Norman was safe and secure in launching a personal attack on Key. It is Key’s style and strategy not to fire back. But Muldoon would not have sat quietly by. Muldoon would have eaten him up and spat him out.
Muldoon also would never have shared his leadership as Norman does. He wasn’t a touchy-feely, let’s-sit-around-the-table-holding-hands sort of guy. He was leader and that was that. Muldoon would never have tolerated a co-leader.
And then there was Norman crying, “Give me back my flag. Give me back my flag.” That was when he was attempting to stick the Tibetan flag in the face of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping. Muldoon would never have done that. He was polite and respectful to our guests, whatever he thought of their domestic politics.
And if Muldoon did get into a scuffle, he would not have come out second. Once a rowdy group of young protesters shouting “Heil Hitler” attacked Muldoon as he was leaving a meeting. They hit him in the face, kicked his leg and shoved him against his car.
The then Leader of the Opposition decked one and chased the others down the street shouting, “One at a time and you’re welcome”.
Heh. An iconic moment.
Norman is Australian. Muldoon was a New Zealander through and through. In comparing Key to Muldoon, Norman gave us a very sharp reminder that he’s a very recent arrival. No one who lived in New Zealand would ever think Key was in any way a Muldoon. The comparison is bizarre.
Russel has been whining that it is wrong to say he can’t write about Muldoon as he wasn’t in NZ then, saying that means no one could write about Peter Fraser who wasn’t alive in the 1940s.
He misses the point that no one who actually lived in NZ when Muldoon was PM, would compare him to John Key without bursting into a fit of laughter at the ridiculousness of the comparison.
Norman has a PhD in political science. For Muldoon there were two types of doctors: the ones who made you well, and the ones who made you sick. He would have had a very clear view of what sort of doctor Norman was.
Muldoon fought fascism and totalitarianism in World War II. Norman was for several years active in the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Socialist Party.
They are two very different men. Muldoon was popular. His majority in his electorate was unassailable. The best Norman has done is come third.
They are men of different eras. Muldoon was minister of finance the year Norman was born.
But in other ways they aren’t so different.
Muldoon’s policies were to control the economy, fix prices, set the exchange rate, invest in hare-brained schemes, and print money to pay for it all.
He all but bankrupted the country.
In this regard, Muldoon and Norman are peas in a pod.
Sir Robert left office in 1984, roughly when Dr Norman left high school. At that time, he tells us, he was busy opposing Australia’s “new right” Hawke/Keating government, elected in March 1983, and “peace rallies, anti-nuclear demonstrations and animal rights activism soon became a large part of extra-curricular high school life.”
It is fantastic that the adolescent Dr Norman had time left over to follow developments across the Tasman, including Sir Robert publicly issuing enemies’ lists, banning unfriendly journalists from his press conferences, personally directing monetary policy, ramming through the Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act 1982, abusing young backbenchers in drunken rages, lying about the country’s fiscal position, provoking a foreign exchange crisis, refusing to follow the instructions of the incoming government and having to be bullied into doing so by his outgoing cabinet.
And on the policy front:
The irony of Dr Norman’s preposterous comparison of Mr Key to Sir Robert is that the party in today’s parliament with an economic programme most similar to Muldoon’s is the Greens.
It is the Greens who advocate greater control of the currency, extra monetary tools and more aggressive interventions by the Reserve Bank. They are the only main party comfortable with Muldoon-style import substitution and against free trade. How green were Muldoon’s carless days, designed to reduce reliance on oil? How stimulatory were his deficits?
More topically, Sir Robert exercised direct state control of the electricity sector including the state directing what new electricity generation would be built and where. What else is Labour/Green’s NZ Power?
Instead of an across-the-board GST, Sir Robert favoured lower sales taxes on things he considered good and higher taxes on things he considered bad.
With their promised new “suite of ecological taxes,” the Greens promise the same.
This could be a good question for the Greens. How many of Sir Robert’s economic policies do they disagree with today? Any?