National one year on: Hide - up where he wants to be

By Patrick Gower

Rodney Hide has maintained a good working relationship with John Key despite some policy clashes. Photo / Janna Dixon
Rodney Hide has maintained a good working relationship with John Key despite some policy clashes. Photo / Janna Dixon

Political reporter Patrick Gower talks to ACT leader Rodney Hide about working with National.

Act are fighting hard to keep their identity while swamped by a bigger and philosophically similar National Party. They have stuck to their guns on big issues like the Maori seats and proved an irritant to National at times.

What is your proudest achievement since being in Government?

Establishing the goal of catching [up with] Australia by 2025 and setting up the 2025 taskforce headed by Don Brash. It is based on the idea of making the cake bigger, of setting a big goal, and the polices we need to get there. If we didn't have that then it is very easy in government to drift.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

National going ahead with a Emissions Trading Scheme. It is dopey, it is going to put costs on New Zealand and become a bureaucratic nightmare for no gain.

I'm disappointed. I haven't given up on it because I don't think the Maori Party are going to see it through when they see what it costs Iwi interests.

What is the biggest clash you've had with National?

This might strike you as odd, but we haven't clashed in my judgement. We've had big differences on the Maori seats in Auckland.

Obviously we wanted to go further on ACC. Another difference was that I wanted to have indicative referenda for council spending, and Cabinet ruled no, we've done enough. That's how it goes.

You have been using the "one law for all" catch-cry a lot. Is this a dog-whistle for the disaffected Pakeha vote?

No. If it was we would probably do better in the polls. My explanation for not wanting Maori seats on the council was of course we want Maori on the councils, but by the same process as for everyone else.

It is an important principle to have one vote for each citizen, and that people are free to stand for every place of political power. You don't carve that off, because if you do so you get something quite horrid.

Do you feel there are forces within National that don't want Act to get victories, that don't want you to get one over them?

You may be be right, but I haven't experienced that. It is not like that with John Key.

I've been in Parliament since 1996 and have never been able to work well with National - it has previously been a case of " if you get that, we lose", it was seen as a zero sum game.

But with John Key, right from the start he said it wasn't about the words on the paper, it was about the relationship and he's been true to that.

Do you feel you are getting enough profile?

I do. We were very careful to choose ministerial portfolios that allowed us to get profile from being positive to working inside a government rather than being antagonistic like Winston Peters was.

The virtue of being Minister of Local Government, particularly with the Super City, is that you are in the news for the job you are doing.

The end of MMP could mean the end of the Act Party. Why then do you support getting rid of it?

I've always supported First Past the Post, I make no bones about that. I've always thought you should advocate policy that is best for New Zealand and proceed from there.

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ACT GAINS

From governing agreement:

Leader Rodney Hide became Local Government and Regulatory Reform Minister and associate minister of Commerce. Deputy leader Heather Roy got Consumer Affairs portfolio, plus associate role in Defence and Education.

Hide sits on Cabinet Expenditure Control committee.

Three Strikes bill got fair select committee hearing but no decision yet on whether it will be adopted.

Emissions Trading Scheme delayed and reviewed - then set up again by National with support of Maori Party.

Regulatory Responsibility Taskforce looking at ways to slash red tape.

Taskforce headed by Don Brash to catch up with Australian living standards and wages by 2025.

Resource Management Act group working with National on reforms.

Scholarships for students from poor families to go to private schools.

Extras:

Hide wins high-stakes game to block Maori seats on Super City council.

ACC pushed towards privatisation.

Opened way for private sector to run local water services and reminded councils to focus on core services.

Yet to get:

Taxpayer Rights Bill to cap spending.

Flatter tax, maybe single rate - not on the horizon at all.

Productivity commission- awaits Treasury report.

Razor gangs led by private sector to review more departments.

Meaningful role for Sir Roger Douglas unlikely to happen.

- NZ Herald

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