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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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An Interview with Jonathan Coleman

How did you become involved in politics?

I came back to New Zealand at the end of 2001 and I looked at New Zealand, and I saw that we were really falling behind relative to a lot of the countries we like to compare ourselves to. I looked at the state of some of our things, like the hospital system, the resources we have for our public services, and looked at where our economy was going. I had made a strong commitment to coming back to New Zealand, and I felt that if people of my generation didn’t get involved with politics, and didn’t get in and have a say, then we would only have ourselves to blame for the way the country ended up going. I wasn’t happy with the direction I saw the country going in, and I felt I had something to contribute, it’s all very well to sit on the sideline and complain, but it’s another thing to actually put your hand up, and put yourself forward. So I thought ‘Right. It’s time to go and do something.’

What has been your most memorable moment as a Member of Parliament so far?

Well…Actually winning the seat on the night was huge. It is the only seat National have won in Auckland since 1990, and it was the only seat we won on the night, in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin. So that was a huge thing. Getting sworn in as an MP is a big moment. Getting the spokesman-ship for broadcasting was certainly something that was big for me. But you know, a lot of the stuff, especially when you are a back bencher, its some of the small things you do in your electorate. You can help people who have come to you with a very specific problem, and your intervention makes a huge difference to them personally, it’s never stuff that makes the news [POLS. ED] . Unless you’re Philip Taito Field, but it makes you feel that the job you are doing really is worthwhile on a local level.

Did someone in particular inspire you?

No, I have always had a strong internal drive myself. I wasn’t approached by the National Party – the National Party didn’t even know me. I approached them. Having said that, around that time I was very interested in terms of influences in politics, the people I saw in the House. I like the look of this John Key. John was the first guy I talked to when I was considering putting myself forward in politics, and I found we had a lot in common, on a number of fronts and I thought ‘Yeah, you know, there has got to be some people I can relate to in politics.’

What do you believe to be essential personal characteristics of a leader?

It’s decision and the ability to articulate a vision to people, and execute the decisions that bring about that vision. There are a whole lot of personal qualities you need. Obviously you need to be approachable. You need to be someone ordinary people can relate to. But one of the key things is the ability to make decisions, because people want to follow decision makers.

If you could change one thing about New Zealand, what would it be, and why?

I want to have a tax system that actually rewarded people and encouraged them to stay in New Zealand. Why would I want that? Well, I think that we are facing a major problem. There are a lot of people who are going to be graduating from Vic this year and not staying in the country. They are going to look across the Tasman, they have great educations, and they are just going to take off. They will go over there, meet partners, and never come back. I think the key thing to securing a country’s future, is retaining its talent and its people. It comes back to incentives of economic growth. If we can actually show people that they can have a future here, they will stay and the country will be a heck of a lot stronger. There are a lot of things I want to change about the country. But in the end, I think the country’s well-being comes back to economics, and for that very reason, without a strong economy, you can’t pay for the services, and you can’t retain your people.

What is the best advice you have ever received, and who gave it to you?

The best advice has come from family – probably my mother actually – you get out of life what you put in, seize the day, you are only here once and make the most of every opportunity. Make every post a winner, cause you are not coming back again, and you only get certain stages of your life once, so just do your best, put in the effort, and the rewards will come.

Who are 3 people you would most like to meet?

Three people I would like to meet? Well, that’s an interesting one. Ah, Ernest Hemmingway, Pablo Picasso, and Winston Churchill – so I think that would be a pretty interesting dinner party.

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About the Author ()

Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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