Collective responsibility

February 25th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

Education Minister Hekia Parata recommended that Wanganui Collegiate should not be integrated into the state system, but she was rolled by her Cabinet colleagues.

If integration had not gone ahead, the private school would have closed last year, documents obtained under the Official Information Act show.

Instead, it will now receive $3.1 million a year from the taxpayer, despite an oversupply of 1400 places in the state school system in the region.

The documents show that, on October 29 last year, Ms Parata recommended to the Cabinet that ministers reject the integration move and take no further action.

However, a second paper two days later shows her recommendation was overruled.

“Following discussion on your proposal, and having taken account of all the information before it, Cabinet subsequently noted the following decision: ‘That the Minister of Education intends to agree to the integration of Wanganui Collegiate School into the state network of schools at an estimated cost of $3.1 million per annum . . .”

This is not entirely uncommon, and is sometimes the life of being a Minister. You’ll recommend one thing to Cabinet, they’ll vote for something else, and as Minister you have to go up and front a decision that you disagree with.

Personally I have no problem with the decision as if Collegiate had closed, then the taxpayer would be having to fund their current pupils in state schools, so saying no would not have saved taxpayers money. That means that if the issue is no longer fiscal, then it should be about quality of education.

Calls to sack Peters grow

April 10th, 2008 at 6:37 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that calls for Peters to be sacked as Foreign Minister (he could be moved to another portfolio) are growing. Business representatives who are still in China are said to be furious and Phil Goff has been trying to calm them down, agreeing it was a “bullshit” situation. Those effectively calling for him to go include:

  • Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson
  • Bob Fenwick, a past president of the NZ Export Institute
  • Revenue Minister Peter Dunne

The fact Peters is not just quietly voting against (or abstaining) but has launched a high profile campaign  in NZ against it with newspaper ads is what has them fuming, plus his insistence he will state his views against it when overseas as Foreign Minister.

Martin Kay in the Dom Post covers in more detail the Revenue Minister’s views on Peters:

Mr Dunne, UnitedFuture’s leader and revenue minister, said Mr Peters would fly in the face of “all conventions about good government” if he spoke out against the FTA as a minister. “I can’t see how you stay on that basis.”

… Mr Dunne told Newstalk ZB the FTA was central to the Government’s foreign policy and Mr Peters had to represent that.

Kay also covers the issue of Labour’s about-face on this:

Dr Cullen’s insistence that it is all right for Mr Peters to speak against the deal contradicts comments he made soon after Mr Peters was appointed, when he said the FTA was one of the “highest foreign policy goals”.

His insistence that Mr Peters is free to criticise the deal overseas also appears at odds with a Cabinet circular that says he must speak for the Government “on all issues” when out of the country.

Colin Espiner in The Press also quotes Dr Cullen yesterday:

“I think that people understand very clearly that the confidence and supply agreement provides that Mr Peters is bound on matters purely of foreign policy …”

Now recall that in 2005, Dr Cullen stated in Parliament that the China FTA was one of the Government’s “highest foreign policy goals”.

What I wish National had said

April 9th, 2008 at 7:01 pm by David Farrar

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?