Whaleoil transcript: Leighton Smith & Michael Bassett

For those of you who didn’t get to listen to the audio of?the Leighton Smith interview with Michael Bassett on celebrity culture, gender quotas, Jacinda Ardern and fairy gold do not despair.

Here is a transcript of the interview created especially for Whaleoil readers by Whaleoil author Suze.


Leighton Smith

ZB Audio 270918 Leighton Smith with Michael Bassett

Leighton Smith:
The PM is in New York. I quoted a Radio NZ headline that somebody sent me a short while ago that made mention of the PM being in the position of a celebrity leader. My comment was ?Could we please have a statesman??

Michael Bassett:
That would be helpful. The whole business of the celebrity culture that surrounds us is amazing. I mean, all sorts of people, who you know are bird brains, keep being paraded around in the newspapers and on the media in general – as gurus, and I?m left sort of puzzled. I?m not being rude about Jacinda. I am just saying that the word celebrity, in my view, does her no honour.

Leighton Smith:
No, I think you?re right. Any comment on her performance and she?s been as busy as hell in New York?

Michael Bassett:
Again, it?s a lack of substance that?s been reported back here. I haven?t yet seen the speech she gave. She has given a speech, now she?s giving a big one today or tomorrow, but she has given several other speeches and I haven?t seen the text of them. The media seems to be full of baby Neve and Clarke and, you know, ?smilings? on celebrity TV shows.

Leighton Smith:
What?s your reaction to the speaker?s ruling of no pictures of the baby and then she goes to New York and there are pictures everywhere?

Michael Bassett:
Well, I suppose, I mean it?s one thing to control the NZ media, it?s something entirely different to control the American media. I?m quite sure that if she tried to ensure there were no pictures of baby Neve there would have been, in New York. Now for the first time, we?ve actually seen the baby and it?s growing quite well I see.


Leighton Smith:
My reaction to what you?ve just said is that the baby is being literally paraded around as an accoutrement.

Michael Bassett:
Yes, I think there?s some truth in that. It?s been taken to New York, I understand because breastfeeding is still going on, but taking it to the UN itself, and getting it a pass to go in? Of course, it?s being waved around as an accoutrement.

Leighton Smith:
All right, now back home and Meka Whatiri and this debacle. I am sure you?ve got a strong opinion on it, but including the PM in it still, her reaction to this report that made it into the Herald this morning is to launch an enquiry into who leaked it.

Michael Bassett:
Laughs. Yes, it?s not the substance, it?s something else that the media are asked to chase. What you are dealing with I?m afraid, is an inexperienced government. I knew that it was going to come to this. You?ve got to remember that only one out of the eight ministers of the most senior ministers in this government have ever been in a cabinet before, and that is Winston. There are only three or four others way down the line, and the end result is that you?ve got inexperience in handling the media. And inexperience in Whatiri?s case, as a very inexperienced minister. If she had had any kind of sense she would have realised she could have rounded up a photo op with the PM up there in Gisborne without any difficulty at all if she?d gone op shoot.

This happens all the time. I remember Norman Kirk coming into my electorate and not telling me, and I was a bit irked that I wasn?t able to be there with him, and Norman said ?Come over here and we?ll get a photo right now?, so we did. And that is precisely what would have happened if Whatiri played her cards more sensibly.

All sorts of other examples of inexperience. I mean Claire Curran just was not of ministerial material. And the funny thing is that having fired her, and waiting in the wings is a minister outside cabinet, Kris Faafoi, who is a really competent fellow, has she offered the job to him? No, because he?s male. Labour is completely wrapped up with quotas. They will pick another woman if they possibly can, irrespective of whether she?s top flight or not.

Leighton Smith:
Well, the government, and I would say led by the Prime Minister, appears to me to be, and the evidence keeps growing, appears to me to be very politically correct oriented.

Michael Bassett:
Oh yes, that?s absolutely true. It?s embarrassingly so. But it?s a mixture of that, coupled with this lack of experience. I remember when the first day in office in 1984, Roger Douglas, who was in charge of the purse strings, saying to us ?Now listen, you?ve got to realise that money is in very short supply, for heaven?s sake, don?t encourage expectations?.

Far from that being the case, with this government they went around making it sound as though fairy gold was going to be showered about. And it?s coming back to bite them now with the wage round. I think we haven?t seen the beginning yet, of the wage round. The nurses finally accepted something, but then the other day right while the NZEI, the teachers, were being dealt with, there was an announcement that there was to be a 30% wage increase for a group of health workers. Well, you can imagine all the teachers thinking, hang on a minute if they can afford that for those people, they can afford more three times three for us. And I think this government is going to find that the handling of the wage round might turn out to be its single biggest weight around its neck.

Leighton Smith:
Indeed. If I can finally transfer your attention to what is going on in the US at the moment with Kavanagh and the Supreme Court nomination? You would be up to date, I?m presuming, with the latest, the third accusation?

Michael Bassett:
Yes, I saw it in the New York Times this morning.

Leighton Smith:
Did you believe it in the New York Times?

Michael Bassett:
How do I know? The assertion has been made. While it is starting to look as though it is true, a lot of those quite posh private schools certainly had a culture of booze and a culture of wild dates and so on. I saw enough of that myself when I was a graduate student in the States, and this is 20 years on from when I was there. I see that Kavanagh is intending to say ?I wasn?t a saint when I was young,? but then who was? Do I really believe? I don?t know yet. It doesn?t help him, I suppose.

Leighton Smith:
No, it doesn?t help him. But there are all sorts of major issues at stake here. And where it goes, from my perspective, depends entirely on the strength of the Republicans.

Michael Bassett:
Well yes, and they may not all hold together. I mean if there?s any more leaks and more hard detail. In one sense I am on Kavanagh?s side. If somebody?s got a complaint about you and a complaint that makes you feel really injured then it is very unwise for you never to have gone anywhere near the police. And all of a sudden to drag these things out, and it?s not as if he?s just been nominated, he was nominated months back. He?s now up for the hearings. Why did we not hear of this a long time ago?

Leighton Smith:
I think I could give you a?very good reason if we had the time, right now.

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