Flights to Vanuatu

May 4th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

blogs on the McCully air force plane to Vanuatu:

I thought I was defi­nately onto a bash­ing of immense pro­por­tions here. But as I learned from a cou­ple of screw up over the past few years, fact check­ing is paramount.

I checked inter­na­tional flights into and out of Van­u­atu. This is where the story started to come un-raveled. The tim­ing of the meet­ing meant that inter­na­tional flights didn’t pro­vide use­ful con­nec­tions. I think from mem­ory that if they had used com­mer­cial flights then all the Pacific diplo­mats in atten­dence would ahve had to have stayed over 3 more days before the next com­mer­cial flight out from Vanuatu.

Although the RNZAF Boe­ing may have gone over next to empty and con­fig­ured for VIP travel at short notice, how­ever it returned with a greater num­ber of pax on the return leg to New Zealand (I didn’t receive any pas­sen­ger details, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find out who has used the ser­vice after the fact if one was that inquis­i­tive), one can only spec­u­late at to who they may be, but as even politi­cians don’t repli­cate that fast it seems log­i­cal that for­eign dig­ni­taries were using the ser­vice and New Zealand as a trans­port hub, which is hardly unheard of, and hardly the travel rort which the first leg made it appear.

Whale has shown no hestitation putting the boot into National MPs over perks, when he thinks it is justified. In fact i doubt any blogger has been as consistent as he has, in attacking MP spending. So when he says this is no big issue, I tend to believe him.

I had a similiar issue to McCully when I was in Noumea. The lack of commercial flights meant I had to stay for six days, for a two day conference. I’m pretty sure Murray would have been happy to holiday in Vanuatu for a few days, but instead he did some diplomacy by transoporting a few of his pacific peers back with him.

I recall Helen Clark got an air force flight back from Australia when there was a problem with Ansett, so this faux outrage at use of air force is fairly tiresome.

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33 Responses to “Flights to Vanuatu”

  1. KH (695 comments) says:

    What I heard on the radio was a justification that it was worth it because they were able to offer rides to a number of other people. However as with most media the story finished there, without exploring that a little more.
    The question is – if the extra people carried made it worth it, then perhaps their governments paid. Or maybe they didn’t. Factual background needed. (a) How many carried ? (b) Who ? and (c) Who paid ?

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  2. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    The excuse about the lack of flights between Auckland and Port Vila is bullshit. Sure, there are only two direct commercial return flights a week. But there is a daily return Qantas service between Sydney and/or Brisbane and Port Vila. So they could have done it flying commercial services out one day and back the next via Sydney or Brisbane.

    And looking at the current fares, they probably could have done it via Sydney or Brisbane on commercial services for less than a quarter of the $75K the RNZAF flights are reported to have cost.

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  3. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    whats a trip to the USA to sell the last of your principles go for Toad? or should we ask Russell directly?

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  4. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    Poor old Phil. You hardly make yourself look like a leader in waiting when all you can have a go about is using a NZ plane, an unwise purchase made by Labour in the first place, to get our Minister and some local bigwigs to and fro. What kind of tinpot country are we if we can’t put on a plane for our VIPs?
    I can’t bear this sort of small-minded nit-picking. There almost seems to be a suggestion that it’s fun going to these tedious meetings in an uncomfortable plane in not very attractive places- for all you see of them anyway. I am sure McCully would have preferred a nice business class seat.
    So put your silly calculators and flight schedules away and try to focus on something important.

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  5. YesWeDid (1,048 comments) says:

    @Grendel – I’m sure it was a hell of a lot less than $75K and I’m guessing Russell didn’t take his partner along and slip in a family wedding well he was away.

    Toad is right about the Qantas flights, don’t Whale Oil or DPF check anything?

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  6. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @Grendel 2:53 pm

    FFS, why are we going over this again. Russel Norman blogged about his US trip extensively at the time, including the fact that it had been paid for by the US. No-one kicked up a fuss then. And which principles is he supposed to have sold out by taking the trip, given that half the commenters here still label the Greens as “anti-American” every opportunity they get?

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  7. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    Was that the occassion when the Ansett plane Clark was due to fly on was blockaded by Ansett Baggage handling staff, I think in response to Airnz / Ansett deal debacle

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  8. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    I wish that our PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs flew more on air force aircraft. It’s embarrassing the way we expect them to take public transport… including the idea that they should take a long indirect route via Sydney as Toad suggests. These people represent us to the international community and we should attempt to deal with this community on the basis of being modern prosperous equals. You can’t do that if you arrive on a Qantas flight after a lay over in Brisbane. It’s the equivalent of turning up for a job interview in running shoes and t-shirt… you lose credibility because your image is a joke. CEOs, musicians, Formula 1 drivers, and US government agency chiefs have their own jets but we expect the PM to travel on the aeronautical equivalent of a bus.

    Having said that, a 757 is far too big for most trips and an Orion is an anti-submarine warfare aircraft, for goodness sake. Why not lease a couple of bizjets for Key and McCully?

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  9. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    voice of reason>Was that the occassion when the Ansett plane Clark was due to fly on was blockaded by Ansett Baggage handling staff, I think in response to Airnz / Ansett deal debacle

    That was it. Clark essentially crossed a picket line. She was only a friend of the workers as long as it didn’t inconvenience her.

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  10. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    given that half the commenters here still label the Greens as “anti-American” every opportunity they get?

    I thought it was the Greens bashing the US every chance they get. Silly me.

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  11. thedavincimode (6,759 comments) says:

    davidp

    Exactly – or get one that’s pooled in a leasing arrangement. McCully also made the point that the 757 purchase was a major fuckup by Klerk and was the wrong plane – far too big – and is hardly used. But the airforce has now spent so much money on the bloody thing that they (supposedly) can’t (ie don’t want to) get rid of it. No doubt the odd jaunt keeps the useless things airworthy and helps the pilots maintain their hours.

    But then maybe he should have taken a Skyhawk? Could have seen off a couple of boatloads of illegal immigrants on the way. Oops, but then of cause, all the Skyhawk pilots left to join overseas airforces after we trained them …

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  12. KH (695 comments) says:

    Re. DavidP @ 3.15 You think it embarrassing that people turn up on commercial flights.
    Well that’s your view.
    My view is that somebody who would be embarrassed by that is somebody who I don’t vote for.
    Who wants to be represented by somebody so insecure.
    In commercial life nobody is much fooled by those who have the flashest car, and who lease because they can’t afford to buy it. Quite sad individuals and often commercial hazards to deal with.
    There is the old quip. “All Brylcream and no trousers”

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  13. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Toad>Russel Norman blogged about his US trip extensively at the time, including the fact that it had been paid for by the US.

    Has Kennedy Graham blogged about how he provided information about Green Party internal politics and evaluations of his Green Party colleagues to the US government?

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  14. m@tt (629 comments) says:

    ‘There is the old quip. “All Brylcream and no trousers”’ What’s Peter Dunne got to do with it. Ha.

    The way the apologists can go from ‘It’s all OK nothing to see here’ to ‘Well Helen did it to!’ is priceless.
    It’s either wrong on both counts or right on both counts. you can’t have it both ways.
    For my money it was wrong on both.

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  15. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    thedavincimode>McCully also made the point that the 757 purchase was a major fuckup by Klerk and was the wrong plane – far too big – and is hardly used.

    An aircraft of that size should be used by the air force to move troops long distances. If you wanted to deploy a company to Afghanistan you don’t want to subject them to the misery of a couple of days or longer in the back of a Hercules. The US would have a fleet of aircraft making those sorts of movements pretty much all the time. But it isn’t often that NZ needs to move that number of people. So you end up with a single aircraft doing a mix of jobs, and also with reliability problems because they’re not being operated often enough.

    KH>My view is that somebody who would be embarrassed by that is somebody who I don’t vote for.

    Errr… You don’t get to vote for them because they are foreign leaders and officials. We need to interact with them as equals and part of this involves presenting the right image. If our PM flies commercial via some circuitous route and their leader has their own jet then we’re essentially telling them that our PM’s time isn’t worth much and that we’re a cheap country. “NZ – The Warehouse Ltd of Countries” isn’t a great image if you’re trying to put together a trade initiative, promote tourism or investment, or solve some tricky multilateral issue.

    Professional people who have to drive to deal with customers are often required to have a clean modern car. In the past when I’ve had a company car I’ve had an option to take a cash equivalent and operate my own vehicle, but it had to be under a certain age, in good condition, and couldn’t be anything odd like a jeep or a van. Sure, we could have saved money by driving an old banger, but people assume that pre-sales people who drive old bangers are cheap and dodgy in other areas as well. It’s the same with world leaders.

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  16. thedavincimode (6,759 comments) says:

    “people assume that pre-sales people who drive old bangers are cheap and dodgy in other areas as well. It’s the same with world leaders.”

    I understand that there are reports of at least one rather lesser political figure who lives with an old banger and who is potentially a bit dodgy as well.

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  17. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    thedavincimode>I understand that there are reports of at least one rather lesser political figure who lives with an old banger and who is potentially a bit dodgy as well.

    Really? I would have assumed that Hughes would have moved out of King’s place by now.

    How’s the police investigation coming along, by the way?

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  18. trout (939 comments) says:

    Perhaps we should abandon the ownership of VIP planes and have pollies do what Mugabe does; commandeer a commercial aircraft for himself and his entourage and leave tourists stranded on the tarmac. Happened twice while I was in Zimbabwe.

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  19. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Interesting how much interference is being run here to try to divert the thread onto extraneous issues to McCully’s sense of entitlement.

    It appears its other excuse is that he wanted to pick up the Samoan delegation on the way. While that is a nice gesture of support for one of our poorer Pacific neighbours, that doesn’t cut the mustard either. Assuming the Samoan delegation was the same size as New Zealand’s (8), McCully could have flown them on commercial services Apia-Brisbane-Port Vila return for about $3K per delegate, even if the bookings were made last minute and therefore at the highest fares.

    So, even taking a freebee to the Samoan contingent into account, we’re still looking at around $40K max – well short of the $75K the RNZAF flights are reported to have cost.

    @davidp 3:15 pm

    Guess that is a clash of values, davidp. From where I’m sitting, if our Cabinet Ministers are preaching (and imposing) austerity in a time of financial difficulty, shouldn’t they show a bit of restraint themselves? It’s called setting an example. Next time I see a blog post denigrating a union demand for higher wages, I’ll be in there pronto with a comment highlighting McCully’s $75K flight to Vanuatu.

    If it’s good for the goose…

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  20. thedavincimode (6,759 comments) says:

    “How’s the police investigation coming along, by the way?”

    What??? You think I’m a suspect???!!!

    toad

    Turn it up. You’re like a broken record. Have you now got access to McCully’s diary?

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  21. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @trout 5:05 pm

    Yep, my experience of Zimbabwe is not much better, although I was only a visitor. Old dunger of a plane broke down, Mugabe had commandeered the other one (appears there wasn’t a third available) and I ended up in a crap hotel that had no running water for 24 hours until I could get the next flight out. First and last time I went there.

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  22. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Toad>It’s called setting an example. Next time I see a blog post denigrating a union demand for higher wages, I’ll be in there pronto with a comment highlighting McCully’s $75K flight to Vanuatu.

    That’ll be a race to the bottom then. Green MPs should be setting an example as well, since it’d be pretty mean for them to live it up while decrying ministerial spending. So their own travel will include taking the bus, staying in youth hostels, and entertaining international colleagues at Maccas. Assuming Maccas does an organic vege burger, of course.

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  23. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @davidp 5:24 pm

    A couple of months ago I got on a train in Auckland and Green MP Catherine Delahunty was on it, going to a meeting in West Auckland.

    Had a good chat with her and from what I gathered Green MPs do use public transport where at all practicable. I also recall being a delegate at a Green Conference in Masterton a few years back – and being on a train to get there from Wellington with 5 or 6 Green MPs who had chosen to use public transport rather than the faster, but more expensive, options of taxi or rental car.

    Sure, the job of an MP requires extensive travel, and sometimes expensive travel. But I think the McCully RNZAF option was over the top, given that there were commercial services that could have done it far cheaper. And also note that is an option available only to Ministers – not to other MPs.

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  24. big bruv (13,904 comments) says:

    Toad

    Where is your sense of outrage when the Greens are caught red handed?

    Or do the rules not apply to your team?

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  25. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @ thedavincimode 5:15 pm

    toad Turn it up. You’re like a broken record. Have you now got access to McCully’s diary?

    Now, that would be interesting:

    12.30pm – Lunch and drinks with *****

    6.00pm – Dinner and drinks with *****

    7.30pm – Drinks with *****

    8.00pm – Drinks with *****

    10.00pm – Drinks with *****

    At least it is better than in Muldoon’s day, when it was Pissed by Lunchtime.

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  26. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @big bruv 5:48 pm

    Sorry bruv, not sure what you are on about. If it is Russel’s US funded tour, what’s the issue? If I got offered a freebee courtesy of a foreign government I would take it too. But like Russel was, I would be public about it from the start to dispel allegations of undue influence.

    This is just so old news, Russel transparently blogged about it at the time, and I can’t figure out why you guys on the right are trying to beat it up now.

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  27. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Toad>I also recall being a delegate at a Green Conference in Masterton a few years back – and being on a train to get there from Wellington with 5 or 6 Green MPs who had chosen to use public transport rather than the faster, but more expensive, options of taxi or rental car.

    A fare from Wellington to Masterton is $17 each way. That is $102 for six MPs. Or $204 return. I think you could get a rental car for that. The subsidies on rail that meant the total cost to the taxpayer of the rail use might have been as high as $400 assuming 50% subsidy. There are cheaper options available such as hitch hiking that would avoid the Green MPs looking so wasteful and extravagant.

    I’m not advocating that every MP fly around the world in a business jet. But the Minister of FA and the PM represent our country internationally and I don’t think we benefit from marketing ourselves with a mean and cheap image. We should project an image of quality.

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  28. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    Toad>I can’t figure out why you guys on the right are trying to beat it up now

    My issue is with Graham. He told the US embassy that “he does not always subscribe to the majority view of his party’s caucus”. As far as I know, he hasn’t shared this information with the NZ public. Why does the US government get to find out things that are kept secret from the rest of us?

    Of course I’d be happy to hear that Graham has been frank with the public, say by blogging about his disagreements with his colleagues.

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  29. nasska (11,525 comments) says:

    Toad

    It’s not only the trip to the USA. It’s the hypocrisy behind undertaking a long haul jet flight since the trip was unnecessary & the kindest description of it would be that of a perk. A quick web search provides a calculator which estimates Dr Norman’s carbon contribution for the return lights Auckland to Washington was 7160lb plus 400lb Auckland/Wellington return. 7560lb = 3436Kg.

    Since I don’t believe in AGW I care not if Dr Norman takes twenty round the world flight a year so long as I’m not asked to pay for it as a taxpayer. I do think it is newsworthy since the travel was undertaken by the co leader of a party which bangs on ceaselessly about conserving fossil fuels & restricting CO2 emissions.

    Three & a half tons of dreaded carbon released for a joyride….to suggest that Dr Norman indulges in double standards is being too lenient.

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  30. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    nasska>Three & a half tons of dreaded carbon released for a joyride….to suggest that Dr Norman indulges in double standards is being too lenient.

    I don’t follow FrogBlog, but Toad assures us that Norman blogged all about his trip. I’m sure that if you read the blog entries you’ll find a mention of Norman planting new trees to soak up all that CO2. Maybe your calculator can tell us the number of trees required so that we can ensure that he planted enough?

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  31. louie (96 comments) says:

    I see (on tonight’s news) TV3’s John Key “hit squad” are at it trying to beat up a two year old story about a helicopter ride. The horror!

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  32. nasska (11,525 comments) says:

    davidp @ 7.00pm

    Three & a half pinus radiata grown to maturity would cover Dr Norman’s travels on that occasion. The real problem is that the figure presumes that the tree is grown to maturity, harvested then replaced in perpetuity. Each tree needs on average a growing space of 25sq/m. So there is an area of the planet, about the size of a small house which can never be used for anything other than forestry.

    If Dr Norman & his ilk keep emitting carbon in this rash & selfish way, sooner or later, we’ll run out of room to grow food.

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  33. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    @nasska 6:32 pm

    I understand the Green MPs pay (personally, not from a Parliamentary fund) to offset their carbon emissions from air travel.

    Not sure of the detail, but I think the funds mainly go towards reafforestation to provide a carbon sink.

    Anyway, that is another distraction. The real issue here is McCully’s abuse of an entitlement Ministers are provided by the RNZAF, when it was totally practicable to have made the trip much cheaper.

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