There is no point retelling the litany of buffoonery that Colin Craig has entertained us with over the past couple of years. He’s admitted using calculated comments to ensure air time and entrench himself as part of the media landscape. And we have lapped it up. Over the past couple of weeks there have been many stories about the Conservative Party leader and his build up for the 2014 election. The coverage has been like an aloof blanket thrown over us, almost like no-one is taking this guy seriously.
After spending a few days with Colin Craig and devoting 15 minutes of Third Degree to the man, Guyon Espiner summed up his thoughts on Mr Craig by describing him as New Zealand’s version of Mr Bean.
While it is amusing to think of Mr Craig as Mr Bean I think it would be fairer to compare him to Rowan Atkinson’s other famous character: Blackadder. Mr Craig adamantly denies the comparison though.
Last Friday I spent an hour chatting to Mr Craig (and his press secretary Rachel) to try and get a glimpse beneath the hood.
I got him to tell me a joke. We talked about his childhood and the golden days of New Zealand in the 70s and 80s. We touched on race relations, women’s issues, abortion, and what constitutes a family, and when the day of reckoning will come. I may have asked a Voight-Kampff question to check whether he is human, and we ended up (strangely) talking politics.
It became apparent over the course of the interview that we were seeing fewer and fewer unguarded moments, and Mr Craig is — with the help of his press-sec passing him notes — morphing into a more polished commenter who errs away from bizarre and into business.
Although, one finds it hard to actually put your finger on exactly what business means.
I’ll let Mr Craig’s answers speak for themselves.
Tell me a joke.
<Rachel: oh I hear jokes from you every day!>
I’ll tell you a joke…you’re going to put this online though aren’t ya? Ok, here’s my joke…there’s a blonde convention in California and the guy who comes along, a motivational speaker, to try and make them feel good about being blonde, you know how blondes love to feel good about themselves.
I am blonde, so yes I know.
Yeah, yeah and well this was all women, it wasn’t so much a male audience, don’t worry about that. And he’s there and he’s saying, look we’ve got to get over this idea that blondes aren’t intelligent, so he said look, is there a volunteer? They all put their hands up to volunteer so he gets one of them up the front and he says let’s just start off with something really basic. What is 5 times 5? There’s a long drawn out silence while she picks at her beautifully manicured nail and says… is it… is it 20? He goes oohhh no but you’re close. The audience cries out ‘GIVE HER ANOTHER CHANCE, GIVE HER ANOTHER CHANCE’ so he says, what about 3 times 4. She goes 3 times, gosh that’s hard, um um um… 3 times 4… is it 9? He goes ohhh no. The audience cries out ‘GIVE HER ANOTHER CHANCE, GIVE HER ANOTHER CHANCE!’ Okay… so what about 4 plus 4. So she ums and ahs and says gosh that’s a hard one… um… 4 plus 4… is it 8? And the audience cries out ‘GIVE HER ANOTHER CHANCE, GIVE HER ANOTHER CHANCE’
Yeah that was my blonde joke of the day mate.
[Note: Colin’s secretary, Rachel, is a blonde woman and was sitting in the room while this was being told.]
What do you think people misunderstand about you the most?
I think at the moment, because I’m a bit of a moving feast as people get to know me. I think at the moment people see me as, I don’t know, a bit of an odd unusual person. Whereas people who know me well consider me infinitely reasonable. So I … and very very pragmatic, very sensible. You know, people come to me for advice all the time, obviously as an accountant I had 300 small business clients and they all prospered from my advice. So I think that probably that’s one of the current things. People go ‘oh he’s a bit odd and maybe a little bit removed from reality’ when in fact I think, you know, history shows and my life shows that I’m actually a very reasonable pragmatic capable individual who people come to because I’m very much in touch with reality. So I think that’s probably the biggest thing at the moment.
Are people really getting to know you? Are you seeing a change in the way that people are relating to you and the way you’re being portrayed in the media?
I think people are getting to know me as more people write stories. Like you’re going to put something up on your blog. A lot of people are now asking the questions, going well let’s find a little bit out about Colin. What‘s he actually like, what does he actually do, what are his sort of skills that he’s bringing to the table? And as people ask questions and do longer pieces and as people get to meet me, particularly live, as people listen to me live or see me live I think they do then get an understanding of who I am. So I think it’s part of an ongoing dialogue as people are introduced to who I am and I think that probably sorts itself out over time as people get to know me.
What might surprise people about you?
People who don’t know me probably find me quite humorous and they’re surprised by that. I think they may have the thought that this guy is quite serious all the time and probably not a very interesting person. When people get to know me I think they find that it’s not at all true. This guy is actually quite humorous, very relatable and enjoyable for someone to know. So I think that probably surprises some people, again probably because they have a preconceived idea of who I am or what I should be.
Is the media responsible for that preconceived notion or…
I think they are… well they are to some extent because of course the media portray really who I am to the majority of people. Only a minority of people have met me and got to know me personally. The majority of people do rely on what comes through the media. But I don’t want to be unfair to the media either because I think it’s a discussion and I haven’t been in the media very long, you know we’re only a political party that’s two years old and the media have a tonne of stuff to cover so I think it’s unreasonable to expect there to be an absolutely perfect understanding of who I am and what the Conservative Party is at this stage. What I would be disappointed by is if we go into an election next year and we haven’t had a chance to talk about who we are and what we want to do for the country. So I think at this stage it is understandable that the media haven’t been able to do all the depth and breadth of who I am and who the Conservative Party is at this stage. So I…. They have to communicate in sound bites and so what they can get across in a single story or in a minute on TV, is obviously limited.
You spent a few days with Guyon Espiner for Third Degree and at the end of that piece he said, he described you as New Zealand’s version of Mr Bean. Do you think that’s fair?
It made me smile, I must say. I don’t think it’s a good description of who I am if you’re looking for an honest portrayal.
Would you think a fairer portrayal would be Rowan Atkinson’s other character, Blackadder?
*laughter* ah no, I don’t think that would be a fairer portrayal. Look I am very genuine and honest and straight forward kind of a person. But I am pretty educated and talented to go with that so I think if we’re looking at the Mr Bean sort of thing, that portrayal is someone who is a little bit below average whereas obviously in terms of my history and what I’ve been able to achieve, my success in life, I’m not really a below average person. A lot of that comes down to hard work. I don’t think I was born the most genius person in the world although I’m not short of brain cells. I think a lot of it comes down to attitude and hard work as well so I think it’s, I think it might have been interesting from say, as part of the story but it’s not a reflection of who I am really.
So where do all these brains and hard-working ethos come from? Where did you grow up?
I grew up during the 70s and 80s in, for me it was lower middle class New Zealand but New Zealand was a good place to grow up in those days. I had a stable family. A Mum and Dad that loved each other. I was one of five kids…
What did your parents do?
Oh actually they were both trained school teachers so my Mum stopped working when I came along because I was the eldest and my Dad continued school teaching, so yeah. That was the upbringing and it was a great… I mean New Zealand was a fantastic place to be at that time, I mean you know our average income earnings were, per person, very high, our education attainment was very high, the crime rate was very low, so it was golden years for us as a country. And I grew up in that age and really enjoyed it. You know school was fun so I think that was… you know I grew up in what was fringe of Auckland in those days so we had paddocks over the back fence. You know we’d go off on adventures and build huts along the creek line and we had a beach within walking distance. We’d play rugby at the beach, you know all the local kids would just get together and have these mass rugby games, it’d turn into scrag half the time. So that upbringing, I guess gave me, a very good outlook on New Zealand and life. I was, in the home environment, expected to do well at school so you know there were those sort of parental expectations because both my parents were school teachers I think. They thought I should do well at school and I did do well at school. School was never hard for me.
Did you ever get detention?
I did on one or two occasions *laughter* I did on one or two occasions!
What did young Colin Craig do to get detention?!
Ohhh this is all going to end up on your blog mate! Probably the one that got me in the most trouble was when I… I always loved building things and designing things. I’ve got the sort of brain that sits there and troubleshoots and problem-solves constantly. So I was there during one of my lessons and I can remember the teacher but I won’t mention his name. The subject I believe, might have been geography and what I did was I built this sort of fantastic missile out of various components that I located around the classroom when he wasn’t looking and I built this, it was beautifully weighted and it had a pin head on it so I thought it would stick beautifully into some kind of board or something, and so that when his back was turned, just toward the end of lesson, and I shouldn’t have done this, I know, I thought I just can’t sit here and not try this out and so I very foolishly thought I’d take aim at a board next to the blackboard which I thought my missile which was so flawlessly constructed would stick to quietly and sadly it didn’t quite go as planned. It made a really loud thump which gave him a huge fright, he spun around and initially I thought he had missed it but then he picked up that someone had embedded this missile to the board at the front of the classroom and yeah that was probably the thing I got in the most trouble for at school. I think it was a reaction to, you know, I scared the living daylights out of the guy, so there was a reaction there as well. It was the thing that probably got me into the most trouble that I can think of straight away and I’m not going to think too hard. I love to sort of try things out and if I found a class was boring I’d find other entertainment which I regret now. Looking back, it’s just what I was like at school I guess.
You said that New Zealand used to be a really great place. Past tense. Has it changed?
Yeah, well I think in terms of achieving those really top standards, things have changed and so if we look at education and the OECD results which were just out last week, to see a tumble from you know, single digits, on reading and on writing and on science I think this just shows to me that where we used to be the best in the world we are now not quite the best in the world anymore. Certainly the crime statistic and the nature of crime that we see has changed, so I think for me, I think New Zealand has slipped for me in a lot of areas. There are measurable differences and I guess that’s part of the ethos of my personal ethos of the Conservative Party is that we actually have as a country been more successful than we are today and it would be great to get back to some of those outstanding successes.
Actually mate, I’d liken it to the Blackcaps… you know our cricket team is not as good now in world standards as it has been in time past. It doesn’t mean you give up hope and stop watching cricket, it just means we have got to do some work to get back to where we used to be.
The Conservatives are often accused of harking back to an imaginary, the imaginary halcyon days of their youth and some golden time that really didn’t exist. From what you’ve just said, there are some measurable things like those crime statistics
It’s those measurable things we’ve got to focus on…
But do the measurable things give a fair representation of what is happening? For example, with the education statistics, a recent article in The Listener points out that the league table created by the OECD isn’t that meaningful and that there are huge methodological gaps. It can be easy to say, things were a bit better awhile back, but sometimes that’s just because of lack of data and an evolving way of assessing the things that we do and we’re getting better at assessing them and so therefore we’re picking up more on the bad things. And also people’s memories, you know, their fallible recollections.
I think those hard statistics though, whether or not you think they’re always accurate, the fact of the matter is they show that we are not, by comparison, where we used to be. Now you might argue that oh come on maybe they misrepresent us slightly, well they’d have to be entirely wrong to deny the trend. You can look at other trends. You can look at the number of welfare dependant people we have as a percentage of the population if you like, because that shows you the number of people, I consider the number of people reliant on welfare are at least to some measure disadvantaged in our society. I mean no question in my mind, and I think statistically that those on welfare are able to participate to a lesser extent in society and enjoyment in life. Well there’s no doubt that the level of welfare dependency is a percentage of the population that has increased substantially so I think that while not every measure may be 100% accurate you have got to accept that measures do show in many areas that there has been a decline. Take the number of unemployed people as an example. Well if you went back, you know, to the 60s and 70s nearly basically anybody had a job that wanted one. That’s not the case now days. Not everything is glossy and thinking the past is brilliant but there is a measurable decrease, a measurable change, and certainly for us with our constituency of conservatives, those people do often look at it and quite often think we have lost something along the way. So look, I don’t buy into the premise that it’s all positive thinking about the past. There is some element of that on a personal level with people but measurable I think there have been some changes for the worse.
Don Brash’s Orewa speech was a pivotal moment in New Zealand’s race relations. Do you have an opinion on that speech?
What I think that he was trying to express, is a sentiment that I agree with. And that sentiment is that we don’t want divide our country on the basis of race. That’s certainly where our party is going. That’s been my experience. I’ve found that a lot of positive comes out of working together and making less or taking less consideration of someone’s skin colour and looking more at their merit, their achievements and what we can do to work together, so look, I might not necessarily agree with the entire speech, I have read it, but what I do agree with what I think his sentiment was and what I think his sentiment was, was hey, I think we need to stop being divisive when it comes to race and instead try to build a consensus where we work together. I’m less, perhaps, motivated by some of the minutiae than he might have been but the overall sense of direction, I think I would agree with that.
Māori are overrepresented at the bottom end of most social indicators and you mentioned crime before and…
…and in parliament…
But why, going back to what we were saying before, talking about New Zealand in the 70s and 80s. Why are Māori in the bottom end of the social indicators?
Well they’re not all at the bottom end. I think there’s a couple of things to take into account there. One is, and I do believe this is very significant, the country where Māori are most successful in the world is actually Australia and if you look at the immigration statistics and the people who have gone to Australia, particularly business people, a lot of those are successful Māori people. Now I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs on why they chose to do that, although people I know that have gone there, went there for the money. Well, essentially the money and the lifestyle I guess. So I think there’s an element of, we mustn’t forget many Māori are successful people and so I’m not comfortable always with the generalisation of, oh look, it’s mainly Māori in the bottom because I think there are other factors that are not race factors that come into play, I mean you know if you look at how many Māori are married and/or are in long term stable de facto relationships it’s very much lower than the rest of, I’ll say compared to European, so you know, to sort of blame it on race or racial issues or something is not really accurate. You’ve got to look at what are the drivers of poverty.
But what if those drivers are disproportionally affecting a certain group of people, regardless of if they’re Māori or not. They might be Pasifika or they might be as you said, people living in poverty. What… you know… Why?
Absolutely, it’s not fair to look at people groups because I don’t know why we want to separate out individuals and say and make it about. We’ve got to do is to look at the drivers and for example when times get tough rurally, populations that live rurally are obviously going to be worse off. To take one example, if you look at the fact that Pasifika have very poor achievement in literacy in schooling, I think there are some serious questions that need to be answered about the nature and the way that we do education because although they stay in school actually in average longer than European kids their achievement for basic literacy, reading and writing essentially, is poorer. So it’s not a case of how long you’re in school, but it’s a case of what does school provide or how does school provide a learning environment because clearly it’s not connecting with some students. So I think what is more important is what are the drivers? What are the things that actually do have an impact on peoples wellbeing in our country? And I don’t think those answers are racial answers, I think those answers are actually lifestyle answers, they’re educational answers and they’re opportunity answers.
What about treaty stuff? Where do you stand on closing the Waitangi Tribunal?
Yeah, we actually would. Were there some things we did wrong in our history? Yes there were. By comparisons with other countries I think we did outstandingly well. And most of those major issues and I’m thinking really that the ones that were petitioned to Queen Victoria, those have been addressed and in some cases they’ve been addressed more than once. What I’m very concerned about is the fact that that process now has a couple of thousand submissions in there because what we’ve really done is we’ve opened a door and we’ve funded people to do it. We fund people to participate in a grievance process. I think grievance has a place, I think looking to reconcile has a place, I think putting things right is essential and is a cornerstone to justice but what I think we’re doing wrong now is we’re creating some kind of perpetuity of staying there and I think the smart money on grieving and the smart money on reconciling and the smart money on the redressing is actually to say now we move forward and we get on with it and we put that process of reconciliation … we say it’s sorted and we’ve got to move on. I think as a nation we’ve got to do that, we’ve got to move on.
I think the Māori seats represent historic thinking. They did have a reason to be there, the same reason we had mining seats in parliament. Most people don’t know that but we used to have a couple of seats reserved just for miners to vote, you know, if you were a gold miner or whatever. We did away with those because we realised that things had changed. We no longer had to make a provision for that and I think things have changed and there’s no longer a need to make a provision for Māori seats. I see this very much as about the direction we go as a country and I think we’ve got to move forward together and that means we’ve got to accept redress is done whether people think it was entirely satisfactory or not. Normally what happens is almost everyone feels it didn’t work out the way they wanted and that’s standard for settling something but we’ve got to move forward. If our vision is not for the future here for one country, I think we’ve got problems.
Will you be opening the next Conservative Party AGM with a pōwhiri?
Ah, I honestly don’t know. I don’t know that we would. I think it’s being held in Auckland and we’d probably have some sort of Pasifika group.
Where do you draw the line between retribution and restoration?
I think the core of our policy is about another R word and that’s restitution. I think the focus has to be on restitution. So if I break your window, it’s beholden on me to fix your window and if I won’t do it voluntarily then I need to be made to do it with force because I have then put things right. So for me the cornerstone of justice is actually restitution. Putting something right and so therefore I think rather than putting criminals in square concrete cells I believe the majority of prisoners should actually be in a working environment.
So instead of prisons, you’d like to see prisoners working?
I think so. I’d like to see a lot of our prisoners working on maybe horticultural or agricultural type things. We’ve got plenty of land where we could do it. I’m not talking about the really hard, violent people, obviously they need a different type of treatment. But for people who make simple mistakes along the way I think putting them in a working environment where they are potentially learning some new skills or at least keeping skills, I think is far more productive than we should lock them all up in a square concrete box.
Where do you stand on restorative justice practices? Victims and criminals sitting down together and resolving issues.
Look, I like that, I think that restitution must come first. I don’t believe in discounted justice, I think if someone owes someone ten bucks and they sit down and eyeball them and say “gosh I feel really sorry about the fact I took ten bucks,” that to me is not justice working properly. What should happen to me is that the guy who took the ten bucks should bring the ten bucks back and say “look, I took this $10 and here it is and now I want to apologise,” and then that brings true restoration. I think someone is restored when the actual action has been accounted for or put right so I’m very big on restoration but in the context of restitution.
Over the last while we’ve seen Pike River and we’ve seen the finance companies collapse. Where do you stand on restitution for corporate crime?
Oh yeah, I think it’s ridiculous. White collar criminals often get away with little or no penalty. And I, it’s been argued and I think there’s some truth in it that there’s two levels of justice and I think there’s some truth in it. If you’re a blue collar worker and go out there and make someone’s life a misery and steal their jewellery you’ll get treated much harsher than if you’re a white collar criminal and you nick off with their entire savings. I believe we have got to have a consistent approach and that includes those sorts of crimes frankly.
Māori are in jail more, get arrested more and get convicted more. How do you fix that? What’s Colin’s way forward on that?
Well first of all we’ve got to recognise we’ve got a huge problem with repeat crime. I mean you could say that if Māori get convicted more, and that’s true, but most of the time it’s the same guys coming back around again and again and I think one of our problems is that crime does actually pay in this country for most criminals. They will get away with a certain number of crimes and when they get caught the punishment attached for that makes it a worthwhile career and people see that. I mean they actually do it sometimes for the profit. I mean they see it as more profitable than going out and getting a steady job. So I think fixing it, we’ve actually got to talk about the fact that 80% of people are reoffending because even if we stopped all the people coming in there and I’m big on proactive measure, I think we actually don’t follow the science. The science says that the first five years of someone’s life is absolutely crucial but if you look at where we actually spend the money we do not spend it on people in the first five years of their life. I mean we’ll give effectively twenty grand a year to someone at a tertiary institution studying sociology or basket weaving but we won’t give half of that to someone who is one, two, three, four, five years old. Yet I would argue that the science tells us that we’ve got to be at the top of the cliff. We’ve got to be looking to provide the assistance and the resources for people when they’re at a much younger age because that’s when it makes the biggest difference. So, look, stop the reoffending, therefore we’ve got to look at recidivism, we’ve got to look at changing behaviour, we’ve got to give prisoners options when they come out. If they come out with $350 bucks and nothing to do I think the odds of them going back into the same crowd and the same behaviour is pretty high. So stop the reoffending but more importantly let’s get very proactive, let’s get resources towards the younger end of the demographics. If someone is failing at school I don’t think we should ignore that. I think we’ve got to look at genuinely helping people at the earlier time in their life so we don’t have to try and make good when they’re 25, 30 after they’ve got addicted on a substance. They’ve built up a whole career around crime. It’s a lot harder later on.
What’s the best way of controlling teen pregnancy?
Alright, well I actually think the studies I’ve seen on that, the number one is the home and family environment. If that home and family environment is right, if it’s supportive, if it’s informative, I mean that makes such a huge difference. I mean you’ve just got to look at the statistics of teens who get pregnant and we tend to talk about women when we talk about this but it’s a two part equation but if you look at the statistics you’ll find that if a girl has got a Dad at home that cares about her and is involved in her life the chances of her getting pregnant as a teen drop tremendously.
So it’s not education and availability of contraception?
No it’s not. Actually availability of contraception sometimes goes the other way where if you had sex education available and contraception sometimes it actually has a measurable different effect and international studies have shown that. So while I think that might be a pat answer actually the real answer is actually a bit harder than this because it’s about the family environment and the social environment that are the biggest factors and so…
Do parents need to be equipped better to have those conversations with their children though?
Well I think we’ve got the education slightly wrong on this. I think we’ve got to actually realise our job is to help the parents because many parents aren’t equipped and don’t feel equipped. Particularly in a modern environment where they may not be very ready to have these conversations but their children are, so for me I think we’ve really got to see education as being about involving the parents and equipping the parents to have these discussions. A lot of parents want to do it right but they don’t know how. We’re spending all the money on education but we’re not actually bringing the parents in who would actually potentially in many cases be the greatest ally for helping young people navigate their way into a successful adulthood.
Should contraception be available at schools for those teenagers who want it?
Um, I don’t know mate. My view is those sort of things being health issues is they need to go through GPs anyway. I’m in favour of having professional advice involved.
Where do you stand on abortion?
Well, look our party and I personally also think that the rate is too high in New Zealand and I think most people would agree with that. So what we would like to do is move towards the Western European model of free and informed consent. I think we could build support for that. It’s politically realistic to get to the point where that would be an acceptable position. Certainly it’s reduced the rate of abortion in Western Europe and I think it’s a good model to follow. Hey, the Netherlands use it and they’re very liberal on these sorts of things.
So you would support abortion law reform?
In that respect, if we built a consensus, yeah I would like to see that particular change. The other thing we do think is an anomaly is the fact that someone who is 14 or 15 can go and get an abortion without any parental consent or involvement. We don’t do that with any other medical treatment and I don’t think we should be inconsistent. So that for us is just one of those tidy up rules that would be effective. Always acknowledging that there might be an exception and that exception should be available.
One of the big moments we heard about Colin Craig was when you quoted the research about New Zealand’s women being the most promiscuous. Why is that a bad thing?
I’m not saying it is a bad thing and I’m not saying it’s a good thing either. What I am saying though is that it’s relevant to that discussion we were having then was about the increased spending on welfare which was a total spend of $520 million at a time when we don’t have $520 million. Now I know that the sort of sales pitch said that we’d spend the money and save more and well that’s yet to be proven but I think it’s very relevant when we’re having discussions around welfare spending particularly when that’s involving social workers giving contraceptive advice which again I feel those sorts of things need to go through professionally qualified people like doctors, not through social workers. I think it’s relevant to that debate. And it’s both our young men and our young women and we’ve got some real problems with the number of people going onto the DPB, the number of children who don’t have a Dad and in some cases don’t even have a Mum to support them. The growing number of dependent children who need care, the teenage pregnancy rate, the abortion rate, all of these things really are linked and I think that research that shows the way we are is relevant to that discussion and I have no hesitation in introducing research that was university research with both scientists, psychologists and sociologists and I think it’s valid in these discussions to understand the nature of the problem.
After that you were labelled by some people, sexist. What’s your response to that?
So what’s the role of a woman in modern day New Zealand?
I’d like to think she gets to decide that. It’s about choice. Certainly for my wife it has been a choice. She chose to be an equal partner with me in business for 15 years and I was pleased that she had that choice. She then wanted the choice to go home and be a Mum and I’m pleased she had that choice. If we try to dictate what a woman’s role should be, I think that’s wrong. I think what we need to do is have is a society where we have enabled choices and that will be the cornerstone of the things we talk about heading into the next election with family. We believe that choices need to be there, we believe that women need to be facilitated to be workers at home or in the workforce and I think they need the freedom to decide and choose to do what is best. At the moment we have a situation where many women would like to choose to be at home being mums but can’t do that because of financial constraints.
Why is it that women get paid less than men. I think it is for every 1 dollar a male earns, a female in New Zealand earns 90 cents.
I’m not going to claim to be the expert in answering that one. I can make some observations, one of those would be that obviously women do transition in and out of the workforce so their actual dedicated time in a career tends to be less than men and I know that is a factor but look there are probably other factors as well. Look I think we’ve shown women can succeed in New Zealand. We’ve had women Prime Ministers and had women heading up some of our biggest corporations so . Maybe they sometimes have to work harder and it’s really tough if they’re trying to balance expectations of family and motherhood as well.
Just before you mentioned family. Now in New Zealand under our current law…
Hang on Jackson, I should make the point there that remember our CEO is a woman and we’re an organisation of nearly 6,000 people and she was the best choice for the job and she’s doing outstandingly well.
I get the feeling that your press sec there held up a sign saying ‘What about Rankin?! Remember to tell him about Rankin!’
No, no she might have written it down for me but that’s not the same thing.
So as I was saying before, you mentioned family. Gay marriage is now legal in New Zealand. It’s been a few months; we’re having the first gay marriages now. How do you think it’s going?
Well look I would have preferred to see New Zealander’s vote on that issue in a referendum as it’s a social institution that belongs to the people, not something that a few people who are locked up in parliament and may be disconnected from the general feeling of the electorate should decide on. And that still is my view. I still think that what marriage is and what it should be is the property of the New Zealand people.
So when you say family you don’t mean a family where there is a homosexual couple?
No, I don’t mean that or not mean that because let’s take an example of perhaps a woman, perhaps she has a relationship, perhaps she’s even married to a guy with two or three children, and that relationship may break up and she may transition into a lesbian relationship. I mean obviously her and her children are still a family, you can’t suddenly say they were but now they’re not. I mean that’s not how I think, it may be how other people think but it’s not how I think. I think family, generally speaking, and look, it’s only generally speaking, but look, family is people who choose to have a connection with each other and have a blood relationship so for me, family is my Mum, my Dad, and obviously my siblings who were all born to those two people…
So if a man and a man or a woman and a woman love each other and they have children, what’s the problem? Why aren’t they a family?
Well I’m not saying they’re not a family. The discussion around marriage was not a discussion around family, it was a discussion around what should legally constitute marriage and so to me they’re not the same discussion. One is a discussion about what we define as marriage and my view of that is pretty well publicised and that is that it should have gone to the New Zealand people. Personally I favour the traditional model and civil union gave them all the same rights so therefore I was very much a supporter of the traditional model and I’m a subscriber of traditional parenting. I think there should be a Mum, a loving Mum and a loving Dad involved in raising children. That’s the model that I prefer, the one that has been tested over time. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other models and it doesn’t mean that other models wouldn’t succeed but that’s my view of the world and my preference.
On the 18th of April? I think it was the day after or the night of the marriage equality bill being passed you tweeted ‘the day of reckoning is still to come’. What did you mean by that?
Well what I meant is that we did not have a vote of the public of New Zealand. That will be the election next year and I believe there will be a lot of, a significant number of New Zealanders who will actually potentially not give their vote to, and I say this from a well-informed position because obviously a lot of people wrote to us saying I’m not going to vote for such and such, I’m going to vote for you, so I believe at the next election there will be people who have decided to change their vote on this issue alone because for some people it’s a really significant issue and I think some people who have participated in the debate, some people will see less votes because of it. I don’t know how substantial that will be, I don’t know if that will mean they are in or out of parliament but there will have to be an accounting at the ballot box next year.
You’ve previously said that unisex toilets should go, is that correct? Or am I being misled by the media?
No, no, what I’ve said on that is, it was a mischievous question asked at a university and the guy said, I think, I can’t even remember the question. It was something like, do you believe in… No I remember what it was! Do you believe in separate toilets for blacks and whites or something like that. It was just…. ugh. To which I said, well no, but what I want to see is on the door whether it’s the male or female toilets.
You’ve said you’re not a practicing Christian, but that you try and live your life by Christian morals. For you, what does that mean and do you believe that heaven exists; do you believe the hell exists?
Well um, on theological questions I’m not an expert and I’d say go and ask a theologian and you’ll probably get five different answers. But for me personally, I think there are Christian values that I do try and be a spiritual person, I do try to find time to pray, to meditate, to reflect and I think that’s a very valuable thing to do and there are hundreds and hundreds of studies that say that people who do these kind of things are generally happier people. Not that I do it purely just for happiness sake, but I do try to be a spiritual person and I do try to genuinely live out a Christian ah, Christian faith and Christian values. And for me those are, and they may not be the same for everyone, I’ve realised it’s a very broad word to use. For me those are things like hard work, honesty, personal integrity, sticking by your commitments, having genuine compassion – caring about other people. Seeing them as valuable, even if they may not agree with you. Being respectful of others. I try to live in a way where I don’t unnecessarily make life difficult for other people. I try to live in a way that follows, that follows in keeping with the law and being mindful of others I guess.
It’s your parties’ policy to scrap the ETS. How do we address anthropogenic climate change?
Probably the best thing to look at is what the Canadian government has done because that is a very similar model to what we would see, the direction we would like to go. I do think there is an element of human influence in climate change but I also think that New Zealand’s contribution to climate change anthropogenically is very very minor and I think that is statistically and scientifically proven. I think some people say it is half a percent of total in human emissions, other people say it’s 0.4. Either way it’s incredibly small. The problem with this is we’re missing the real issue. The real issue is cleaning up the environment, cleaning up pollution, getting our rivers and waterways clean and looking after our oceans. If we really focussed on that I believe we’d be much better off as a country.
Are you comfortable with the actions of the founders of the New Citizens Party? Especially the ones on trial in Hong Kong?
Sorry, I don’t know the detail of that. Say again.
The New Citizens Party which your party, your party consumed just before the last election. Some of their leaders are facing fraud charges in Hong Kong. Are you worried about that at all?
The guy that we took on board resigned from the New Citizens Party because of certain issues.
Is he a member of the Conservatives?
Not until after he’d resigned from the New Citizens Party.
But he is now?
Sorry, say again?
He is now a member of the Conservative Party?
He is now a member of the Conservative Party. He left the New Citizens Party because of it and he was one of their candidates. Yeah, look, I don’t know the details and the ins and outs of it but I think from what I know you’d have to be pretty concerned about the actions of those individuals involved. I’m not sure they’re in New Zealand anymore.
So you’re saying there are still some of those elements are members of your party.
No. We’ve got one guy who resigned from the New Citizens Party because of those issues who is now a member of our party. We had a long discussion with him about it. The ties had to be cut from our perspective. Not that there was any known illegality at that stage, but we had some concerns about it.
Are there any parties you could not go into coalition with or work with in parliament if you were to get into parliament next year?
Look I think MMP is about finding common ground with other parties and I think we could almost find common ground with at least one or two issues with everybody but the reality is you’re going to have more in common with some parties than others. I’ve always said we can work with National and we can work with Labour. I think we have some common ground with the Greens but we also have some significant points of difference that would make that hard. I think the Mana party would be a hard ask.
What about New Zealand First?
We actually have a lot of common ground with New Zealand First so from a policy point of view I think they’d be easy to work with, I’m not sure how easy it would be to work with their leader, not that I know him particularly well but he’s not got a great track record as someone who is easy to work with. And personalities come into it obviously, not just policies.
<We’ve got another interview in a couple of minutes so just wrap it up I think>
Okay, so I’ve got a few more little things I wanted to ask. So a tortoise lies on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun beating its legs trying to turn itself over in the hot sun but it can’t, not without your help but you’re not helping. Why is that?
Oh I would help.
Sounds like you’re a human then! What three laws would you repeal, and why?
I’d repeal the anti-smacking law because it flies in the face of what New Zealanders want and I’d change it to the Australian law which has sensible limitations around it and has a proven; I mean they are lowering child abuse using that framework of law. So I think those two reasons.
I’d repeal the ETS because I don’t believe that charging people more for their power and their petrol is the same as taking real action on the environment and I think we’ve got it wrong. We should take action on the environment, not have some sort of overseas model where we suddenly charge everyone more money and think it’s a good idea. Number two…
And the third one?
The third law I would repeal at this stage…
<you’ve only got one more minute anyway so you’re going to have to…>
Yeah… You know what, I wouldn’t necessarily repeal the whole RMA but I would change the whole RMA substantially. Repeal certain components of it. Particularly the component that applies to residential housing and to, you know, changes to existing residential housing. I would repeal that component of the RMA.
Mr Craig, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?
I think, one of the main reasons is that we are very honest and we say things very honestly and up front. I actually think people are appreciating that a lot. Secondly I do believe we talk about the issues that a lot of people who aren’t visible in the political environment believe in. So when I talk about the anti-smacking thing, a lot of people are like no no no, you can’t really think that. Look, the majority of New Zealanders think that. The majority of Mums and Dads still smack their children and they hate the fact that the law doesn’t back them up on what they believe is a very reasonable action. So I think that’s another reason. And thirdly, I think we’ve probably got a freshness about us. I think that the people we have running in the next election are going to be people who are worthy of a vote. I think people are looking at me, they’re looking at Christine, they’re looking at our other people in the network that we’re building and they’re actually going, you know what, I think these people are good folk and I’m prepared to be behind them.