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Q+A Panel Discussions

Press Release – TVNZ

Sunday 24th July, 2011 Q+A Panel Discussions. The panel discussions have been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on at, Q+A , 9-10am …
Sunday 24th July, 2011

Q+A Panel Discussions.

The panel discussions have been transcribed below. The full length video interviews and panel discussions from this morning’s Q+A can be watched on at,

Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE. Repeats at 9.10pm Sundays, 10.10am and 2.10pm Mondays on TVNZ 7

Q+A is on Facebook,!/NZQandA and on Twitter,!/NZQandA


In response to JOHN KEY’S US VISIT

PAUL Time to welcome to the programme, the panel. This week we’ve got Jon Johansson from Victoria University, and he knows Washington very well, and the other person who knows Washington very well is Fran O’Sullivan, Herald columnist. So, trade, but first of all, just the tenet, really, of John Key’s visit to Washington. He saw everyone.

FRAN O’SULLIVAN – Business Journalist
Yeah, pretty good visit this time round. One or two people he didn’t manage to get to see, but that’s simply because of that big debt problem that Congress is grappling with.

PAUL Well, I’m amazed with what was going on on Friday that he got to see Barack Obama even for 30 minutes.

FRAN Exactly, and the meeting was cut back by 10 minutes or so when they had to exchange their weapons ahead of time via somebody else. (laughs)

JON JOHANSSON – Political Analyst
It’s a bit like the Prime Minister said – that he was, you know, essentially served as a distraction because also on Monday, also in the midst of this crisis, the San Francisco Giants are going to spend some time in the White House too. So there is an element of which end of the telescope you’re looking down.

PAUL But we seem to have got around the rock in the road.

FRAN Yeah, and, yes, I think that rock in the road has been parked for some time now, and there’s been a deliberate strategy, not just by US side, but also some very skilful manoeuvring by Murray McCully, who, in opposition as National’s Foreign Affairs Spokesman, did quite a lot of work together with the US to park this issue. And it was a big issue, you recall, because Don Brash, at that stage the leader, had made this infamous comment that was leaked about how the legislation would be gone by lunchtime if National became government in 2005. Well, Murray McCully did a very very strong effort over several months, if not years, to reach an accord within their own caucus that it would never become an issue and that they were going to move on, they were going to accept the status quo in New Zealand on the nuclear legislation.

JON And that was crucial because that forced the Americans to recognise that there was always the hope there that if a National government came in, the policy could change, but that killed that off. But in saying all of that too, I think Murray built on also the good work of his predecessor and, you know, as loathe as most people are to admit it, Winston did a very fine job in terms of the relationship. I mean, the personal rapport he established with Condoleezza Rice was also central in that unique Winstonian way. And the efforts of Clark and Goff.

PAUL So it’s been a building over the years, hasn’t it?

JON Yes.

FRAN Absolutely.

PAUL But interesting to hear a National Party prime minister saying New Zealand was right to do what it did then with that nuclear-free legislation.

FRAN Yeah, that is—

PAUL I don’t think we’ve had a National prime minister say that. They’ve grinned and borne it.

FRAN Yeah, that is very firm, and I guess it’s because he wasn’t really taking part in the debate at the time. He wasn’t in politics. I mean, he was the man who didn’t really have a view on the Springbok Tour in ’81, so, I mean, he is in this wonderful position to be able to pragmatically accept something, but also the numbers say there is support for him.

JON Well, it’s simple recognition that that policy, regardless of the rights and wrongs of, you know, it, has become a real central plank of how we define ourselves as New Zealanders. And Key’s just offered simple recognition of that fact.

PAUL And suppose to it is the way the world went in the end. He seems very realistic on the role of the SAS in Afghanistan, but he commits to March coming home.

FRAN Yes, but doesn’t say anything about after, you know, when they have regrouped whether they may or may not go back. I think there’s a real sort of issue left unproved there. But what we are seeing is the sort of recognition that in discussions with the US that their own financial problems mean that pretty much the case for extrication out of Afghanistan is getting more and more robust. Although—

PAUL 443 billion.

FRAN Though it’s hard to say that the place is stable. I mean, it is not stable.

JON That 400 billion is just the tip of the iceberg of the true cost. But I add on the Afghanistan side – I think Obama very quickly realised before he became president that it would be his historic role to extricate his country from both Iraq and Afghanistan. And what we’ve seen really in the politics since is just the constraints that are imposed on Obama in trying to effect that extrication. And, of course, no credit ever falls on the president who has to essentially be, you know, on their watch, the troops come out.

PAUL Now, the invitation to the marines to come to New Zealand to commemorate the 70 years since the United States ended the war in late ’41, ’42, and also an invitation for the Coastguard. Do you like that?

FRAN Yes, I do, but it’s not really new. You might recall several years ago Charles Swindells, the previous United States ambassador here, actually back in Bush’s time – George Bush II’s time – he was trying to get that notion up there. And, actually, it couldn’t fly or couldn’t sail.

JON Yeah, no, I know. I also have had discussions years ago in the state department about how one would break the impasse, and that was always my logic – the Coastguard – send it down to the Southern Ocean, and people will think penguins. They won’t be thinking nuclear weapons.

PAUL (laughs)

FRAN It also gets it out of the US Navy, because there’s still quite a lot of players from the US Navy—

JON That’s the last entrenched—

FRAN who don’t like the nuclear ships thing.

PAUL Now, we seem to be on track for a trade deal, for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But in the end, given the situation Obama’s got there with this unbelievable crisis, can he deliver? Even though he’s got control of the Senate, the Democrats.

JON No is the simple answer, because this deal, you know, we focus very closely on it, and even if it gets the President’s sign-off, would be the fourth deal that would be sitting behind the South Korea, the Columbia and the Panama free-trade deals that haven’t even hit the floor of Congress. They are sitting there in the White House because you cannot— you just can’t sell free trade.

PAUL The trade deals have to go to the House of Representatives first.

JON The Senate—

PAUL The Senate ratifies—

JON ratifies treaties, yeah, yeah. It has to, though.

FRAN Well, the problem is this president doesn’t have negotiating authority, so every little winkle of this is going to have to be debated, and no one’s given him the ability to just get out and negotiate—

JON With 9% unemployment, it’s just too easy to be derailed by those opponents of free trade that say this costs America – exporting Americans.

PAUL Still, things are always sellable. I mean, Larsen was very creative there, wasn’t he? Congressman Larsen saying, ‘Well, you’ve just got to persuade. There’s no point in telling the American dairy lobby they’ve got to have something, but persuade them of the value of it, because it works both ways.’

FRAN Well, it is, and quite interestingly, he was one of the congresspeople who came down to New Zealand to Christchurch for the partnership forum in February. He left earlier that morning to go back to the United States, but he, in communications to his own constituents, he tells how he had made the case quite strongly in terms of that there was this issue around dairy and otherwise and how they would have to sell anything to their own constituents back home. So in other words, ‘Don’t worry about this. We still have your interests at heart,’ and he made this to the government. And, you know, essentially that is what all those guys said when they came to town to Christchurch was, ‘Yes, we all believe this. In our hearts, we know it’s the right thing to do, but we have domestic constituencies,’ and US is the land of pork, let’s face it. (laughs)

PAUL That’s right. And the Prime Minister also seemed to indicate that Pharmac could be on the table. I mean, we’re up against some powerful enemies, if you like. 28 congressmen or members of the Congress have written to Barack Obama– 28 members of the Senate, is it, have written to Barack Obama going on about New Zealand’s Pharmac.

JON Yeah, I take that as Key’s not willing to undermine the negotiating position of our delegation, and so he can’t rule anything out. I mean, that I think is just the reality of it. That said, the trade-off of even greater access of dairy versus losing Pharmac hardly appeals as a great deal for New Zealand, because if we ramp up production on dairy, that brings, you know, environmental problems associated with it, which we’re, you know, struggling to deal with now.

PAUL I mean, but if you spent billions on developing a chemical pharmaceutical product, it probably makes you a bit annoyed when generic boys come along.


PAUL So we’ve got to consider that side of it too, I suppose.

FRAN There are issues around IP.

PAUL Jon Johansson and Fran O’Sullivan are our panellists. So that was Peter Watson, fascinating man. He’s been in Washington, what, 30 years. He knows Washington like the back of his hand. So he says, ‘Relations between New Zealand and the United States are normalised, but we are 26 years behind.’ Interesting.

FRAN Absolutely, and particularly on the trade front, which he talked about too. I mean, we would’ve been at the table with Australia when it did its FTA with the United States, you know, way back six, seven years ago now. We were—

JON In the same mediocre deal?

FRAN Possibly.

PAUL It’s the beginning, isn’t it?

FRAN Yeah, but there were things that they got. They got government procurement, the ability to access contracts out of the United States. What was then said at the time – the super information highway, which is actually where this kind of thing might end up anyway with the US.

PAUL So we would’ve been part of that.

FRAN We were pushed— We started. We were going to. We started as part of it, and we were pushed out.

JON And, you know, someone I respect enormously like Gerald Hensley has also categorised that as a mistake. Yet I think, you know, yes, we might have jumped in on the FTA, but we would’ve been in Iraq. I mean, the anti-nuclear policy was also actually about us and about us asserting our own growing up in our way. Now, it might have been regarded as adolescent tantrum by the US and its military, but nonetheless, it is actually part of our own, you know, journey as a nation. So in that sense, and this is the other tension here – you know, I noticed that Peter was talking about it’s not either or. But let’s not fool ourselves here. If we just collapse straight back into the so-called Western alliance—

FRAN The club.

JON China notices, right. And we’re not the US. We do have to balance these different, you know, great powers in our regions, so, you know, that is why it’s always been very difficult for New Zealand prime ministers to find that space.

PAUL He thinks China wouldn’t care either way. But anyway, let’s move on to American politics itself. There is political paralysis at the end of this week in Washington DC. You know, the mother state might not be able to pay its bills. There is no— Barack Obama seems to have been led to the altar twice and they’ve shafted him, sort of thing.

JON Yeah, Boehner spat the dummy yesterday.

PAUL That’s right, and so the economy, it looks like, could well be the defining thing for next year’s presidential election.

JON I think it will be, and that favours Candidate Romney, I think, above all of them, plus he has some other advantages, not least the lots of filthy lucre, but—

PAUL He spent 45 million of his own money on the last campaign.

JON Yeah, yeah, indeed.

PAUL And he’s very good-looking, don’t you think?

FRAN (laughs)

JON Well, he looks like a US president.

PAUL Yeah, he does. (laughs)

JON You know, he looks presidential.

FRAN But the important thing, though, is at the end of the day, they’re going to have to elect an administration and a congress and senate that will deal to their debt. It’s all very well raising the ceiling yet again to accommodate more spending, but at the end of the day, it’s that sheer weight of debt that’s going to collapse America.

JON And that’s where really the interesting dynamic is. When I did some lectures down at the University of Texas, this lovely old professor was walking round with me, and I said to him, ‘What manner of crisis will it take to see Americans rise up and say, “We cannot tolerate this dysfunction in our political system any more?”’ and he says, ‘Oh, if we default on our debt. Then he paused, and he went, ‘Nah, we’re screwed.’


JON So I’m not even sure if they default on their debt that the political— that there will be enough momentum or recognition for change in that political system.

FRAN Or China will enforce.

JON Grinding to a halt.

PAUL And then, of course, Rick Perry, the Texas governor has just emerged, so he could be interesting to watch. Norway – the shocking events yesterday. First that massive bomb in the government buildings, including the prime minister’s office, in Oslo, and then a couple of hours later that unspeakable, unimaginable massacre on the island of the kids.

JON Unimaginable for Norwegians because here you have literally one of the most prosperous countries and successful societies on the planet, and they will be shocked to the core that this could happen within. And, you know, this is a Timothy McVeigh. I was surprised that the prime minister made the long bow from Oslo to Afghanistan. I mean, this seems to me—

PAUL McVeigh at least, though, was once removed. He set a bomb. This fellow said, ‘Gather round, kids. Let’s have some fun.’

JON Oh, yeah, yeah, I know, but it’s—

PAUL And killed 84.

JON It’s that strand in the Scandinavian countries that is reacting very very strongly against immigration.

PAUL And, of course, well, exactly, and we thought straight away our first instincts are an Islamic attack.

FRAN It was our first instinct, and we were wrong. Prime minister was wrong, and I think all of us who saw that first bomb were wrong. Very interesting that it’s some psychopathic person, a Norwegian, who’s actually done this.

PAUL And he’s arrested.

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