Dr Clark & Mr Woodhouse
Critic invited Dunedin based MPs Dr David Clark, and Michael Woodhouse to Eureka for a cheeky pint, and a chat about their student days, their politics, and their new roles in parliament. (Full Interview Transcript available at critic.co.nz/1574)
Critic What was your time as Otago students like?
Clark I came here in 1991, and lived at Selwyn College for the first two years. I had a great time, made some great friends, and later worked there on staff before returning many, many years later to be the warden.
Woodhouse I was a late starter at university. I didn’t get here until ‘91, and I was about 24 or 25 by then. I went to Helensburgh House a few times. We had some brilliant parties in the basement down there, quite loose parties.
We may be one of the reasons that skyrockets are no longer legal. It was at one of the parties on Clyde Street... You get your vacuum cleaner pipe, and your skyrocket, and your insert the skyrocket so it becomes a horizontal bazooka. This went on for hours, until the fire brigade was eventually called…
Clark I remember being ‘countrified’ in my first year... we were blindfolded and left in our underwear in the middle of a forest, with an axe in our hands, and had to find our way back to the college. A ute came past, and we actually made it back to the college before the people that dropped us off. We were able to exact our revenge before they returned. The story after there gets more grim…
Critic Thoughts on the proposed North Dunedin liquor ban?
Clark Jury’s out for me. It might just push some of the behaviours out of the student zone and into the communities close by.
Woodhouse I support the ban, but I don’t think it’s going to change a lot. I don’t think it’s going to be a significant constraining factor on student life, so I’m more than comfortable with it.
Clark Let’s not kid ourselves that this is just a Dunedin student problem. Our wider society has an alcohol problem. The Royal Commission report said clearly that the clearest way to address it was through price and advertising. My challenge to Michael would be to really push that.
Woodhouse Minimum prices don’t work, we’ve had them in the past. If we can’t agree that getting really pissed, throwing up and falling down is not cool, then no amount of law change in Wellington is gong to change that. I think the government’s response is a balanced one.
Clark Ruling out two of the big levers is a very disappointing start.
Critic Obligatory question: Your thoughts on liberalisation of drugs?
Woodhouse I would oppose it. I don’t believe in overly punishing those who are addicted. I am all in favour of punishing the dealer.
Clark I’d like us to take a hard look at things. Research shows that some drugs currently classified pretty highly do less harm than others that we have a very liberal attitude towards.
Critic Would you support a bill to decriminalise marijuana for personal use?
Clark Most likely, yes.
Critic Which society would you prefer, one where everyone earns $50,000 per year, or one where half the people earn $70,000 and the other half earn $300,000?
Clark The wealthy society of course, providing that society took care to ensure that even those of modest means had access to good and free education, health, and all those things.
Woodhouse That question has a really straightforward answer. What’s important is the issue of social mobility.
Clark There are places like the Nordic countries that have relative income equality and they are very good and healthy societies.
Woodhouse If I had a dollar for every time someone on the left mentioned a Nordic country…
Critic What about Scarfie flats? Part of the fun of living in Dunedin? Or would students be better off paying slightly more for a better flat?
Clark Preventable health conditions result from students living in damp cold flats. Minimum standards could be put in place… it’s an issue that desperately needs to be addressed.
Woodhouse I want to make sure that landlords who are being proactive and insulating their flats are rewarded, both with demand for their stock and perhaps a higher weekly rent. But the key for Dunedin North is to make sure there is sufficient housing stock to enable students to have a choice.
Critic Favourite beer?
Both Emerson’s Pilsner.
Critic What projects are you both working on at the moment?
Clark My ‘Mondayising’ Bill is taking a fair amount of time –
Woodhouse Haha, you jammy bastard! David’s been fortunate [to have a bill drawn from the private members ballot], but that’s just the luck of the draw.
Clark I have had the luck of the draw. The bill corrects an anomaly that only happens two out of every seven years, where we get fewer than the allocated 11 public holidays. But most of my work is actually around revenue, developing a fairer tax system. I’m also Associate Tertiary Spokesperson.
Woodhouse I’ve got two bills in the ballot, one is to increase the amount of financial support for live organ donors to the same level as ACC… I’m also Senior Government Whip, so I have 58 colleagues that I need to make sure are in the right place at the right time and voting in the right way.
Critic What are your thoughts on the University’s new funding agreement with OUSA?
Woodhouse OUSA needs to be very careful what it wishes for, not to sell down its sovereignty for a buck. It was a kneejerk reaction born out of a belief that students were too stupid to decide what was valuable to them.
Clark We think that students are old enough and mature enough to set their own governance arrangements and have their own organisations on campus. OUSA is a well-organised association and I have every faith they will make a good fist of this.
Critic Let’s wrap up with a heartwarming conclusion.
Woodhouse At the end of the day, both David and I want the same for Dunedin. We’re going to disagree, sometimes quite strongly, about the path to that destination, but actually I don’t think we’re that far apart on a lot of things.
Clark I agree. I got into politics because I have a set of values and a certain range of principles that I believe represent a constituency and I believe I can represent well. And in my experience those from across the political spectrum are there because they think they’ve got a contribution to make, they’re there for the right reasons