Green Taliban fighter Eleanor Catton attacks most popular PM in recent history

It’s not that people outside of politics aren’t allowed to have an opinion.  It’s the fact they do so pretending to have come to such views independently, and aren’t really speaking for a political movement.

Prime Minister John Key has defended his Government’s record on supporting the arts, following a stinging attack from acclaimed author Eleanor Catton.

Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize for her West Coast-set novel The Luminaries, told reporters in India that she’s struggling with her identity as a New Zealand writer, and is “very angry” with the Government.

“Coming and being an ambassador for my country when I feel that actually my country is not doing as much as they could for the intellectual world in general, but for the literary arts… It’s just a slightly complicated position to be in,” she said.

“At the moment, New Zealand, like Australia and Canada, [are dominated by] these neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want.”

“neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture”.

…because that’s how we all speak when we say things off-the-cuff.

Speaking on Firstline this morning, Mr Key said her views were “sad” because a lot of taxpayer money has been spent on backing New Zealand’s literary sector.

“We were the Government that for instance was part of being country of the year that was host of the [2012 Frankfurt Book Fair], for instance. Actually I remember us getting some criticism for putting in so much money into that particular event.”

He says Catton’s association with the Green Party has clouded her views. Catton publicly backed the Greens before last year’s general election.

“At the end of the day, Eleanor Catton is pretty well-known as being associated to the Green Party. Those views are views of the Green Party,” says Mr Key.

Well Elleanor, arts are what you can afford when you have made profit and paid for the essentials.  Art is a nice to have.   Art is something you choose to do as a person, not something that a Government needs to create, nurture and pay for.

Government creates the conditions for a prosperous New Zealand, where people have disposable time and money to spend.  And then arts come into a society.   You don’t actually force arts into the process as if it has the same importance as jobs, health, housing, transport, food or energy.

As for real art.  It doesn’t take much for someone to sit down at a $200 laptop and start banging out a book in a free text editor.

John Key calls you sad.  I call you spoiled.


– Dan Satherley, 3 News


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  • Builder

    I’m sick of these free-loading socialist wanting others to pay for it. Why does the government have to fund your cultural interests.

    • ex-JAFA

      And it’s not just authors. There’s the ballet and orchestras and who knows what else. (I hope we don’t fund a poet laureate or the Wizard or anything like that.) If people really wanted their product, they’d pay per ticket and in large enough numbers for these outfits to stand on their own two feet commercially.

    • In Vino Veritas

      Its not her cultural interests Builder, its her job. She want’s the Government (read you and me) to pay her to write books, since making a steady income from books is notoriously difficult (impossible) for average writers. Catton managed to win a Booker in 2013, and has done nothing since (and in my opinion, is unlikely to do anything anywhere near as successful as The Luminaries), so the funds will be drying up a bit, ergo, a Green Taliban rant since its all just not fair.

      • Disinfectant

        Didn’t the Clark Government give these people (self declared artists) a couple of hundred bucks a week?

  • waldopepper

    greenies are the epitome of the “gimme gimme gimme” mentality. they always want to take taxpayers money for flakey ideas, then blag them for giving it lol. ive got an idea. how about we stop giving it. that should keep the greens happy and we can put it into something like hip and knee operations or the like.

  • Harry B’Stard

    Just another leech, this one with a superiority complex

  • greybeard

    In no position to make comment publicly. she’s written a book, which qualifies her as……?

  • Papillon

    What a hypocrite Eleanor is. She calls our government neo-liberal profit obsessed politicians, but the crux is she wants more money to support the arts so she can increase her profits. If she doesn’t like our great country she should either leave or become a politician. Then we could ask her if she stands by all her ridiculous statements.

    • Sailor Sam

      She could stand for the Greens in Helensville next election.

    • waldopepper

      yes lol, if it wasnt for the neo liberals making profits there would be no money for her govt subsidies. lefties always want someone else to pay for everything.

  • John1234

    Are Catton and Billingsley the same person?

  • LabTested

    She was born in Canada & if she does not like it in NZ she can go back. What is it with the Green Party being full of immigrants who want to complain & change how Kiwis live.

    • Yeahright

      Also a lot of kiwis living overseas vote greens. How dare they tell us how to live when they don’t have to suffer the consequences!!

  • Tony Norriss

    I see Sean Plunket is copping flack for calling Catton an “ungrateful hua”.

    Both he and Key are being bagged for their comments in the social media. However, those moaning about the comments don’t seem to realise that freedom of speech means others are entitled to express their views on things that have been said as much as anyone else.

    • R&BAvenger

      The people doing the bagging are from the usual part of the political spectruum

  • tinfoilhatguy

    The culture she refers to is the culture of the chattering Remuera luvvies rattling their pearls and sucking chardonnay. The air is thin up there clearly and not conducive to clarity of thought. .

    Not our culture darling. Go get a beer and a barbequed sarnie and watch some kids kick a ball around on a Saturday afternoon. Then you might have something of a cultural epiphany.

    • 40something

      Dahling – i think you’ll find the luvvies are a little more down market these days.
      More like the whining socialists of Grey Lynn. But you are right on the money.

  • Genevieve

    Eleanor appears to be an emotionally confused young woman. During her little rant in Jaipur, she complains about New Zealanders having a proprietary attitude towards her award and only being interested if it can be celebrated as a national achievement. She then goes on about more Government funding being required for the literary arts. What is the point if we as a taxpayers

    • Cowgirl

      She calls out NZers for tall poppy bashing, but gets uppity because NZers might show some mutual pride in her award. Huh? She seems….confused.

  • Day Day

    Someone’s been sucking on the green cool-aid.

  • Carl

    Eleanor should move to Auckland as Lenny boy and his council prefer to give money to the arts rather than rescue choppers.

  • Sally

    Still struggling why she had this little tantrum.
    It is not as if she hasn’t been recognised. She received an Order of Merit in the New Years Honours list 2014.
    Some people serve their country all their life and receive nothing.

    • The Whinging Pom

      But they only do the non-essential stuff like repair the roads and keep the poo flowing at the sewage treatment works. Not like the real toilers like Ms Caton and her ilk.

      • waldopepper

        whinging pom – sir, my hats off to you. yours is the comment of the day. spot on.

    • tinfoilhatguy

      The greens can’t stop sucking the lemon. Any chance they get to make a face in public will do.

    • pisces8284 .

      They should take it off her for treasonable comments

    • Ilovelife

      She’s miffed. She didn’t win the New Zealand book awards. I’m not surprised. I bet the judges couldn’t be bothered reading it.

      • Sally

        Someone lent me a copy and I really struggled to get pass the first chapter. Gave up in the end.
        I do think it was accomplishment on her part to win the Booker award however she needs to back it up and have more books published.

        • Ilovelife

          Quite right. Our only other Booker winner, Keri Hume, never wrote anything else worthy of note. The way I see it NZ was damned by Eleanor for claiming her as our own and if we hadn’t…..?

      • Media Steriliser

        everyone I’ve spoken to (and these are real book worms) haven’t even finished her book – too boring. will probably explain the lack of awards

        • Mags

          I’ve read it and enjoyed it. Although the ending annoyed me.
          Don’t think she can just expect to win nz awards outright because of her booker win. Arrogant thinking. The judges in nz did award her the fiction prize but not the overall prize.

  • James M

    I suppose those big Peter Jackson films about Elves and little people that got support from the Key governemt aren’t art in any way shape or form?

    • rangitoto

      Too low brow. She’s an elitist

      • Media Steriliser

        nah, IMHO she’s a bloody nasty greenie, not an elistist. always negative, moaning, attacking. definitely a low brow though

    • InnerCityDweller

      At least those generated income for the country and employed a great number of locals. I guess in her case it was a handful involved in making paper and printing it. Was it even printed in NZ?

  • Tony Norriss

    Isn’t New Zealand a great country. In some parts of the world she would probably be locked up or tortured for saying what she did. Here the worst that can happen is that people might say things that hurt her feelings.

  • Second time around

    It’s Freedom of Speech. She’s said something that has either been misquoted or was never really very intelligible, and other people have commented. Now she has the chance to explain what she really meant, and to disabuse John Key for suggesting that her Green politics had anything to do with what she may have said.

  • Rodger T

    It is the Green way,to bite the hand that feeds you.

  • Tony Norriss

    Here is a snappy article on the issue:

    I love the quote in the article from Jordan Williams of the Tax Payer’s Union:

    “If Ms Catton isn’t thankful for the substantial support by the New Zealand Government while she wrote The Luminaries, maybe she could use some of the substantial royalties to pay the money back.”

  • tjb

    She is the epitomy of a champagne socialist.

  • 40something

    This is what annoys me. I’m published but have never used grants. I hazard a guess Eleanor has had a little help along the way. I’d be happy just to win the Booker and shut up for the rest of my natural.

  • Goldie

    ““neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture”.
    The same ones who helped fund her junkets around the world and paid for her to write the book that she is now famous for.

    • David Moore

      I’m sure when she ask for ‘support’ it’s nothing to do with being at all money hungry at all, she just wants our morel support doesn’t she?

  • Rokopa

    Angry Andy on Catton’s whine.
    “But Labour Leader Andrew Little says Eleanor Catton is calling
    it as she sees it.
    He says ‘the creative and expressive arts do need to be
    supported and if she feels they’re not then it should be looked at.’”

    Sounds like a statement right out of Cunliffe’s book on policy making – A policy for every minority group that could get me votes!

  • niggly

    I bet if a few years ago (eg 2006-2007) someone bagged NZ (under Clark), Australia (under Rudd) and Canada (under Martin) i.e. left-wing Govts, in the same manner as Eleanor Catton did recently, the MSM would call that person out as being simply “nasty”.

    Fast-forward to now and Eleanor Catton does it and the MSM backs her sentiments.

    Isn’t hypocrisy a wonderful thing?

  • BJ

    A totally self-indulged young lady that needs to grasp a bit of realism amidst her fictitious outlook

  • Phill

    “neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture”.
    And yet almost 50% of the country gave them the tick at election time.
    What %age support do your idea’s have Eleanore? Oh yeah, that’s right, ….bugger all. If anyone fits the description of “very Shallow” its the green party!

  • Pete

    i call her a sanctimonius hypocrite and bludger, if she is sooooo unhappy with all of us she should pay back the money she has been taking off us, buy a ticket and go and live in this fantasy land she believes exists for such luminaries as her !

  • Mikev

    Sean Plunkett got it right when he called her an ungrateful hua. Someone in the media should interview her and ask her for her detailed prescription of what should be happening in NZ. No doubt being an advocate for the Greens she will call for stuff the Greens thought they would be pushing for – except 90% of the NZ voting public rejected their ideas!

  • 1951

    Why is it that the Intellectuals from our Universities seem to be lacking in so many ways. Every week at least one of those who lecture our younger minds, prove that just maybe they do not deserve the position they hold. Must be too much gazing at each others navels in some faculties.

    • Don W

      They have spent most of their lives at school and have never lived and worked in the real world with real people from all walks of life.

      • 1951

        One wonders if they ever look beyond the lectern. This Eleanor Catton is just another of so many twisted minds that teach our kids. It’s scary how many of them that believe we owe them a lifestyle.

  • oldmanNZ

    In the art world, you need to be a greenie hippie nutcase. The more nuttier you are, the better the art, according to the art judges.

    a pile of rubbish left over from the bubble wrap of other art object won an award?
    A pile of rubbish? which mean all the other entrants must be worst than rubbish.

  • Isherman

    If she wants to make overtly political comments regarding taxpayer support for the arts, and take a swipe at our politicians, our societal makeup or anything else, fine, but do it here in New Zealand, in front of the audience and people that you are criticising. Pin your colours to a mast and enter a political debate if you want to. Do not, take a taxpayer funded junket, from your taxpayer funded role, and go and bag our country from a stage half way around the world in Jaipur. If its that bad for you here, and you have trouble representing New Zealand as you state, why dont you go find somewhere else to live that supports you more than we do? What an ungrateful sanctimonious elitist champagne lefty she’s showed herself up as.

  • Eddie Nunns

    Ah I think she means John Key the PM not John Key the father of a very Artistic Daughter that he supports very much as an Artist

  • Murray Smith

    I see the other non-voted spokesperson, Once Were Writers, Alan Duff has jumped to support her claims.
    Celebrity vision, ohhhhh dear !

  • Ilovelife

    Had toyed with the idea of reading her book. Won’t bother now. From what I hear it is confusing and tortuous anyway. Disgusted with her attitude.

    • Reaper

      Yes, I had been thinking of reading it too; today’s discussion has saved me $35 plus several hours of my life I would never get back so I’m quite happy.

  • IanGreg

    “They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want.” quipped Catton fresh from her flight to Jaipur, where she was bathing in the adulation and attention of her literary peers…

    • Fritz

      Teat suckin’ lefties all of them no doubt…


    Harkat-ul-Mujahidin: an Islamic fundamentalist group in Pakistan that fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s; now operates as a terrorist organization primarily in Kashmir and seeks Kashmir’s accession by Pakistan

  • kiwirog

    Young tall poppies who decide to step out of their area of expertise and lecture the rest of us more weathered inhabitants of these small isles on economics and politics deserve to be cut down.

  • Genevieve

    I suspect that Eleanor might also be a tad prone to gross generalisations.
    In response to negative reviews of ‘The Luminaries’ she said,
    “People whose negative reaction has been most vehement have all been men over about 45”

    • Cadwallader

      Over 45? Age or IQ?

  • Nebman

    Or Ms Catton could have just passed on congratulations to the winner of the award and celebrated that we as a country were recognizing diversity in our writers and “how cool was that!”

    Graceless, classless, thankless

  • Pharmachick

    Oh whoops sorry Reaper, replied and didn’t see you’d already covered it.

  • Cadwallader

    In 1985 when Keri Hume won the Booker the neo-liberals and Femi-nazis all saw worth in her book “The Bone People.” I tried to read it but decided to preserve my sight a bit longer. A number of years later I read a scathing review of the book in a US magazine which rated Booker recipients over a period of about 50 years. The Bone People was described as unworthy dross yet in NZ in some quarters thought every syllable was gold-bound.

    • 2rotorbro

      So recently I was lent from Mum, The Bone People (owned in the family since 1985 but apparently no one has ever finished it) and at the same time mum said you may as well read this (The Luminaries) when your are done with The Bone People – ummmm nearly 6 months later and having battled through to 15 pages in on The Bone People I cringe at the thought of wading through to halfway point of the Luminaries when apparently it gets quite good!

  • Honcho

    If her beloved greens were in charge, would Miss Catton be happy with the 40%(+?) tax that she would be stung off money she made from her Luminaries books?

    • 2rotorbro


    • DavidW

      She has stated that as she made more than $140,000 last year she would have been happy to pay the 40% tax at the margin. She did not confirm if her income was $140,001 requiring an extra 10cents on her total tax bill or not.

  • Nige.

    Oh well. She wont be wanting to come back then. She can find a culture where she fits in somewhere else then.

  • steve and monique

    Who, never heard of her. Mind you, if her writing , is like her moaning, it would make for an unappealing read.

  • Keanne Lawrence

    It seems Catton’s book may be considered by some to significant to be a prize winner many reviewers disagree. It’s 832 pages is considered a handy step as opposed to a step in the right direction.
    As a writer of fiction it is too easy for her to resort to a verbal version of fiction when she speaks in public especially when it emanates from a jaundiced view repeated so monotonously by the Green block.
    It does seem that the negative response to her work has got her more than a little rattled and may prompt her to return to Canada to create some more fiction around the Klondike gold rush.
    Her publisher might have been a little too ambitious with 100,000 reprints as they may well end up in the bargain bin beside those other great works by Morgan & Hager.

  • Adios Africa

    What a spoiled brat – and shallow.

  • Monty Bank

    Alas, the lass is displaying the ultracrepidarian tendencies of the nouvo famous with greenie leanings..

    Cobbler, stick to your last.


    adjective: Giving opinions beyond one’s area of expertise.
    noun: One who gives opinions beyond one’s area of expertise.

    From Latin ultra (beyond) + crepidarius (shoemaker), from crepida (sandal). Earliest documented use: 1819.

    The story goes that in ancient Greece there was a renowned painter named Apelles who used to display his paintings and hide behind them to listen to the comments. Once a cobbler pointed out that the sole of the shoe was not painted correctly. Apelles fixed it and encouraged by this the cobbler began offering comments about other parts of the painting. At this point the painter cut him off with “Ne sutor ultra crepidam” meaning “Shoemaker, not above the sandal” or one should stick to one’s area of expertise.

  • jcpry

    My son is an aspiring novelist and script writer. He works full time (shift work 10 days on 4 off) and fills in the rest of his time writing.
    He funded his first feature length movie by himself and social media donations and published his first novel (at the age of 20) by similar method and some generous parents.
    The road he has chosen is very hard and most fail however the one thing he recognises is that it is all down to him. It is his choice to follow this path and he is confident his talent will win through.
    He jokes that if he manages to sell a script his hourly rate will be less that a $1 an hour. .

  • peterwn

    Some years ago a Scots woman visiting another nation was asked about the traditional rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Her response – outside Scotland they put on a united front and there is no talk of rivalry. Similarly the boss of an upmarket Auckland store refused to be drawn into a discussion about another store sometimes regarded as downmarket. He commented that the ‘downmarket’ store was founded in entirely different circumstances to his store and both had their places in the market.

    So Eleanor, while it might be OK to trash talk the Government in a local political setting – remember you are an ambassador for your country while overseas and you owe it to your native country to support your country, not trash talk it. Count yourself extremely lucky that you can live in NZ and not be forced to live in the likes of Korea, Cuba, etc.

    • sheppy

      To behave as an ambassador requires class, something often lacking in spoilt brats

  • Bobb

    Perhaps he means that she is a bit doggy with her criticism as in Chi-hua-hua. (breed of small dog)

    • Cadwallader

      Wasn’t Bevan Hua, the name of Len Brown’s girlfriend?

  • Imogen B

    I support the literary arts. I buy books, and lots of them.
    I have bought several Booker prize winners and found them to be pretentious nonsense. Currently reading The Day the Music Died, a first novel from NZ writer Blair Evans – an interesting experience that I recommend.
    The Luminaries is not on my horizon.

    • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

      I think many people would have come to this conclusion after the brainless ranting by Cotton wool.

  • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

    I made my comments yesterday evening in the Backchat post.

    Basically the so called celebrities like Catton, Lawless, Robyn Malcolm – all Green communists and nothing better to do other than bad mouthing John Key and NZ. I feel Lawless is setting herself nicely to be a Green candidate in a few years’ time once her chances dry up in the TV/Movie world. Catton’s outburst is so unnecessary. May be she is expecting some tax payer funded largesse.

  • Michelle

    If Ms Catton is so worked up about this government then perhaps she could give her Order of Merit back, not going to hold breath

    She has done so well from this country and this is how she thanks us

    • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

      Typical Greenie attitude……

  • Catherine Kennedy

    I had planned to give Catton’s novel another go, having abandoned it at about page 100, when I found I was losing the will to live, but nah I won’t bother now and she can forget getting my patronage on any other piece of dross she imposes upon the reading community. I wonder if Clint is her PR advisor? Bad, really bad, press Eleanor.

    • Kendall

      I got to 20 pages. Thought I’d buy the book to support her. Can I get a refund from apple.

  • philbest

    Absolutely agree with your call on how arts come into society. The greatest art has always been supported by wealthy patrons in times of relative prosperity. When The State comes into it, you get that ghastly Commie Kitsch, or the modern western equivalent, politically correct schund and dreck.

  • damm good thrashing

    The taxpayer should not support the arts or sport or anything else unnecessary. Let the user pay.

  • la la land

    Definitely an ungrateful hua

  • Just a thought …

    I rank this Eleanor woman alongside ” Gareth Morgan ‘ in that now they think ” I’m really important” so I better start having an opinion on everything………. sorry sweetheart but you are still just someone with an audience who is managing to make a total tosspot of yourself…….. stick to the writing and sucking off the public tit……

    • Ilovelife

      And remember she is still in her 20s, so very limited life experience.

  • fairymai

    Dick Frizzel has remarked to RNZ ‘he felt as though Catton obviously still held on to some resentment for not taking home the top accolade’ he was a judge at last years NZPost book awards, which Catton missed out on,the award going to Jill Trevelyan.

  • fairymai

    oh forget to say, cancelled hold at local library, for Precious Eleanors novel..

  • Bartman

    This is simply the new dirty politics aka Green Taliban style. Pimp the poor, the victims, the useless, and anyone gullible with profile who happens to snuggle up to the loony tunes watermelons. They have changed, but the nasty rotten core remains alive and well.

  • LesleyNZ

    Such an unhappy woman. Yes she is sad and she is spoiled.

  • benniedawg

    I listened to the comments from the panel on red radio today and one of the panelist reeled of the millions of funding that has gone to the arts this year. Impressive! then they interview one of the judges Dick Frizzel a not unknown NZ artist. To precee what they were all trying to say but

  • Caro

    Duh, the Government doesn’t actually own people , Eleanor Caton is quite correct in what she is saying and entitled to her opinion.

    • tex pistol

      And at the end of the day that’s all it is her opinion.

    • benniedawg

      Nobody denies anyone of having an opinion, however if you are in a position to endear some respect and have been presumably assisted by the tax payer to get to your current venue, maybe, just maybe you keep your opinions that will possibly reflect negatively on NZ for a more appropriate occasion. Then again if you are of green disposition, to hell with that. Slash and burn wherever you can.

    • david

      Of course she is entitled to say whatever she wants. And so are we. She, of course, only charges for her work so that her publishers can afford to pay the minimum wage. She doesn’t do it for the money. And when she is calling for support for the arts, it is for their purity, not to help pay for artists like her. After all she is not money hungry.

    • 1951

      It is just her opinion but gee wizz hasn’t it gone along way to allow others to form an opinion about her. It’s a very small glass bowl our Island Nation, some people need to remember that before they open their mouths. We’re not so good at taking it on the chin if we don’t deserve it.

  • Emmess

    Oh no, what must the Indians be thinking?
    Oh my golly gosh. New Zealand must be a very very bad place.

  • KOSH

    Can you please take my name off the bottom of this blog post? I wrote the quoted story, not the actual blog. Ta.

  • Jas

    Did she ride her bike to India?

  • R&BAvenger

    Contrast her with Sol3 Mio – completely different circumstances in terms of their upbringing, but they were encouraged and supported by their family and teachers/tutors etc. along the way.
    They competed in various competitions, winning prize money and recognition from the right people in the opera/music industry. They also set up Sol3 Mio as a means of raising the funds for their overseas studies in Wales. They earned enough to do that and repay their student loans and go onto great success.
    Having bought and watched the DVD, read the Biography recently, they are a fine example for all young NZers of any ethnicity, particularly Samoan.
    The other core thing in contrast to Catton is that they are all well grounded, talented, yet humble individuals who are great ambassadors for NZ and for Samoa.
    Perhaps Catton could try and take a leaf from their book?
    I won’t be holding my breath.

  • friardo

    Catton has made the very common mistake of judging a governments works by what she reads in MSM. I wasn’t aware that she was an ambassador for NZ, possibly she appointed herself one fine morning. I can think of another internationally known NZ author who came to believe that because he was extremely good at writing, that made him good at other things too. Catton seems as careless with her approach to judgement as she is diligent with her writing.

  • Eiselmann

    Okay so she’s annoyed that the Government is helping citizens to grow the economy so that more and more people can have the opportunity to become as rich and famous as she is and instead wants the government to give money to her and her friends so that they don’t have to actually work….and the left accuse the right of pulling up the ladder after its been used.