I was also on ZB today, and was asked about National’s position on Winston as Foreign Minister. I said that I was disappointed in the response in that it missed an opportunity to differentiate National from Labour in terms of how far one would compromise good Government just to keep the numbers together.
What I would have liked John Key to say in response to the question of whether one could have Peters as a future Foreign Minister is:
“Look no one is ruled in or out of a portfolio in advance, but what I will say is that in a Government I lead, you will not be able to be Minister of Foreign Affairs unless you support the Government’s foreign policy, which obviously includes trade agreements”
Key was not wrong to not rule Peters out. The sad reality of MMP is you can’t rule most things in or out until you have the elction results. But I do think he missed a real opportunity to make it clear that while he could not rule a person (Peters) out, he could rule out unacceptable behaviour (the Foreign Minister saying he will criticise a trade agreement while overseas, and campaigning against it in NZ before the ink is even dry).
This whole episode shows us the problem with the ever increasing removal of collective responsibility. It has gone too far. I am not saying it needs to go back to the days of every member of the Executive having to support the Government on every issue. But when you are having a debate about whether or not it is okay for the Foreign Affairs Minister to be personally heading up a newspaper campaign against a major foreign policy achievement with China, then things have gone too far. There shouldn’t even be a debate.
I mean we have the Foreign Affairs Minister campaigning on his opposition to trade with foreigners, his opposition to Asian foreigners being able to live here, and his opposition to people being able to sell property or shares to foreigners. Does Helen not think this might slightly undermine his ability to be an effective and respected Foreign Minister?