NZ 'dodged bullet' on Brash - ex MP

20:19, Apr 19 2014
deborah coddington
Columnist Deborah Coddington.

A former colleague of Don Brash on the Centre-Right has slammed the one-time National Party leader as a racist and a chauvinist - and says New Zealand "dodged a bullet" when he lost the 2005 election.

Columnist and former Act Party MP Deborah Coddington says Brash's persona as a "likeable duffer" belies "supreme chauvinism" and that the former MP's "dismissal of women is breathtakingly arrogant".

Interviewed by National Radio's Kim Hill last week about his self-published autobiography, Incredible Luck, Brash said that in 1840 Maori were "a stone-age people".

He also suggested that former National MP and welfare spokeswoman Katherine Rich did not write her own policy document - a paper which formed the basis for Brash's controversial speech on welfare at the Orewa Rotary Club when National Party leader.

Rich resigned the welfare portfolio after arguing with Brash over his desire to refer to beneficiaries as "satan", "bludgers" and "an army on the march", Coddington says.

But Brash told Hill that he was surprised Rich resigned because his speech was "absolutely consistent" with the policy paper she had supposedly written.


"I'm not sure that she wrote that paper. I don't want to be sued for libel, but I've got some reason to doubt that she wrote that white paper," he told Hill.

Coddington, who was an MP at the time and flatted with Rich, writes that Brash "seemed to think it was beyond a woman's capabilities" to have penned the paper.

"As he himself says, he has few friends. Who could trust him? Probably not the women in his former National caucus, because 10 years on, he's still maligning them," Coddington says.

Rich confirmed the paper was all her own work, and said Brash's suggestion she did not write it was insulting.


 'Likeable duffer' too brash for own good

New Zealand dodged a bullet in terms of its prime minister when National lost the election under Don Brash.

When Kim Hill interviewed him last Saturday about his self-published autobiography, Luck, he said that in 1840 Maori were "a stone-age people" and "all cultures are not of equal value".

But he frequently disdains tangata whenua culture as "animism".

Now I've formed the opinion, from his statements and writings, that behind that mask of politeness which prompted one reviewer to call him a "likeable duffer", he's also supremely chauvinistic. Brash's dismissal of women is breathtakingly arrogant.

I don't just refer to his philandering – many people have affairs but grown-ups take responsibility. Brash blames his infidelity on "the male biological urge". Not his fault then.

There's also a certain decorum one should adopt when it comes to former lovers: Don't talk about it in public. In short, shut up. Brash didn't have to publish what he calls "the salacious bits".

That he did is appalling bad manners, and I suspect he enjoys a kind of "Aren't I naughty?" frisson from telling us about his sex life. Little wonder, as he himself says, he has few friends. Who could trust him?

Probably not the women in his former National caucus, because 10 years on, he's still maligning them. Asked by Hill about Orewa 2005, the welfare dependency speech, Brash said he didn't even think welfare spokesperson Katherine Rich wrote the welfare white paper.

This is an outrageous accusation from the former leader. Rich had been given the portfolio by Bill English just after her second baby was born and spent hours writing it.

The leader's office edited it two years before Brash was leader, but he seems to think it was beyond a women's capabilities.

He may remember Rich's corrections to Brash's first draft of Orewa 05, when she took issue with his repeated references to "bludgers", "satan", "free lunches", "ripping off the system taken for granted" and "an army of dependants on the march".

Rich said she didn't think using military language was helpful.

She vehemently objected to Brash's intention to bring back adoption, compulsory immunisation and forcing beneficiaries to exhaust other means of income so welfare was the last resort.

"I'm not comfortable about making those with Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy or cancer prove they are not able to contribute to their own support before accessing welfare," she wrote to Brash.

Mothers having second babies would be forced back to fulltime work even when breastfeeding, and Brash was okay with this.

Rich resigned the portfolio.

Georgina te Heu Heu had already lost Maori Affairs, and Hekia Parata left the party.

Other caucus women were unhappy.

I was flatting with Rich and remember her dismay when Michael Bassett's Post column slated her for criticising her leader in public, saying she deserved to go.

I suggested Rich ask Brash to get this mistake corrected (she'd never criticised him), a simple matter, surely. Brash couldn't, he told her, because he'd read the column pre-publication and okayed it.

Now Brash is miffed that John Key won't take his calls, because they once shared a motel room where Brash said he'd hand over prime ministership to Key.

Big problem with that, Don, you need the numbers and caucus support. You were not a king passing the crown to an heir. Key probably muttered something like: "Yeah, now shuddup and get some sleep."

And some wise National insiders probably leaked those emails, printed out and clamped in a big bulldog clip, so Brash would never become prime minister. We're incredibly lucky they did.

Sunday Star Times