Labour MP for Rimutaka, Chris Hipkins, talks to political editor Audrey Young about politics and holidays

What have you found most rewarding about the past year?

One of the career pluses for me has been questioning Hekia Parata (Education Minister) in Parliament over the Christchurch schooling stuff. I was able to translate a lot of concern amongst the schools being affected into questions and subsequent action in Parliament.

Has there been a low point?

I think it is probably the tension around the leadership following the Labour Party conference that was the low point for me.


What is the most frustrating thing about working at Parliament?

People are deeply entrenched in their views about politics and politicians and sometimes you don't even get to mount your case before people have already made their minds up. I'm talking about the general public as opposed to other politicians. Sometimes people agree with you without you even saying anything and sometimes you wish people would have a slightly more open mind.

What MP outside your party impresses you?

I would say Chester Borrows (National, Wanganui) but I would have to say in brackets other than the fact that he closed our local Hutt courthouse. He is a thoroughly decent human being. I worked with him on the justice and electoral select committee when he was the chair of that and I found him to be very, very fair and able to do the job without letting the politics get in the way.

Do you have a bill in the private members bill ballot?

I do. I have a bill that would require the government to produce their documentation and legislation in plain English. There is an international guide around plain language. Legislation has been passed in other jurisdictions, in the US for example, which means the general public should be able to pick up any document or piece of legislation and understand it without having to have someone decode it. It means you steer clear of bureaucratic language and jargon and acronyms and you basically write in such a way that anyone can understand.

Do you engage in Facebook, Twitter, or other social media and why?

Largely, yes, because you get some really good discussion and reaction with people who don't make politics their day-to-day thing. It is just a coincidental interaction with them rather than the people who live and breathe politics. I'm on both Facebook and Twitter.


What is your position on the same-sex marriage bill?

I don't really see that there is a grounds for discrimination. To me the most important thing is that we recognise loving, positive relationships.

Name one of your heroes outside politics.

Sir Edmund Hillary probably and not because necessarily of what he did in terms of climbing Everest but because of his ongoing commitment providing educational opportunities and outdoor recreational opportunities for young people.

What books are you reading or are planning to over the summer?

I have The Spirit Level (by Richard Wilkinson) which I have been meaning to read for ages. I have a couple of David Baldacci novels and I picked up a book the other day that I really want to read, The Life of Pi. It's about a guy who ends up being stranded on a boat with a tiger.

What's one of the best shows or concerts you've been to in recent years?

I don't think I have been to a show for quite some time. No, hang on, I went to see the Topp Twins at Gladstone in the Wairarapa about two years ago. That may well be the last time I've been to anything live.

How are you unwinding over summer?

I'm hoping to do quite a lot of gardening. I bought a new house about three years ago and I've been doing all the landscaping myself and I've just about finished so I'm hoping to finish that over summer. And the rest of time I'm hoping to go to Raumati South beach with my extended family and spend some time with my nephews (aged 6 and 3) who have moved back to New Zealand. My brother lived in Ireland for five years.

Was there a beach that was special to you during your childhood?

Yes. It's called Waitoitoi Beach and it's at the end of the Mimi River in north Taranaki. My great-grandfather built a bach there and it was completely removed from all amenities so there was no electricity, no sewerage. There was a long-drop out the back and water was collected off the beach. He didn't own the land. It was just borrowed land and just about everything in the bach was borrowed. We had a great time going up there when we were kids. We used to be there every Christmas and school holidays. You had to walk along the beach about half an hour to get to it. You could only get to it at low tide so it was really isolated but it was great fun. An old-fashioned Kiwi bach.