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Hero image for Tonight - Robert Muldoon interview

Tonight - Robert Muldoon interview

Television (Full Length) – 1976

Gary Parata
Gary Parata
4 Nov 2016 - 08.04pm
I remember this interview, I was about 12 at the time. Growing up in a militant unionist household I well remember my parents barking at the TV while (to their eyes) Walker steamrolled Muldoon. Having watched it again at the ripe old age of 53, I am bound to give some credit to Mr Muldoon for his well-briefed level of knowledge, supported by what he said were the collective intelligence services of the ANZUS alliance, while Mr Walker (with whom I was equally impressed with his refusal to bow sycophantically, no doubt against the wishes of his bosses) lost his way for most of that interview, only scoring points when Muldoon finally lost his rag. Walker won the fight because of that, but Muldoon was factually correct with everything he said. Isn't that the point of an interview?
24 Aug 2015 - 01.38pm
An interviewee should never be able to create the parameters of an interview and how it will be executed - that is the task of the interviewer - however, Walker allowed himself to be steamrolled over by a rather clueless Muldoon.
10 Dec 2014 - 11.43am
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: http://www.director.co.uk/magazine/2011/9_October/simon-walker_65_02.html
Ivan Johnstone
Ivan Johnstone
14 Aug 2014 - 10.54am
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
11 Jul 2014 - 05.57pm
Haha. Simon Walker made an egg of himself in that one.
John Stokes
John Stokes
11 Jul 2014 - 01.22pm
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
15 Apr 2014 - 02.20am
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.
26 Mar 2014 - 09.42pm
Muldoon was great ! Walker was a naive lad back then.
23 Sep 2013 - 05.57pm
Muldoon was a Patriot and a Conservative-now that's a crime...
Michael Gibson
Michael Gibson
2 Sep 2013 - 12.27am
Muldoon was a prick but he certainly knew his stuff. Walker was callow and juvenile.
20 Oct 2012 - 10.36pm
The reporter is a semanticist and Muldoon is a smug twat.
10 May 2012 - 01.38am
Ah yes Paul, but that appears to have been just the generic designation given for export models, and would not have been applicable.
Paul King
Paul King
5 May 2012 - 10.43pm
Muldoon was correct Petya-III did exist http://www.harpoondatabases.com/encyclopedia/entry1473.aspx
14 Apr 2012 - 06.04pm
Now my memory is now engaging .Muldoon was Winston Peters
mentor back in the day. In fact Winstone was in Muldoons cabinet?
Kim Hegan
Kim Hegan
15 Mar 2012 - 02.23pm
Extraordinary what a compliant little country we were/are...An horrific bully pushing us around and providing a role model for Queensland's Joe Bjorke Petereson...were he a few years later he could have made a fortune on the franchise.
31 Dec 2011 - 02.19am
Muldoon was a mini tyrant in his time. Under him New Zealand was turned into a country under a never before seen political system. However, Walker's questions weren't intended to accumulate answers, they were designed to throw the PM off for entertainment. They weren't even issue related they were purposefully obscure to the delight of campus dwelling psuedo-intellectuals of the time. Muldoon has a fantastic knack for processing large ammounts of information and his attention to detail wasn't blunt like Walker tried to expose. Quite the opposite.

Of course nowadays leaders aren't as aloof in New Zealand and these stale isolated interviews are less and less frequent. It's at a cost though. Nowadays the too-easy John Campbell questions are like "How is this going to benefit New Zealanders?" or "Is this a good thing?". On the opposite end of the spectrum you have smug goofs like Walker nitpicking irrelevencies and dancing around the issues. That isn't good reporting.
16 Dec 2011 - 12.45pm
Muldoon was definitely one of our best PMs. He didn't take crap from anyone and achieved a great deal for the country in the late 70s and early 80s. Nice bit of Godwin there Dracher.
3 Dec 2011 - 02.01pm
Outside of the National Party supporters heartland he was, as I have said, all but universally despised. It is surprising that he would champion a cause such as the Phobic Trust, but then, he also embraced the hobby of growing and showing orchids. Come to think of it, Hitler was a vegetarian who loved dogs and rejected blood sports.
16 Nov 2011 - 10.41pm
Whoops I meant to say he lost power in the 1984 election!
16 Nov 2011 - 10.32pm
He was an utterly awful and cruel man and I was so glad to see him voted him out in 1981. On that fateful night he came out visibly under the influence to concede . His reign of terror was over. However horrible he was he still seemed to appeal to some.

Later, many years later I recall him in a media item where he had been playing a part in the "Rocky Horror Picture Show". At that point he had visibly mellowed and almost seemed nice. He was also a Patron of the Phobic Trust ....a role that I found almost unbelievable a man like him would take on.
16 Nov 2011 - 07.07pm
love it!
That Harry Connick Jr. Guy
That Harry Connick Jr. Guy
16 Nov 2011 - 06.16pm
I wasn't born when this interview occurred and watching it was waiting for fireworks, it seemed to me that Muldoon forcefully rebutted every point of contention. So no fireworks at all then and the little drip of an interviewer looked like a pedantic fool. NO shrinking violet certainly and perhaps no mother Teresa but he was a leader and to lead is not always to be liked. For Dracher to say he was all but universally despised must be a falsehood, he was voted to power more than once. Without him we'd probably not have the "think big" infrastructure for power generation which sees us a leader in clean green power [though it's not without it's problems]. He is a preeminant figure in NZ politics like [Helen C who i dislike] or D Lange.
3 Nov 2011 - 02.11pm
Those who have attempted to argue that Muldoon was polite until provoked by Walker , and those who have deemed Walker to be a "smart Alec" or a "pratt" have poor memories or were not round in the age.

Walker is using what was considered a polite and dignified accent for the time, not imitating the Royal family ( who speak that way quite naturally) but applying a voice which had, for many years, been expected of a broadcast journalist, and was still expected as late as the the 1980s.

Muldoon was a nasty piece of work at the best of times, but when his duplicity or indeed any one of his clutch or shortcomings was exposed, he became loud harsh and even insulting. I will always hold firm in my memory, his television appearance after an election, which he won by the skin of his teeth, he was obviously under the influence of something, as he pulled his face into that peculiar left sided sneer and slurred "No change of Government" chuckled cynically and repeated "No change of government" He was not a nice man, he was a liar, he was a power monger and he was all but universally despised.
7 Oct 2011 - 04.00pm
@Jonathon - not "today's pollies" - today's Tory pollies. It's National's tactic to simply not front when criticised. That way the useless media just let the story die.
@Brent I'm not sure what you're saying here. For you it's ok for Muldoon to set the agenda in the interview? Muldoon lied and is this interview is lying his arse off! Walker was trying to hold him to account. That's why he interrupts, for goodness sake.
I would agree that Walker sounds like a bit of a pratt - I suspect that's his overly clipped, 70's TV voice.
1 Sep 2011 - 01.25pm
Walker was definitely a smart Alec and Muldoon conducted himself mostly in a polite manner, until he reached his limit with constant interjections from Walker. I agree with another poster that Chris Laidlaw has to be one of the best interviewers, with his excellent research and ability to quickly assimilate information from interviewees and adapt his questions. Kim Hill on the other hand, ruins numerous interviews with interjections, interrupting the interviewee's train of thought and changing the topic. One of her recent interviewee's described her brain as being like a magpie, snatching at shiny things.
20 Apr 2011 - 09.08pm
Walker was a smart Alec, just like John Campbell is. Walker was the start of a breed of interviewers who liked the sound of their own voice. Muldoon made mincemeat of Walker, who ended-up looking like a nitpicker. At least Muldoon fronted; too many of today's pollies deal with the media too frequently via their spin-doctors. Who were or are our best interviewers? I still rate Ian Fraser (look at the calibre of politician and celebrity he interviewed ... NZ's David Frost) and Kim Hill. But the most impartial yet prising, are Chris Laidlaw (who ironically bypassed the usual channels) and Bryan Crump, both of Radio NZ.
Paul Ward
18 Feb 2011 - 03.02pm
@Morrisey -- the shotlist from TVNZ Archives we have has a May 1976 date attached to it. We'll have to do primary research (look at newspaper/Listener from the time etc) unless you can verify otherwise?
Morrissey Breen
Morrissey Breen
15 Feb 2011 - 05.08pm
This confrontation occurred in late 1975, not 1976 as claimed in the notes to this clip.
5 Jan 2011 - 10.42am
Hmm. Bryan Edwards had this to say, and he was no fan of Muldoon:

"Simon, possibly the smoothest and most urbane person I have ever known, was an excellent interviewer. But it was the Muldoon confrontation that really made his name. A remarkable achievement, made all the more remarkable because pretty well every proposition he puts to Mr Muldoon is wrong in fact or implication. And it is a bit rich to supply an interviewee with a list of questions you want answered and then not allow him to answer them. But it’s still great television."
4 Jan 2011 - 12.45am
Muldoon the bullshit artist. I agree with the earlier remark: he was clueless. As if the Soviet Union, a sovereign country, had no right to send naval vessels into the same international waters as those sailed by other sovereign states.

Someone once remarked of this clown (Muldoon) that not only did he look for 'Reds under the bed', he went out of his way to put them there.

That gag about technical backup reminds me of a question put to Muldoon when he fronted a meeting of students at Auckland University in 1972. It concerned the National Adminstrations state housing program in which (my memory is a little hazy on this) during the course of a year the government had built precisely one State house.

Muldoon naturally dodged the question on the grounds of not having the facts available to him. That they were contained in the question was for him neither here not there - which, when you think about it, amounted to calling his interllocutor a liar.

The bad part of the Simon Walker interview was that his bosses gutlessly went into bat for the PM, and within a short time he was no longer to be seen on TV.
15 Aug 2010 - 02.40pm
Thanks for posting this - I do not remember this interview (my parents believed that "TV sucks your brains out" and we did not own one), but I do remember well the toxicity of the Muldoon era.

But interestingly I find myself having some sympathy for Muldoon in the interview - Williams WAS being a nit-picking smart arse!

Great interviewing?? - I think not. Paraphrasing Voltaire, I'd defend to end his right to question Muldoon on his assertions. But Williams displayed little talent or creativity in getting at the larger issues (engendering fear as a political tactic (Muldoon beat Bush to the game), . A foretaste of the confrontalionalism and lack of substance of much modern journalism.

Watching this also brought back to mind the tensions that underlined the 70's - the Bomb, the Cold War at it's height, Russian and American expansionism, ABBA. It was a damn difficult time in which to lead a country. Retreating inside the shell was a pretty understandable response.
16 Jun 2010 - 03.58am
LOL How dare Simon Walker ask unscripted questions back in 1976 when the National Party tyrant ruled everything including broadcasting.
Bet Simon Walker would have been dragged over the coals for that one, most in broadcasting quaked in fear over Muldoon.
Sir Rob will be looking down having a laugh, over a brandy and dry ?.
peter grattan
peter grattan
5 Jun 2010 - 01.31am
Magic TV!!!
Sandy Mamoli
28 May 2010 - 07.49pm
Wow, that Muldoon guy is a condescending bastard! And very, very clueless.
Venus Yerkovich
Venus Yerkovich
28 May 2010 - 07.40pm
I was too young to really appreciate what I was watching way back when I saw it on tv. I so appreciate being able to watch it again.
This interview has to be the absolute best re Piggy. Simon Walker became a sort of hero way back then and he deserves the title.
Where is Mr Smart Alec now I wonder ? I hope he is well and still stirring it !
28 May 2010 - 06.04pm
heh, Muldoon scurries around trying to find the reds under the bed. The facts never got in the way of a good rant.
marney ratahi
marney ratahi
24 Sep 2009 - 09.45am
an absolutely awesome interview.I was a big fan of muldoons bluntness.
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