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May 26, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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An Interview With Damian O’Conner

When did you first become interested in politics, and was there someone, or something that inspired you?
“I was brought up in a family that has always argued, and debated politics, and been involved in the fringes of the parties. So I was always very conscience of politics, but hadn’t been an active participant, or an active party member. Farming politics to a large extent, and then general politics. My father comes from a big family, mostly farming but with a number of Labour supporters, but dad was a National party supporter, so it was just good healthy, political debate.”

What has been your most memorable moment as a Member of Parliament so far?
“Being able to negotiate with my colleagues, through the difficult period of the end to indigenous logging on the West Coast. To be able to negotiate a package that has been hugely beneficial to the region and then encourage them to get on and make use of the opportunities in front of them.”

What is the hardest part about being a politician?
“I think it is trying to get 25 hours work into 24 hours of the day. There is so much to do, and so many great things that you can get involved with and influence. Prioritisation is always an ongoing challenge. Making sure that you don’t dwell on mistakes, just get on and look at the next challenge, rather than procrastinate, or reflect on some sort of bad decisions.”

In your opinion, what is the biggest issue currently facing tertiary students?
“I think it is ensuring that the New Zealand that they look to participate in, in the future, is one that they have control over, in terms of ownership, and direction. One that they are enthusiastic about, so that they can commit to a career, in the knowledge that they will get reward, satisfaction, and not end up being frustrated – either from a career perspective, from a family perspective, or general community. We have to build a nation that shares in basic values, that retains as much ownership in key strategic assets, a community that knows it has a real say over its future direction. Students have to know that the skills they are acquiring, have a place within New Zealand”.

Do you think the Government should play a role in solving the problem of student debt?
“It has participated by providing the opportunities for education, for providing opportunities to acquire the debt. But shared responsibility, shared efforts, are probably the best way to do that. A whole lot more people now have acquired tertiary education because of the structure that has been laid down and it is very hard to turn that around over night. We have to make sure that students don’t acquire a debt that they see as insurmountable, and that it suppresses their… I guess enthusiasm, for their career choice”.

What do you see yourself doing upon exiting politics?
“It’s hard for most people to consider life beyond politics while you are in it. When you are on the very interesting and fascinating merry-go-round, no one wants to step off, and stand still. So I think there are a number of areas that I would see as very challenging. I guess I would have to find something as challenging, as stimulating.

What is the best advice you have ever been given, and who gave it to you?
“My father has always told me, that you can always get on, and do whatever you want. You’ve just got to be determined to set your mind on something. I have never been very good at organised planning, and strategic planning, but in the back of my mind I always set goals, that usually I never express, but they are there, and I have usually got there maybe through good luck, but probably through determination.”

Who are 3 people you would most like to meet?
“Bill Clinton: I think he has achieved some amazing Mana within international politics and it would be interesting to try and analyze. Michael Schumacher; as someone who is an incredibly talented athlete, and I guess from a petrol heads perspective, someone who has achieved incredible outcomes. I meet so many interesting people, and they come in all shapes and sizes. I picked up a hitchhiker the other day who was from the Czech Republic – he was about 50, he is a professional musician, he has gone through the changes in the Czech Republic from East to Western Europe. Been allowed to escape. Been to New Zealand 8 times, is just in love with the country. He has a fascinating history, in terms of his determination to get on, he is still a professional musician. People like that are so inspiring.

Week on the Blogs

This week Jackson bogged about Joel’s t-shirt antics and like totally dominated all the weasels that tried to drag his personal life into their argument. The record was broken for comments on the website with the post hitting 147 comments in five days.

Conrad wrote about the latest polls and posted a hilarious vid of the family party.

Comment of the Week

No one was actually funny enough to get it this week and I self indulged last week by giving it to myself, so this week no one get it. Sukkas.

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