Youth Voice – A conversation with Michael Cullen


AN off-the-radar interview with Sir Michael Cullen – former deputy prime minister of New Zealand, minister of finance, minister of tertiary education, and former attorney-general.

Q What was one of your most memorable times in high school?

The only thing I can remember about high school was for a while our headmaster was away.

He was a fanatic opponent to boys playing soccer and we were allowed to play soccer during that time, which was a game I loved.”

Q If you were the mayor of Whakatane for a day and you could pass any policy, what would be the first policy for youth?

“Going and maybe talking to young people about the idea of some kind of youth bureau where both younger and older volunteers could provide mentoring, coaching and so forth, and a space to come in and chat.”

Q Do you think there should be more tax cuts for youth employees?

“I think that there’s this idea in society that taxes are bad. Taxes are things that pay for what is good in society, such as prisons, and so on.

I think once several people are able to start contributing – however small of a way, the better.”

Q Are youth in urban areas given more opportunities than youth in rural areas and is this based on location?

“There’s obviously a wider variety of opportunities in larger population areas with many more things to do, but then there are plenty of opportunities around knowing your community and feeling a sense of belonging in rural areas and smaller towns that you don’t always get in places like Auckland.”

Q What was the best year for New Zealand politics in the 20th century?

“The best year in the 20th century for politics in New Zealand, I think if you’d go worldwide, I’d go for 1945, the end of World War II, for New Zealand I’d say 1938.

It’s the year that the social security act was passed by the first Labour Government, and it was the year in which the Labour Government was re-elected for a second term.”

Q Would you rather be able to play all instruments at an expert level but never speak again, or become fluent in every language and never enjoy music again?

“I’d prefer not to be able to speak but be able to play all kinds, and appreciate, all kinds of music and instruments”

Mirella Alexandre
Whakatane High School