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July 28, 2008 | by  | in News |
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An Interview with Sir Roger Douglas

Salient Political Reporter Conrad Reyners sat down with former Labour Senior Cabinet Minister, ACT party founder and the pusher of ‘rogernomics’ in the 1980’s – Sir Roger Douglas

Why did you decide to stand for election again, after so long?

I think the primary reason, and there are others, is that National is likely to win the election. I think that without a strong ACT coalition partner, not a lot is likely to change. That’s the basic reason.

So does that also explain why you have returned to the ACT party?

Well, I never really left it. I’ve always been a member, it’s just that I wasn’t as active after 2000 when I stepped down from the presidency, and I haven’t been as active since the presidency.

In the past you have decried populism within the ACT party. Rodney Hide was not your choice for leader, after Prebble – do you feel comfortable working under him?

Look I’m comfortable working under Rodney, late last year, early this year he asked me to get more involved. I went to a retreat with quite a lot of the older ACT supporters as well as the newer members, we got on well and, well you know one thing led to another I guess.

So there’s no underlying tensions…

No, No!

You’re fine working under him?

Absolutely, I mean we are working well together, we have reasonably well defined roles, and Rodney is getting on with the job of leader which includes being parliamentary leader, and I’ve been largely involved in putting together a candidate team, we’ve got well over 60 candidates now. We are in fairly good shape to fight the election, and we are about to go into the next phase, and I worked comfortably with Rodney in putting together the 20 point plan. So, no problem there.

Are you expecting a high list position?

I would anticipate that I’m going to be placed relatively high yes. I’m not sure I was seeking that initially, but once you make the commitment you get carried along with it a bit so, you know I’m happy with wherever they are going to place me but, I would anticipate its going to be in the top six, just where about I don’t know.

Do you think the ACT party’s commitment to social liberalism is as strong as it should be?

Look I think the answer to that is have a look at our 20 point plan. The 20 point plan is a practical document which could move this country ahead in all areas.

But can we trust the ACT party to vote ‘yes’ on social liberalisation issues? For example it split 5 to 4 in favour of civil unions, and opposed the prostitution law reform 5 to 4. Hide and Roy also both supported the Marriage Act (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill.

I’ve always felt that in those areas it should always be a free vote. Parliament is always going to made up of a wide range of people with ride views, some of my best friends voted in different ways to what I did – the homosexual law reform for example. You know, it’s a conscience issue and I’m happy with that. In fact, this is a passing comment about the Labour Party; one of the things is that it has moved from being an open church as it largely was in my day, to a situation where unless you conform to Helen Clark’s view of the world then you are out. So you’ve seen people who are maybe not particularly liberal on social issues pushed down the list. And I just think that’s wrong.

Why has John Ansell left the ACT team?

Well, I still talk to John. I think John probably from his point of view found there were frustrations, he wanted to control from woe to go. The problem in politics is you’ve always got that fine balance about aiming for perfection and when possibly 95% will do, and sometimes 95% is enough, you have a trade off there between speed to market and perfection. In order to get perfection you might need to wait another month. But that month might be critical, and you have to ask yourself would people notice perfection? Did they notice? Most people are like me. They don’t notice. I’d see something and say it’s great, but in John’s eyes it could be perfected by doing this or that. I’m sorry to lose him, he’s a genius. And I’m hoping – I spoke to him yesterday – that he can do things for us. But, the other factor, and I don’t know if John really recognised, is the issue of the best use of his time. When you have a creative genius – which he is, you want him to work on projects that matter. Little projects aren’t as critical. You’re better to keep him away from them really. He’s an expensive man, you want him working on the top level stuff not the run of the mill stuff. It was a pity, and I think he still believes in what we are about. I think he also found the working environment not absolutely to his liking, he wasn’t reporting to any one person. That’s a bit of a problem with our organisation. We are looking for a campaign manager, which would have made things a lot easier if we had a full time campaign manager which we didn’t have.

See the rest of the Interview on the blog www.salient.org.nz/blog Questions include Douglas’ flat tax package, why he never staged a coup against Lange, the difference between ACT and National and more!

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About the Author ()

Conrad is a very grumpy boy. When he was little he had a curl in the middle of his forehead. When he was good, he was moderately good, but when he was mean he was HORRID. He likes guns, bombs and shooting doves. He can often be found reading books about Mussolini and tank warfare. His greatest dream is to invent an eighteen foot high mechanical spider, which has an antimatter lazer attached to its back.

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