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  1. An interview from the Tonight current affairs show.


Like many other current affairs shows in the 70s, Tonight had a fairly brief existence, but it provided the forum for this infamous May 1976 battle of wills between journalist Simon Walker and Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. Walker interrogates Muldoon about his assertions regarding the Soviet naval presence in the Pacific, and NZ vulnerability to Russian nuclear attack. Muldoon grows increasingly annoyed and bullish at being asked questions that are not on his sheet: "I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through."

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Comments (35)



Simon Walker was South African - hence the accent.
He worked for the Labour Party when they won the 1984 election and left NZ shortly after. Details of his career since can be seen here: at the following URL:

 Ivan Johnstone

Ivan Johnstone

I find it interesting that Robert Muldoon had control over the display of photographs of ships during the interview. I doubt whether the same level of control during an interview would be extended to any Prime Minister today. No special allowances would now be made just because an interviewee is the Prime Minister. All political interviewees today would be expected to reply to questions asked by an interviewer and any attempt by an interviewee to take control over an interview would be be seen by the general public for what it is - an evasive tactic to avoid answering the questions.

The issue of the interview was whether New Zealand was indeed vulnerable to Russian nuclear attack in 1976. Simon Walker attempted to establish the answer to this question. His failure to clearly establish that Robert Muldoon had been scaremongering is more a reflection on Robert Muldoon than on himself. In 1992 Simon Walker wrote a generous obituary of Robert Muldoon. After reading this obituary, I now have even greater respect for Simon Walker.

 E Dinneen

E Dinneen

Haha. Simon Walker made an egg of himself in that one.

 John Stokes

John Stokes

Muldoon - like him or loathe him - demanded of his Ministers, his colleagues, his staff, and definitely those on the Opposition benches that they had their facts right. If not, he became a wee bulldog. The same was expected of the media. Muldoon was the first politician to really master the powerful opportunities television presented them. I liked Simon Walker but, in this instance, he'd not done enough homework for Muldoon's liking - and he'd tried to change the rules after play had commenced!

 lolitas brother

lolitas brother

Being old I still remember this interview. It became known not for its substance but the fact that a PM should not be ambushed by technical information on air.

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I will not have some smart alec interviewer changing the rules half way through.