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Friday, 28 April 2017

Don't kid yourself Gerry, its a demotion not a promotion!

I suppose you could file this under catty but if NZ Politics has shown me anything its that there are different types of politicians.

Some are well meaning but ineffectual (like Andrew Little); some are dynamic but dangerous (like John Key and Winston Peters); some are purely predatory (Judith Collins); some are seat warming drones (many of them) and some are bumblers (walking disasters which always do more damage than good and bump from one crisis to the next leaving a trail of damage behind them).

Let’s not mince words here.

Murray McCully was a bumbler of a politician.

He was put in the ministerial backwater of Foreign Affairs to keep him out of harm’s way (and out of the country as much as possible) and yet he still managed to muck things up.
His term at MFAT lead to a revolt among the diplomats and shady things like the Saudi Sheep deal showed McCully doing the best to pull the wool (pun intended) over the eyes of his cabinet colleagues to NZ being conned.

And these are his contribution to NZ politics and these are what he will be remembered for.
30 years of warming a seat and collecting a pay check and his legacy was to bring the normally duplicitous but always genteel diplomats of NZ to behave in the most undiplomatic of ways and to be outmaneuvered by some foreign shakedown crew.

And even now after eight years as foreign minister, his face and diplomatic passport are not enough to prevent him from being searched at the border in Auckland. My guess is that the "administrative error" was more likely a deliberate and well timed reminder of his position in the real world and not whatever bubble he has been living in.

Bumble, bumble and bumble some more.

And now with McCully being put out to pasture and from what I hear not a moment too soon. He was like one of those characters out of Yes Minister or Reggie Perrin, all pomp and circumstance and with shades of Colonel Blimp about him.

But now we have another human cartoon character, Gerry Brownlee, taking over from Duffer McCully.

And again let’s not mince words here either.

Brownlee IS a bumbler par excellence, from trying to start a war with Finland to mucking up the Christchurch Rebuild, to corruption at CERA and, like McCully, behaving as if he was some pompous ass whenever anyone says anything which is not down with his majesties narrow view of things.

And Brownlee has been such a bumbler that he was moved to the dead end policy backwater of Defence as a means to keep him out of sight and busy (and like McCully out of the country as much as possible) and now with the SFO sniffing around CERA and the rebuild still grinding along, the most hated man in Christchurch is being moved to Foreign Affairs to minimize his actions and behaviors with the coming election.

It’s not a promotion; it’s a demotion, clear and simple. Gerry is being put under wraps until the heat has died down and maybe, just maybe, if National wins the election, he might be allowed back out.

I always found it disturbingly ironic that such a disaster of a politician would be made the minister of Civil Defence but then perhaps John Key did have a sense of humor.

And with world affairs being so tense lately, I am counting the days until Gerry’s mouth says something that will either offend some nation or just utter another of his grossly atavistic remarks when his corpulent bulk is offended by the intrusion of reality.

Because Brownlee is Colonel Blimp in not just character but also in form and while I would normally refrain from digs about one’s physical form whenever I see Gerry booming through Wellington Airport like a Spanish treasure galleon in full sail I am always reminded of a comment shouted at him when he fronted up to a protest at Canterbury University in 1999.

It was the day after the students rioted and kicked off the occupation of the Registry building, they were angry about the rise in student fees and a massive rally was being held in the library quad.

Several politicians had been invited to speak (including Gerry Brownlee). Gerry stepped up, took the mic and opened his mouth but before any words could come out some wag in the crowd shouted “Who ate all the pies!” and the crowd roared with laughter.

Had it ended there things might not have gone the way they did Brownlee ploughed on and started to speak. Nothing he said made sense and by the end of it the light relief that had come from mocking him was replaced by a growing mood of fury and he was soon drowned out by the angry shouting of the crowd*.

He bumbled his way in and bumbled his way out.

In the safe confines of the debating chamber he can attempt to be glib and make a few snide remarks during question time but out in public he is political dog food when he speaks and his move to foreign affairs is Bill English doing pre-election damage control by putting Bumbler Brownlee somewhere he can inflict the least political damage (far away from issues like water, housing, corruption, immigration and the economy) with his mouth or his actions.

So let’s not fool ourselves, this is not a promotion for him it’s a demotion or at best a “promotion upstairs” (as they say in the world of business) to get this political disaster of a man out of the way and out of the public eye before the he remind the voting public about all the very worst things that National stands for.

Both McCully and Brownlee are cut from the same cloth, political deadwood which, once in office, cannot be removed and like some wafting stench from across the fence that won’t go away quickly.

And people worry about North Korea having nukes.

*-Including a particularly vocal segment who had taken to chanting "Who ate all the pies!" again and again.

20 comments:

  1. Christchurch is a catastrophe. An entire book would not tell enough.
    One drive around in my old Rav, the suburban fenced off paddocks, and the orange coned rough roads would show this. At the top of the list of criminals are the Council planners, then Dalzeil and the Councillors, and CERA, and Gerry.
    I should be commissioned to shoot the lot of them.

    One Councillor with talent, Raj Manji, is so despondent he is standing against Gerry in the Ilam seat. Ilam and the west was unaffected by the earthquake. They are as blue rinse as my maiden Aunts over there.
    I will book you in for a tour, remember to bring drugs. In the end you will say, my God he's right, there is no way to get rid of this menace, we have to shoot our way out of here, and pray to Jesus.

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  2. Foreign Affairs is a "ministerial backwater"?

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    1. Yep, MFAT needs a minister like it needs Murray McCully.

      It needs good staff and management but due to its decentralized nature (offshore posts), its diverse portfolio (all those different countries and international treaties/arrangements) and the fact that we are not a world power (and hence our foreign policy is mostly about sucking up for trade reasons or having a nice moral stance)it does not need a minister like other onshore govt departments do.

      Most ministers cant handle, or micromanage such a diverse spread and keep their head on, McCully tried and the result was the closest a government department came to open revolt in NZ history.

      Foreign affairs lost its luster around the time that Lange held it and since then its been a place for useful busy work for those who could not do better elsewhere (Helen Clarke excepted).

      And that is not knocking what MFAT do but its just not a place that needs a minister like other govt departments

      MFAT is usually a place for those ministers who cant fit elsewhere, or as with Winston, a place for show-boaters and those who want to feel like they have a big responsibility but in fact are doing nothing.

      Its occasionally had good ministers but mostly not in the last 30 years and its run just fine by the next tier down.

      Its probably the closest a ministerial position would come to actually having to need an expert minister to make a difference (hence Clarke in the role).

      Also having herd McCully speak on more than a few occasions I have been shocked at not so much as what he said (because it sounded like he was reading a speech written for him) but how when it came to questions he looked like a deer in headlights and answered like a deer moments after it had been run over. He clearly did not have a handle on the role.

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    2. For the record the former Prime Minister's last name is Clark, not Clarke. And she was never Minister of Foreign Affairs - she was briefly opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson after the 2008 election loss, but that's it.

      So you are seriously advocating not having a Minister of Foreign Affairs? Every other country has one - do you think it's unnecessary globally, or is there something unique about New Zealand's foreign policy apparatus?

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    3. Damn that E, I always mis-spell her name.

      I always thought she had held the post but a quick check shows I was wrong, my mistake and my apologies.

      Unfortunately that means I am now hard pressed to think of a good foreign affairs minster in the last 30 years.

      To reply to your question I am not saying we don't need to actually have a Minister of Foreign Affairs but to go back to my original point that its a backwater for ministers (its the diplomats doing most of the work), some countries place a lot of emphasis on foreign affairs and put top people in the role of Minister.

      NZ does not and does not need emphaize foreign affairs as some nations do (we use foreign affairs as trade facilitators or even worse as a means to check up on where offshore Kiwis are (if you have ever been to one of those embassy sausage sizzles you will know what I mean).

      So to be clear, we need one but its not the position it is in some countries, although now that I think about it the UK made Boris Johnson their foreign Minister so maybe there is a precedent being set there for a new way of doing foreign affairs by appointing loud mouth off the cuff types as the big cheese.

      I do think NZ has a very good foreign service, but not quite as it used to be after the blood letting and some of the post MFAT careers for some of the staff who left are positively removed from their former roles (I have herd of one ending up as a property manager for a University and another running his own sport fishing business).

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    4. The majority of work in every portfolio is done by civil servants. For example, Ministry of Education civil servants do the vast majority of the administering, policy making, research, etc etc - would you argue that the Minister of Education is equally a backwater?

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    5. Hi Anon:

      I would probably start by listing the parts of government and ministers that I consider to be areas where a minister is a lot more relevant (because such sections are a lot more important to the national interest) to the work or needed (see below).

      Those would be areas like Treasury, Helath, Social Welfare, Education, DIA, MBIE (despite it being the Frankenstein monster that it is), Justice etc.

      In the area of Ministers I rate those such as Peter Dunne, Bill English, Steven Joyce, Amy Adams and (although I type this through clenched teeth) Judith Collins.

      I cant really say for Labour because thats before my time in govt so I am not omitting the due to a pro National bias but simply because I don't know enough about their performance to rate them.

      And yes your assertion that the vast majority of govt work is done at levels lower than the Minister but thats not my point.

      My point is that a portfolio like Health, or Justice of Internal Affairs are parts of govt that need a firm hand as they are daily and relevant to the interests of NZers and any changes in those areas generate direct and immediate responses in the public and the political sphere (and often in other sections of govt).

      Health Policy (for example) generates headlines and is an issue that is of interest to most NZers, so to things like Welfare, Housing and such and having a minister there is a lot more vital not only to head off the issues but also get things through cabinet and the chamber and just make sure the ship is sailing plainly.

      For example Sam Lotu Liga got crucified for the Serco/Fight Club slip up and lost his portfolio, Nick Smith Butchers Housing and Fresh water and cops flack daily in the media but McCully does deals with the Saudis or gets offside with Israel (with them saying its a declaration of war if we go forward with our resolution) and not only is he not sacked but no-one in NZ really cares and thats because as glamorous as Foreign Affairs is it just is not on the Nations radar and nor is a blow out or scandal so detrimental to the public interest.

      And when compared Liga's slip up was a lot less worse than McCully's Sheep deal but look at how those two went down. One kept his job the other did not and had another minister sent in to fix the problem.

      And that is why it (MFAT) is a backwater for a minister, it runs just fine (as most govt depts do) without the boss in the office but unlike those more relevant ones they way it is set up, the way is dispersed makes the need for a minister to front foot issues or deal with them a lot lot less.

      But you might argue the CHCH rebuild is an important area so why place a bumbler like Brownlee there if he is a bumbler?

      And thats a good question, and in the first few years the issues were such that any criticism could also be measured against the scale of the task and as such Gerry was spared from harsh words but as the years went on and the issues mounted (including the current CERA Corruption probe but also the previous issues of corruption/nepotism and all the many many others).

      So now with an election looming and no real clear reason to remove him now Gerry is being packed off to somewhere safe because for CHCH the quake issues will be an election issue and its with no hyperbole when I say that Gerry is the most hated man in the city for what he has (and has not) done in his role as Recovery Minister.

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    6. "I would probably start by listing the parts of government and ministers that I consider to be areas where a minister is a lot more relevant (because such sections are a lot more important to the national interest) to the work or needed"

      So again, just to be clear, you're saying that foreign affairs is not important to the national interest?

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    7. Nope, thats trying to twist my words, what I am saying is the sections of govt I listed are a lot more important to the national interest than MFAT.

      Wait, you dont work for MFAT do you?

      The key point is that Brownlee has been kicked upstairs as a means to keep him out of sight in the run up to the election and MFAT is a place where a bumbler like him can be put without doing too much damage to NZ.

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    8. No I don't work for MFAT. I'd appreciate leaving my personal life out of this discussion if you don't mind.

      So OK, not unimportant, but still, relatively unimportant?

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    9. Hi Anon.

      Sorry please forgive my poor attempts at humor. I'm not really prying into your personal life just making note on the point that you focused intently on my comment about MFAT but ignored my making the similar comment about defense.

      But yes, relatively unimportant, as seen by the recent situation with the Ozzies dumping on us and Gerry not being able to change anything with his visit (and that's not knocking Gerry).

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    10. Surely the major consequences of the Australian bad deal shows that Foreign Affairs is important.

      Government failures do not make a policy area unimportant. In fact often failure highlights the importance of a policy area.

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    11. You have a point there and I would agree but while govt failures do not make a policy area unimportant and they do highlight things that need work, that in itself does not explain why our current relationship with Australia keeps on getting worse (deportations, visa issues and now this etc).

      I think the fact that our ability to do (or not) anything about it (especially in relation to Oz) is an issue as if there is one area in foreign affairs where we probably should be really working on the relationship it would be with our largest neighbor.

      But it is either a case of we didn't before and now we have this situation or we were but the Ozzies were not listening. neither are nice outcomes.

      And this is why I have the view I do of MFAT, as if we cant have (or maintain) a working relationship with such a vital nation to NZ interests we either have an issue or we dont have the means/influence and I would tend to believe the latter more than the former hence my view on the matter.

      But you are right that NZ and OZ relations are important and by golly we should be trying to build/fix them but at the same time if Oz treats us like that and we allow it then I think there is a fundamental disconnect.

      I dont see NZ/Oz relations getting better in relation to how Oz treats kiwis over there.

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    12. "while govt failures do not make a policy area unimportant and they do highlight things that need work, that in itself does not explain why our current relationship with Australia keeps on getting worse"

      Are you changing the subject? I thought you were trying to demonstrate why foreign affairs is a relatively unimportant policy area. If anything, you seem to be demonstrating the opposite.

      If I show that the standard of healthcare is declining, and highlight the costs to citizens of this failure, it's hardly an argument for health being unimportant. Your example is analogous.

      Is there a reason you're having trouble following the argument I'm making and responding to it? Or are you just uninterested in defending your assertion?

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    13. Hi Anon:

      My following of your argument started with your position that I was mistaken in considering MFAT to be a backwater post for a minister and its flowed on from there.

      And I am interested in continuing the discussion but due to work and life I am pressed for time so I will get back to you on the weekend.

      Sorry for the delay.

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  3. Paul: I live n CHCH, I drive round all the time and see what Jerry has wrought, but thanks for the offer.

    But like any responsible blog, I am not condoning the shooting of anyone, for anything. Run Jerry out of his seat, expose him for the damage he has done and the corruption he has allowed to happen but I draw the line at shooting him, or anyone else.

    But as I live in CHCH I understand the frustration as I have herd such sentiments utter many times.

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  4. No E in Clark and no J in Gerry, ahha unless you mean jackboot.

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  5. Egads your right, its the mandala effect. The Clark thing was just my illiteracy but i have always been of the mind that it was a J. Zounds! Thanks for pointing it out.

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    1. Do you mean the Mandela effect?

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    2. I would blame the auto correct but I think we have another example, spooky.

      Either that or its my illiteracy again.

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