Hard News by Russell Brown


Every option has costs, every lever pulls on something else

Last week, in a futile search for a pair of cycling gloves at advertised clearance prices, I called three Kathmandu outlets. At two, my call was answered by a pleasant young Irish person. At the third number, the voicemail message was equally pleasant, and equally Irish. When I eventually went into a fourth branch, I was directed to the clearance gloves by a cheery English chap. They didn't have my size.

Things were similar at the cafe in Northland where we took brunch last weekend, which was staffed by a whole fleet of handsome young men from foreign lands. One – tall, tanned, tattooed and French – addressed my darling as "darling" when he delivered our eggs.

This is all one face of a trend illustrated in the New Zealand Herald's fascinating data feature on trends in migration and the granting of visas. While the number student visas granted in the past couple of years has declined slightly, the number of work visas continues to grow. More than 40,000 people entered New Zealand on work visas in the year to March, and the majority of those were working holiday visas.

It's not hard to see why hospitality and retail businesses, especially those serving tourists, might want to employ these young travellers. They're educated, often bilingual and they're not expecting a substantial wage. It's not very different from the kind of transient work generations of New Zealanders have regarded almost as a birthright in Britain. Most of them are also not from the places that come to mind when we tak about immigration. The UK is the largest source of work visa migrants, while China and India account for only a small proportion.

As the Herald feature notes, both the government and the Labour Opposition want to address record net migration by restraining work visa numbers. And in Labour's case, that should spare them from lingering accusations of racism.

Except it doesn't, because as Keith Ng points out in a withering column for The Spinoff, Labour and its leader have been so bad at having this conversation.

Intended or otherwise, Labour has created one hell of a vacuum. They’ve talked up immigration as a problem since last year, and last week they ramped it up to Very Serious Problem which requires cuts in the tens of thousands … but they don’t have any policy.

This isn’t a policy debate – this is a debate about whether an arbitrary number sounds aggressively-yet-responsibly big. Ten thousand? Not big enough! Fifty thousand? Too big!

To be fair, the Greens haven't exactly been champs here either. Last year, co-leader James Shaw announced as policy an odd, gimmicky migration ceiling of 1% of national population, which would have the effect of halving current migration levels. He didn't say how or where numbers would be cut. Winston Peters gleefully claimed to have been vindicated and the Greens now appear to be doing their best to forget Shaw ever said it in the first place.

One thing I like about Keith's column is what he doesn't do. He doesn't reflexively attack any concern about migration levels as racist per se. It was fair, he notes, of Andrew Little, to associate Auckland house prices with migration levels.

It's not only prices – and let's be real, Auckland's housing unaffordabilty has multiple causes – but supply. The numbers are striking. According to Statistcs NZ, Auckland's new-dwellings shortfall versus poulation growth is running at around 5000 a year. The cumulative shortfall from 1012 to 2016 was more than 20,000.

Who's going to suffer most from that? I'll give you a clue: it's not whitey here, sitting on a capital gain nest-egg in a central Auckland suburb. It's the people at the bottom and on the edge.

As Greg Niness pointed out last December, the entire profile of Auckland's population growth has altered in the past three years. For years, projections have shown most of Auckland's population growth coming from natural increase. Natural increase is tracking as expected, but quite suddenly, two thirds of Auckland's population growth is down to migration. At 36,000 in the year to March, net migration to Auckland is seven times higher than it was in 2013. It's very largely external migration. Net migration with the rest of the New Zealand has been negative in recent years.

It's not just housing. If you think traffic congestion  is getting worse in Auckland, you're right. Around 800 new vehicles are registered in Auckland every week and it's showing.

Is all this fixable? Of course. Other cities cope with far greater population density than Auckland. But the city is only beginning to address an infrastructure shortfall created over decades. There are no quick fixes for that. So maybe it does make sense to take the heat out of net migration growth for a while.

After all, governments have always made periodic adjustments to immigration policy. The current settings were introduced in 2012, in what was, in the words of Minister Nathan Guy, a bid to "maximise the economic value that immigration delivers to New Zealand", after a slight softening during the GFC. The pitch, as ever, was a focus on "higher-value" migrants.

One of the changes in 2012 aimed to expedite applications in the parent category. Then last year, National cut the cap in the parent category from 5500 to 2000 – a move the Dominion Post editorial column characterised as  both insignificant in the wider picture and carrying an "unpleasant tinge of xenophobia". (China makes up 50% of approvals in the parent category and India 20%.)

People here on student visas were given more flexibility in seeking work to support themselves in 2012, and the path-to-residency for students was eased. These are much bigger numbers than the parent category. But international education is a significant export earner for New Zealand. And if you're talking about high-value immigration, already-settled people with tertiary degrees would seem to fit that bill.

Immigration has been a principal driver of economic growth not only for this government, but for the Clark government before it. It makes governments look good, even if their voters grumble about it.

I think New Zealand could do with a larger population in the longer term and I love the more diverse place that Auckland has become. It makes no sense to blame individual migrants for taking jobs, houses or space on the motorways. It does make sense to regard new New Zealanders – and new Aucklanders in particular – as people who have to live with the same deepening infrastructure deficits as the rest of us.

I do think there's a strong case for at least temporarily taking the heat out of record net migration trends. Indeed, so do all Parliamentary parties with the exception of Act (so long as the leafy lanes of Epsom are left undisturbed, presumably) and possibly United Future. It's hugely incumbent on them in election year to do so by forming, as Keith noted, actual policies – and not via confusing statements about slashing numbers or empty headlines about arbitrary ceilings.

Every option has costs, every lever pulls on something else. And that includes doing nothing new at all. The more we can be honest and precise about that, the better we deprive racists and xenophobes of the initiative.


Friday Music: The Inside Track

I was flattered when I was asked a while ago to make a contribution to Base FM's Cover Story II exhibition – but also a little flummoxed. The show, which launched on Wednesday, asks DJs to nominate a special record and tell a story about it. I loved the first round last year. But the second one focuses on New Zealand records, and while I have some local dance and hip hop vinyl, I knew there would be others who could talk about those records more credibly than me.

And then I remembered Stridulators.

Stridulators were Steve Roach and Chris Burt, who had played guitar and drums respectively for the new wave band The Techtones. Their only record as a duo, a 7" single in 1984 (House of Squirm, distributed by Flying Nun), is not at all like The Techtones. Like many great New Zealand records of the time, it's a DIY recording. But rather than reaching back for a lost rock 'n' roll essence, this haunting, surging creation of layered drums, synthesisers, guitars and vocals seems to be pushing forward for something new.

I chose the b-side, 'The Inside Track', rather than the other, 'Queue', because it's more of a groove, and because I had actually played it to people as a DJ – a requirement of the show.

There followed a few reminders of the fallibility of memory. My recollection was that it had been recorded at Steve's flat at Rosslyn Apartments in College Hill. But it turns out that The House of Squirm was actually Chris's house in John Street.

But there are reasons that I associate Rosslyn Apartments with that time. It was quite a place. I was the 22 year-old deputy editor of Rip It Up, and my boss, Murray Cammick, had a flat there with Simon Grigg. Steve originally lived there with Ngila Dickson, who would go on to win an Oscar for her costume design in Lord of the Rings. Mark Phillips, who had launched Auckland club culture with Peter Urlich at A Certain Bar, lived there too. Trevor Reekie ran Pagan Records from one of the flats, Roger Shepherd lived there later on and future EMI Music NZ boss Chris Caddick was there too. Then there was film-maker Willie Keddell and his impossibly elegant Dominican girlfriend, artist and activist Charo Oquet, who were worldly, interesting and kind.

I sorted most of that out for my text, but in the process, got put wrong by someone who told me that it had been made on a TASCAM Portastudio, essentially a mixing board that could record four tracks to cassette tape. My memory that the principal recording was actually done on a stereo cassette recorder turned out to be correct. (The guitar/organ/drum groove was then transferred to a reel-to-reel four-track for overdubs.)

The Portastudio factoid remains in the text at the exhibition, but that's okay, because it has a nice resonance.  Which is: that same year in Chicago – hell, probably at the same time – Jamie Principle made the first draft of 'Your Love' at home on a Portastudio. People were trying new things.

The 7" is Stridulators' only vinyl release (it followed Squirm Songs, which was only released on, you guessed it, cassette tape) –  but it had a life afterwards. The Headless Chickens covered it on the 1995 version of Body Blow (Chris Matthews was a big fan):

Both Steve and Chris went into screen sound post-production. Chris specialised in sound design – and when he set up his own award-winning studio in 1992, he called it … The Inside Track.

The thing was, neither Steve or Chris had listened to that record in many years. Musicians do that: they forget not just how much other people liked a piece of work, they forget how much they liked it. Steve said he couldn't believe how good it sounded when he went back to it. The key, he thought, was a matter of the extra space afforded by the absence of a bass guitar – and their very careful approach to recording.

The record itself offers a shuddering bass that simply wasn't a feature of New Zealand pressings at the time. There's just nothing else like it and to me it represents a unique branch of the evolution of New Zealand music.

Which is all very well, but it's been unheard by almost anyone for more than 30 years. There's a rip of 'Queue' on YouTube but 'The Inside Track' isn't anywhere. Well, until now. Steve and Chris have kindly provided me with high-quality WAV files of both sides. The higher-quality files reveal more of the layering that went into the recording – but, oddly enough, I think the vinyl still has more of a bottom-end kick.

I've uploaded them to Soundcloud for you to hear – play them loud – and Steve and Chris will get them up on Bandcamp when they get their act together.

Indeed, they might do more than that. Steve's amenable to re-releasing Squirm Songs after some tidying up. And at Wednesday's launch, we talked about The Techtones' lost album, TT23, recorded by Doug Hood on that four-track. As David Kilgour observed recently, the way that album sounded was a key influence on The Clean's decision to make Boodle Boodle Boodle with Doug and the four-track.

It's beeen good seeing swathes of local back-catalogue get digital re-release in recent years, but while streaming is cool and all, I think there's a lot to be said for making certain records available in good, lossless formats.

Anyway, it's been a really nice experience giving proper recognition to a forgotten, important record – and it was great seeing both Steve and Chris at the launch.

I think they were surprised by what an event it was – Base FM know how to throw a party.

Cover Story II runs at Studio One Toi Tū, 1 Ponsonby Road, until May 13.


Among the crowd at the launch was Sandy Mill, who shared the happy news that she's finally about to start recording her solo album, with Milan Borich on drums, Jeremy Toy on various and her husband Andrew Park on bass. That's a lot of musicality there.

If you've heard SJD's recent albums, you've heard Sandy's backing vocals. And man, she can sing. I've always loved this 2002 banger:

Sandy's also a DJ (we shared a night on the decks at Golden Dawn last year) and I think one thing you can count on is that whatever she's gonna do, it'll be funky.


Staying with the forgotten-gems vibe, I'm pretty excited about the fact that micronism's album, Inside a Quiet Mind, has been remastered and is up for release in digital and – for the first time! – on vinyl, on July 21.

This album, originally released in 1998 on Kog Transmissions, was a big influence on the emerging electronic music of New Zealand. Fittingly, it's been remastered by Kog co-founder Chris Chetland. There are more details and pre-orders on the Bandcamp page, and for now, there's this extremely-tasty-sounding preview:


Oh look, one more out of the archives. This week, Ed Kuepper tweeted this recording of The Saints playing at the Hope & Anchor in London in 1977. It sounds bloody amazing:



Dub Terminator is back! The Auckland producer teams up with Ras Stone again for this impeccable slab of digital reggae. Check out his Soundcloud for three extra dubs of the same track.

Friendly Potential this week presents a two-hour treat from the highly-capable hands of Stinky Jim. And it's downloadable! Get yourself some explorations.

And finally, longtime gig archivist Darkstation was there last Saturday night when JPSE and friends played in tribute to their friend and colleague Jim Laing. And he's posted this. Downloadable, just quietly.


The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


Representing New Zealand music


Friday Music: Folk Yeah!

On the face of it, the words "BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards" might seem to beckon jokes about fairisle jumpers and and beards. Even given the reinvention of folk tropes by a new generation of artists, the words "BBC Radio 2" makes it sound somehow unpromising. But I ended up watching the edited version of said awards and rather enjoying their amiably under-produced style. And musically, they really had their moments.

I had not, for instance, ever heard of Fara, four young women from Orkney, but I thought this was great:

One theme for the evening appeared to be being sent unwillingly to Australia. Hence, Daoirí Farrell's convict story 'Van Diemen's Land':

And then, more recent social history in this medley from the album The Ballads of Child Migration: Songs for Britain's Child Migrants. Incredibly the practice of snatching children from their families didn't end until 1970.

Also: Billy Bragg channelling Hall of Fame honoree Woody Guthrie:

And ... Al Stewart! He's still alive!

There are a few other things in the official YouTube playlist, including Ry Cooder and Afro-Celt Soundsystem, but in truth, it got worse as it went along and the closing act, Jim Moray, seemed to me like folk's equivalent of Nashville crossover dreck. But, you know, I would watch this again.


I'll be on a road trip up north tomorrow, but for everyone else it's Record Store Day 2017. My friends at  Southbound Records will have around 300 of this year's RSD releases available first-come-first-served from 9am. And they have live music from 2pm, with Stretch playing songs from his debut album Bury All Horses, then Jed Town's group Ghost Town perfrming and signing copies of their album, Sky Is Falling. Also, they just announced yesterday, 50% off second-hand vinyl and 10% off everything else.

And Peter Mclennan has rounded up the rest of the haps in Auckland and elsewhere, including Flying Out, which is putting on live instores from Shayne P Carter, Fazerdaze, Merk, X Features, Billy TK and some DJ called Roger Shepherd.



Just the one this week, as I need to start throwing things in the car, but y'all want a groovy dance-friendly edit of P.J. Harvey, right? Free download – just hit the "Buy" button:


The Friday Music Post is sponsored by:


Representing New Zealand music


Local journeys on the cusp of Waterview

Nearly three years ago, I wrote a post called Two roads lead to the city about transport infrastructure near where I live in Point Chevalier. It was principally about the upgrade to the St Lukes interchange in support of the Waterview Connection, but also about the "other" road into town from here: Meola. We're now approaching significant junctures for both.

The interchange was officially completed last year – except it wasn't. It now looks like this (actually, it looks a bit crappier now).

What you're seeing in the photographs is the interchange's dead lane. Auckland Transport's engineers fought for two right-turn lanes from the St Lukes bridge on to the motorway west, reasoning that the interchange would become a crucial entry-point for the northwestern motorway leading to Waterview and its promise of really quick trips to the airport.

But the engineers made the fatal assumption that they could make their plan work by converting the free left turn at the top of the St Lukes off-ramp to a Give Way and getting rid of the slip-lane that was there. They couldn't. Without the slip-lane, the intersection was a disaster and traffic backed up onto the motorway every evening.

So the slip-lane was restored – and the left-hand lane, the would-be through lane, had nowhere to go. One one level, I love it: it's a brilliantly large target to head for as a right-turning cyclist joining the northwestern cyleway to the city. But I'm genuinely puzzled that this multi-million dollar fuckup has not been the subject of headlines. Apparently only modest increases in the cost of public transport initiatives meet this benchmark.

The $85 million interchange project has created an additional motorway lane from the city to Waterview, and there are now shared paths on either side of the bridge, a a rather folorn painted cycle lane across it and a handy left-turn slip lane towards Point Chev. But as things stand, the principal goal of widening the bridge, to increase onramp capacity to Waterview, hasn't been – and probably can't be – achieved. It'll get nasty.

But the really chilling thought is that the the lane they can't work out what the hell to do with is the lane Auckland Transport's engineers wanted to cut down six old pohutukawa for. Imagine that.

The pohutukawa were, fortunately, saved by a group of Aucklanders who cared – the foremost among them being Jolisa Gracewood. Jolisa recently wrote Part 1 of a fascinating backgrounder on Point Chevalier, to provide some context for public submissions on the proposed walking and cycling upgrade from Point Chev to Westmere, which close this weekend.

In the backgrounder Jolisa makes a very interesting point about Meola Road, the "other" road to the city in my 2014 post:

The other thing there wasn’t, until the 1940s, is a car-friendly connection to Westmere. Meola Rd used to be two dead-ends connected by a rubbish dump and a footbridge. Now, it sees about 13-14,000 vehicle movements a day, as a major alternative route to Great North Road and the motorway.

She even provides a picture, from the Auckland Star in 1931.

The road through the old dump is a strange beast; an example of the way we just kept loading duties on some streets. There's a hell of a lot goes on on the relatively short stretch from Meola Creek to the Westmere roundabout. It's not only a major motor vehicle route, it's a staple route for weekend road cyclists – and it's a great big parking lot on Saturday and Sunday mornings, for sportspeople and their families and people who exercise their dogs on Meola Reef. It's further complicated by land constraints, two narrow creek crossings and even the fact that it touches a boundary between local board areas.

(This last appears to have been the reason that the incline at the east end, up to Westmere, went unrepaired for years. I may be able to take some credit for the fact that it s now properly sealed, having raised it with Eden Albert local board member Graeme Easte when I wrote the 2014 post.)

There have been – and will be more – complaints about the loss of parking. But here's the thing: Meola Road really needs to lose some parking. It's not just the danger for cyclists, although I'd almost forgotten how hairy it is having to pull out in front of following traffic to get around parked cars during the week until someone else pointed it out. It's that every weekend it's a freaking parked-up nightmare for everyone. Buses (and in some parts even cars) don't have room to pass in opposite directions. Doors are always opening, it's easy to clip someone's wing mirror driving by and small children dart out between vehicles. And if course, there's always the clown who won't slow down.

But I'm not the "Let them eat shared paths" guy, and I get that cycling and public transport aren't always practical options for getting groups of kids to and from 8am games of football in midwinter. So as a matter of urgency, I'd recommend Auckland Transport talks with the management of MOTAT about developing the stretch of wasteland on the far side, by Western Springs College, as a substitute parking space.

It's been earmarked as a potential car park for ages, so let it be a carpark. And let it not be free to use, at least at peak times. If you can afford that luxury SUV, you can afford five bucks for a couple of hours' unsubsidised parking.

 But as Jolisa points out:

You know, there’s an alternative universe out there in which Pt Chev Rd up to Meola Rd is about to be widened to four lanes with no parking, matching the motorways that have expensively widened in all directions to accommodate the expected Waterview tunnel traffic ($50m for the stretch between Waterview and St Lukes alone). It would have been a perfectly logical response. (Don’t believe me? Drive the back way to Te Atatu via four-lane Great North Rd some time, and keep your eyes peeled for a place to pull over… yellow dashed lines everywhere.)

Instead, this plan sees parking lost to, well, people.

I can't really improve on the detailed (and very largely positive) critique of Auckland Transport's proposal published by Bike Auckland, save to note that I'd like a little more information on the right turn from Moa Road to get to the citybound path on Meola. I don't like making hail-Mary turns and the problem is usually exacerbated by someone's SUV being parked up so as to block any view of approaching westbound traffic. If parking is to be preserved around that area, please don't let it be by that corner.

But, in truth, it's not just parked cars, it's the trees. I love the trees and it's nice that most of them will be retained, but this is what you see trying to turn right from Moa:

And that's not traffic there, it's a parked car. The traffic comes from behind the parked car.

It's particularly tricky around 3pm, with the schools nearby, and it will get worse when the big new kindergarten just off Moa on Walmer Road opens. Moa is already the principal through-road from Great North to Meola and that intersection is is going to get a lot more busy. Any way to make turning safer and improve sightlines would be very welcome indeed.

Anyway ... I was part-way through writing this post yesterday when I had to pop over to Mt Eden to do some work. I used that wonderful piece of infrastructure, the northwestern cycleway. As ever, getting there meant doing battle along the ugly stretch of Great North Road that passes Western Springs Park.

It's okay – I'm used to it. Yes, there's a constant danger of being doored along the park side, but I stay heads-up and I know when to make my break for the right-turn lane across the St Lukes bridge. I can manage the risks.

It was on the return jouney when that I encountered a risk I had no way of managing. I came off the northwestern and rolled down the left-hand turn onto Great North Road, pretty relaxed because it was after 4pm, so the westbound bus lane was live and there were no car doors to watch. And then, suddenly, there was a roaring, speeding car a metre from my elbow. If I'd wobbled right a metre at that moment you probably wouldn't have been reading this blog post.

The driver had swerved suddenly into the bus lane, at around 70km/h, to try and pass a line of cars on the inside, cutting sharply across in front of me in the process. Then he and another driver did the same thing twice more over the next few hundred metres, swerving back into the car lane each time. I presume they were racing each other. I hope it's only themselves these fuckers kill or injure.

This is a risk I can't mitigate in any way.

Auckland Transport's cycling and walking team has some great plans for a cycle network in the inner western suburbs, but they stop short of the most dangerous and difficult stretch of Great North Road, from the bottom of the Bullock Track to Motions Road. There were murmurings about some kind of cycle lanes as part of the St Lukes upgrade (hell, they lifted the whole road two metres) but that's gone quiet. And remember, this is the local access to the city's most important piece of cycle infrastructure. It's also a school route and it passes a big public park.

As noted above, I think the St Lukes interchange is going to be a bit of a disaster area when the Waterview tunnel opens. I've watched the Waterview Connection grow at one corner of my suburb and I like both the walk-and-cycle developments around it and the sweep and scale of the thing itself. But I'm not yet clear on how it'll affect the rest of my hood – I don't think anyone is, to be honest.

So I'm grateful that Auckland Transport has proposed to make Point Chevalier a safer place to get around in. Once Point Chevalier Road has those sweet new lanes I might take that route to the northwestern to cut my risk – even though it means initially riding away from town to get to town.

But at some point, someone is going to have to address the really hard part. Not only for cyclists – in the past year I've been involved in two not-my-fault car accidents on the same stretch of Great North Road, once at the Motions Road end and once by the Bullock Track. I'm just really, really glad I was driving and not cycling at the time.


Mike Moore: A pretty ordinary rooster

RNZ's video and audio podcast series The 9th Floor, a series of in-depth interviews with five former Prime Ministers, is a good idea well executed. Guyon Espiner's interviewing skills transfer well from the immediacy of morning radio to the longer format. It's deeply researched and it certainly hasn't been rushed: the interviews were being done last year while I was making From Zero.

The first of them, with Geoffrey Palmer, was interesting, but the second, with Mike Moore – Prime Minister for 59 days in 1990 – really struck a chord with me.

I could see a connection between the older man Guyon talked to – he describes the experience here in a Spinoff piece – and the one I spent some time talking to in 1991.

Moore was the first politician I ever interviewed: up until that point in my life, I hadn't been that kind of journalist. The story ran in issue five of Planet magazine, the first one I edited after arriving back from London in 1991, and the audio was the basis of the first Hard News slot on 95bFM (I changed the format to straight-up commentary in week two).

I interviewed a couple of other MPs for Planet. One was Helen Clark, who was open, articulate and discursive (she'd become Leader of the Opposition, but hadn't yet put up the shutters). She was also kind, and readily invited me round to her place in Mt Eden for a do-over after my first recording failed. The other was Philip Taito Field, who I really wanted to like but found arrogant and surprisingly cold.

Moore wasn't like either of them. My intro to the Planet story captures the memory:

Planet's profile on the Karangahape Road Retailer Opinion Index has never been higher. You'd think the Prime Minister had popped in for a cup of tea. But Bolger has, wisely, been staying off the streets lately – and he'd never have impressed the neighbours half as much as Mike Moore. Even as leader, Moore was the great survivior of Labour's election debacle. The public vengeance visited on his party has been stayed in his case. Joe Bloggs knows he's clever – and going by the polls, thinks he should be Prime Minister.

The big surprise about the face is the discovery that that those dark, sunken circles are largely a fiction of the camera. Instead, you fix on a remarkably intense pair of blue eyes. They're there, those eyes, they're not darting away to hide, and when he hits peak flow, he really does strike a leader's profile. When he relaxes or swears, he's like some sort of hi-octane ordinary bloke.

He's in Auckland to do a radio talkback ("soft – very kind for a change"), deliver a speech to the Manufacturers' Federation – and speak to Planet. Like any good politician, he's done his homework and launches virtually unprompted into a sincere but slightly self-conscious statement about pop music, art and youth. He covers nuclear-free, the kids of today ("admirable"), music quotas, the environment, gender equity, and 'Aims and Values' without a question being asked.

The interview ran as a double-page spread with a superb series of photographs by a young Darryl Ward.

It records his remarkable popularity in the wake of Labour's election calamity, but also notes the tendency to ramble that manifested in his weird "long, dark night" speech on election night 1993 (itself an odd omission from the RNZ interview). He was both compelling and wayward on this visit.

I've excerpted some of the interview here.


On his previous statements about Treasury being full of zealous young ideologues.

Well, the person with the paper wins. We are responsible. I can't blame officials, but there is an ideological fashion that came out of Chicago and other places in the 80s. You just do not find economists or economic writers who challenge this basic theory. From the 40s through to the 60s and 70s, Keynesian economics was generally accepted, but it was perceived to have failed during the 70s.

I think it will change. I've just been to the States to pick up some of the new books. I regard myself as part of the lucky generation. We missed the war and and the Depression, you could leave school at 15 and get a couple of jobs before you were 16 – there was always a job somewhere. We had it really good, our parents had it ratshit and young people have it ratshit now. We were greedy and and consumed more of the world's resources between the ages of of 20 and 30 than all the other generations put together.

The 60s and early 70s was a time when we said anything is possible, we've arrived on the moon, we can cure cancer. We had charistmatic leaders: Kennedy, Kirk here, Willy Brandt, even Wilson in his first term. It was a time of progress. But I think the press was that the State can't provide everything, resources are narrowing, the planet can't survive, government can't do everything.

We over-reacted and went into the 80s where the market could do everything – which it bloody well can't. I think we'll move to a democratic centre-left in the last half of the 90s. For social democratic and labour parties, it has to be as much free market as possible and as much social responsibility as is necessary to provide secrity and safety at home.

On the difference between Labour's "negotiated economy" and old-fashioned Keynesianism.

Well, Keynesianism is still valid. Not totally valid, we have a global market, but if it does work, it works for people on modest incomes. If you give them a break, put more money in their pockets, they're going to buy local, they're going to buy couches, not piss off and buy overseas wine or take foreign trips. That's why the Budget took out two months' retail spending this year.

Globally, you're talking about the post-Reaganomics era of economies trying to pump up together. The G7 and the economic ministers are getting together and trying to get some co-ordination and it's working. The great crash we had in '87 did not throw the world into depression. It should have, but we had the Federal Reserve in America, we had GATT, all these new instruments we've invented since the Depression. The Americans pumped out money and saved the world from depression.

On being in thrall to the markets.

There is a tyranny of the market and the market is nervous and listens to rumours. The idea that [Ruth] Richardson gives a speech in London and interest rates drop ... it's partly true, but they'll grow up and realise as other money markets do that politicians don't actualy matter as much as you think – fortunately.

You've got to keep your eye on the market, but there's also a social market. There'll be a change. I was talking to telecom people and who are seeking investment in New Zealand. They had listed reasons why people should invest in New Zealand and top of the list was Accident Compensation.

We've never had that debate in in New Zealand in the last 50 years – public health, public education, ACC and that kind of thing – a lot of the business community has forgotten why we set those things up in the first place. The US spends twice as much of its GDP on health as we do and it's not as efficient. In Massachusetts they have more health employees not directly associated with health care than in the whole of Canada, where there's a socialised health system, because you have to sell it. All the contestability stuff is expensive.

Over the next few years we'll try and show that our ACC is cheap. South Australia pays more and doesn't get the coverage. Bcause we are the status quo, the arguments have't been put up. And also there have been rip-offs – some ratbag in prison who blows their hand off, they shouldn't get ACC, that's rubbish. But it is a very cheap system and we should guard it jealously.

In the US, the papers are now starting to say this. If you're building a car in Detroit, the cost of private health is a bigger input cost than the steel. But our bsuiness people haven't really thought this through – yet. They keep thinking, oh yeah, let people buy, user pays, cut tax – but let's not say it's cheaper. I think there's an intellectual lag and we're guilty in the labour movement of not asserting these things strongly enough. But there are battles we didn't think we had to fight. I may have been guilty in the last campaign of not fighting enough on these issues – but nobody would have believed me anyway.

On whether things might have been different if it had been Mike Moore who took over from Lange and not Geoffrey Palmer.

I didn't actually want to take over when I did, when people came to me. But I did because I could see us going through a British labour Party syndrome if there wasn't strong leadership and strong direction. One of the reasons we're doing well as opposed to them is that our Tony Benn has left us. People will think that's a smartarse flick at Anderton ... which I suppose it is.

I would have gone into the growth agreement and negotiated strategy earlier, rebuilt my concept of a social wage. In a way, you do need to lose, you do need to be elected with a mandate from the people. Whenever people introduce me as 'the next Prime Minister' I feel slightly bloody embarrassed, because it's not true. You don't lead the country unless you have a mandate from the people. I had no mandate.

On being seen as a decent bloke.

Yeah, I think people see me as a pretty ordinary rooster. I'm ordinary, I've got an ordinary background and my basic instinct is to be on their side. We share the same values, but I've yet to convince them that our direction will be better, different and credible. That has to be done, but you can't do it in in the year of an election. Respect and trust is something you've got to earn, you don't just get it for being there.

On honouring Labour's alliance with Ratana.

... Michael Joseph Savage goes up and negotiates with old man Ratana about the four corners of the Ratana movement. In one corner there's a feather for peace ... it's interesting, Te Whiti and his mates used a  feather for peace before any of it, right? I sent Richard Attenborough Dick Scott's book about it, telling him he did the wrong bloody movie! The whole lot was done here first. So there's the feather for peace, the potato for agriculture, the watch, technology ... it's a very sacred compact with Māoridom and I think we're going to have to start talking again about our compact.

On whether New Zealand is suffering a spiritual malaise.

I think New Zealanders have been told they're useless and they're not. Richardson had her press people saying that we're all a pack of idiots – you go around saying that they're hopeless and they will actualy become hopeless.

There's a whole lot of areas where you've got to reassert a New Zealand way without cheap nationalism. It doesn't mean you've got to put the flag up in every household – after all, one of the earliest, most symbolic acts in our history was someone cutting the flagpole down.

Two things haunt me. First, that Uruguay, Argentina and Chile had a higher living standard than New Zeakand in the 1920s – there is no God-given right. The other thing, and it sounds pretentious, is that about a year ago I was talking about the Kirk government and I realised that we have not had in this country a leader that the kids can look up to for a hell of a long time. Maybe you've got to die – that dream of dying in office at the right time, it's a great career move.

But it's a matter of them feeling that somebody's on their side, that you share their values. It's not poll-driven, they've just got to know that you cry at the right moments in the movie. You don't laugh hysterically when Bambi dies. That's a sort of spiritual thing. Have a look at the prophecies ... the prophecies will come true. The labour movement, we'll go back to Ratana and do it ....


And there, right there, ended the interview. I concluded the story thus:

Sensing the beginning of a long story, Moore's press officer, who has been gazing at a metaphorical wristwatch for the last 20 minutes, jumps in on the pause and they're off down the stairs within minutes. The man who should be King departs with the same words with which he entere:

"We've got to spend more time time in Auckland ... Christchurch is all very well, but hell, I don't even understand grafitti!"

I thought afterwards, and still do now, that Moore's press secretary was wary of the boss pitching into another round of enthusing about Ratana and fulfilling "the prophecies". But that's how he was that day: friendly, forthcoming, fizzy – and just a little wayward.

Quotes excerpted from 'A pretty ordinary rooster', by Russell Brown, issue 5 of Planet magazine, 1991.