Listener on Grant Robertson

An interesting profile of Labour Deputy Leader Grant Robertson in the Listener:

Look at Robertson and you see a big guy with glasses, a slightly sloppy student politician. Talk with him and you find a highly professional MP with a disciplined and meticulous mind. Call him cautious, though, and you make him angry. He doesn’t want to believe that the hesitation that allows him to avoid political pratfalls could also sap his courage to make change. At times his courage trumps his caution. To advance the equality agenda he believes gays should be able to marry and also to adopt children.

“I can’t see any reason why a gay couple who are good functioning human beings can’t provide that environment. It’s about the best interests of the children.” He also wants Labour to adopt a policy of allowing gay marriage. “I am really proud of what we did with civil unions, but I get that for people it is not absolute equality,” he says.

I agree with Grant on gay marriage. However I do think the cautious tag is an accurate one for him. Grant is very cautious in his press releases, in his statements etc. It’s the caution of someone who expects to be a party leader one day, and doesn’t want to have words from the past comeback to haunt him.

“There are gay bus drivers. There are people in all walks of life. It is important that people understand that. That’s one of the issues we have to get past: believing that there is a particular type of gay person.” He knows his sexuality would be more of an issue if he were Labour’s leader and considered that when deciding whether to challenge for the top job. “I thought about, is New Zealand ready for there to be a gay Prime Minister, or a gay leader, and I actually think we are.

I agree. If the good citizens of Wairarapa don’t blink at electing a transsexual as their MP, I can’t imagine the majority of New Zealanders will have a great issue over the sexuality of the Prime Minister. The challenge for Grant, once he ascends to the leadership, will be that his sexuality doesn’t define him (there is a difference between being an MP who is gay, and a gay MP), but I don’t think he is at any risk of that.

The next question was, am I ready? Is this where I should be?”

His answer was no. “I’m 40 and I think I’ve still got a bit more to learn.”

A bit more? As in a year or two?

Labour will also review its policy of extending Working for Families tax credits to beneficiaries. He says there may be other policies to ensure income is “redistributed” to help those children.

Or one could redistribute their parents from welfare to work?

Robertson has little experience in the private sector, but doesn’t see that limiting his understanding of businesses. “You can be the Minister of Health and not be a heart surgeon.”

True. But not have any practical knowledge of how the private sector works is not the same as not being a specialist in an area. Far too many MPs do not have any background at all in the private sector.

I once went from doing the finances for a charity to doing the finances for a small advertising agency. The difference was huge. In just a few weeks I discovered the huge difference between being profitable on paper, and  cashflow and the challenges of paying bills on time. No textbook really teaches that. My two years with that small business taught me a huge deal about the realities of business.

Key started the recent trend of “non-political” leaders and Shearer was chosen to match him. Clark was a politician, Robertson muses. Jim Bolger was, too. And they both led long-term governments. He knows that this is not yet his time, but he senses it may come. “I want to take it as far as I can take it and we’ll see how long that takes.”

Is Grant talking weeks, months or years?

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