Leaders: Jacinda Ardern (J), Chris Luxon (C)
Interviewer: John Campbell (JC)
JC: Haere Mai and welcome to tonight’s leaders debate.
I’m John Campbell, presenter and investigative reporter who has had the privilege to cover so many of this country’s heart-rending and tragic stories over the years.
My ability to connect on an intimate level with my subjects, in my view, makes me ideally suited to host tonight’s debate, in which one of our greatest leaders of all time, if not the greatest, spars politically with the new-kid-on-the-block to see who will capture the hearts and minds of our wonderful, wonderful, small but beautifully formed island nation of Aotearoa.
In the studio we are joined by members of the public who hold a wide spectrum of political views. To ensure we fairly represent all opinions but exclude extremism, which could cause distress to you at home, all members of our audience voluntarily underwent a psychometric assessment to reveal their true political leanings. Extreme centre and centre-right participants were politely declined so we have a mainstream, well balanced and diverse left wing audience to challenge both our leaders.
Tonight we are privileged to have our magnificent Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who represents Aotearoa at home and on the world stage quite magnificently, if I may say so…. and don’t we just all admire the fantastic job she has done over the past 4 years. Quite, quite magnificent!
A woman, a mother, a soon to be bride - please accept my personal congratulations on your upcoming nuptials, Prime Minister, and many, many thanks for my wedding invitation and….
J: Yes, thank you John. We’ll be delighted to see you on the big day, along with all the other TVOne and TV3 reporters, as well as selected NZME and Stuff journalists, and official photographers, of course.
You do have a seat near the front - just behind Jessica and Tova’s table… and the cake.
JC: That sounds utterly magnificent, Prime Minister. I feel so humble, not a word typically associated with me, I admit, but in your presence even my greatness withers.
Anyway, before you magnificently cut me off, I was still finishing your magnificent introduction. Now, where was I? Oh, yes…. and some, including myself, might even say you’re a candidate for sainthood. Yes, I think that is entirely justified after you single-handedly, apart from Ashley, saved our nation from Covid.
J: Now John, please. I’m sure I’m not that magnificent….am I? You’ll make me blush soon…but we haven’t quite got there yet so feel free to carry on.
JC: I would if I could but my producer is in my ear hurrying me along. A thousand apologies!
Also, tonight we have Christopher Luxon, leader of the National Party.
But time is pressing so let’s get straight into it, without any further ado. I’m going to start with a nice easy one.
Mr Luxon, do you think it’s acceptable to be leader of the Opposition and hold radical religious views?
C: Firstly, I’d like to thank you for inviting me here tonight, John, and…
JC: Chris, please just answer the question. We don’t have time for protracted introductions and time-wasting tactics.
C: Well, I was about to say that, yes, I’m a Christian, like millions of other people in New Zealand and around the world, but I’m most certainly not a radical and I take offence at…..
JC: But Chris, just look at what has been done in the past in the name of Christianity. The Spanish Inquisition, witch burning trials, child abuse, forcing our children to attend Sunday School and be indoctrinated against their will. And yet, you openly subscribe to this corrupt and evil cult.
C: Now, John…that is quite the most extreme summary of Christianity I’ve ever heard. All religions have done terrible things in the past, although I’m not sure Sunday School is high on my list. But these days we’re a lot more civilized and have learned from our mistakes.
You could argue that Islam has been the most radical religion in recent times.
JC: My goodness! Chris, I think our audience, both in the studio and at home, will be shocked, hurt and dismayed by that unfeeling remark, as indeed I am. I would like to apologise on behalf of all Aotearoa to our muslim community who will likely be feeling devastated at this moment. I urge you to also apologise for your blatant racism, Mr Luxon.
J: If I could just add something, John.
JC: Please do, Prime Minister. Your wisdom is always admired and respected in these troubled times.
J: Offensive as Mr Luxon’s remark was, I think we have to make allowances. Chris is a white, privileged European male and has been conditioned to behave in this way to all ethnic minorities. It’s not entirely his fault.
That’s why my government has introduced compulsory cultural competence training to re-educate people like Chris who work in all sectors of government, education and the judiciary.
JC: They’re certainly very popular in the mainstream media, as well. I’ve been on one, as have all my colleagues, and I feel far more at peace with myself, now that my past subconscious racism has been exposed and I have fully atoned, on behalf of my ancestors, for centuries of colonial abuse and discrimination. You really should go on one, Chris.
C: Hold on! You used to be a Mormon, Prime Minister. That’s a branch of Christianity, and a somewhat weird one many people might think.
J: I’m going to ignore that personal attack and rise above it.
JC: Like an ascending angel, Prime Minister?
J: I don’t believe in angels anymore, John. I’m currently not aligned to any religion, as is my right as a free-thinking, progressive woman. Socialism is the only doctrine I follow….comrade!
JC: Yes, let’s not get personal, Mr Luxon. Stick to the issue.
JC: Moving on, after that somewhat disturbing insight into the National leader’s mindset, my next question is about the housing crisis. Let’s start with you, if I may, Prime Minister.
What have you done to tackle the housing shortage, rampant house prices and the inability of first-time buyers to become homeowners?
J: I’m glad you asked that question, John. I’d like to address Maori, first….and only, which is official Labour policy.
JC: As is only right and proper in all things. Please enlighten us.
J: We have a groundbreaking policy to buy back private land, with taxpayers money, from housing developers already planning to build houses for all Kiwis, and gift it to local iwi so that they can build houses just for Maori.
This has been remarkably successful, as demonstrated by the increasing number of sit-ins and protests on private land. We’re working hard to reduce the buy-back time from months to a matter of weeks. This allows iwi to quickly relocate to other private land and gain ownership without all the red tape and government bureaucracy.
C: If I can come in there. Hardly any houses have actually been built on these private land buy-backs though, have they?
J: I think you’ll find that Mr Luxon owns seven properties. If he decided to sell six of them, some of those poor first-time buyers could get into the market and we may find the median house price dropping substantially with that influx of new properties.
C: You’ve got to be joking! The problem is a whole lot bigger than that. The PM is showing her complete lack of understanding of this topic. Just look at Kiwibuild!
JC: Don’t be evasive Chris. The Prime Minister has made an excellent point which needs answering. When will you be selling your properties?
C: As long as people are renting and living in them then it makes no difference to demand or the total housing stock. It’s new houses that matter. Getting enough consents for land and building, infrastructure costs on local councils, shortage of tradespeople and materials - these are what we should be talking about.
JC: More smokescreen and prevarication, Mr Luxon. I won’t have it! And the final word from you, Prime Minister.
J: As everyone knows, the housing crisis is a National Party problem. Labour are now sorting out this mess by victimising private landlords, increasing costs of building materials through inflation caused by our hugely successful Covid recovery borrowing plan, and persisting with our Kiwibuild program.
JC: Impressed as ever with the way you cut straight to the heart of the matter, Prime Minister. Masterful, if I may say so.
J: You may, John.
JC: Our next question is one that weighs heavily on most Kiwis minds. Prime Minister, do you think Aotearoa is doing enough to save the planet from apocalyptic climate change?
J: This, as I enjoy telling everyone, is my “nuclear-free” moment and I feel so strongly about it. My government is constantly listening to The Science, which is settled on this subject and many others, as far as I’m concerned.
We have embraced the latest cutting edge research and modelling from leading scientific bodies like the UN, Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion and our Climate Change Commission has then applied their recommendations, through the unique lens of matauranga maori, to produce a comprehensive series of draconian and highly expensive solutions, which have already been adopted by Europe and the USA with little effect up to now.
This will ensure that Aotearoa leads the way, from behind, and, as is only right for a wealthy and developed nation, endures economic suffering far greater than the tiny proportion of total emissions we are responsible for.
I’m sure all Kiwis will stand behind me, virtually of course, and share in my glory at the next major conference I attend.
JC: I assume you agree wholeheartedly on this, Chris.
C: Well, John, the PM has made some valid points but National believe in adapting to climate change by innovation rather than enacting more legislation and bureaucracy and incurring costs.
Using good-old, Kiwi initiative to develop new technologies and scientific breakthroughs, principally in agriculture and forestry, which will allow New Zealand to grow its economy and prosper, while saving the planet at the same time.
JC: And what is your view on the role matauranga maori plays?
C: While I totally respect the Maori world view perspective, climate change is a global issue so science is the only practical and universal way to tackle it, but…..
JC: Well, I’m shocked! Mr Luxon has once again demonstrated the systemic racism that is rife at the highest levels of our society. And in doing so, has caused untold hurt, dismay and devastation…but this time to our indigenous Maori community.
C: Really, John. I don’t think you can interpret anything in my last remark as racist. I was merely…
J: If I may, John. Mr Luxon is showing both his, and National’s, complete contempt and disregard for Maori culture, which I’m proud to say is a cornerstone of my administration and has been hard-wired into all our public institutions, including our courtrooms, schools and universities, during my term in office.
I know he’s not long in the job but perhaps he should seek advice from his mentor, John Key, who at least had the good sense to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and enact the Marine and Coastal Area Act.
This has allowed iwi to claim customary marine title to any beach they like and regain ownership of land they had already sold when Te Tiriti was first implemented, but have now decided they want back again.
JC: Insightful, yet reverent, Prime Minister.
Now. A follow up climate change question from our audience. China is the world’s biggest emitter of CO2 but continues to build coal-fired power stations - should Aotearoa unilaterally apply economic sanctions against them?
J: I take the questioner’s point but we have to look at the big picture here.
Premier Xi and I share a common view on this, especially after he pointed out how much we rely on trade with China.
He has explained, quite rightly, that the PRC is still a developing nation, recovering from the ravages of colonialism, and needs time to grow its economy and fully embrace the renewables revolution.
But he has pledged that by 2060, China will seriously consider, thinking about, phasing out fossil fuels, as long as the developed world, including ourselves, completely decarbonises by 2050 and contributes around $1 trillion/year, to start with, to help developing countries with the transition.
I respect and admire him for that.
C: Oh, come on, Prime Minister. China is the world’s second largest economy by GDP. I think Premier Xi may be pulling the wool over your eyes.
J: Yet again, Mr Luxon displays his unbridled racism against ethnic minorities.
JC: I unreservedly apologise on behalf of all Aotearoa to our Chinese community for the untold hurt and dismay caused by the leader of the Opposition’s remarks.
J: And just to prove Chris wrong. I believe Premier Xi and myself have cultivated a more personal connection. So much so, that he has encouraged our country to shake off the shackles of colonial rule and remove the monarch as head of state.
And charmingly, he’s even proposed an alternative name for our wonderful country - the Progressive And Neo-marxist Democracy of Aotearoa, or PANDA for short.
I like it and may take it to cabinet for Maori Caucus approval - no need for a referendum!
JC: And finally, due to my verbose but eloquent introduction and highly deserved adulation of our magnificent PM, we have time for only one more question tonight.
This one’s directed at you Mr Luxon. Do National think Three Waters is racist and would you repeal the almost certain legislation planned in the near future?
C: I definitely think it’s separatist and I’m not in favour of that. If legislation is passed we have committed to reversing it and seeking a solution which treats everyone fairly, by need not race.
JC: So you do think it’s racist! Which I have to say is rather rich coming from you, based on your devastating comments in tonight’s debate.
And, considering that Te Tiriti states unequivocally that there is a partnership between Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti.
C: I accept the partnership concept but I believe that means cooperation rather than co-governance. What is of more concern to me is the authoritarian way this government is riding rough-shod over widespread council objections to their plans.
JC: How do you answer that, Prime Minister?
J: Well John. Although not one of the questions sent to me before the debate for my approval, I'll deign to answer it, none-the-less.
JC: I apologise yet again and admire your magnificent and effortless handling of every topic, no matter how little time you and your large team of communication advisors have to prepare a scripted answer.
J: As Mr Luxon showed earlier, he responds to his own inherent racism by projecting it onto marginalised and disadvantaged ethnic minority groups. What makes it worse is that, in this case, he is racially discriminating against the indigenous people of Aotearoa - a name, I notice, Chris has deliberately avoided using all night.
As I mentioned earlier, UNDRIP, signed by his own party…
JC: Excellent point, Prime Minister
J: Don’t interrupt me when I’m in full flow, John. Your table allocation at my wedding can always be downgraded.
Now where was I? Yes, the Declaration, adopted by National, clearly sets out rights and privileges which are entitled to be bestowed on Maori and that is exactly what my government aims to do, ably assisted by Minister Mahuta and the Maori Caucus.
JC: Just one small point. I hate to bring it up and I apologise profusely in advance but…..you didn’t actually answer my question.
J: I think you’ll find I answered a much more important question which demanded an answer and made me look good and him look bad. That’s how political debates work.
JC: I take your point completely, Prime Minister, but if you would just answer the original question about you being authoritarian.
J: THAT’S ENOUGH! Effective immediately, you are no longer an accredited journalist, allowed to ask me pre-approved and vetted questions. Which means your wedding invitation is rescinded!
As such, I’m having to end this debate, through no fault of my own, and reschedule with a competent interviewer.
I apologise on your behalf, John, to the public of Aotearoa for being denied the pleasure of hearing me speak further. Goodbye…and be kind!
C: Did I win? She did leave first.
JC: Oops! I may have wet myself. She is so impressive and domineering when she gets angry. And yet, so kind and caring…all at the same time.
Well, thank you for joining me for the first of our three leaders debates. I’m sure you’ll agree our magnificent Prime Minister was clearly ahead on points…even though she threw the towel in during the last round.
I probably won’t be presenting the next two debates but…..sorry, hold on, my producer’s talking in my ear. What’s that?
My BreakfastTV contract has been terminated. And my grant application to the Public Interest Journalism Fund to attend the next COP summit in Egypt for six weeks, including a luxury Nile Cruise, has been declined. I see.
Aotearoa - this is John Campbell, signing off…for good! Haere ra!
Derek Mackie is a geologist with a keen interest in current affairs.