I was lucky enough yesterday to have the chance to sit down and interview the Prime Minister, John Key. Here is a transcript of our discussion.
Me: Hello Prime Minister. Thank you for agreeing to talk.
JK: I said that may be your opinion. But actually, I could probably find a range of different opinions.
Me: It was a polite greeting. Nothing more.
JK: And there are a whole range of different greetings out there. For example, if we were in Samoa you could have said talofa lava instead of hello. Or if we were in Japan you could have said konichiwa. So in fact, actually, if you look at the facts you’ll see there’s a wide range of opinions across the spectrum on which greeting is actually the most appropriate, actually.
Me: Okay, but can we get onto the subject of the GCSB?
JK: Look, whether we can or not depends on which view you take. And there’s a range of views out there, and, look, I accept that.
Me: The GCSB…
JK: Now you know very well that I don’t comment on operational intelligence matters.
Me: I wasn’t going to ask about operational matters. I wanted to talk about the bills before parliament.
JK: Actually, let me stop you there. Why are we talking about the current bills, when Labour spent nine years in power and did nothing to fix this mess?
Me: Well… because National is in power and it’s your responsibility as Prime Minister to lead, not to find excuses.
JK: That may be your opinion, but actually, there are a whole range of opinions on the subject.
Me: Which subject?
JK: The subject you are referring to.
Me: But which one?
JK: Well that’s an interesting question, but if you look at the track record of this government, and you factor in the financial crisis that we inherited from the last government, it’s pretty clear that we have made good progress and are well on the path to getting the books back into surplus.
Me: But I wanted to talk about the GCSB. Can I just ask you—
JK: And as I’ve said, I don’t comment on operational intelligence matters.
Me: The two bills before Parliament, Mr Key… do you agree that there’s a lot of public opposition to an expansion of the powers of the GCSB?
JK: Look, I accept that some people have views on the matter, while others hold different views.
Me: A lot of people claim there is no justification for any expansion of the GCSB’s powers. The Law Society have criticised the proposed legislation. And yesterday the Human Rights Commission raised serious concerns about the bills before parliament.
JK: And Labour had nine years to do something about it.
Me: About what? Fixing the GCSB? But it was under your leadership that the problems became apparent, Prime Minister, and you are the minister in charge.
JK: That might be your view.
Me: No, it’s not my view. It says so right here. See? These are official government documents, and they confirm that you are the minister responsible for the GCSB.
JK: Sure, but look, I can probably find you half a dozen documents that don’t have my name on them. In fact right here in my satchel I have a copy of Dan Brown’s latest book, Inferno, and my name isn’t mentioned anywhere in it. So actually, I think you’ll find that there are a range of views on who is ultimately responsible, but the fact remains that Labour had nine long years to sort this mess out and they didn’t.
Me: You keep blaming everyone else for this mess, but don’t you have to take some responsibility? Do you understand the concept of ministerial responsibility?
JK: Responsibility is an evolving concept, because right now, actually, we live in quite a dynamic environment, and the sort of behaviour that may have been acceptable under the last Labour government certainly won’t be acceptable now. The people of New Zealand have made it clear that they want a strong and stable government focused on growth and jobs, and actually, if you look at recent results I think it’s clear that we’re delivering on our promises.
Me: You keep avoiding the issue, Mr Key! Don’t you think the people of New Zealand will want to hear some straight answers?
JK: That may be your view, but there are a range of other views.
Me: Mr Key, thank you for making yourself available for this interview.
JK: That may be your opinion, but actually, my government is more interested in getting on with the work at hand, ensuring a brighter future for all New Zealanders.