Power: I would vote 'yes' next time

By Derek Cheng

Simon Power. Photo / Michael Craig
Simon Power. Photo / Michael Craig

Departing Justice and Commerce Minister Simon Power says he would vote in favour of civil unions and the child-smacking bill if given another chance.

His upcoming retirement will not only leave a gaping hole in the caucus' liberal circle, but also as the key figure in the party to reach across the political divide. But he is sure those elements will not be lost.

"People see a clash of parties, but they don't see the trust between selected individuals on both sides. Each political party can carry one or two people who can talk to other parties in a very honest and straight-forward way.

"[Labour's shadow Leader of the House] Trevor Mallard and I disagree on a lot, but he's never broken his word to me, he's never broken my confidence, and when I've dealt with him and he says Labour is going to do something, they do it."

And who will succeed him in this role?

"Somebody else will step up. Nobody is indispensable in this game."

Mr Power's cross-party approach has been evident in a number of the 36 bills he got passed into law this term, many likely to have significant social impact.

Among those he is most proud of are on-the-spot police protection orders, and making illegal the code of silence that stonewalled police during the Kahui case.

But he is just as revealing on what he would have done differently in the past 12 years.

On the civil unions bill: "At the time I was in my second term, representing a rural electorate [Rangitikei] that had pretty firm views, and I reflected the views that were being put to me. I'm sure they would have weathered the storm if I had voted for it.

On the anti-smacking legislation: "I voted for Sue Bradford's bill at the second reading and committee stages, and at the last hurdle I didn't. If I had my time again, I would have stuck with my original view."

Mr Power is also confident the liberal side of the caucus, which includes Chris Finlayson, Hekia Parata and Chester Borrows, is in good shape.

He has long been a stickler for proper process, which explains the appeal of the Leader of the House role.

"I really like the machinery side of it, and not many people do. You determine what Parliament does on any one day."

The pedantic management of time was something he learned in the lead-up to this term, when he had a month-by-month plan to drive his reforms.

"Some people go after the media, want to be in it all the time. That hasn't been my approach. Legislation is the tool I chose to deliver what I wanted to change."

He has not agreed with everything the Government has done but he has never spoken out. "Any minister of the crown who disagrees with any view of the Government is way outside their mandate."

Nor would he reveal if he had major issues with the direction the party took under Don Brash for the 2005 election.

- NZ Herald

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