Grant Robertson blogs:
I am very annoyed at Kennedy Graham’s misleading blog about Labour’s non-attendance at Rio+20. It is pure politics and just plain wrong. I presume I am the person he is referring to when he says he spoke to a ’senior Labour person’ about this last week. It is simply not true to say as Ken does that the reason I was not in Rio was because “I could not get away”. What I actually said was that I could not afford the cost of going. There is a big difference between the two. (In fairness to Kennedy he has now apologised for any personal offence, though the blog remains unchanged)
I would love to be there. I was at Rio+10 in Johannesburg as a member of the New Zealand delegation. I had spent the previous two and half years at the UN working on the preparations for the event. It was a big deal to me. On that delegation Nick Smith was there as the opposition representative. Just as ten years before at the original Rio Summit there had been an opposition representative on the delegation. This year the government decided not to issue such an invitation. I did raise with Amy Adams the funding for other MPs going to Rio and she said it was not happening citing “budgetary constraints”.
Grant is correct to point out he said that the reason he couldn’t attend was financial, rather than not being a priority to take the time to attend.
However it is worth pointing out that just because the Ministry for the Environment won’t pay for him to attend, doesn’t mean he could not have still chosen to attend. Labour’s parliamentary budget is a total of $5.1 million. Labour could well have decided to fund Grant or another MP to travel to Rio out of that budget. However they obviously decided that was not a priority for them. So it was still a matter of priorities for Labour in deciding not to attend.
Personally I think it was the right decision. If I was an MP, I’d rather spend my parliamentary funding on some good policy research, rather than flying the Deputy Leader to Rio. But it was a decision open to Labour.