John Key: Matters of trust and truth

By Jonathan Milne

When it comes down to it, MMP is all about compromise, John Key tells the Herald on Sunday

You've talked a lot about tax reductions as an economic stimulus. But how important is infrastructure?

Both are very important... We're bringing forward about $800 million of additional infrastructure development, so that will help the flagging construction sector.

So what sort of infrastructure development will you bring forward first?

Roading and school building are first, but within a year we want to start rolling out fibre to homes for ultra-fast broadband.

So we're going to have guys in their singlets swinging picks on the roads or railways?

Any infrastructure work won't be undertaken by the old Ministry of Works. It will be private sector companies that do the work already today, just getting more contracts.

Are you willing to try to entrench the Maori seats, if that is the Maori Party's bottom line in talks after the election?

There's a wide range of potential support options that we could have with the Maori Party, and I'd rather go into those in the spirit of building a partnership with them, and work out the details later. I'm not convinced it is necessarily a bottom line for them. I've made it clear to them that while our position is to abolish the Maori seats, it's not a bottom line.

How would your voters feel if you turned around and supported the entrenchment of these seats, when your policy is to abolish them?

I think there would be very mixed views. Some people would accept that, but others would have real concerns, I think... MMP is inevitably about compromise - compromise from smaller parties and compromise from bigger parties.

What can you offer to Maori Party supporters that could persuade them to work with National?

The same thing that we can offer all New Zealanders: a brighter, more successful future for this country. One in seven Maori now live overseas - that's surely a sign that they don't think New Zealand is delivering for them.

The WWF says Kiwis have the sixth-largest ecological footprints in the world. What are we doing wrong?

From a purely greenhouse gas point of view, our emissions have been rising faster than many other countries, partly because of the sheer make-up of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, with half coming from agriculture.

You want to be Minister of Tourism?

I do. I'll have to speak to the Prime Minister! I think the three areas where we have a competitive advantage are, very simply, food production, tourism and Kiwi ingenuity - all those niche things that we do really well.

As tourism minister, how comfortable would you feel marketing New Zealand as 100 per cent Pure when you're not committed to taking a lead on emissions reduction?

I don't think we need to lead the world in climate change - that's been my point. I think we certainly need to play a part when it comes to climate change, and in that regard we'll stay in Kyoto, we'll honour our obligations, and we'll have a balanced emissions trading scheme. But I think there's a vast difference in arguing we need to be a world leader and closing down our economy.

But surely 100 per cent Pure is about leading the world, about being the best.

No, I think 100 per cent Pure is about how New Zealanders feel when they walk out into a wide open landscape, in a sparsely populated country where you're over whelmed almost by that sheer beauty and cleanliness. The drinking water is still great; the air quality is great; you can see the stars when you look up at night.

You don't live in Helensville. Your electorate vote is in Epsom - Richard Worth or Rodney Hide?

I'm voting two ticks for National.

So presumably you'll be advising all other National voters in Epsom to do the same? To give their electorate vote to Richard Worth?

We're running a party vote campaign around the country. It's no secret that we have a good relationship with Act. Obviously we'd encourage anybody to give two ticks to National, but we acknowledge that there will be people who split their vote in Epsom.

After the past week, are you fairly comfortable with your decision to rule out Winston Peters?

Ultimately a Winston Peters government is always one that has dramas and scandals around it, and I think that New Zealanders want a fresh start.

Why do you think Helen Clark has been willing to wed herself so closely to Winston?

I think she's desperate for power. She's trading away the principles she campaigned on in 1999 that she was going to hold ministers to account. She's fired ministers before Winston for a lot less... The only reason she hasn't [fired him] is because he's her only hope to get a fourth term.

We talked about change - what about trust? Why do you not trust Helen Clark?

Helen Clark likes to talk about trust, but there are many missing parts to the answers she gives. I think sometimes she's a bit economical with the truth.

You said you regretted your slip-up over the Tranz Rail shares. Why shouldn't that erode voters' trust in you?

Because that was a genuine mistake, and when I made it I fronted up about it. What I did find out about a week later was that I had more shares than people had originally thought, but they were for the same time period... Now, for good order I should have gone back and corrected that, and if I was faced with that situation again I would.

Could people perceive that as you being "economical with the truth"?

Well, they could do, and that was certainly why Labour went to such great lengths to find that information about me - but people make mistakes.

Will Bronagh also play a more public role?

She'll do a fantastic job of whatever is asked of her, and I'm very lucky to have her. But in the end it was my decision to go into politics and I'm the politician. She wants to try to give the children as normal an upbringing as possible, given the circumstances.

How will you maintain a work-life balance?

That's always the challenge. I'm really lucky that Bronagh's dedicated her life to the kids, because otherwise they'd be entitled to feel a little abandoned.

The main thing is to make the time I spend at home quality time, as far as possible.

POP QUIZ:

1. Who is the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo?
(Answer: President Joseph Kabila)
I have no idea who the president is. There's probably unrest, in terms of recent times. I've never considered peacekeepers in the Congo, but our peacekeepers will undoubtedly be busy. Maybe we could send Winston Peters.

2. Do you know how much a litre of milk costs at present?
(Answer: $1.85 at Mt Albert Pak n' Save)
Depends, [but] broadly speaking about $4.50.

3. You're quite keen for more people to be using public transport - any idea how much a one-stage Auckland bus fare costs?
(Answer: $1.60)
I think 80 cents, might be a dollar.

4. Given the level of taxation on tobacco, do you know how much a pack of 20 cigarettes costs?
(Answer: About $10)
Never bought one, but I think it's about $10 or more.

5. Who is starting as fullback for the All Blacks?
(Answer: Isaia Toeava replaced Mils Muliaina in last night's starting line-up)
Mils Muliaina.

- Herald on Sunday

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