Dunne’s bottom lines
Peter Dunne was swept into Parliament on Labour’s 1984 landslide, and yet in 2011 he was the first potential ally that re-elected Prime Minister John Key met.
He said the two had exchanged pleasantries on election night, but when they met two days later Mr Key wanted the confidence of already having a majority sewn up before he spoke to others.
With the tacit support of Mr Key, Mr Dunne was returned with an election-night majority of 1646, up more than 600 on 2008.
National dominated the party vote with 16,042 votes – 50 per cent of votes cast. Labour candidate Charles Chauvel bucked his party’s trend and increased his vote by 300, but it wasn’t enough.
Mr Dunne campaigned in Ohariu on a 10-point policy platform, which he expected to see fully implemented over the next term.
He supported a partial sale of state-owned assets, apart from Kiwibank, Radio New Zealand and water.
‘‘Kiwibank, because I think it is important that we have our own bank. I’ve become a convert to that point of view over the last few years.’’
Radio New Zealand had no great financial worth but Mr Dunne said it was an identifiable, distinctive national broadcaster.
Water is not yet on the auction block but there is a danger that, in the context of tradeable water rights, and it could end up in private ownership by default.
‘‘It’s not so much the prevention of privatisation, but some clarity of ownership.’’
Power companies would need to expand, and private capital was the only way he could see that being funded, though clear rules were needed to limit private ownership and spell out how the government could influence prices.
‘‘The nub of the issue is not so much the selling of the shares, it’s the control framework that goes around that.’’
Mr Dunne was at odds with National’s policy over superannuation.
National saw no need for changes to entitlement age of 65, whereas Mr Dunne wanted people to have the option of phased entitlements – those who want to retire a 60 could do so at a reduced pension, or they could defer retirement until 70 and get a higher payment.
Many people, particularly Maori, Pacific and manual workers don’t get much time post65, he said.
‘‘We stood on a slogan of fairness and choice, and part of fairness giving people as equal access as you can to the entitlements that the state provides for them.
‘‘If you demographically do not have much chance of being around post-65, it’s a little fairer to give you that chance to take your superannuation a little earlier, albeit at a reduced rate.’’
Asked whether 1080 pesticide would be a deal-breaker for him, he said emphatically, ‘‘no’’.
‘‘We certainly want to see 1080 phased out. There is a lot of evidence about its destructiveness of habitats and species, but we have never been so irresponsible as to suggest it should be phased out in the absence of an alternative.’’
When we spoke to Mr Key two weeks ago he deflected questions about trying to address the 20 per cent of children who fail at school with national education standards, when the Social Development Ministry has found that the same percentage of children are living in poverty.
Mr Dunne said better targeted and monitored social welfare assistance was part of the answer, ‘‘but overall the emphasis has to be on boosting incomes, and boosting incomes that are earned’’.
During National’s three years in office elective surgery and cancer treatment waiting lists have reduced, but it has come at the expense of primary health care.
Many primary health care organisations have closed their patient lists and are accepting no new patients.
The waiting list improvements were welcome, Mr Dunne said.
‘‘If you are achieving this at the expense of that it’s a temporary phenomenon,’’ he said. ‘‘The issue is going to arise again, whether it is in this three years or the next.’’ Can he do anything about it? ‘‘ I’m Associate Minister of Health at the moment and it’s within my bailiwick, and if I’m still in this role once negotiations are complete, it’s something that will be a priority.’’
All he surveys: Peter Dunne overlooks the Ohariu electorate he will represent for the 10th term.