Peter Dunne answers your questions

Written By: - Date published: 6:32 am, May 12th, 2008 - 23 comments
Categories: interview, united future - Tags: , ,


We’re very pleased to have UnitedFuture Leader Peter Dunne respond to your questions as part of our Interview the Leaders series.

Question to all leaders:

Of which of your achievements in politics are you most proud?

At a national level, I am most proud of the tax changes for which I have been responsible in the last three years: the first business tax cut in 20 years, including the introduction of comprehensive policies to boost research and development, and changes to international tax arrangements; my involvement in the forthcoming associated reductions in personal taxes; and, the radical reforms of the tax treatment of charitable donations. Most of these flow from UnitedFuture’s 2005 Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour-led Government, and show the value that a support party with a constructive approach and clear agenda can provide.

There are other issues as well – such as the development of the National Medicines Strategy, Medicines New Zealand, during this term, and my earlier involvement in the last round of personal tax cuts when Minister of Revenue in the National/United Government in the mid 1990s.

I am especially pleased at the way I was able to bring family issues onto the election agenda in 2002 and to note that now, in stark contrast to earlier years, every political party bends over backwards to present itself as family friendly.

At an electorate level, I am proudest of the help I have been able to provide to thousands of constituents who have come to see me over the years, and to be able to keep in touch with them and their families and see how they are getting on with their lives as a consequence.

From reader Sam Dixon: “You regularly call for cross-party concensus on issues, the latest being the Electoral Finance Act, broadband, and the Emissions Trading Scheme. Isn’t democracy about parties presenting different policy choices and the people having the chance to decide which they prefer?”

Democracy is about parties presenting different policy positions for the public to judge – and UnitedFuture has plenty of policy to promote in that regard. But democracy is also about understanding no one party or politician has a mortgage on good ideas, and that other parties have a contribution to make. I am a great believer in people and parties working together on the things they agree upon, rather than forever arguing about the things they disagree over. Where there is common ground, we should seek to achieve it, rather than retreat to rigidly held ideological positions which are ultimately divisive.

From reader Ted, as modified by user Peak Oil Conspiracy: “Which MP from a party other than your own do you find your views most closely align with; and why?”

This is difficult to answer because there are aspects of many politicians from across the spectrum that I admire. Overall though there are three politicians whose views and approach I would regard as closest to my own: John Key, Michael Cullen, and Helen Clark.

John Key is centrist and pragmatic with an inherent feel for what is right, and Michael Cullen is intellectually measured and dispassionate. Helen Clark stands out for her grit and determination. I can relate to elements of all three, but I think, on balance, my basic views and approach would be closest to John Key’s, with a touch of Helen Clark’s stubbornness and determination thrown in.

Over the years I have been in parliament, though, the mp whose views and approach I have felt most closely aligned to was Jim Bolger.

23 comments on “Peter Dunne answers your questions”

  1. Stephen 1

    Does anyone else think he was plugging Cullen and Clark just to show how open/pragmatic he is, with the ‘but’ that despite that he is more of a Key man?

    I wasn’t really ‘around’ when Bolger was on the scene, can anyone say what he was about, perhaps relative to Key or today’s National party?

  2. So Dunne claims John’s PR skills, Helen’s strength and Cullen’s brains? I’m surprised he didn’t add Jeanette’s modesty in there too…

  3. r0b 3

    ‘Sod – right on.

    Stephen, Bolger ran a slash and burn right wing government. see:

  4. Stephen 4

    Ta. Add Peter Dunne to the ‘has secret right wing agenda’ list then?

  5. Sam Dixon 5

    A good answer to my question. I don’t agree with him but it’s still a good answer.

    That last answer, I reckon it’s proably the hardest question youse have given a leader so far and he makes a decent fist of it but still what a suck-up.

  6. higherstandard 6


    Bolger was soft. The major reason for Richardson’s budget as you well know was the large surprise they received in the government books when they came to power.

    He is also a classic example of politicians looking after there own with his Consular appointment and current positions with Post Bank and NZ Post.

  7. deemac 7

    oh my – just when we’d forgotten how awful and second rate Bolger was, Dunne identifies with him…

  8. r0b 8

    HS, indeed. Yes that incoming government was faced with problems (just as the incoming Labour government before it post Muldoon). As we have discussed before they also had choices in how they might deal with those problems. They could have raised taxes. They chose instead to slash benefits. I wonder now (if you’re in a calmer mood than your initial response) what you make of the choice that they made?

  9. Felix 9

    Someone needs to explain to Mr Dunne that “centrist” and “hedging your bets” aren’t really the same thing. Or perhaps it’s his voter(s) who need the clarification.

  10. higherstandard 10


    While I’m not an economist I stand by my original position raising taxes at that time would have been insane and made the impact of the Asian crisis significantly worse.

  11. It’s interesting that Dunne seems to see politics as fiddling around the edges, not about a gradual process to a radicially different future. Hence, his “I am a great believer in people and parties working together on the things they agree upon, rather than forever arguing about the things they disagree over. Where there is common ground, we should seek to achieve it, rather than retreat to rigidly held ideological positions which are ultimately divisive.”

    – that’s not a recipe for change, it’s a recipe for a status quo that maybe works a little better. And so there’s this niche of content, unimaginative, self-centred, well-off types who love him – they’re the ones who do best out of the current arrangement and he wants that to continue.

  12. r0b 12

    While I’m not an economist I stand by my original position raising taxes at that time would have been insane and made the impact of the Asian crisis significantly worse.

    I’m not an economist either, so in a spirit of mutual ignorance I feel free to disagree.

    What we do know for a fact was that cutting the benefits was a pretty bum deal:

    Richardson’s first budget, delivered in 1991 and named by the media as ‘the mother of all budgets'[1], introduced major cuts in social welfare spending. Unemployment and other benefits were substantially cut, and ‘market rents’ were introduced for state houses, in some cases tripling the rents of low-income people.[1] In combination with the high employment resulting from some of the 1980s reforms, this caused poverty to increase, and foodbanks and soup kitchens appeared in New Zealand for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

  13. r0b 13

    I’ve been poking around the 1991 budget a bit. Brian Easton – I’ve long been a fan – has all his stuff on line, and is hence one of the few places you can go on the web for commentary written as far back as 1991. He observes:

    One of the most curious was the mother-of-all-budgets in 1991. The available evidence suggests the economy was moving into the recovery phase of the cycle at the end of 1990. The November 1990 elected National government had instituted a package in December, which unnerved business to the extent that it held over its investment plans aborting the weak recovery and continuing the stagnation. Undismayed the government promised further major cuts of expenditure in its 1991 Budget. It seemed to be an overreaction, a conclusion supported by the graph below which suggested the economy was pushed below its GDP growth track of the 1990s.

    To reconnect with the topic of this thread, the legacy of the benefit slashing “mother of all budgets” is with us still. It happened on Bolger’s watch – the politician that Peter Dunne feels most aligned to. Make of it what you will.

  14. higherstandard 14

    Agreed nothing wrong with disagreeing.

    Interested to know what you count as the legacy of Richardsons budget that you say is with us still ?

    It also appears that Brian Easton has tapped a rich vein of government funding (Consulting for Alcohol Advisory Council; Department of Labour, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Social Policy, N.Z. Drug Foundation, Statistics New Zealand; The Treasury) good on him

  15. r0b 15

    Interested to know what you count as the legacy of Richardsons budget that you say is with us still ?

    The social and health legacy of the children who grew up in poverty HS:

    A 2005 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the proportion of New Zealand children in homes below 50 per cent of the median income grew from 7.8 per cent in the mid-1980s to 13.6 per cent in 2000 – a bigger jump than in any other OECD country except Austria.

    New Zealand came third-worst in the developed world in a Unicef survey of child poverty around the year 2000, with a quarter of all children then living in families earning less than 60 per cent of the median income.

    Now, finally, too slowly, levels of child poverty are falling again (see the first link).

    Incidentally, for a great discussion of the Bolger years see:

  16. higherstandard 16

    I had a quick scan of that UNICEF report – we have disagreed on it previously I have some degree of suspicions about it as the USA came out very very badly it is somewhat like the OECD report on health systems which relies on patient self reporting.It is worthwhile looking at their definitions of child poverty we actually did quite well in a number of areas.

    I do though agree that things undoubtedly got tougher through the nineties where we disagree is that I believe they could have got much worse without the intervention of the Douglas budget and the Richardson budget – however as we are unable to go back in time and run the alternative option we’ll never know.

  17. higherstandard 17

    Thanks for the Colin James article I’ll read it later (I usually find him a good dispassionate commentator as well)

  18. r0b 18

    Indeed we can’t, but once again the experience of Australia over the same period (much more pragmatic policies, better growth, less poverty) are at least somewhat relevant.

  19. higherstandard 19

    Only marginally they hadn’t had Muldoon bring the country to the point of economic collapse and their economy being far larger is always likely to be more resilient to external shocks.

    Wonder if we’ll ever bite the bullet and go for trans-tasman currency or maybe full economic union ?

  20. r0b 20

    Wonder if we’ll ever bite the bullet and go for trans-tasman currency or maybe full economic union ?

    No sign of it in the short term, and long term I fear that such things will be overtaken by a fair bit of oil / environment driven upheaval.

  21. Ari 21

    Stephen- Dunne is right-wing on economics and a little bit left-wing on social policy. He supported the homosexual law reform, and has spoken out on Tibet. But if I recall correctly, he’s anti-gay marriage and he supports loosening regulation on gambling and smoking, too, so he has a very curious mix of policies.

    I wouldn’t say he has a hidden right-wing agenda so much as that he’s the consummate populist of the New Zealand parliament, and will blow with the wind on most issues.

  22. Stephen 22

    Oh yeah…he’s loose on smoking but *hates* marijuana. Guess he sorta-kinda sounds like Bolger. Hmm. Yeah he seems too consistently moderate (as opposed to National being pretty up then down then up then down again) on everything to have a strong agenda.

  23. gladfly 23

    Dunne ‘confessed’ to Parliament (following pressure to do so) that he had been a cannibis user in his early days. Perhaps his ‘hatred’ for weed is a ‘born-again’ kind of zealotry (the worst and least forgiving kind!)

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