I was greatly saddened to receive the news that morning that Roger Kerr had died, inevitably losing his battle against cancer. My thoughts go out to Catherine, Nick and the rest of his family.
I first met Roger around 20 years ago, when we invited him to speak to a Young Nats conference. He always accepted our invitations, and through his leadership the Roundtable always took a keen interest in getting young people interested in public policy.
I’ve had a lot to do with Roger and the Roundtable over the years, and regarded him as a friend. He was a nice guy whom I never knew to get abusive or nasty about anyone – even those who demonised him. For him, it was all about policy, not personalities. And his intellect was astonishing. He could debate any issue to great detail, and was a walking library of references.
Roger had a great love of New Zealand. I have no doubt he could have earnt much more money if he had not devoted the last 25 years to establishing and growing the Business Roundtable. While of course his views were controversial and often unpopular, Roger was only motivated by a genuine desire and belief that they would make New Zealand a better place. Please note that this thread is not for people to debate whether or not they agree with those views.
An issue which I knew Roger had strong views on was the decision to abolish the youth minimum wage in 2008, as it priced young people out of the jobs market. He wrote on it often, as did Eric Crampton, myself and others. I’m not sure if he was aware of it, but am glad he was still alive on Friday when National announced their policy to partially reverse the changes made in 2008. One final victory for Roger. Of course Roger would have pointed out that in typical fashion National did a compromise, rather than a full reversal.
I will miss Roger very much. Farewell.
UPDATE: Richard Harman has put this out:
On April 16 Sean Plunket did a long interview with Roger Kerr. Roger knew then he was dying. Bue he faced Sean the same way he confrtonted his disease, with boldness and good humour. The interview was intended to be something he could leave behind which would set out his own life story and his core beliefs and hopes. I am sending it out again, as a tribute to a man who believed passionately in debate and who was never afraid to stand up in the media to argue his case.His death is a great loss to us in the media and to anybody who believes in the importance of a well reasoned discussion on public policy.
The PM has also said:
“Roger made a significant contribution to New Zealand business, public policy and the wider economy over several decades,” says Mr Key.
“He was a man of integrity and energy, who was not afraid to debate important issues passionately and often controversially. But he did it calmly and focused on the issues at hand, rather than making the debates personal.