Key’s debut solid

The ODT reckons John Key’s debut on the world stage was solid.

John Key’s entry on to the world stage at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Lima, Peru, has been a solid beginning for the new prime minister, pitched at the right level for a debutant leader.

He was forthright in his views, and reportedly pragmatic rather than flashy in his speeches and presentations. . .

. . . In this display of tough talking, Mr Key signalled that he was intent on establishing a presence internationally as a straight-shooter, but he also took advantage of the occasion to distance himself from his former associations with the banking and finance sectors. Reporters covering the trip also saw another side of Mr Key: at times he “gushed” and at others appeared “gauche”, thus living up to his role as the new kid on the Asia-Pacific block.

But he was, as he has shown several times since winning the election a little more than two weeks ago, refreshingly candid.

There were signs of humility, too, in his preparations: he sought out Helen Clark for a briefing, and appeared grateful.

“She was genuinely good and so knowledgeable about these things. Her personal assessments were highly accurate. Generally I said to [leaders] that I had spoken to Helen Clark before I left and she passed on her warm regards. She is well thought of,” he told the media.

And while he spoke warmly of the achievements of the summit, he was also cautious about timeframes for turning the world crisis around, describing the 18 months, belatedly inserted in the final communique at the behest of Peruvian President Alan Garcia, as “aspirational”.

It was a carefully chosen word, showing that Mr Key is learning fast. . .

. . . New Zealand is more than most dependent on free trade and access to markets, so it was critically important that Mr Key attended the forum.

It is also a healthy sign of a maturing democracy that he was able to leave the country a day after being sworn in as prime minister with advice from his predecessor in his briefcase – no small achievement and one for which both Mr Key and Miss Clark are to be commended.

It is a sign of the maturity not only of our democracy, but of the politicians that they can put aside partisan differences for the good of the country. 

A peaceful hand over of power and a willingness of an outgoing leader to give advice and an incoming one to accept it doesn’t happen everywhere. It is something for which we can be grateful and should not take it for granted.

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