The main interview on Q+A was Education Minister Anne Tolley. I thought Anne did well (as did two of the panelists – the PPTA President obviously not such a fan).
PAUL Let’s talk about that shortly. But 200,000 New Zealanders a year go to night classes to improve themselves. Grown up people – that’s a helluva lot of people to annoy for 13 million dollars.
ANNE Well 124 million dollars will still be spent in adult and community education. What I’ve said is we’re going to focus on literacy, numeracy, language, foundation skills – those courses that will lead on to employment. We’re still in an economic recession, there are people out there, particularly young people, who are the most vulnerable, they are the most likely to lose their jobs and the least ones likely to get jobs.
PAUL Yes, but night classes in schools of course as adults – migrants, refugees adults trying to improve their lot – the strugglers.
ANNE Some of them are, some of them are hobby courses courses like belly dancing, ukulele playing. We’ve got courses like pilates and yoga – I’ve attended those classes myself. The average age of people attending those night classes is about 46. What we’re saying I had a half billion debt from the previous government to find in tertiary education what we’re saying is we’re going to put those tax dollars into supporting our young people through the recession.
PAUL I understand. Go to those classes again, Minister. Some of those classes might have been questionable – belly dancing, Cook Island drumming, cheese-making, folk art for beginners – but there were also book-keeping basics, English as a second language, learning Mandarin
ANNE Yes, English is important, language classes will remain as I say
I think Labour are deluding themselves that this decision is unpopular. The protesting are mainly the providers. Most of the 200,000 understand we are in a recession.
Recent polls in the UK have found from 70% to 80% of the population support spending cuts to reduce the deficit. I doubt it is much different here. NZ Labour is trying to appeal to 20% to 25% of the population only.
PAUL Do you get a thrill from that as well from helping?
NIKKI Absolutely. I mean I think my point is that the part I enjoy the most is being in the community and in my electorate actually with my constituents and Ive had some pretty hard cases as well, theyre people whove asked for drugs to be funded and you know that actually theyre not going to be funded.
PAUL Of course, you are both MPs but you are a constituent MP, youve got an electorate (Nikki) and youre a list MP (Jacinda). Does that give you more mana do you think with your senior colleagues that you do have a constituency?
NIKKI I think it was a pretty big win and there are often times when you can talk on an issue and you really know youve got the people behind you in your electorate I think there is something there in that.
PAUL As a list MP, and a young list MP at that, are you made to feel a bit lesser than say a constituency MP?
JACINDA No, not at all I think that part of is that because we accept that this system that uses list MPs, MMP, has made our parliament look more like New Zealand so list MPs are an important part of doing that. Now me personally, I would love to represent a constituency one day
I think Nikki is right that electorate MPs are often in a stronger position as advocates.
Interestingly Jacinda said that she is not ruling out standing in Auckland (in 2008 she stood in her home seat of Waikato), maybe even standing against Phil Twyford for the Auckland Central nomination.
PAUL Is your generation, people of your own age, more likely to have friends across the political divide than say the, are you likely to be less tribal?
NIKKI Well I think Ive built some good relationships on both sides of the house and I think it depends on the politician. I mean, thats the way that I work. I sort of see it as a bit of a sports match, you go in and you fight for what you believe in but then youre able to come off and treat each other with dignity and respect.
JACINDA I would agree with that, I think that that is important. I dont know if tribal is quite the right word , I do believe what I believe strongly, Ive got a really strong values set but I am willing to look at new ideas and new ways of doing things and if that involves the other side then it does. But I still think that there are certain things that I wont compromise on.
Jacinda tended to not reject the ideological label, as much as Nikki did. And that probably reflects the fact Jacinda is more ideological. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. Most successful politicians have a mixture of ideology and pragmatism, and the differences between them are more shades of grey than black or white.
PAUL What are the mistakes? Tell me your one mistake, because you told me a story once about a fellow who came to you with a problem and you did the political spiel and told him what the law was blah blah blah and what did he say to you?
NIKKI He said to me, and you know I think its that whole thing about, theres a whole of politics stuff that happens in Wellington but when you get back to the community people want to know how decisions affect them&.
PAUL&What did he say to you&
NIKKI ..and he said to me you seem like a very nice lady but youve just told me a whole lot of stuff that just means nothing to me and & but we actually ended up going to the pub for a drink and, but what I realised was actually that people just want to know how the decisions are going to affect them, theyre not that interested in the politics.
PAUL Youve got to stay real, is that what youre saying?
NIKKI Thats exactly right.
I thought that was a great example of the difference between people caught up in politics regularly (the beltway) and most New Zealanders who are focused on how decisions affect them, rather than debates about politics.