The spirit of Facebook, it seems to me, lies in the fun to be had by sharing the contents of your inbox, hard drive and inner person with the rest of the world. I am at day four of the experience, having joined the cult the better to report on it in my weekly radio conversation with Finlay Macdonald. "Give us your email addresses, and we'll invite your friends to join," says Facebook. "I'm wise to that," I say to Facebook. "You're not getting hold of that list and making a nuisance of myself to a few thousand people. I'll just let you send it to the ones who are already on Facebook and a few others who will get the point. Oh, and send one to Finlay, it would be a good idea for him to get familiar with it."
Most people responded in the expected manner. Finlay, however, sent a reply containing the computer-generated invitation. It's quite alarming. It presents a photo of the user, and reports their current tally of Facebook friends. The prose does not surprise you, but it does make you wince a little. "Hi Finlay, I've requested to add you as a friend on Facebook. You can use Facebook to see the profiles of the people around you, share photos, and connect with friends. Thanks,David P.S. Here's the link…"
His own reply was user-generated.
That is perhaps the saddest thing I've seen all year. I'm still laughing.
I remain intrigued. You know how your class in high school was riotous until the teacher arrived? MySpace is your class at 8.55 am. Facebook is ten past nine. Different, but still school.
You should totally join, though, if only to see Damian's school ball photo. You have to be someone's friend to get to see their pictures, but Damian's easy. Everyone says so.
Anyway, in the spirit of sharing the contents of your inbox, quite a lot has piled up in mine. Today: the evasive Mr Key; tomorrow: lesbian censorship in the DomPost and a discount offer from the gyms of New Zealand.
Here, by kind permission of Critic, is a feature by Matthew Littlewood. As a bonus, he has also provided the questions submitted by email and the responses in full.
The Evasive Mr Key
John Key has been leader of the National Party for just seven short months, but in that time his party has experienced a remarkable upturn in fortune, acquiring the sort of Teflon coating that used to be the trademark of Labour stalwarts Trevor Mallard and Steve Maharey. On the surface, Key appears to be the perfect Party leader and future candidate for Prime Minister. Compared to Don Brash, he is at ease with the camera and savvy with his sound bites. Plus, his background as a "former state house kid" gave his speeches on 'ordinary New Zealanders" a semblance of authenticity. But who really is John Key? And what does he stand for? Critic features reporter Matthew Littlewood examines the amazing rise of John Key and what it means for New Zealand politics.
It had to happen, eventually. After Don Brash laid the groundwork in the 2005 election, the National Party finally resembled a coherent and well-managed Opposition. Yet before they could even bask in the glory of their near-triumph, questions began to be raised not only about the divisive tactics used during their campaign, but also their funding.
While the Labour Party was rightly criticised for overspending during the 2005 election campaign, it soon became apparent that National had not been totally honest with its dealings with the secret, cloistered evangelical sect the Exclusive Brethren. Suspicions simmered, and things began to unravel even further after the publication of Nicky Hager's The Hollow Men. Drawing upon sources within the party, Hager's expose revealed the campaign team behind Don Brash to be, at best, disgustingly cynical, and, at worst, potentially corrupt. Brash stood down shortly after the book's publication - many commentators assume he was pushed.
Normally, after a leader's resignation, there is a period within the party where various members jostle for the top position. This time around, there was seemingly only one logical contender: 45 year-old Helensville MP and self-made millionaire, John Key.
Following his completion of a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Canterbury, John Key launched his career as an investment banker; a profession that eventually saw him work for investment banking giant Merrill Lynch in places as far-flung as Singapore, London and Sydney. Accumulating massive amounts of wealth during this period, particularly in his role as a derivatives trader, it's speculated that his net worth is in excess of NZ$40 million. John Key won't become the country's youngest-ever Prime Minister should National win the 2008 election - that honour goes to David Lange - but he'll certainly be the richest.
The fast-track to the top
John Key's rise to the top ranks of the National Party has been equally meteoric. When he first ran for parliament in 2002, standing for (and winning) the Helensville electorate, he was ranked number 43 on the National Party list. To put this into perspective, if Key were merely a list MP, he would not have got into parliament in 2002, as National's party vote in that election was only enough for them to gain 27 seats in the House. Yet within the space of two years, John Key became the party's finance spokesperson and by the 2005 election, he had leapfrogged to number 7 on the party list.
A constant presence throughout National's 2005 election campaign, Key seemed to nicely offset Don Brash, who, no matter how hard he tried, always gave off the air of the clumsy (perhaps bigoted) patrician. Key, in contrast, was slick, upright, and forceful. It wasn't always clear what he actually stood for, but he gave off the air of the professional, particularly during the televised debates on finance. There were other areas in which he was less forthcoming. During the in-house reading of the Climate Change Amendment Bill in 2005, he said that he was "suspicious" of the science behind global warming and that he would not support the Labour government's bid to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. "If the Prime Minister of New Zealand wants to get out there and convince the Prime Ministers of India and Australia, and the Presidents of China and America, to sign up, then I will be with them all the way to the bank. But the last time I looked, we were part of the same planet. New Zealand going it alone has not worked in the past; it will not work on this issue, either," Key retorted. It was a powerful piece of rhetoric. Nonetheless, it ignored the fact that New Zealand was far from alone in the matter: to date, 175 countries have ratified the Protocol. Of these, 36 countries and the European Economic Community are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below levels specified for each of them in the treaty.
However, in a 2006 interview with Radio New Zealand's Kathryn Ryan, John Key reneged on his previous statement, claiming that he was "always a firm believer in climate change." In a subsequent statement, Key said, "National was sceptical about the impact and workability of Kyoto - which of course is not the same as saying that climate change isn't occurring…. The issue is the mechanisms you use to cut emissions. National has announced a target of cutting emissions by 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 - 50 by 50."
Other votes in parliament marked Key as a traditional social conservative. He voted against the Civil Unions Bill and the Prostitution Reform Bill, and supported the failed bid to increase the legal drinking age back to 20. Considering his economic background, his support of the Shop Trading Hours Bill to liberalise trading hours during Easter was not unexpected, and nor was his public bid for lower tax rates for new greenfield operations in defined high-growth sectors. On the other hand, he supported the Death with Dignity Bill, which aimed to legalise euthanasia.
It was Key's role in negotiating one of the more controversial bills in recent times that saw his political appeal skyrocket. Depending on which side of the fence one sits on Sue Bradford's Crimes (Subsection 59) Amendment Act, or the "anti-smacking bill" as it was widely dubbed, the bill was either a vital measure in curbing possible child abuse, or yet another example of nanny-state thinking that was designed to remove parents' basic rights to discipline their children. Regardless, it was a hot potato, and, as the debate became increasingly hysterical, it seemed that neither side would relent. At least that's how the media portrayed it. In truth, the bill would have had sufficient support to be passed even allowing for the opponents' contesting.
As leader of the opposition, Key disagreed with the bill in its original wording, but eventually a compromise was reached across most of the major parties. With a crucial amendment to the bill, which now stipulated that the police would have "the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child," where "the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution," the bill was passed almost unanimously and the surrounding controversy slowly dissipated as a result. More to the point, it marked Key out as a negotiator. No matter that the decision had to be agreed by all the separate parties: after the politically clumsy Don Brash, John Key looked like a very slick customer indeed.
A wolf in Little Brother clothing?
But how different is John Key's agenda from Don Brash? While John Key is a minor player in Nicky Hager's National Party exposé The Hollow Men compared to Don Brash or Murray McCully, his few appearances within the book are telling. During the 2005 election campaign, neither Brash nor Key would be upfront about their stance on privatisation and asset-selling. Rather, both engaged in what party advisors Richard Long and Peter Keenan described as "inoculation procedures" - fudging the issue by only partially answering the question.
For instance, should National win the election, Key claimed that National would not sell off any main assets for "at least the first term in office," a remark which is neither a promise nor a denial. More tellingly, Key, like the rest of the National Party, was keen to search for examples of 'political correctness' that had been perpetuated under the Labour government. The campaign to highlight glaring examples of this led to John Key's secretary sending a breathless email to fellow party members regarding the "scandalous" funding of "indigenous porn movie," Anal Mana. As a scoop, it was priceless - if only because Anal Mana was a fictional segment from Jeremy Wells' satirical media programme, Eating Media Lunch.
Aside from these minor gaffes, John Key has had a safe ride with the mainstream media - and not just from the expected channels. The fawning North & South cover article ("National Velvet: The Coming of John Key," May 2006) was to be expected, seeing that in previous years they had run similar pieces about past National Party leaders Don Brash and Bill English, but the traditionally left-of-centre Listener also featured an equally adulatory piece from Joanne Black late last year ('Mister Aspiration', December 9 - 15 2006). Even the steadfastly leftist commentator Chris Trotter has conceded that, despite his disagreements with Key's ideology, John Key has looked every inch the future Prime Minister in his recent parliamentary performances.
However, not everyone has been wholly convinced by Key's rhetoric. Having been a speechwriter for both sides of the house, including former New Zealand Prime Ministers Geoffrey Palmer and Jim Bolger, political pundit and Public Address contributor David Slack has keenly observed John Key's rise to prominence. "I get the sense that he's a creature of his environment, namely a trader who takes whatever position is necessary to do the deal," Slack muses. "He spoke not long after taking over the job about having recently been reading the history of the National Party. This is not the mark of someone who has lived and breathed New Zealand politics since he told his future wife at 19 that he one day hoped to be the Prime Minister of New Zealand.… [It] was interesting to hear his response in a radio interview to the question, 'In the 1981 Springbok tour, which side were you on?' There was a pregnant pause as he calculated an appropriate response to the unexpected question. His solution was to claim that he couldn't remember. This was the clearest clue that this is a politician who frames his position according to what the voters want it to be."
While some readers may feel that Key's forgetfulness is genuine - after all, the event was twenty-five years ago - this ignores the fact that the 1981 Springbok tour remains one of the more divisive chapters in modern New Zealand history. Surely, someone who claims to be a rugby follower would have had an opinion on the tour? "I'm not sure he holds any opinion particularly strongly," Slack says. "I would guess that his personal beliefs are relatively unadventurous and conservative, as in, 'The modern global free-market economy is fine, thanks, and let's not do too much to change anything.'"
Slack says that on the other hand, perhaps punters see John Key's 'reasonableness' as an antidote to the hands-on, intellectual omnipotence of Helen Clark and Deputy PM Michael Cullen. "[Helen Clark's] problem now is that many of the voters who warmed to her common sense pragmatism see her administration as ideologues out of touch with 'ordinary Kiwis', while Key enjoys a growing image as a competent pragmatist carrying little ideological baggage. It's an interesting dichotomy in the electorate. On the one hand there are matters of principle that we take as articles of faith - nuclear policy for example - and remain ideologically staunch. But in many respects, we respond to a more pragmatic common sense approach to government." We like people (and leaders) that 'just get on with it', Slack says. "Key has fit that bill well. If he has any ideology or political philosophy at all, he carries it lightly, it seems to me. But he makes it apparent that, like [former Prime Minister] Rob Muldoon, he understands 'the ordinary bloke', and it's working well for him."
A man for all seasons
National Party president Judy Kirk attests to John Key's "everyman" quality. "I think everyone brings their own personal style to political leadership: Don Brash did a fantastic job [for the National Party]. He restored our fortunes, because we were polling poorly before he arrived … but John Key brings skills that are very engaging. I've been with him in social functions, at meetings with Pacific Islanders in Auckland and he's got a real skill in connecting with people." Was the changeover from Don Brash to John Key always going to happen so abruptly? "The leadership change was not quick at all," Kirk claims. "It had nothing to do with the timing of [The Hollow Men]. Don Brash had been discussing it [behind the scenes] for more than six weeks prior to the announcement."
Before replacing Michelle Boag as National Party president in 2002, Judy Kirk had spent more than a decade working within the party. As party president, she says her role is incredibly wide-ranging, including party strategy, funding and candidacy recruitment. And with the National Party's representation within the house almost doubling after the 2005 election, there was every need to focus their many new recruits. "When I became [National Party president], I wanted to make sure the organisational wing and political wing were brought closer together," Kirk explains. "It occurred to me that parties had not done enough in preparing new candidates [for the challenges ahead], so in 2003, I instituted a candidates' college. The 24 new [National] MPs that came through after the 2005 election came through this college and we've started it up again. We've had three training sessions and already we've got another forty people who have joined. Membership within the National party is the highest it's been for some time."
Under MMP, there's every likelihood that neither National nor Labour will have the numbers to form a majority government, so have National sought out any potential coalition partners? Kirk is less forthright on that matter and instead she chooses to wash over the question. "We've had discussions with all parties except Labour. You need to be realistic - we know that we will need coalition partners and John Key has been keen to develop bonds [with the other parties]." So, in other words, they're prepared to work with anyone - except the current government. Either the new-look National Party is so ideologically malleable that they can manage with parties as diametrically opposed as the Greens and ACT, or they're hedging their bets with more than a year to go before the election. After all, it serves their interests to be guarded about anything that could scarper their chances at the polls.
Key onshore …
Eventually, the buck must stop with the leader. John Key has been a very busy man in recent weeks, travelling all over the world to attend various policy and economic conferences, but by the time he responded to our email, he was on holiday in Hawaii with his family. John Key's answers ran the gamut from evasive to inconclusive.
One the big coups for students as a result of the 2005 Labour election win was the announcement of interest-free student loans. This means, that, while you study, your loan doesn't incur interest. Although this doesn't entirely solve the problem - the debt will still hover over you once you finish your studies - it is a small mercy for students nonetheless. Would National would continue this policy should they win the 2008 election?
"Caucus is yet to decide whether we will retain the interest-free policy," Key says, "but we recognise the appeal of that policy and that will influence our final decision. We are conscious of the fact that nearly half a million New Zealanders have a student loan and have factored the interest-free policy into their equations, and we are conscious of not riding over the top of that." In short, it's a basic 'neither confirm nor deny' answer that's utterly useless to gauge John Key's (and the National Party's) stance.
In other areas, John Key refused to offer an opinion where other members of the National Party had already done so. In a recent article in the Listener about the country's current GP shortage, National's health spokesperson Tony Ryall said that New Zealand didn't have the money to win the bidding war for medical professionals, and therefore "should concentrate on training more doctors, lowering taxes and having a bureaucratic bonfire."
When Critic asked him whether National would increase the number of university entrants for doctors, Key said that National had "already met with universities to discuss these areas…. National's tertiary policy is being developed and will be announced in due course." He wouldn't give any concrete details, nor would he comment on whether Health Minister Pete Hodgson's move to increase the number of fully-funded places in General Practice from 69 to 104 was enough. "We have met with universities to discuss bigger picture issues, and we are putting these issues into the policy mix," Key said, tactfully avoiding what the numbers involved in these 'big picture issues' were.
To be fair, there were some issues on which John Key proffered an opinion. He is (unsurprisingly) greatly in favour of tax cuts. "They put more of a taxpayer's own money back into their pockets to spend how they choose," Key stated. "It is certainly the case that tax cuts will promote growth by ensuring that government only takes what is absolutely necessary for the running of services. What Labour has done over the last eight years is over-tax New Zealanders. This is shown by the enormous surpluses Michael Cullen has been running." However, he wouldn't say just what tax cuts National was prepared to offer should they win the 2008 election, but assured us that "the public will have the details of what will be a credible programme of tax reductions in plenty of time to make an informed choice before the next election."
On matters relating to secondary education, Key was once again non-committal in some areas (on NCEA: "National will announce its education policies in due course in plenty of time for the election"), but more committed in others. In one of the more forthright replies to the email, John Key admitted that National does support increasing the availability of independent schooling, "and the easiest way is to lift the government-imposed [funding] cap which sees many New Zealanders blocked from the opportunity to go to independent schools."
This remark is fascinating, mainly because it's essentially at odds with his image of the 'state-house kid' who managed to climb up the ranks because New Zealand allowed the opportunity even for those near the bottom of the social ladder to do so. Here, he's arguing for the increased funding of 'independent', private schools, which already are among the richest in the country. Why would Christ's College or Samuel Marsden Collegiate School need more money when there are schools housing future John Keys that are in greater need?
Key's tap-dancing approach to answers marks him out as a very adept politician. Say nothing and you won't be caught saying anything untoward. He also has a way with a pithy one-liner. Asked about The Hollow Men, Key rebutted, "[Author] Nicky Hager makes no secret of where he sits politically. My focus has been, and remains, on New Zealand's future, not on Mr Hager's interpretations of the past." While it's no secret that Hager's ideologies lie to the left of the National Party's, he's also written books criticising the Labour party, most notably, 2002's Seeds of Distrust. More to the point, Hager's book concerned events that occurred in some cases barely eight months ago and featured people such as Key himself. This isn't ancient history. Then again, maybe Key just doesn't want to think about the book as he looks ahead to a much brighter future as the possible next Prime Minister of New Zealand.
… and off
Should Key become Prime Minister, he promised to be "someone who cares passionately about New Zealand, and who has a positive mix of international and domestic experience." One would assume that Key's "domestic and international experience," would serve him well in discussing foreign affairs. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell what Key thought about important issues facing the world today because, again, he refused to comment. While he asserted, quite reasonably, that "terrorism appears to be a major problem, and that "New Zealand should be concerned because we live in an increasingly globalised world, and this country benefits when there is international stability," he wouldn't dip his toes into any other waters.
When asked if he thought that US troops should leave Iraq, he replied: "It's for the US, not myself, to judge whether US troops should be in Iraq." This means his stance differs from that of PM Helen Clark (who has opposed the US involvement since the beginning), but also Australia's PM, John Howard (who was in favour of it). Does this mark John Key out as pragmatic or a work in progress? He parroted that line almost word-for-word when Critic asked for his views on US involvement in past conflicts in Kuwait, Somalia, former Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. "I don't intend to re-litigate past conflicts and the perceived rights or wrongs of US involvement. I am interested in looking forward. Of course, I recognise the US is the world's only superpower, and that its involvement in some conflicts has been controversial. But I reiterate that it is for the US to judge it's [sic] foreign policy, and it is not my place to comment."
He declined to mention which aspects of the US's overseas involvement had been controversial. While it would be unfair to assume that a potentially future Prime Minister should have an opinion on all matters, one would hope that, in this "globalised world," to use one of his expressions, it would be paramount for him to have an opinion on the very people he might be dealing with in his travels abroad. After all, a nation is defined by not only its behaviour at home, but also its behaviour towards others.
The Key to victory?
The old adage of the week being a long time in politics is repeated constantly because it's true. Politicians' fortunes and failures can be decided with a single statement or action. And John Key and the National Party are right to feel confident of their future. Their recent polling has been steady and their representation within Parliament is the highest since 1999. Certain members of the Labour Party have been prey to numerous bungles and controversies over the past twelve months, and there's a growing sense among middle New Zealand that despite record low levels of unemployment and increased funding towards the public sectors such as health and education, not enough New Zealanders are reaping the benefits, as the median wage hasn't increased significantly. Unlike the Labour government, one of the advantages of being in the opposition is that you can formulate policies during campaigning, rather than expand or renege on ones that are already implemented.
With the election still over a year away, there is the possibility that John Key's true colours will emerge. Maybe he will finally stop shimmying and start talking in clearer terms, because currently, there's been little indication of who John Key is, beyond some smiles, facile gestures, and nods towards tax cuts. Does he have a manifesto? Or is he a political cipher that plays the parliamentary game in the same way some play the trading game - betting on the sure thing? One thing's for certain - he looks the part. Should we give him the benefit of the doubt?
Bonus: Unedited Q&A
1.Do you think that there should be any fundamental changes to Tertiary education in New Zealand, especially in Universities?
Tertiary policy is being developed and we will announce it in plenty of time for the election.
2. What is National's stance on Student Loans?
Caucus is yet to decide whether we will retain the interest-free policy, but we recognise the appeal of that policy and that will influence our final decision. We are conscious of the fact that nearly half a million New Zealanders have a student loan and have factored the interest-free policy into their equations, and we are conscious of not riding over the top of that.
3.At present about 73 percent of the cost of Universities are funded by the Government, with the balance met by student fees. Does National propose change those proportions-if it does, how will it do so?
See answer to question 1.
4. What steps will National take to ensure the actual amount paid by students in fees does not increase in real terms?
See answer to question 1.
5. You've constantly complained that our best and brightest are going overseas for better opportunities-in particular doctors, surgeons,scientists and teachers. What does National propose to do to ensurethat more of those graduates remain in the country?
This is a combination of short and long-term solutions; it's about incomes and opportunities. Tax cuts are one solution, but it's more than that. It's about raising after-tax wages, development of better infrastructure, more educational opportunities, and a business environment where entrepreneurship can flourish, all while protecting our unique environment.
6. Will National increase funding to Universities to increase the number of places available for students wishing to be doctors, teachers and scientists?
We have already met with universities to discuss these areas. I see this as an important step towards making New Zealand more successful. National's tertiary policy is being developed and will be announced in due course.
7. For example, I understand that you believe that Auckland and Otago medical schools are not producing enough doctors-how many extra places will National fund?
See quest 6
8. On 15 June, current Health Minister Pete Hodgson said that the number of fully funded places for General Practice training will rise from 69 a year to 104. Is this enough? If not, how will National find the resources to increase the numbers?
We have met with universities to discuss bigger picture issues, and we are putting these issues into the policy mix.
9. NCEA seems to be the bane of some teachers, secondary school pupils and the PPTA alike. Short of scrapping the system entirely, what changes do you propose?
National will announce its education policies in due course in plenty of time for the election.
10. Do you believe parents should be given education vouchers so that, for example, a parent can "buy" a place in a private school for their children?
Our policy won't be one of vouchers, but we do support increasing the availability of independent schooling and the easiest way is to lift the government-imposed cap which sees many New Zealanders blocked from the opportunity to go to independent schools.
11. Does National propose to increase grants to private schools-if so, by
See quest 10
12. You have indicated that personal and company tax rates should be cut as a way of boosting the country's economy. If National comes to power in 2008, what tax cuts (the amount) will National introduce?
I can understand that people are eager to learn the details of National's tax reduction plans. National will ensure that the public will have the details of what will be a credible programme of tax reductions in plenty of time to make an informed choice before the next election.
13. Why are 'tax cuts' a beneficial way of boosting the country's economy?
Because tax cuts put more of a taxpayer's own money back into their pockets to spend how they choose. National promotes and supports people making their own decisions with their own money. It is certainly the case that tax cuts will promote growth by ensuring that Government only takes what is absolutely necessary for the running of services. What Labour has done over the last eight years is over-tax New Zealanders. This is shown by the enormous surpluses Michael Cullen has been running.
14. In the last twelve months, the National Party has reneged on its previous stance in regards to both Climate Change and the possibility of nuclear-powered or -armed ships entering NZ waters. What brought about this change of heart?
National has reneged on neither. I made it clear when I became the leader that the anti-nuclear policy wouldn't change, and our climate change policies have been under consideration for a long period of time. National was sceptical about the impact and workability of Kyoto - which of course is not the same as saying that climate change isn't occurring. The issue is the mechanisms you use to cut emissions. National has announced a target of cutting emissions by 50% from 1990 levels by 2050 - 50 by 50. We will detail policy on the ways we want to cut emissions, but in many areas National believes that technology provides us with the greatest hope of achieving real cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, I have made it clear that National will not pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, as our international reputation would be damaged. But I am confident that major emitters will get together to come up with a new international mechanism that will ensure real reductions in emissions start occurring.
15. If your caucus wish to revert to its previous stances on those issues, will you resign as leader of the National Party?
The Caucus supports the stances being taken on these issues.
16. You have said that the Resource Management Act needs to be amended to make approval of "big energy" projects easier. If the Act is amended, how will ensure that environmental interests will be taken into account?
It's a balancing act but the RMA in many instances is not so much stopping projects as delaying them for years on end. Streamlining the process will still allow public input. It's our aim to speed up the process but still allow those genuinely affected to have a say.
17. Do you think "Project Hayes," a big wind-farm electricity project in the Maniototo should go ahead?
National supports renewables, but I can't offer comment on the individual details of this project.
18. Nicky Hager's book The Hollow Men coincided with Don Brash resigning as leader of the National Party and you being appointed as leader. Now that the dust has settled, what do you make of the book's contents?
Nicky Hager makes no secret of where he sits politically. My focus has been, and remains, on New Zealand's future, not on Mr Hager's interpretations of the past.
19. Do you think it was right that the Exclusive Brethren financed publicity material supporting National without putting their name to that material?
20. Do you believe that the source(s) of all political donations should be made public? If not, why not? Furthermore, do you think the source of donations over a certain amount should be publicly known-if you are,what should the amount be?
National is happy to work for increased transparency in this area, provided it applies in a fair way to all political parties. It makes sense for there to be some thresholds on donations, otherwise there would be telephone books worth of people to register. I'd add that National will work within whatever rules apply.
21. In a recent article in the Press ("John Key, Overachiever," 9 June 2007), you mentioned that the "the three big events shaping their lives and the future prosperity of the nation will be the growth of the internet, of China and India, and of global terrorism." How big a problem is terrorism? Why should New Zealand be concerned?
Terrorism appears to be a major problem, judging by the number of terrorist acts and where they have occurred. New Zealand should be concerned because we live in an increasingly globalised world, and this country benefits when there is international stability. Terrorism is destablising. In addition, New Zealanders have unfortunately also been caught up and became casualties in a number of acts of terrorism.
22. Do you think US troops should leave Iraq now? And what is the reason for youranswer?
It's for the US, not myself, to judge whether US troops should be in Iraq.
23. Some commentators consider that over the last two decades, US administrations have adopted the role of "world policeman," interfering with countries' affairs considered to be opposed to the US
administrations' political and economic interests. With reference to recent examples-Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait-what is your and the National Party's view in regards to the US administrations' involvement in such areas?
I don't intend to re-litigate past conflicts and the perceived rights or wrongs of US involvement. I am interested in looking forward. I of course recognise the US is the world's only superpower, and that its involvement in some conflicts has been controversial. But I reiterate that it is for the US to judge it's foreign policy, and it is not my place to comment.
Easy questions to finish
24. Finally, how do you think you're shaping-up, campaign-wise? What's the feedback, positive or otherwise, you've got from the public as you trek up and down the country?
Campaigning up and down the country, I have sensed a real mood for change amongst voters and I've received very positive feedback. People are sick of the Labour Government, and I have - and will continue to - set out National's programme in the lead-up to the next election. I'm ambitious for New Zealand and National intends to mark out a pathway for greater opportunities, greater incomes and greater prosperity.
25. Thanks for your time, Mr Key, any closing words you'd like to finish off with?
I think politics is quite a personal business, notwithstanding the policies and principles of the party that one might belong too. Should National be voted in, I will bring to the office of the Prime Minister someone who cares passionately about New Zealand, and who has a positive mix of international and domestic experience. I will do everything in my power to justify their support.