02 May: Post-Cabinet Press Conference

Uploaded by NZNats on 02.05.2011

>>PM: Just to politics, it's been a busy week on both the right and the left of politics
as the small parties start positioning themselves in election year. Starting with the left first,
Hone Harawira's decision to resign from Parliament and then stand again in the resulting by-election
is nothing less than a costly political stunt. It will cost taxpayers up to half a million
dollars and, frankly, it will achieve absolutely nothing. There is no need for this by-election,
and Mr Harawira's decision to force a by-election is ridiculous in the extreme. National enjoys
a positive working relationship with the Maori Party. We will not enter into a working agreement
with Mr Harawira, either now or after the upcoming general election. His far-left policies
and views on non-Maori New Zealanders are not compatible with National's.
Over the 2½ years that we've been in Government, we've enjoyed a good working relationship
with ACT under Rodney Hide's leadership. Of course, we haven't always agreed. The reality
is ACT hasn't changed. Economically they've always been a right-wing party and they remain
so today. Don Brash and the ACT Party have very similar fiscal views. So, in that sense,
there will be little change in ACT's policy through a change in leadership to Dr Brash.
The reality is that all elections are a contest of ideas. I'm leading a fiscally responsible
centre-right Government which is moving quickly to balance the books while ensuring that people
don't get left behind. The upcoming Budget will demonstrate that, and that is the right
approach that we'll be taking in to the November election.
There are those to the left of us, lead by Labour, who want to borrow and spend crazy
amounts of money, and there are those on the right of us, lead by ACT, who want to slash
expenditure and not worry too much about the consequences for New Zealanders. I believe
that New Zealanders will continue to support the sensible and practical approach we are
taking, which is the right one for the times. I think New Zealanders see the Government
as doing a good job in what have been fairly trying times with the global financial crisis,
the tragedy at Pike River, and, of course, the two Canterbury earthquakes. They understand
the need for strong, stable government that doesn't get sidetracked in to the extremes
of the left or the right. Last week both Mr Hide and Don Brash confirmed
that ACT will continue to honour the confidence and supply agreement it has with National
through to the election. Strong and stable centre-right government will therefore continue.
Tomorrow afternoon I'll meet with Dr Brash to discuss ministerial appointments. Let me
outline briefly the approach I intend to take here. First of all, our confidence and supply
agreement makes it clear that ACT is entitled to two ministerial positions outside of Cabinet.
The practice has been that those Ministers serve as long as they retain both my confidence
and the confidence of the party leader. So in the case of Heather Roy's resignation in
August 2010, while she retained my confidence, she no longer had that of her leader. Accordingly
she tendered her resignation to me. Tomorrow I'll be looking to get from Dr Brash either
an assurance that he has confidence in one or both of his current Ministers, or, if that
is not the case, an indication of who in the ACT caucus he would recommend for ministerial
office. Prior to my advising the Governor-General to make any new ministerial appointments,
I'll need to personally have confidence in them.
In terms of my diary this week, tomorrow I'll be attending the launch of the new red kiwifruit
variety for Zespri in Parliament, and on Wednesday I'll be speaking at the launch of the beef
and lamb strategy, also at Parliament. Also on Wednesday, I'm making the first of the
pre-Budget announcements with Paula Bennett. On Thursday I have a day in Auckland, on Friday
I'm back in Christchurch. On the weekend I'll be speaking at the Grey Power AGM in Hamilton
on Saturday, and the National Party CNI conference in Gisborne on Sunday.
In terms of the House, tomorrow the House returns from a 2-week adjournment. The Government
will be seeking to pass the Land Transport (Road Safety and Other Matters) Amendment
Bill this week and make further progress on the Dairy Industry Restructuring (New Sunset
Provisions) Amendment Bill and the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. Wednesday is a
members' day. >>Media: Do you think you're going to have
to sack Rodney Hide tomorrow as a Minister? >>PM: Look, I wouldn't want to jump to that
conclusion. As I say, it's a matter of whether he retains the confidence of his new leader.
If he does, then, well I guess he'll remain as a Minister. If he doesn't, then there'll
be change. >>Media: It seems pretty clear from Don Brash
that he doesn't have confidence in Rodney remaining in that position, so does it not
look like a bit of a fait accompli for Mr Hide?
>>PM: No, I don't think you would want to jump to that conclusion. I mean, in the one
discussion I've had with Dr Brash since when I was overseas, there was no categorical viewpoint
taken I think by Dr Brash. He's weighing up the issues and I think he wants to talk to
his caucus about that tomorrow. >>Media: Have you taken any Cabinet Office
advice on the correctness of a non-elected person, Dr Brash, who's not in Parliament
to be effectively telling you who should be Minister in your Government?
>>PM: We've taken some advice from the Cabinet Office in general in the relation to the confidence
and supply agreement, and that is that there will be, I think, for the purposes of that,
a new agreement if there's a new Minister, but essentially, for all intents and purposes
there is very little change as yet. I think there are two important conventions here.
One is there's been a longstanding convention that someone serves as a Minister at the pleasure
of the Prime Minister, and that remains. The second and, I think, emerging principle now
is that where we have a confidence and supply agreement with a smaller party, we take recommendations
from that smaller party. Now, I don't have to agree with their recommendations - for
instance, tomorrow if Dr Brash was to promote the name of Roger Douglas, that would be unacceptable
to me. >>Media: Is there anyone else in the caucus
that that would apply to - that you would not feel you could put your confidence behind?
>>PM: I wouldn't put it as strongly, but I think it's unlikely that Hilary Calvert would
be acceptable in the sense that I don't think it's likely that Dr Brash would be promoting
her as a name either - she's quite new to Parliament. My sense is that he will choose
between the three names he has available. >>Media: So Heather Roy, Rodney Hide, or John
Boscawen would be three names, or three people, that you could back?
>>PM: Yes. >>Media: Would you take it as an end to the
coalition agreement if they decided not to have Ministers in the executive?
>>PM: No, not at all. They're free to make that choice. They could easily continue to
support National, and give us confidence and supply and choose to have no ministerial porfolios.
That's a matter for them. >>Media: Even though the coalition agreement
states that those ministerial positions are a part of that agreement?
>>PM: Well, that's right. In a way, that's seen as something that's generally seen as
beneficial by the smaller parties. At the end of the day if they chose not to have Ministers
in the 6 or 7 months in the run-up to the general election, that's a matter for them.
That would certainly be acceptable to us. >>Media: If Dr Brash nominates Heather Roy
instead of Rodney Hide, would it be acceptable just for her to take over local government
or is there a potential reshuffle of portfolios? >>PM: We are not planning a significant reshuffle
of Cabinet as a result of this, no. So there are portfolios depending on who is coming,
who is going; I can't say to you there will be absolutely an exact match but we need to
think our way through that. But I am not planning a major reshuffle as a result of the change
in leadership. >>Media: You held regular meetings with Rodney
Hide as leader; do you expect that you will be holding regular meetings with Don Brash now?
>>PM: That is my expectation that there will be regular meetings, yes.
>>Media: Would you accept Heather Roy as Minister of Local Government?
>>PM: In most probability, yes. I haven't spent a lot of time on that matter and thinking
about the actual portfolios. But, as I said, in August 2010 there was a change of deputy
leaders and Mr Hide, the then leader, then indicated to me that he no longer had confidence
in Heather Roy and didn't want her to have a ministerial role. I accepted that. I think
I made the point at the time that I didn't lose confidence in Heather Roy but I accepted
the position promoted by the then ACT leader, and I find myself in the same position tomorrow.
In the end it is very much in the hands of Dr Brash.
>>Media: Would you expect to have any say or offer a view on their parliamentary leader
position? >>PM: For most part, no. At the end of the
day they are a separate party; they are free to choose their own parliamentary leader.
Obviously they are in an unusual situation that their leader is now outside parliament
and therefore they will need a parliamentary leader, but that is a matter for the ACT caucus.
>>Media: If it was Roger Douglas, would that be a problem?
>>PM: It wouldn't be a matter for me. Who leads them in parliament is their choice.
>>Media: Do you expect the confidence and supply agreement to be actually resigned by
Dr Brash? >>PM: I think that's right, yes.
>>Media: Do you think the public might get a bit fed up with seeing these ministerial
warrants passed around to different individuals depending on the political fortunes of its
MPs? >>PM: It may or may not, but that is a matter
that they will have to consider when they go to the election and how they want to vote
on MMP, whether they think the system has merit, or whether they are frustrated by it.
At the end of the day from the Government's point of view, what we do know is we have
stable government. We have both from the left and the right enough votes to pass our Budget.
There is no question about the stability of the Government and ultimately if Ministers
change, that is really a matter for those smaller leaders.
>>Media: But there has been a lot of instability in terms of the members of the executive potentially
from the ACT Party. It can't be ideal to have a minor party, a support party, changing every
other day, or changing their minds and changing personnel.
>>PM: I think it has been well documented that they have had their fair share of internal
ructions and ultimately that is clearly the reason why they have looked to make the changes
that they have as a caucus in terms of their leadership. There haven't been substantial
changes; there has been the removal of Heather Roy with replacement with John Boscawen. I
don't know what the recommendations from Dr Brash will be tomorrow, so I can't be sure
whether there will be any further changes. But that is the nature of MMP and the environment
I find myself in. >>Media: Going back to Brent Edwards' question
before, have you sought advice about that, because isn't it a case that it's not within
Parliament's rule to be directed by a force outside Parliament?
>>PM: I have had no advice that would indicate to me that anything we are doing is not correct.
At the end of the day anyone is free to make recommendations to me and I take advice all
over the place on all sorts of issues. The decision of whether somebody serves as a Minister
- as I say, the convention is that's at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. So if any
one of those three names is put up, or two of those three names are put up - John Boscawen,
Heather Roy, or Rodney Hide - two of those three will be acceptable to me.
>>Media: And you're quite happy for National MPs to take those positions and for ACT to
retreat to the cross benches? >>PM: Correct, if that's the case, absolutely.
>>Media: And can you guarantee today that the election will be held on 26 November?
>>PM: To the best of my knowledge, yes. I can't see any particular reason why an election
should be held early. I don't think that's in the public interest and the reason I would
say that is, firstly, we know that we can command a majority in the House. Therefore
we know we can pass confidence and supply, so the most basic test of whether the Government
stands or falls has been met. Secondly, we are about to host the largest sporting event
New Zealand has ever hosted in the form of the Rugby World Cup. A number of my Ministers
are intimately involved in that, and it looks to me a bit self-serving to be going to the
public simply because we enjoy a large lead in the polls at the moment, simply to hold
a general election because one of our smaller parties at the fringes has decided to change
their leader. >>Media: Has Dr Brash or anyone in his office
been in touch with you or anyone in your office about that possibility of withdrawing from
ministerial posts or are you just talking speculatively?
>>PM: No, speculatively, to the best of my knowledge they are going to replace or, at
least, have two Ministers tomorrow. I don't have the names of those two at this point.
My point mainly would be if they chose not to have Ministers, that's their choice. Generally
they are seen as something as a benefit, they come with resources, they come with a degree
of influence, and they come with a degree of autonomy and seniority. But in the end
if Dr Brash decided and the ACT caucus decided they don't want to have Ministers, that's
their call. >>Media: This is just playing complete politics
with the ministerial position, isn't it? Is it in the best interests of the people of
Auckland who have just got a new city to get under way? You're just dishing them out to
serve your political interests. >>PM: No, we have made it quite clear in entering
agreements with partners to have confidence and supply that they come with ministerial
warrants. In the case of ACT, that is two ministerial warrants. In the case of United
Future for obvious reasons, it is one. There is nothing new about this. That was agreed
2½ years ago. >>Media: But it's not in the best interests
of the public, is it, for a new MP to wander into those ministerial offices within months
of an election. >>PM: As I say, in my opinion it's an evolving
convention that takes place. I mean, of course I could just choose who the Ministers would
be without reference to those political parties and their leadership, but that seems a bit
heavy-handed to me. >>Media: But would you want to put in place
a set of rules around now how those Ministers conduct themselves in relation to Dr Brash,
given that he's not elected to this Parliament and, presumably, he could have influence over
and see the work that they are doing as Ministers? >>PM: Well, I think you're misplaced in the
responsibility of the Minister. The responsibility of a Minister is in relation to their warrant
and to making sure that they serve the Government and are bound by the conventions of that warrant.
Who their political leader is is a different issue.
>>Media: So you wouldn't expect any sharing of information with Dr Brash by those Ministers?
>>PM: Well, they may or may not be able to, but that's no different from if something
is confidential today, it's no different from the way that a Minister may treat another
member of their caucus. Our Ministers at the moment are fully aware of what the nature
of the Budget is. There are 58 members of caucus in National, 20 members of the Cabinet.
The other 38 are not aware of what's in the Budget in any great detail. There's nothing
new there. The fact that one of them may be a leader outside Cabinet doesn't change those
facts. >>Media: But could you get into a situation
where if you needed or wanted ACT's support for a piece of legislation, you'll be negotiating
with a party leader who's not in Parliament who could be demanding concessions for his
party as leader? >>PM: He'll be representing his party, and
whether he's in or out of Parliament doesn't alter that fact. They will consider legislation
just as they currently do today. The situation we have is that they are bound by confidence
and supply, and they're bound by matters where there's a ministerial warrant, and outside
of that everything is negotiated case by case; nothing has changed.
>>Media: But this isn't a situation, say, like with the Greens where they have a co-leadership,
where you had a parliamentary leader. Don Brash is going to be the leader of the party
and has indicated that he's going to be leading from the front. So wouldn't you be in a situation
where you'd be negotiating with him, for example, for ACT support, but he's not an MP and not
an elected representative? >>PM: We'll be negotiating with ACT on a case
by case basis, as we do now. Nothing changes. The fact that Don Brash is outside Parliament
makes not one iota of difference in that regard. >>Media: You don't think it's relevant that
he's not an MP but would be negotiating political deals that could result in votes in Parliament?
>>PM: No, I don't think there's anything wrong about that. If you go and have a look in Queensland,
I think that's exactly the situation. >>Media: You talked about Hone Harawira's
views on non-Maori New Zealanders and them not being acceptable to you. Are Dr Brash's
views on Maori New Zealanders acceptable to you?
>>PM: Well, I don't agree with all of them, that's for sure. But at the end of the day
they're a completely different political party. I mean, if you look at the approach that I
have taken in the time that I've been Prime Minister, I've tried to take people with me,
and I've tried to lead a Government that unifies New Zealand. In the end, when we go to the
polls on 26 November it will be up to New Zealanders to decide what sort of New Zealand
they want and what sort of leadership they want, and it's a matter for them to assess
that. Personally, I'm proud of the way I've led New Zealand. I actually think that we're
a stronger country as a result of it, I think we've got better race relations as a result
of it, and I think we've made progress in quite a lot of areas. So no, I don't agree
with everything Dr Brash says, and I doubt I ever will.
>>Media: In Queensland there is some controversy there because the leader of the liberals is
using parliamentary facilities and what have you, even though he's not a member of Parliament.
Would you expect that Don Brash will be having access to parliamentary facilities - office
space or what have you? >>PM: No, he won't. My understanding is either
the Cabinet secretary or my office has made it quite clear to him he's not eligible for
parliamentary resources, and can't use them. >>Media: Do you think you and Dr Brash will
revisit the issue of Epsom tomorrow? >>PM: I guess that's a possibility that there'll
be a discussion on that. I haven't had a discussion with him about Epsom, and you'll appreciate
I've been 12,000 miles away, so I can really only respond to the limited stuff I've seen
across my BlackBerry. But the impression I got from the comments he made on Campbell
Live was that Epsom wasn't that important to him any more, and that they were striving
to get a bigger result. Now, that may or may not change our attitude in Epsom; we'll have
that discussion on a future date. But that's a matter for him, really.
>>Media: In other interviews he's made it fairly clear that Epsom's crucial; he said
it's important that ACT is seen to be winning that seat so that it can attract good candidates,
and he's also said to me on Friday that it was important that ACT was seen to be winning
the seat so that he could attract party votes from elsewhere. So clearly, from my point
of view from interviewing him, it's very important to him. Does your position still stand that
you are just campaigning for the party vote there?
>>PM: We'll have that discussion with him in due course. All I can say is that the comments
I saw him make on Campbell Live were that he was expecting to poll a significantly large
number, and for that reason winning an electorate seat wasn't of great significance.
>>Media: So were your comments the other day a week or so ago - were they specific to Rodney
Hide rather than to ACT? >>PM: At the time they were acting on the
knowledge that I had - the best knowledge I had.
>>Media: And your knowledge was that Don Brash was likely to challenge for the leadership?
>>PM: No, I didn't know that. I've been aware for some months that there's been discussions
and there was a chance that he might set up another party or do something, but it came
as much of a shock to me as it did to you guys.
>>Media: Does the possibility of John Banks change anything in your mind from Rodney Hide
being the candidate? >>PM: Not overly. I mean, let's all see how
things go. We'll have that discussion in due course.
>>Media: Just to interject, what will New Zealanders gain from Hone Harawira calling
a by-election in Te Tai Tokerau? >>PM: They'll gain absolutely nothing, and
it'll cost them half a million dollars. Quite honestly, I think it's a self-serving act
from someone that's just trying to get profile. At the end of the day, we're 7 months out
from an election. If we were within about another 20-odd days, the current rules would
mean that there probably wouldn't be a by-election, and, frankly, there's no need for us to have
one. I would have thought there's a lot better things this country can spend half a million
dollars on than having a by-election that in all probability will not be heavily contested
in Te Tai Tokerau. >>Media: Do we take this to mean you won't
be contesting? >>PM: We won't be contesting the seat, no.
>>Media: Do you think the other parties should? I know it's not your place to advice them,
but do you think Labour and the Maori Party should stand aside on this one?
>>PM: Well that's a matter for them, but just from some of the reported comments I've seen,
I thought there was an indication that Hone Harawira had an agreement with the Maori Party
that he was going to stand. >>Media: If there's only one nomination, i.e
Hone Harawira, do you have to have an election? >>PM: I think the answer is you do. And I've
got a feeling when Tariana stood, she was pretty much unopposed, but I may be wrong.
>>Media: Hone Harawira's also calling for a pretty hefty financial transaction tax to
replace GST. He doesn't think the rich pay their fair share of tax. Is that one absurd
idea or is there room for a financial transaction tax in New Zealand?
>>PM: He's misguided. I mean, I think it's a Tobin tax, and years ago there's been a
lot of work done on it. It doesn't work very well, and in fact the rich pay more GST than
others do because they tend to consume more. >>Media: Is it appropriate for Hone Harawira
to compare Don Brash to Hitler? >>PM: Well I always think those sort of comparisons
are unnecessary. Hitler's a very emotive figure in world history and I'm sure Don Brash has
got his failings, but to refer to him as Hitler is a bit rough, I would have thought.
>>Media: ____ >>PM: Frankly, I just don't take the bloke
seriously whatever he says, so he can say what he likes.
>>Media: Are you reviewing the operating instructions to the SAS in Afghanistan to ensure that they
operate in accordance with international law of armed combat?
>>PM: No we're not reviewing them. You may have seen that Defence issued a statement
in the last hour or so. Essentially my understanding is that Defence has confirmed that our SAS
have always acted in accordance with the responsibilities that they are required to act under. And that
included the way that they have dealt with any detainees they may or may not have had.
So in my view, the assertions made in the Metro article by Jon Stevenson were wrong
and unfounded. >>Media: It wouldn't be unheard of for an
institution to make assurances about its own behaviour that don't stack up under independent
scrutiny. Surely given the seriousness of this, independent scrutiny might be warranted?
>>PM: Well I don't take them seriously actually from Jon Stevenson.
>>Media: You're relying on the Defence Force's own assessment here aren't you?
>>PM: Yes and I think they're accurate. >>Media: So you don't think there's any place
for independent scrutiny? >>PM: No. Let's get a few facts right. Jon
Stevenson's the guy that texted me one night impersonating Duncan Garner. This guy is not
a credible source, OK? >>Media: Is Duncan Garner a credible source?
>>PM: In my opinion, far more credible than Jon Stevenson. So I don't take anything Jon
Stevenson says with much credibility either. >>Media: You don't think -
>>PM: We're having quite a day of it, actually, but anyway.
>>Media: Phil Goff and the Greens have taken this quite seriously -
>>PM: Well they're welcome to, but as far as I'm concerned there won't be an inquiry
into that unless I could see some evidence that would suggest it's warranted. The Defence
Department had a good look at it. They've got no reason to mislead either me or the
New Zealand public and in my opinion the statement they've release actually answers the questions
raised in that Metro article. >>Media: They have an institutional interest
in saying that they're above board though. >>PM: Well you're making the assertion that
say the Defence Department are lying, and I don't believe that they are.
>>Media: The point of difference seems to be whether New Zealand has an end responsibility
for what happens to the detainees that they've handed over to the Afghan authorities. Do
you accept that New Zealand does have an end responsibility for the eventual treatment
of those persons they hand over? >>PM: It has some responsibility, and in the
instance where they've had a detainee, my understanding is that they've followed the
correct procedures, they've ensured that that person has been appropriately looked after,
and they've been in constant check that they've been properly monitored.
>>Media: So if there is maltreatment of prisoners we've handed over, that would ultimately be
a responsibility of New Zealand? >>PM: Well, I can't talk about time prior
to me being Prime Minister, but in the time that I've been Prime Minister, they're the
protocols that we've signed and agreed with the Afghan authorities, and that's the procedures
that we have followed. >>Media: In regards to the situation with
bin Laden, is there any concern about retaliation attack by al-Qaeda?
>>PM: Well I haven't had any advice on that. You'll appreciate that the news has broken
only very recently, so I haven't had any advice from either Defence or MFAT about any potential
threats either to New Zealand or anywhere else in the world. But obviously that's something
we'll keep a close eye on and monitor. I don't think that's going to present a huge risk
here domestically in New Zealand but that's always something we're conscience of.
>>Media: What about to our troops over in the Middle East? Will you consider their security?
>>PM: Well they always take as the highest priority their personal security, and again
that's something that we'll need to monitor. Obviously we're coming into the summer season,
which is the fighting season in Afghanistan, and we've already had the attack that you're
aware of last week, so we are entering what is inevitably a much more risky environment
anyway. >>Media: One more on Afghanistan. Are you
planning any protests to President Karzai about the mass escape of Taliban prisoners
from Kandahar prison? >>PM: I just haven't been briefed on that
I'm sorry. >>Media: Are you concerned about it? You're
over there to protect that Government. >>PM: I just don't have enough details on
that. >>Media: Just a question about the Petrobras
situation on the East Cape. Are you engaged in any further discussion with local tribes
who have expressed concerns about that whole process?
>>PM: I haven't yet. It is possible that I will meet with them and have a general discussion
this week, but my view would be that the Government is fully within its rights to carry out the
work that it is doing to issue the permit, and if I ultimately do end up having discussions
with those local iwi, I will be making the point that New Zealand cares a lot about the
environmental issues, and that we are in the process of reforming legislation for the EEZ.
But it is important for New Zealand's economic progress that where there are opportunities
for us to expand our mineral and gas and oil exploration activities, it is my view that
we should do that. >>Media: I was just curious about whether
there was any costing at the moment for the cost of the military involvement in the exercises
around the protests? >>PM: I haven't seen that yet, I'm sorry,
no. I'm sure there will be some costs but I haven't seen it.
>>Media: So you'll be meeting them tomorrow night?
>>PM: It's possible, yes, that's right. >>Media: And will you be taking fresh proposals
to that meeting? >>PM: No.
>>Media: Do you think you're winning the war against P?
>>PM: I think we are making great progress. I am pleased with what we have done. We launched
a serious bid to try to reduce P usage in New Zealand, and I think the signs from this
report are that it is working. The price is rising, at least for the indications we have
from users, from about $600 to $700. The beds that we have applied, the extra 60 beds, are
getting good usage, and from all of the indications that we have, it looks like the number of
clan-labs in operation in New Zealand is reducing. So I think we are making great progress but
it is always a fast, evolving area. >>Media: The Australian Government is about
to announce a package to try to create 500,000 jobs over the next couple of years. Is this
dangerous for New Zealand's economy in terms of more skilled workers being attracted to
Australia in the process of the Christchurch rebuild?
>>PM: It depends on where those jobs are being created, but we are always conscious of the
competitive threats with Australia. We are also conscious of the fact that a strong Australian
economy helps New Zealand, so it is a double-edged sword. I actually think if you look at the
steps we have taken as a Government, you'll see that they have been positive. We have
a much lower top personal tax rate than Australia, we're starting to invest heavily in our infrastructure,
and I think actually as the Australian Financial Review pointed out in one of its articles
a couple of weeks ago, if you strip mining out from Australia, it's very much a two-speed
economy over there. I think in many respects New Zealand's doing quite well. It doesn't
mean there's not a lot more that we need to do.
>>Media: Would that create worries with your Government, though, that you might need to
bring some job creation initiatives forward? >>PM: I think we've been doing a lot in that
area. We're going to see the unemployment data this week; I don't know what it will
be like. But the Government's been doing what it can practically to stimulate the economy
and create jobs. From what I see in terms of the unemployment data, at least, that unemployment
data is tracking down, and in the leading area, which is Auckland, the number of those
on an unemployment benefit is considerably lower today than it was, for instance, this
time last year. >>Media: So you think unemployment numbers
will fall this week? >>PM: I don't know. The household labour force
survey is notoriously volatile, so I wouldn't want to make any predictions on it.
>>Media: Having maligned the reputation of that investigative journalist, do you think
you could tell us a bit more about why you think he's discredited?
>>PM: I just don't think he's credible. The assertions he's made in his article are actually
not supported by the investigation from the New Zealand Defence Force. Now, I've got no
reason for Defence to be lying, and I've found him myself personally not to be credible.
Anyone who sends me a text message at 10 or 11or late at night and says to me that they
are Duncan Garner, who asks me to ring them, who theoretically lost his phone, and who
when I ring them up says they are Jon Stevenson, not Duncan Garner, as a starting point is
not a highly credible individual in my eyes. >>Media: Had he had problems getting through
to you, though, or had he been finessed by your office?
>>PM: No, not to the best of my knowledge. >>Media: Also on that subject, Phil Goff's
saying that there should be an inquiry or it should be cleared up before Jerry Mateparae
becomes Governor-General. Do you have any concerns?
>>PM: None whatsoever. Jerry enjoys my full confidence.
>>Media: Just the concerns about the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and the selling
off of local assets down in Christchurch, can you make any assurances there at all?
>>PM: I don't see that as being an issue. The Christchurch City Council, at the end
of the day, has the authority to sell assets today if it wants to - that's a matter for
its control. The fact is that Christchurch City Council is the owner of quite a lot of
assets. But the passing of the legislation was never with the intention of the Government
trying to sell assets on behalf of Christchurch; they were always reserve powers. I can't imagine
that the legislation will be used to sell assets.
>>Media: So there'll be no pressure on the council to do that?
>>PM: No. >>Media: Coming back to Jon Stevenson, when
you finally did connect, was he actually after asking some serious questions?
>>PM: Well, I hung up on him because when people impersonate somebody else, I don't
take them seriously.