Priorities, platitudes, no plan

September 17, 2018

Jacinda Ardern has bowed to Winston Peters – her big speech yesterday talked not of a Labour-led governs but either this government or the coalition government.

The speech was an attempt to show coalition unity after the recent shambles, and told us very little new.

She talked of 12 priorities, but when it came to details, it was mostly the what with little how, and the what was more about what they’ve done or already announced than what they will do.

It was full of platitudes like:

. . .We will:

A. Ensure everyone who is able to, is earning, learning, caring or volunteering . . 

And the plan? It was a whole lot more about where they want to go with little about how they’ll get there.

A good government knows where it’s going, and how to get there,  from the start, not nearly one year into a three-year term.

The “plan” such as it is, is here.


Lying by omission

September 7, 2018

Remember Jacinda Ardern saying in a pre-elections debate she wouldn’t lie?

What would she call this?

Jacinda Ardern insisted in an interview today that she would not fire Clare Curran – but the Prime Minister had accepted the errant MP’s resignation the night before.

The under-fire Curran has quit as a minister, saying the pressure on her had become “intolerable”. She becomes the first casualty in the Ardern administration.

Ardern told Newstalk ZB’s Chris Lynch – in an interview recorded at 8am this morning – that she would not fire Curran.

But it has now emerged the errant minister told Ardern last night that she would quit – and Ardern accepted her resignation.

When asked by reporters in Gisborne today about her comment to Newstalk ZB, Ardern said: “The question that I was asked this morning was whether I’d asked her to resign, and the answer was no.” . . .

Courts require people to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Omitting to tell the whole truth isn’t lying by commission but it is lying by omission.

And it was unnecessary.

The resignation was given, and accepted, last night, giving plenty of time for anyone who needed to know before the public knew to be told.

Delaying the announcement was poor political management that led the PM to knowingly mislead the public and seriously contradicts the government’s aim to be open and transparent.


Minister down

September 7, 2018

The Labour NZ First Green government has lost its first minister:

Embattled Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has resigned as Minister, saying the pressure on her has become “intolerable”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced just after midday today she had accepted Ms Curran’s resignation after two failures to properly record meetings and this week’s stumbled response in Parliament to questions about her personal use of email. . .

The pressure was of her own making.

To do the wrong thing once might be considered a mistake that might, if one was being charitable, be blamed on inexperience. Although, charitable or not, when it cost a senior public servant her job it was a very big mistake.

To do the same wrong thing twice can’t be blamed on inexperience, it’s a sign of serious incompetence and no government can afford incompetent ministers.


She said, he said

September 6, 2018

Government policy is to increase the refugee quote to 1500, or is it?

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said:

. . . there was only an agreement to take the refugee quota to 1000, not the 1500 wanted by Labour.

“We never made a commitment to double the refugee quota,” Peters said when questioned by reporters.

When it was suggested Labour had, Peters said: “Labour’s not the government.”. .

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

. . .The Government remained committed to doubling the refugee quota, Ardern said.

“That is a commitment that we’ve made. It hasn’t come through Cabinet yet. What we have had to make sure that we can do is ensure that all of those refugees at this point can be resettled appropriately, and that we have the facilities to do that.

Increasing the quota to 1500 is policy of one part of government but not the other.

Whatever the number is, doesn’t matter nearly as much as what the difference between the PM and deputy say about the government.

This is the second time Peters has pulled the rug out from under Labour.

The first was when he ruled out striking out the three-strikes law just as Justice Minister Andrew Little was about to introduce legislation to parliament.

This is his second strike.

It’s unlikely to be his last and it’s very unlikely to be three strikes and he’s out because it was he who put Labour into government and they can’t stay there without him.

That’s what happens when you’re in government but not in power.


Um, ah, ah

September 6, 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern might still have confidence in Clare Curran but the minister doesnt’ appear to have confidence in herself:

. . . Curran stumbled over her answers in Parliament’s debating chamber, as she was forced to admit that Government business was conducted on her personal email. She was not forthcoming with a response about why she used her Gmail account for official business from “time to time”. 

Asked “what Government business has she conducted via her Gmail account”, Curran appeared flustered and claimed she’d answered the question before being told by the Speaker she had to answer it directly – she then required Lee to ask it again. 

Curran answered: “To the best of my recollection, um, ah, ah, I haven’t, um, I haven’t used my, um I’ve answered um OIA, ah, ah, OIA responses and personal, um and parliamentary questions correctly and to the best of my recollection, um, ah, you know, that, that has, that’s what I’ve done.”

It pales in comparison to the email controversy surrounding former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her 2016 presidential run against US President Donald Trump, but has raised similar questions over security and transparency of information.  . .

When you read Nick Smith’s speech in Tuesday’s snap debate about Curren’s sacking, it is easy to see why she might be lacking confidence in herself:

“We have a Minister of Open Government—actually, the very first Minister of Open Government that’s ever existed in this Parliament—and the promise of the Minister of Open Government was to be the most open and transparent Government that this country has ever had, and then what we find out from that Minister is that not once but twice that Minister behaved in a secretive, in a sneaky, and in a dirty way.

“Now, let’s come to the events that have led to Clare Curran’s resignation as the Minister of Open Government. Firstly, we had the incident with Radio New Zealand.

“Let’s understand how important that is. A free, politically neutral media goes to the heart of how our democracy works.

“We are not …  one of those countries where we have a State media that just spins the Government line, like you might get in a North Korea or a Zimbabwe. Here we have Clare Curran having private, secret meetings with the head of news—not some public servant.

“What is the Minister of Broadcasting doing having meetings—secret meetings—with the head of news at Radio New Zealand? There wouldn’t be a member in this House, not even my newest colleagues, that wouldn’t have a feeling that, well, that doesn’t feel quite right. ‘I’m the Minister of Broadcasting; I shouldn’t really be having secret meetings with the head of Radio New Zealand news.’

“But here’s the part that has me gobsmacked: the week after this Parliament admonishes her for being dishonest about the secret meeting, guess what Clare Curran does? She arranges another secret meeting, this time wearing the portfolio as the Minister of Digital Technologies.

“I’ve been here for 28 years. I’ve seen some Ministers goof it up. What I have never seen is a dicky Minister commit exactly the same crime just one week after there’s a massive controversy.

“Now there are only two possibilities here. Either she’s dumb, or she’s dishonest. I’m sorry, there can only be two explanations for that course of events that has occurred. . . 

Dumb or dishonest?

Oh dear, neither of those are qualifications for a minister inside or outside Cabinet and it says little for Ardern’s judgement that she couldn’t see that.

By taking the soft option of demoting Curren from Cabinet but allowing her to stay on as a minister, Ardern has made her a target and bought herself an on-going headache.

And while we’re not he subject of ministers who are out of their depth, this exchange between National’s Chris Finlayson and Labour’s deputy Kelvin Davis is instructive:


Where’s the consistency?

September 4, 2018

Simon Bridges has facilitated the payment for the medivac of a New Zealand woman from Bali:

Kiwis have paid it forward by fronting $170,000 for the medical evacuation of Abby Hartley, who is in a coma in Bali.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told Newstalk ZB on Monday he was contacted by concerned New Zealanders last week who he knew “pretty well” who didn’t want anything out of it aside from helping the Hamilton family.

“They could see the money was the issue.

“They have underwritten what has happened and paid for the medevac.”

Bridges said he had facilitated the payment for the medevac with Abby’s husband Richard.

“The plane has been paid for, the medevac has been paid for. Now it’s just about when the medical right time for Abby to come back to New Zealand,” he told Newstalk ZB. . .

Hartley’s insurance company wouldn’t pay for their treatment and return to New Zealand.

The family approached the government for help but were turned down.

The government has to be very careful about bailing out people in this way.

It would be too easy to set a precedent that led people to expect public funding to extract them from predicaments.

But this government has repatriated bodies of dead servicemen and is paying millions in an attempt to retrieve dead bodies from Pike River and many more to bail out uninsured property owners in Christchurch.

Then there’s the cost of a special flight for the PM to go to Naru for a short time so she won’t be away from her baby who would have to have a whole lot of vaccinations if she accompanied her mother.

I am not going to join the critics of the Jacinda Ardern over this. Whether Foreign Minister Winston Peters could have stood in for her is a fair question. But if it was important for her to be there, the shorter the trip the better it is for Neve. If we have a PM with a baby there are going to be different compromises and extra costs.

But where is the consistency?

 


From misfortune to carelessness

August 30, 2018

The government has lost a second minister in less than a week:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accepted Minister Meka Whaitiri’s offer to stand aside from her portfolios, while an investigation is carried out into a staffing matter in her office.

Newshub understands the probe follows allegations of a physical incident with another staff member in her office, which involved some shoving. . . .

The announcement comes just six days after Ms Ardern removed Minister Clare Curran from Cabinet for failing to disclose a meeting she had in relation to the Government’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role. . .

If Lady Bracknell was commenting on events of this week, she might well say, To lose one minister may be regarded as misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness.


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