Hard News by Russell Brown


When we had hope and change

Our friends at The Fabians have something for you in both Auckland and Wellington this weekend.

On Sunday afternoon in Wellington, I'll be the MC for an updated version of the highly accessible Voyage of a Lifetime economic seminar -- more social than socialist -- featuring short talks from Arena Williams, Rick Boven, Rod Oram, Bernard Hickey, John Walley, Selwyn Pellett and Rory McCourt. Michele A'Court will offer some amusements before they begin. There are still a few free tickets available for the show at Downstage Theatre, here.

And on Saturday in Auckland, there is The Kirk Legacy, a day-long seminar exploring a brief, pivotal time in New Zealand political history when more than the usual seemed possible.

It's hard now to grasp the sense of -- to burgle a phrase -- the sense of hope and change around the election of the Kirk government in an unexpected landslide in 1972. But it's well captured in Right Out: Labour Victory '72 The Inside Story, a collection of essays edited by Brian Edwards and published shortly afterwards.

And yet Professor John Roberts, who concludes that book, could hardly have known when he observed that New Zealand governments did their enduring work in second terms and the proof of the pudding would come in 1975, that by then Labour's iconic, flawed leader would be dead and the discomfort of the Muldoon years would begin.

So what did endure? An impressive lineup -- Colin James, Bob Tizard, Hamish Keith, Margaret Hayward, Judy McGregor, Jacinda Ardern and others -- will debate that on Saturday. I'm pleased to see Green MP Kennedy Graham there too, given that the Green movement in New Zealand also effectively began in the 1972 campaign, with the rush to prominence of the Values Party.

The Kirk Legacy costs $25 to attend ($15 for unwaged, students and gold card holders) and you can register here. It's at the Dorothy Winstone Centre at Auckland Girls Grammar, so within easy reach of bourgeois cafes and restaurants.

I have three political memories of the time: Ebony's song 'Big Norm' -- imagine a group making the finals of New Zealand's Got Talent with an oddball song about the Prime Minister --  which you can hear here; my mother coming in one morning to tell me the Prime Minister had died; and that young woman on election night in 1975, drunk, angry, tearful, telling the news cameras that "New Zealanders are going to be so bloody sorry." Given what happened in the next nine years, she wasn't wrong.

Meanwhile, here's a little TVNZ news backgrounder that gives some idea of the flavour of events.

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