By Audrey Young

Departing National MP Don McKinnon confirmed last night that he once ordered a tyre on Sir Robert Muldoon's car to be let down so he could not drive home drunk.

It was the night the Prime Minister called the 1984 snap election.

"I didn't think it was a very good idea going into a general election without a leader," Mr McKinnon told Parliament in his valedictory speech.

He had been walking Sir Robert to the Beehive basement, from where he usually drove himself home.

But Gisborne MP Bob Bell spotted them and invited Sir Robert in for another drink.

"I knew we really had a problem on our hands and I knew Rob Muldoon had a fixation with driving home in a blue Triumph.

"I rang a couple of people and walked on down to the basement just praying that the tyre was going to be flat by the time we got there."

Mr McKinnon said he was relieved to see that the car was on a tilt and the tyre was flat.

But instead of getting into the chauffered car that had also been ordered, Sir Robert just stared at the tyre.

"He looked at that flat tyre for so long, I almost felt it was going to reflate itself."

Mr McKinnon, a list MP, is leaving Parliament after 21 years to become Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering the ceasefire between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 1997.

But he said he was brought down to earth by an 8-year-old schoolboy at Parliament who said that, as Mr McKinnon had an interest in Bougainville, could he go out to Naenae as well because there were lots of bogans there, too.

Mr McKinnon said foreign policy debate in New Zealand was "pretty thin" and he held news media owners largely responsible.

There were 20 journalists in Asia working for Australian media. and none from New Zealand.

"I think the New Zealand media ownership, particularly the print media, are just too mean."