RNZ: The 9th floor – Bolger

Written By: - Date published: 11:47 am, April 21st, 2017 - 12 comments
Categories: class war, history, journalism - Tags: , , , , , ,

Guyon Espiner’s excellent RNZ series The 9th Floor, consists of interviews with five ex NZ PMs: Geoffrey Palmer, Mike Moore, Jim Bolger, Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark.

Here’s Jim Bolger:

The Negotiator – Jim Bolger: Prime Minister 1990-97

In part three of The 9th Floor, Guyon Espiner talks to Jim Bolger, who steered New Zealand through a turbulent seven years that saw more economic upheaval, a resetting of race relations and the arrival of MMP.

I think Jim Bolger might be about to spark a debate. Two debates, actually. One on our economic settings and the other on race relations.

He says neo-liberalism has failed and suggests unions should have a stronger voice. He says Treaty of Waitangi settlements may not be full and final and that Māori language tuition should be compulsory in primary schools.

It was striking, sitting in Jim Bolger’s Waikanae home for the third episode of The 9th Floor, just how many of the issues he grappled with in the 1990s are still alive and being debated rigorously today.

Bolger says neoliberal economic policies have absolutely failed. It’s not uncommon to hear that now; even the IMF says so. But to hear it from a former National Prime Minister who pursued privatisation, labour market deregulation, welfare cuts and tax reductions – well, that’s pretty interesting.

“They have failed to produce economic growth and what growth there has been has gone to the few at the top,” Bolger says, not of his own policies specifically but of neoliberalism the world over. He laments the levels of inequality and concludes “that model needs to change.”

Indeed Bolger is at his most passionate speaking about Māori issues. He has a visceral hatred of racism and explains the personal context for that.

We asked him whether future generations will open up Treaty settlements again – given Māori got a fraction of what was lost – or whether they are genuinely full and final. He says it is a “legitimate” question and “entirely up to us”.

If Māori are still at the bottom of the heap “then you can expect someone to ask the question again because it means that society has failed”. He is also scathing of former National leader Don Brash’s Orewa speech on ‘Māori privilege’. “It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Trump but it was in that frame.” …

Plenty more in the text, but for the full hour-long interview you’ll need to listen…

See also:
Neoliberalism has ‘failed’ and the ‘model needs to change’ – Jim Bolger, PM who oversaw mother of all budgets
The 9th floor: Jim Bolger says neoliberalism has failed NZ and it’s time to give unions the power back

12 comments on “RNZ: The 9th floor – Bolger”

  1. Adrian Thornton 1

    A very interesting and not unimportant moment in post ’84 NZ politics.
    Breaking ranks in your own class ( both politically and socially) like this highly unusual, and he is to be commended for his courage.

    This is just the sort of leak in the dam that eventually could unleash the flood.

    Now all we need is for ex Labour leaders to confront their past, and own their part in this neo liberal failure with the same level of clear headed assessment….unlike Moore and Palmer, who both displayed a level of disconnection from cause and effect in their political actions that was quite jaw dropping.

    • keepcalmcarryon 1.1

      Absolutely agree.
      It appears genuine conscience doesnt favour a particular political party. Mr Moore just gets a slow shake of the head.
      Its a shame that Mr Bolger didnt come to his senses earlier though when everyone could see what he was doing was going to change employment conditions in NZ for ever.

  2. DS 2

    Bolger was a traditional (i.e. non-neoliberal) Tory at heart*, who got lumbered with some much nastier people around him. The thing to remember about rank-and-file Nats during the Rogernomics era is that they opposed privatisation as much as rank-and-file Labour – the difference between the two was on labour issues and unions (Nats have a tribal hatred of unions – it wasn’t the Richardson wing who devised the ECA, but Bolger’s best mate, Bill Birch).

    *With some eccentricities. Republicanism, treaty settlements, and keeping his promise on MMP.

  3. red-blooded 3

    To be fair, it wasn’t Moore or Palmer who deliberately smashed the union movement with the Employment Contracts Act or attacked the welfare system with The Mother of All Budgets (and plenty of other decisions along the same extreme lines). I’m not saying they weren’t complicit in the origins of the neoliberal experiment in NZ – they were – but Bolger has plenty to regret and apologise for. And from the look of things, he’s not actually apologising for any of his government’s actions, he’s just making some generalised observations. Anyway, I’m definitely going to listen avidly to this interview and I hope it helps to shape the agenda for this election. I doubt it, though: it’ll create some ripples amongst the political chattering class (like us), but most people won’t give a bugger what he says, or that’s my prediction, anyway.

  4. Looking forward to forthcoming interview number 6 with key. Quickly followed by English in the 7th interview later this year. Booked my seat,-24th sept ,

    • Siobhan 4.1

      Prepare for disappointment…those two still have ‘skin in the game’ and have yet to have time to look into the dark abyss….give it 30 years, then there may be something.

      • Hanswurst 4.1.1

        It might be expected that Espiner will put Bolger’s remarks to them for comment, however.

  5. esoteric pineapples 5

    I remember Jim Bolger talking about devolving decision making down to the local level not long before he was forced out of being PM. He almost sounded like an anarchist (in the proper political sense).

  6. Tamati Tautuhi 6

    At least he has finally admitted that Zombie Economics (Neoliberal Economics) was a fizzer and hasn’t done anybody any good apart from the oligarchs?

  7. Anne 7

    I liked the way he hissed up at the mention of Trump. Not a fan it would seem which counts for something.

  8. red-blooded 8

    He’s an interesting mix: quite progressive in his attitudes to race and republicanism, starting to think about inequality, but absolutely unrepentant about any of his own decisions or their consequences (ECA, MOAB…). Plus there’s still a lot of inconsistencies: says he considered an upper house with equal Māori and tauiwi representation, but wanted to axe the Māori seats; says Treaty settlements may need revisiting but wanted to lock them into a “fiscal envelope”; says he thinks unions should be stronger, but doesn’t regret smashing them…

  9. timeforacupoftea 9

    I heard Bolger this sunday morning and boy was I disappointed in him.
    All the back tracking now and what a great chap I am, I never ever did any wrong it was someone other than me.
    He is just bloody spew material after a hard night on KFC for me.
    Why on earth do people like him, Shipley another, get gift jobs from governments when retirement homes would be best for those type.

    TWAT !

    Hmmmmm I don’t usually use expressive words like that but hey ! he deserves many more.

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