Unlike its management of some ongoing and by comparison trivial matters of state – such as the accessing of Peter Dunne’s emails – the Government’s handling of the Fonterra infant formula contamination scare is difficult to fault … so far.
That assessment may yet change when the various official inquiries start examining the regulatory role of the Ministry of Primary Industries in the dairy industry.
For now, however, John Key, Tim Groser, Steven Joyce and other Cabinet ministers have provided a textbook example of how to handle a crisis. Their competence has been further highlighted by Fonterra’s gaffes and atrocious public relations.
The Government immediately realised the gravity of the situation, identifying the priorities for action and showing no compunction about exercising what in other circumstances might be deemed heavy-handed intervention.
When even Labour is saying they have no criticism of the Government’s actions to date, you know they have handled it pretty well. Considering how many portfolios and Ministers are involved – food safety, primary industries, health, trade etc, that is no mean feat. The biggest challenge is often just making sure it is clear who is in charge, what needs to be done, who is doing it, and everyone speaks consistently.
When election day rolls around in November next year, National’s ability to win enough seats to stay in power will hinge on voters’ impressions of how it has handled the things that matter to the average punter – things like preserving our dairy export markets. Not Dunne’s emails.
I don’t think one wants to politicise things at this stage, but it is a fair point that (in my opinion) on the really big stuff like responding to the Global Financial Crisis, the Pike River tragedy, the Christchurch earthquakes and now this – the Government performs as the public expect and want them to – one reasons why almost five years on, National still polls just below 50%.