elderly person on a fixed income to meet costs they can’t possibly meet. Anymore than we can ask farmers to do something [about methane] that’s currently impossible to do.
So I’ve encouraged the government to look at dealing with those issues through some of the windfall profits that will come as a result of the government owning energy companies. Extra charges will fall [under the ETS] on people, who will have to pay more. It may well be, if the forecasts are correct, that some of these companies will make extra profits, and those extra profits should go back to helping the people most in need. That policy will be enunciated over time…
I’ve taken the view around the Cabinet table that if you want the support of your colleagues, you don’t want to turn up every morning and beat them around the head with a piece of four by two….The Alliance always wanted me to force a Cabinet vote on Kiwibank. I’d say what is it about 16 to 4 that you don’t understand? There are 16 Cabinet Ministers who don’t want the bloody bank, and four of us who do. So the last thing I want is a vote. I wanted the Cabinet to agree to have the bank.
Campbell : The reason I’m laughing is that this is so different from the brow beating, table pounding Anderton that people will recall very clearly
Anderton : You have different roles. In those days, that was an important persona to have : to be resolute and not take a step back, and all the rest of it. But then if you get into a situation where co-operation rather than confrontation is the way you can move things forward for the people you represent then…I mean, if you claim to represent people, you better go try and deliver for them.
Campbell : Under the ETS proposed last week by the Garnaut Report, the Australians are, proposing to divert about half the revenues into helping low income families cope with the extra energy costs, about a third to trade-vulnerable firms to help them adapt, and about a fifth towards research. Wouldn’t there have been wider public support for our ETS, if we’d announced steps in mitigation right at the outset?
Anderton : The problem is, as I said earlier, is that 50 % of our emissions come from agriculture. That’s a profile no other country has. And they’re not in a position to easily reduce those emissions, at the present time. We’ve got a big problem, and the rest of the community has to take a fair burden. If we clobbered that agriculture sector, which earns about 65 % of our overseas exchange earnings unreasonably, then we’d be cutting our throats.
Campbell : Right, understood. That wasn’t my question. The Australians suggest frontloading their ETS with mitigation promises and mechanisms, and surely, it would have been a good idea for us to have done the same, rather than being in denial about the costs.
Anderton : I’ll hold fire on that a bit until I see what the Australians actually do. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of announcements from Australia…the truth is, we’ve been pioneering this stuff [on the ETS] for quite a long time. And the Australians have come to us, for help and advice on their system. Because we’re way ahead of them.
Campbell : Are you saying we’ve been their pilot scheme?
Anderton : By accident. They said they wouldn’t be in it. Now they’ve got another government that says yes, we are. But they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
[ Yesterday, the Rudd government officially proposed to phase in their ETS by 2010, to keep agriculture out of it until 2015, to cut fuel taxes to mitigate transport costs ( meaning : their ETS will have less impact on petrol/diesel driven emissions) and to parcel out ratios of free allocations to affected (and polluting) industries that will make their system weaker than ours, but the bulk of it will be starting earlier. There will be barriers to us trading our units on their market. Hat tip to No Right Turn for some of these details.]
Campbell : What’s been behind those recent rates of de-forestation? To what extent has that been due to the conversion to dairying?
Anderton : There are…about four factors involved. In the 90s, the National party incentivised forestry planting. They gave tax breaks for it. If you go round NZ and see where people planted them, there’s some amazing places, really. You can look up some sheer cliff face, and there’s bloody trees all over it. And you think – how the hell are they going to harvest those? And at what cost?
So we had incentivised it, and they planted them everywhere. I’ve got forests now that people owned and they say well, there are no roads ( laughs) And they say, would you like to build one? And we have had to build roads into forests on the East Coast and in Northland, where there were no bloody roads. So, we picked up the tab for making it possible to harvest them. Sothere’s a price to be paid for just planting trees everywhere. That’s the first thing. When the incentives finished, that sort of planting stopped.
The second thing is, the wood industry has gone through a down cycle, with prices. Its recovering from that, a bit like the milk industry. The wood industry and a lot of the food industries are going through a boom at the moment. There are shortages of high quality wood, and food. Prices are rising. So ironically, at that very time – and it happens just after you’ve pulled out all the grapes, or all the avocadoes, or the kiwifruit or whatever the flavour of the month happens to be – suddenly, all the prices go up. So people go oh God, we better start planting again. That was the second thing, the price cycle.
The third thing is that when the trees were planted – and take the central North Island for an example – that land wasn’t very good for farming. It had cobalt deficiencies, and all the rest of it. We’ve been able to fix that. If only we’d had that capability back then – because it was ideal land for farming, and not necessarily that good for forestry. But trees were the only option at the time. When you look at it now, its rolling country and you’d say, that’s great dairying country. So when the price for dairy goes shooting up and the price of trees was shooting down it was a bit of a no brainer.
Add one further thing : we gave them five years notice. And said that on January 1st 2008 , any de-forestation of trees that were planted before 1990…. well, you’re going to be liable for the emissions, but up until then, you can de-forest. So people –
Campbell : Just fired up their chain saws ?
Anderton : Right. The point is, de-forestation is not due to a single thing. Its been all of the above.
Campbell : In this country, its usually been the state rather than the private sector that has driven r&d investment – formerly under the DSIR, now under the Fast Forward scheme. Do you find it annoying that the private sector will bemoan the state’s inefficiency, while consistently riding on its coat-tails?
Anderton : (laughs) What do you think ? I’ve just heard these companies saying that gee, we’ll do better under a National government. I would say that the last eight years until now. have been the best years to be in business in New Zealand that I know of. I started in business in 1971. We had some rough times – oil shocks, carless days, Muldoon Think Big stuff and then the business collapses, the rising unemployment…
By contrast, I said to one company executive only a couple of years ago : look, if I couldn’t make money now, I’d bloody shoot myself. You’d have to be pretty bloody stupid not to have had a good business during the recent conditions. Everything was going : high growth, all sorts of assistance, and incentives from government. All the years that I was in opposition and anyone came to me and asked if government would help with this or that, I’d say no – they can’t, and they won’t. There was no help.
Now, we’ve got Industry NZ, NZ Trade and Enterprise, sustainable farming funds …And I think to myself sometimes – you ungrateful bastards ! But again, that’s political reality. When we gave Fast Forward to farmers, we didn’t think they’d go: gee, this is a great government, we should vote them back into power.
Bassett, the 1980s and now
Campbell : Have you read Michael Bassett’s book on David Lange?
Anderton : I’ve been tossing up whether I would or not.
Campbell : Next to Margaret Pope, you’re probably the chief villain of the story. Are you comfortable with being depicted as the last baron of Fortress New Zealand ?
Anderton : The funny thing is that people think because Bassett took notes at caucus that therefore it must be right. But he took the notes, and he took them from his perspective. So of course, everyone else is a villain. (laughs) Is that an accolade, for a historian ? Or is it a sign of someone who had a vested interest in telling us his particular side of the story?
The other side of the story could be… that thank goodness, there was someone there who said : Hey listen fellers, don’t you realize going into the next election you’ve upset all the students of New Zealand by introducing the concept of student debt, you’ve upset all the oldies with the way you’ve punched them around, you’ve buggered up the health system by beginning to charge people for it – so who do you think is going to vote for you next time ? But they didn’t like that.
Campbell : I’d like to pick up one thing in the book – the coup attempt against Rowling in December 1980, that Bassett somewhat slides over -
Anderton : I bet he does.
Campbell : Partly as a result of the subsequent turmoil, Labour very narrowly lost the 1981 election. There’s an alternative history whereby without it, Rowling wins the 1981 election, Roger Douglas retires to run his Red Seal family business, Rogernomics never happens, and you succeed Rowling as PM. Doesn’t that make the coup attempt a fairly key moment in NZ’s political history ?
Anderton : From that perspective, it was. Because it ruined Bill’s chances. We were on something of a roll, actually. There had a been a coup attempt against Muldoon the week before. The week before ! A coup against the PM, by his own party. We had a leader who’s been PM before, who had led the party since the mid 1970s. Yeah, we were on a roll.
Campbell : That being the case, do you think the coup plotters actually wanted to lose the 1981 election?
Anderton : Yes. That’s true, I’m sure that’s true. Whether that was at the front of their minds or not, I’m sure they thought they would rather lose than go through with this. It was a very kamikaze –
Campbell : As the 70 year old Jim Anderton looks back, do you still think New Zealand would be better off if Rogernomics had never happened?
Anderton : Yes, I do. Just as Australia was better off because – and given that are different constructions on the economy – they took a more moderate view. They did change, but in a managed way. I was never against change. But I was against sacrificing hundreds of thousands of people without any plan of what the hell you were going to do with them.
Campbell : OK, you weren’t against change… So, do you now think the devaluation and currency float in 1985 were necessary – even desirable ?
Anderton : You had to have a plan about how to deal with the outcomes. They didn’t have one. The plan was to do it fast enough so that people didn’t realize what was happening to them… You remember David Lange’s famous reply when asked why he didn’t tell people what he had in mind and he said – ‘Because they wouldn’t have liked it!’
Campbell : So you’re saying that the Rogernomics process was a bit like the invasion of Iraq – in the sense there was no exit strategy, electorally?
Anderton : That’s right. There was no exit strategy. The exit strategy for Hastings….I remember being told on the Thursday night that on the Friday afternoon, Whaketu [freezing works] was going to be closed. They were going to be told at 3 o’clock. And I remember asking – what was going to happen? What were we going to do? Because at that time, there was a lot of unemployment.
There were 2,000 workers. That means about 10,000 people in total, affected. And the answer was – we are sending up a Social Welfare team to counsel people who were threatening suicide. (laughs) Yeah that’s great, that’ll work ! ….I mean, we were dealing with peoples’ lives. What is the cost that Bassett puts on the people who committed suicide during that time ? The farmers, who killed themselves. We were subsidising farmers with 3 % loans. They went to 30 % virtually overnight. We de-capitalised their land. It fell in value by half, or more. So they were committed to loans that they couldn’t even service.
You’d think that anyone with half a brain would see that. Yet what Douglas said was, that’s inevitable, we have to do it. There was no transition for it, no plan. With climate change, we’ve said to people – five years ahead ! If you want to chop down the trees, chop them down now, by the 1st of January. We took that hit, and we have been criticized by the National Party for doing it. But that was the transition cost. Where was the transition plan [in the 1980s] for all of what was done ?
Campbell : As I implied before with the question about the 1985 devaluation and float, times change. You’ve changed. Let me quote from your speech to the FAO last month, when you say : ‘ You won’t find a farmer in NZ who would go back to the days of tariffs and subsidies of the past. Reform spurred significant innovation and productivity gains, which means we produce m ore foods than ever before.” That is exactly the argument that the Bassetts of the world put forward now, to justify the steps taken.
Anderton : As I said to you, I was never against change. If you actually go back to see my speeches at the time I said that SMPs ( supplementary minimum prices} were family benefits for sheep. This was ridiculous. We were subsidising our core industry –
Campbell : But SMPs were a facet of Muldoonism. I’m talking about your stance – then and now, towards free market economics. Let me cite one of your speeches from April 1984 to the Auckland Regional Conference : ‘Anyone who believes that NZ should become the free market of the world for other nations to use as a dump basket for cheap, subsidized marginally costed and low wage-produced goods is asking New Zealand to adopt a recipe for social and economic disaster.’ Yet today, I assume you support the China FTA?
Anderton : The two things are connected. I was saying we were wrong to subsidise production that we couldn’t sell. We had 80 million sheep. We’ve now got 40 million, and we make more out of the 40 million…I had the Iranian ambassador in here last year saying Mr Anderton, when are we going to get back to supplying Iran with frozen sheep carcasses at $2:50 each? I said. ‘Never.”
That’s the first thing. Don’t forget : we weren’t paying those subsidies from income we had, we were borrowing money to do it, which made it even worse. That made us more vulnerable. The other wise of the coin was – if you want to compete with the rest of the world and open your markets, you’ve got to do some thing actively to prepare for that. And you’ve got to build the capacity to do it. But what [the Rogernomes ] were saying to the rest of the world was – we will open our markets to the rest of the world for you, and we don’t care if you open up for us at all. Just come in. And that’s exactly what we did.
We dropped all the tariff barriers. As a result, we go into negotiations now on free trade agreements, and when countries say to us ‘ What are you going to do for us?’ we have to say in reply: ’ Nothing. Because we’ve already done it. We don’t have anything to offer.’ Basically, we gave away all of our bargaining chips, and said “Come in here, and we’ll give you a license to kill.’ I thought it was ridiculous then, and I still think it is ridiculous.
Campbell : Do you think you could have done more to forge and hold together an effective bloc of opposition to Rogernomics within caucus ?
Anderton : No. I tried…I always remember the initial core vote against Rogernomics was sixteen. That was the core group we had at the time who were prepared to vote against it. I worked with that sixteen, and watched it whittle down.
Campbell : And people still claim that was partly your fault. Is there any inkling of truth to the criticism that you feel the need to control any organization to which you belong?
Anderton : No, I don’t think so. I mean…inkling of truth, who knows? I wouldn’t want to go that far. This is what happened. Reg Boorman was one of those sixteen, the MP for Wairarapa. He had a majority of one…. He wanted a gas pipeline to the Wairarapa. Basically, he was told – drop your support for Anderton, drop all that nonsense and you’ll get your gas pipeline.
There were people who depended on the support of the Engineers Union. Building frigates and everything was part of the deal. When it came to the conference in Dunedin. that was what swung it. They were promised they would get jobs out of building frigates, if they changed their vote. It wasn’t warm and cuddly stuff. It was cut-throat, real machine politics…we were saying things they didn’t want to hear. In the end they paid a high price for it. But there we are.
Campbell : You’ve recently come out in favour of anti-siphoning laws, to ensure major sports events are on free to air coverage. Isn’t that really water under the bridge?
Anderton : It is a bit. But I talk to film industry people who say how important it is to see ourselves on film, to picture ourselves and understand who we are and that film helps us do that and dah de dah. And I agree with all of that. But the point is, the same thing applies with respect to our culture, when it comes to live sport. People disagree with this, but I think we have to accept that rugby is part of who we are.
Whatever it was that shaped us as New Zealanders, rugby is part of it. And I see people saying…there’s only half the audience there used to be, so its not as popular. Well of course its not – because you have to pay $85-90 bucks a month to have Sky TV. A lot of families can’t afford it. Those kids will miss out. And the people who say, who cares – its only rugby, only netball or cricket. Well, its an elitism that says we’ll spend money on Te Papa or on a museum, or an art gallery or on New Zealand film, but we can’t spend it on sport. I happen to think sport is part of us.
Campbell : One last point, on sport : In an era before helmets, you played competitive cricket against Gary Bartlett, one of the fastest and most unpredictable bowlers New Zealand has ever produced. When you looked at Shane Bond, did Bartlett seem in the same league?
Anderton : Oh yes. I’ve spoken to a lot of cricketers over the years and any of them who ever saw Bartlett – and certainly any who ever faced him – think he is the fastest bowler that we’ve ever had. I’ve played senior and representative cricket, and opened the batting all over the place. The first ball that I faced from Gary Bartlett, I never saw it. I didn’t think he’d actually bowled it. I saw his arm come over, and then the next thing the wicketkeeper had it. (laughs) It was the first time in my life that I felt real fear.