Getting to Know Geoffrey & Ken

Our Pipitea café and bookshop is marvellously well situated for Law School, Law Courts and the Beehive. No one knows this better than our favourite “Pip” regulars Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Sir Kenneth Keith. These notable Victoria University Law Alumni were students in the 1950s and 60s and have had illustrious careers that include serving as Prime Minister of New Zealand and on the International Court of Justice.

Both Geoffrey and Ken are still as voracious in their thirst for knowledge today and their advice to students is a resounding command to “keep reading”! We love welcoming them at our Pipitea café – you might have spotted them grabbing their long macchiatos and shopping our superb range of politics and economics titles on offer at our bookshop. Find out more about the dynamic duo in this week's Journal interview.

What is your day job?

Geoffrey: Reading, thinking and writing.

Ken: Retired academic, law and constitutional reformer, arbitrator and judge, writing about the jobs I have done over the last 60 years


What is your connection to Vic Books?

Geoffrey: I read books, voraciously.

Ken: With Geoffrey Palmer, almost every weekday, and others, a coffee and a frequent book buyer.


What are you working on at the moment?

Geoffrey: A book on civics called Democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand - A Citizen's Guide

Ken: Working and thinking over the last 60+ years and writing some other smaller pieces. Some student advising.


Sol, Iri, Helen and Stefan welcome you as regulars at our Pipitea cafe. What do you love about coming here for a work meeting or catch up? What's your go-to order?

Geoffrey: I like their coffee very much. And I like to talk to colleagues, especially Ken Keith to whom I have been talking for more years than I care to remember.

Ken: Long macchiato or cappuccino


What's your favourite memory from university life?

Geoffrey: Reading a lot of books, most of which I still own.

Ken: The old common room on the main campus and the stimulation of senior and other colleagues and the best students


How do you think campus has changed since you were students at Vic?

Geoffrey: There are many more students, they work harder and have more pressures on them than we ever had. We were paid by the state to go to university

Ken: Greatly. The law faculty is now well placed in the legal and governmental area but not so far as I can see sufficiently connected to related parts of the University. See the earlier reference to the common room.


What was your favourite course taught at Victoria University?

Geoffrey: Political Science 1, the lectures of Professor Ken Scott on Plato and Aristotle.

Ken: Diploma of Public Administration which preceded the Master of Public Policy


Is there a book from your student days that stands out for you, something that was particularly influential at the time?

Geoffrey: Plato's Republic

Ken:  JL Robson (ed), New Zealand-its Law and Constitution (1954)


One piece of advice to current students!

Geoffrey: Keep reading after you leave university, learning never ends.

Ken: Keep your mind wide open and read broadly.


What future writing projects do you have planned?

Geoffrey: I expect I will keep publishing in law reviews and writing books

Ken: In addition to the large project mentioned earlier, a new edition of a 1971 book based on my 1964 LIM thesis


Some quick fire book recommendations please!

Geoffrey: Geoffrey Palmer Reform: a Memoir and, Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler Towards Democratic Renewal: Ideas for Constitutional Change in New Zealand 

Ken: The Promise of Law: Essays marking the retirement of Dame Sian Elias as Chief Justice of New Zealand; Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass Sunstein; Radical Uncertainty by John Kay and Mervyn King; Things OK with you? by Vincent O'Sullivan; and Report on Experience by John Mulgan.


What are you reading at the moment?

Geoffrey: Tina Makereti's Where the Rekohu Bone Sings

Ken: The Congo Trials by Richard Gaskins, Land by Simon Winchester


What do you like about it?

Geoffrey: It says a great deal about he complicated nature of Aotearoa New Zealand, it is sensitive and evocative.

Ken: The challenge of writing about the tragedy and chaos of eastern of the Congo and the travails of a new institution; and Winchester’s huge range of choices



Which literary character do you most identify with? Why?

Geoffrey: Elizabeth Bennet. I think Jane Austen is the greatest novelist who ever wrote in English and I've read all of her novels at least once a year.


Hardback or paperback?

Geoffrey: Hardback.

Ken: Paperback.


Favourite coffee?

Geoffrey: Macchiato

Ken: Long macchiato or cappuccino

Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Sir Kenneth Keith at their regular haunt, Vic Books Pipitea