Jevan Goulter vs Labour

April 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has blogged a summary of a 24 page story in Investigate, with a large number of allegations by a Jevan Goulter against various Labour MPs and others.

These are not anonymous allegations – Goulter is making them himself under his name. However that does not mean they are overly reliable, and are the gospel. In fact Ian Wishart himself concludes the article by saying:

As for the abuse of trust, did Labour abuse its trust in looking after a troubled 14 year old badly, or did Jevan Goulter abuse the trust of a political party who’d taken him under their wing?

At several points through the article, Wishart reveals that Goulter’s story is incorrect or exaggerated, and my personal take is that there is a lot of bragging there. It does not mean everything he has said is false, but I would caution people not to assume everything he has said is true.

Also in one section he says:

As for Phil Goff I probably had more to do with his daughter, who worked for a Government agency when Labour was in. Her name is Samantha. She was just stunning, she was beautiful when I met her, she was really hot. And I was like, ‘Piss off, you’re not his daughter?’ And she was, so we used to go out and have dinner and lunch quite a bit. Phil was a, I think he was a bit of a nobody then.

Now Phil Goff does have a daughter whom, umm could be seen to fit that description. However her name is not Samantha. If Jevan really was going out for meals with someone “quite a bit”, you think he would correctly remember their name. So again, does not help the credibility.

He makes allegations of sexual harassment against Tim Barnett. And some time later his partner (Mika) asked Barnett to pay $25,000 as compensation for Javen’s mental health. To my mind that is close to blackmail

Barnett makes the reasonable point that as a prominent gay MP pushing the boundaries of social legislation he was careful, like Caesar’s wife, to be above reproach, and not to be alone with people in situations that could be misconstrued.

There are no witnesses to the allegations so it is a case of he said vs she said. As someone who worked in Parliament for eight years, I got to hear a lot of gossip about a lot of MPs. You get to know which ones screw around and are sleazy. I don’t recall at the time any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour from Tim Barnett, and to the contrary he seemed very committed to his partner, Ramon. Without witnesses, I do not regard the allegations as credible. There are other MPs I would be more sceptical of.

Another allegation I find lacking in credibility is this:

INVESTIGATE: Michael Cullen?

JEVAN: I know he smoked it at the annual – I think it was the Christchurch Labour conference with Annette, but I don’t think Annette had it. I couldn’t be honest and say I saw her smoke it.

INVESTIGATE: But you did see him?

JEVAN: He had it in his hand, yes. I just remember him having it, it was passed to him by one of the young Labours.

This is in reference to cannabis use. It is quite possible Dr Cullen, like many NZers, has used cannabis at some stage. However to think the Deputy Prime Minister would openly smoke cannabis at a labour party conference – and in front of dozens of Young Labour activists is frankly incredible. I just don’t think it happened, and if that did not happen, I doubt some of the other allegations about cannabis use.

Not everything can be dismissed though. It seems very clear that some Labour Party MPs did lie about whether or not they knew Javen. The most blatant fib came from Lianne Dalziel, who confessed it online:

And yet…within five minutes of making the call to Dalziel’s office, Investigate received a phone call from Jevan, “You’ve just rung Lianne? She’s just sending me a Facebook chat apologising for denying that she knew me”.

This is what Dalziel said to Goulter:
“I owe you an apology. Ian Wishart has just contacted me and I’m afraid I said I didn’t remember you. I feel so guilty. All I’ve said, I told him you were a Facebook friend, so I knew ‘about’ you.

I hope this doesn’t affect what he is writing about you.”

Considering Lianne lost her ministerial job for not telling the truth, this doesn’t help her credibility.

The person who comes out of this looking very wise and sensible is Jacinda Ardern:

Young Labour were always very angry towards me, they didn’t like how I got to do what I wanted. Jacinda Ardern, who’s now an MP, she was my biggest hater….

But then I’m getting drunk and Jacinda comes over and rips the glass of wine out of my hand, ‘You can’t drink in here, you’re only 15!’

‘Yeah I can drink in here, it’s a private function, you’re not my mum, piss off’, and I got really verbal with her, I really didn’t like her.

So I walked over to Helen and I said,‘Jacinda’s just said I’m not allowed to drink. Am I allowed to drink or not?’ And Helen’s exact words were, ‘Of course you are, this is my house.’ I said, ‘I’m only 15’. And she said, ‘It’s my house’.

So I got my glass of wine and I started boozing up again. Jacinda just went off her nut. Now, Helen was drunk that night, in my view. Helen was drunk and she gets to the point when she’s drunk where people just take her away.

I think a number of Jacinda’s colleagues may rue that they were not as cautious around Jevan as she was. Jacinda’s actions look very prudent to me.

Incidentally I am also unconvinced of Helen Clark being drunk, and having to have people take her away. It’s not exactly an image that fits the former Prime Minister.

So overall I find the allegations lacking in credibility in significant areas. Having said that though, I think there are some lessons for Labour in the perils of letting a 14 year old run riot through Parliament and the party. He should have been in school in Christchurch.

As I have said before, I am a big fan of encouraging young people to get involved in politics. But I never encourage school age people to get significantly involved. Your school years should be a time of fun and learning, plus one often lacks the maturity to cope with “adult politics”.

That is not a universal rule. One friend of mine got involved at age 15 or 16 and went on to become a highly valued parliamentary and ministerial staffer. [UPDATE: Said staffer has e-mailed to say they are not highly valued but in fact under paid and over worked :-)]

But I also recall the 1993 election night when I allowed a 14 year old Young National to attend the election night HQ function, as a “results chalkie”. There was of course an open and free bar and I failed to supervise properly with the end result being the poor girl vomiting up in the boardroom, and then collapsing unconscious on the floor as she had never drunk alcohol before. I had to decide whether or not to take her to A&E or home, and had to deliver her still unconscious to her parents, who quite rightly were less than impressed. I visited the next day to check she was fine, and the parents were blaming her more than they were holding me responsible, but in the end I was the one responsible as the adult and still feel some remorse about it to this day.  Similarly, I suspect some Labour MPs are regretting allowing Jevan to spend so much time at Parliament, at functions at Premier House and the like.

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Superb Cartoon

January 2nd, 2010 at 4:15 pm by David Farrar

Spot on cartoon by Guy Body in the Herald.

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And the honours are …

December 31st, 2009 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

The full honours list is here.

The top honour of membership of the Order of New Zealand goes to Helen Clark. In some ways, it is no surprise, as former PMs David Lange, Mike Moore and Jim Bolger were also made ONZ, and Don McKinnon also is a member for holding high international office.

So it was inevitable Clark would be made a member, but so soon after she left office will leave a sour taste for many. One right wing friend commented:

What the fuck Farrar?  First a UN appointment now this!!!

Next Key will name a star in her fucking honour and have her face on the new flag.

Personally I’m still more upset by Cullen being appointed to an SOE Board while an MP.

We have one new Dame, and five Knights.

Aucklanders will know Dame Lesley Max well.

Professor Sir Mason Durie is one of the most prominent Maori health professionals.

Sir Peter Jackson may not have got the tax breaks he wants for the film industry, but he is now KNZM. He has said this award surpassed winning the Oscars. I suspect he would not have said this, had titles for the top honours not been restored. I am so pleased the Government did restore titles.

Sir Douglas Myers recognition is long overdue.

Justice Sir Bruce Robertson is a former President of the Law Commission and current Court of Appeal judge.

Finally it is honorary but nice to see recognition of the amazingly generous philanthropy of Sir Julian Robertson. Robertson first visited New Zealand in the 1950s to spend a year here writing a novel. He obviously fell in love with it. In May 2009 he announced the donation of $115 million of art to the Auckland Art Gallery – the single largest gift ever in Australasia.

Won’t comment on the entire list, but also worth mentioning former Auditor-General Kevin Brady who is made a CNZM. He was the public service at its finest as he stood up to Parliament and insisted that their funding of various pledge cards and the like was illegal.

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Media criticises Clark for lack of openess

October 20th, 2009 at 4:35 pm by David Farrar

There was a fascinating radio interview at 7.40 am on National Radio today. It was from a specialist newspaper that reports on the UN, and complaining about the refusal of Helen Clark to do press conferences, how Clark and Heather Simpson try to handpick journalists for interviews and a general lack of accountability.

You can listen to the interview here.

It sounds like the UN media is less compliant than some of the NZ media has been. Some extracts from the interview with Matthew Lee the founder and editor of the Inner City Press that focuses on the UN:

In the six months she has been in office there have been a number of UNDP issues that have arisen and repeatedly, I would say half a dozen times, myself and other journalist have asked that she comes and do a press conference, an actual Q&A and take questions and it is yet to happen.

He points out she is the third most senior official at the UN, and not a single press conference in six months.

It has become somewhat striking, a total failure to answer questions about the agency as they arise. … Once requests were made for Helen Clark to do a press conference there were a flurry of calls from her two spokespeople at the UNDP to specific media outlets saying do you want a one on one. One of them responded and said Okay here’s the journalist who will do it. But UNDP responded No No we prefer this other journalist who works for you. That’s a degree of micro-management of press coverage that is almost unheard of in the UN.

But very familiar to people back in New Zealand. And many in the media went along with it, or they risked losing access.

If she is the third highest official in the UN, she needs to come and take questions because everyone else does. The Secretary-General does it on a monthly basis, the head of peacekeeping every two weeks.

Almost funny that Helen’s managed to actually lower the standards at the UN!

He also goes on to say how the only briefing anyone in the UNDP has given for some months has been about relief efforts in Samoa and Tonga.

Geoff Robinson: Are you the only journalist, is yours the only organisation raising this as an issue?

Lee: No, No … In July an issue arose about a hiring, a kind of nepotism hiring took place in UNDP. Inner City Press had the exclusive but after that it was covered by the Times of London, Reuters and even newspapers in Italy. All four of these publications wanted answers from UNDP and none of them got them. I sent e-mails to her long time staffer, Heather Simpson, to make sure we got her answer as to why this nepotism scandal was not a problem. There was never any response at all.

Heather’s job is to block media, not facilitate them!

But here is what is really interesting. All the media listen to Morning Report. Yet this quite stunning and significant interview has not been reported anywhere else at all!

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Pun of the day

October 19th, 2009 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

In reference to the frequent texts from Helen Clark to her former colleagues, Geoffrey Miller e-mails me the following:

National uses Crosby Textor.

Labour uses Clarky Texter.

Heh, very good.

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A speeding Key

October 5th, 2009 at 5:35 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Prime Minister John Key was driven at more than twice the legal speed limit across battered Samoan roads so he could have a shower before seeing tsunami damage.

Journalists travelling with the speeding motorcade report fearing for their lives as they careered at more than 100kmh to deliver the prime minister from the airport to the high commission.

The legal speed limit is 40kmh.

John Key’s office has said New Zealand police who were part of the motorcade claim the maximum speed it reached was 64kmh during his visit. The motorcade later slowed after Mr Key’s staff expressed concern at the speed.

“Staff were uncomfortable with the speed, which NZ police inform us reached a maximum of no more than 40 miles per hour,” spokesman Kevin Taylor said. “Samoan authorities were notified of the concern at the end of the first movement, and the speed of the motorcade was reduced in subsequent movements.”

But journalists driving with the motorcade agree it reached speeds of more than 100kmh, with one reporting 120kmh – three times the limit.

What got Clark into trouble wasn’t the speeding per se, but her insistence that she had not even noticed they were driving at 170+ km/hr as she was so engrossed talking to Jim Sutton, and then leaving the police officers out to dry.

I’m pleased to see the staff noticed the speed, and asked for it to slow down. That will or should mean that it does not become as big an issue.

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Thought of the Day

September 25th, 2009 at 7:22 am by David Farrar

I might be wrong, but I suspect Helen Clark hated that her first meeting with Barack Obama was having John Key introduce her as his predecessor, after Obama goes out of his way to say hi to Key.

We sometimes forget what a great reputation our country has overseas as a place to live:

Mr Obama had a friend living in New Zealand who had raved about the country praising its golf courses, skiing and lifestyle for families.

If Obama does visit at some stage, he’ll be a lot more popular than he is back home. UMR released a poll yesterday on NZers views of world leaders. The net positive ratings were:

  1. Barack Obama +82% (88% favourable, 6% unfavourable)
  2. Kevin Rudd +45%
  3. Angela Merkel +15%
  4. Nicolas Sarkozy +2%
  5. Gordon Brown -1%
  6. Silvio Berlusconi -16%
  7. Vladimir Putin -19%
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Key’s formula

September 12th, 2009 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

Tracy Watkins writes in the Dom Post:

If they could bottle what John Key’s got and sell it, National would make a killing.

It might be a seemingly innocuous brew of good humour and affability, rather than the traditionally more coveted mix of charisma and skilled oratory, but it clearly works.

I’m going to return back to what Tracy wrote, but want to cut over to another story that I think is a superb example of what Tracy is on about. It is this one about firefighters protesting outside the opening of a new fire station by the Prime Minister, over their pay claim.

Now this is the sort of issue that would normally prompt a discussion in the PMs Office and the PM. You will be worried about the negative message getting in the way of the positive message about funding a new fire station.

Now I can say with some certainty that the way previous National PMs would have handled the situation is to have the Minister of Internal Affairs do a press release and briefing the day before the briefing setting out how the Firefighters Union is misleading over their pay claims, and that with their various allowance they rake in $70,000 and spend so much of their time sleeping on standby, most can easily do a second job, and that their total pay per hour actually spent working is well over $50 an hour. This would then put the pressure on the union and protesters to respond, and take the heat off the PM.

Again with some confidence I can say former Labour PMs would handle it very similarly. The key difference would be that they wouldn’t have the Internal Affairs Minister release the information publicly, as they don’t like to be seen crapping on the unions that fund them. Instead a press secretary would give the relevant information to a journalist, and they would rely on the rest of the media picking up the story.

So what did John Key do:

The firefighters, in their yellow protective clothing, waved placards, chanted and pressed themselves against the station’s glass roller doors as Mr Key spoke.

After the opening, he went outside and addressed them through a megaphone.

He insisted he had not yet received a recommendation on wage rises from the Fire Service.

“All we’re saying to you guys is we’re living in a backdrop where a hell of a lot of people are losing their job, where the Government is running big deficits and where we’ve all got to be reasonable.”

Mr Key said that if insurance levies, which pay the Fire Service’s wages, went up then more pressure would be placed on taxpayers, already struggling with the recession.

“At the end of the day what we’re trying to do is make sure there isn’t huge pressure on a lot of people that are losing their jobs,” he said.

Union spokesman Boyd Raines said Mr Key’s response was “fairly predictable in terms of the Nats’ party line”.

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However, Mr Raines added: “It was good to see that he actually had the balls to come out and actually front up to the crowd.”

And quite a few of the protesters would have said the same thing. Don’t get me wrong – they are not going to suddenly convert to National because of what Key did. But they will say, “Hey at least he did us the decency of listening to us, and talking to us- rather than just attack us”.

And this is what is a strength of Key’s. He comes across as so reasonable. Apart from some of the authors of The Standard (and some of the commenters on this blog!), most people can see that and respond to that. They think he’s a nice talented guy, who tries to reasonably engage with everyone – even those who are there to protest against him.

So back to what Tracy said:

This is what has Labour strategists scratching their heads. As the party heads into its annual conference in Rotorua this weekend, it faces the same dilemma National once faced: when your opponent’s most potent weapon is its leader, is an old-fashioned contest of ideas going to be enough?

Maybe it’s that “what you see is what you get” quality to Mr Key’s leadership that strikes a chord with voters. It is hard to find artifice in a man who makes verbal gaffes, has a nice line in self-deprecating humour, talks about his kids a lot and has never worried too much about looking statesmanlike.

Again, one could imagine it easy to have someone advising the PM that whatever you do don’t pick up a megaphone and talk to the protesters. The arguments would be that it is undignified, it puts you on their level, it might look bad on the news etc etc. But he doesn’t worry about that very much.

Politicians have never underestimated the power of a friendly smile and an open and engaging face. Helen Clark crawled out from under the ignominy of dismal poll ratings as Opposition leader by smiling more and softening her voice under the tutelage of Brian Edwards and Judy Callingham. The remarkable thing is that she even had to be taught; in a more relaxed setting, Miss Clark loves nothing more than a good laugh, and does so boisterously and often. But she almost had to unlearn years of political training to unlock the person within and even then never managed to drop the shield completely.

Of course, spin doctoring can only go so far and, in the wrong hands, a politician’s smile can be an unmitigated disaster. Take British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He cemented his unpopularity only after an attempt to connect with voters by smiling scarily and at random through an infamous YouTube clip.

Simon Hoggart, in The Guardian, likened it to “the smile a 50-year-old man might use on the parents of the 23-year-old woman he is dating, in a doomed attempt to reassure them”. Even Mr Brown’s own colleagues could not hold back from poking fun at him.

Ha that is a great analogy.

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Clark’s foreign interference

August 16th, 2009 at 12:39 pm by David Farrar

Most former leaders are happy to leave their party to their successors. Muldoon was the famous exception to this, and Clark is looking it seems to join her ranks.

We already found out via The Listener that Clark is in regular, almost daily, contact with many MPs. She still has the party administration ferociously loyal to her, and now thanks to the NZ Herald we find out she is operating as a sort of party whip for former MPs:

Former prime minister Helen Clark pressured her former ministerial colleague Margaret Shields not to accept the title “Dame”.

But the former MP for Kapiti did not buckle, and this afternoon she will be invested as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. …

Helen Clark sent Mrs Shields a letter setting out why Labour had abolished the titles and saying she hoped she would not accept one. …

Helen Clark, now Administrator of the United Nations Development Fund, is in New Zealand on holiday but could not be reached for comment.

But she is understood to have been deeply disappointed that Dame Margaret and some others to whom her Government awarded high non-titular honours had accepted titles.

I’m staggered by this. To have the former PM writing letters to previous recipients trying to pressure them into turning down the titles is just so petty. You think she would have better things to do with her time.

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UNDP Watch

August 13th, 2009 at 11:25 am by David Farrar

A few Kiwis will become regular readers of this blog – UNDP Watch.

I only discovered it after it linked to a profile I did of Helen Clark a few months back.

The blog is not run by the vast right wing conspiracy, but by a group of UN staffers who are critical of the UNDP for its lack of transparency.

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Peter Gibbons researches politics on Facebook

August 11th, 2009 at 7:46 am by Peter Gibbons

What if everything you knew about politics came from the internet?  What if people based their vote on which politician was the most popular on Facebook or Bebo?  It’s unlikely and a bit of a nightmare scenario really but on-line sources of information are becoming increasingly important for voters. 

To test my vague theory in New Zealand politics, I searched on Facebook for each party leader and examined the groups supporting and, in some cases opposing, them.  Here are the results:

John Key (National) – 14,388 supporters.  Interestingly the “I HEART John Key” and “Scientologists for John Key” groups have exactly the same number of members.  I’m presuming they are the same people.

Helen Clark (United Nations) – 5, 408 supporters.

Phil Goff (Labour) – 1,112 members of a group wanting him to be Prime Minister in 2011 and 3 in a quite different group who think he is a DILF.  Look up what it means at your peril.

Rodney Hide (Act) – 719 supporters.

Russel Norman (Green) – 567 supporters.  His on-line presence grew significantly when I spelled his first name correctly in the search field.

Metiria Turei (Green) – 339 supporters.

Winston Peters (Retired) – 236 supporters for Prime Minister, 11 supporters for next year’s Dancing with the Stars.  Both quite terrifying prospects really.

Jim Anderton (Progressive) – 17 supporters, much higher than expected.

Pita Sharples (Maori Party) – No Facebook groups supporting him but a couple which are worryingly opposed (and in apparent breach of Facebook policies).

Tariana Turia (Maori Party) – No Facebook groups supporting or opposing her.  There is one offering to be a support group for Mrs Turia going back to school but the tag is “just for fun – outlandish statements.”

Peter Dunne (United Future) – Mr Dunne does not have an official supporters group.  The group “I lost my phone drinking in London – numbers please!!! (Peter Dunne)” is almost certainly not him.  Peter Dunne does not strike me as the kind of man who, under any circumstances, would use three exclamation points.

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I’d forgotten how bad Clark could be

August 8th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Luckily we have an interview with Tracy Watkins to remind us:

Eight months on from Labour’s election loss, former prime minister Helen Clark has no regrets and she rejects suggestions that Labour alienated voters by pushing through measures such as the child discipline bill.

Clark is still unable to accept she ever did anything wrong. Her valedictory speech to Parliament sounded like a triumph speech, where her getting thrown out of office was just some sort of mistake by the voters.

Now in New York as head of the United Nations Development Programme, Miss Clark has also revealed unease at the National Government’s direction on climate change and says its scrapping of her flagship sustainability agenda was motivated by sheer vindictiveness.

As I said, I’d forgotten how nasty Clark could be. My God – she thinks it is all about her. And yes this nasty vindictive Government that fully supported her campaign for the UN job, and appointed Michael Cullen to an SOE.

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Bullying Quote

July 30th, 2009 at 1:46 pm by David Farrar

Over at The Standard, Paul Buchanan made this comment:

I hate to say it, but I think bullying crosses the aisle and is endemic not only in NZ politics but the society at large, be it in academia, government, unions or corporations. Helen Clark openly called for my dismissal from Auckland University when I raised questions about the Zaoui case. She also vilified Deborah Manning, who is one of the more courageous Kiwis I have met. After it was all over and Zaoui won his appeal, Deborah moved on to an international job and Helen got her wish with regards to me.

I’d forgotten about that. So much to remember – Kit Richards, Erin Leigh, Peter Doone also.

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The Sex Bomb

July 19th, 2009 at 3:52 pm by David Farrar

The SST report:

THE YOUNG Helen Clark was once described as “a sex bomb” in black boots, according to a new unauthorised biography of the former Labour prime minister.

Helen Clark, by Wellington journalist Denis Welch, says trade union leader Matt McCarten’s first memory of her was from the early 80s. “She was dressed all in black and had big black boots,” McCarten said.

Fellow unionist Laila Harre, later an Alliance Party cabinet minister in Clark’s first cabinet, recalled a 1985 party where young men were “salivating over Helen Clark and her boots”.

“McCarten: `She was a sex bomb!”‘

“Harre: `She was, actually from a left-wing point of view. We don’t have very high standards!”‘

Funnily enough more people would say Laila used to be the left’s “sex bomb”. Many a Nat staffer used to gaze longingly at her.

However Laila had these steely eyes that looked like they could freeze you at 100 metres, so I don’t think any of the young admirers ever shared their adoration with her :-)

The SST also has a largish extract from the upcoming Welch book on Clark.

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Own Goal

July 18th, 2009 at 9:31 am by David Farrar

One of the Standard authors whined:

Business New Zealand and other assorted tossers. Stop calling our country ‘New Zealand Inc’. This is our home. This is where we live our lives and raise our families. It’s not some profit-maximising engine for your shareholders.

Personally I think anyone who gets worked up over such trivialities need to relax more, but he or she is entitled to their view that anyone who refers to New Zealand Inc is a tosser.

The commenters then have a field day finding Phil Goff having used the term three times and Helen Clark four times, making them officially tossers according to that Standard author.

Hat Tip: Whale Oil

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Dr Helen Clark

April 24th, 2009 at 9:31 am by David Farrar

Oh how nice. Auckland University is going to make Helen Clark a Doctor of Laws.

To be truly appropriate, I think they should make it a retrospective degree!

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H2 off also

April 20th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that H2, Heather Simpson, is also off to New York – on a short term basis initially.

This is a smart move by Clark. The UN bureaucracy is notoriously unresponsive, and Simpson is a very accomplished chief of staff. Probably fair to say she was more feared than loved in the Beehive, but a dose of fear into the UN bureaucracy is just what it needs!

The Herald reports that before working for Clark, Simpson was an economic lecturer at Otago University. Indeed, she was – she taught me first year economics.

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Clark resigned and gone

April 19th, 2009 at 8:46 am by David Farrar

Helen Clark resigned as a Member of Parliament on Friday, and flew out to New York late last night.

Audrey Young blogs Haere ra. She notes it is a dignified exit:

If you think back to how recent Prime Ministers have departed, there is virtually no comparison: an embittered Rob Muldoon stayed and wrecked Jim McLay’s leadership of National; David Lange stayed in Parliament for another seven years, not undermining his successors, but not happy; Mike Moore’s presence on the backbench for three years was a monkey on Clark’s back; and Jenny Shipley made the awful transition from Prime Minister to Leader of the Opposition, which just didn’t work.

Jim Bolger managed his exit once the numbers were against him but negotiating your own appointment as US ambassador – competent as he was – was a tad undignified. Better though than staying on.

Palmer did bail out gracefully. He resigned as Pm a few weeks before the 1990 election and retired from Parliament also. Muldoon and Lange were both sad figures who stayed on too long.

Audrey also refers to my list of strengths and weaknesses, and says:

Achieving and maintaining unity was the most important, in my view, because all other achievements flowed from that, but how long the unity lasts after her departure remains to be seen. It won’t revert to anything like the bad old days.

I agree – unity is hugely important. And while Goff will face some challenges if the polls don’t improve, they won’t be factional driven challenges, more ambitious wannabe leaders.

But Clark’s departure today and Cullen’s in a couple of weeks will mean Labour can start the rows they are destined to have over the past, the future policy direction, and how to rebuild, though they will probably be delayed until after the Mt Albert by-election.

How Goff manages the debate will be a crucial test of his leadership.

Well at least with Helen going, Phil should now be able to make at least second place in the Preferred PM stakes!

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Helen Clark

April 15th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Now that her valedictory speech is done and dusted, I thought it was timely to do my own review of Clark’s years at the top. This is not going to be based on whether or not I agreed with her policies, but on how successful she was at advancing her agenda, and managing Government etc.

Achievements/Strengths

  • Winning three elections. At the end of the day, this is what it is about and the only PMs who won more elections were Holyoake (4) and Seddon (5). Clark is also the only Labour Prime Minister to have won three elections – Savage and Fraser only won two each, Nash one, Kirk one and Lange two.
  • Staying in office for nine years. Linked to the above, but as Jim Bolger found out, winning office and retaining office are not the same thing. Clark’s 8 years and 350 days is the 5th longest of our 38 PMs.
  • Uniting the Labour Party. Labour was bitterly divided up until around 1996. This had been the situation since around the 1970s. Kirk was paranoid and divisive. Rowling kept fighting off the fish and chips brigade. Lange wasn’t in charge of his own Government and the Moore/Clark hatred was legendary. But Moore made up in 1996, was bundled off to the WTO and Labour has been basically unified ever since. Yes there are still  some very loose right/left factions but they are a shadow of their former selves and more social than political.
  • Total dominance of the party. Clark gained dominance not only over the parliamentary wing, but also the organisational wing. Total loyalty.
  • Master of all portfolios. Clark was no hands off Chair of the Board. She was involved in portfolios whenever they posed a danger to the Government. Her competence was rarely challenged (her judgement being another issue)
  • Attracted good staff. Heather Simpson may have been feared, but that is what Clark wanted. Simpson was an extraordinarily effective operator, and Clark attracted some very smart operators such as Timms and Robertson. Good staff make a world of difference.
  • Changed the political balance. She moved the political pendulum seriously to the left, and has ensured successor Governments can not move it very far back. Sure she never reversed the benefit cuts, but nine years of her Government locked in many left wing gains.
  • Initially showed a commendable willingness to replace Ministers who were either not performing or had ethical lapses. This did not last, and will be dealt with later under weaknesses. But she started well.
  • Smartly associated herself with nation building activities such as arts, culture, veterans, tomb of unknown solider
  • Used Cullen smartly so that most of the time she was working almost as a President – foreign affairs, big ticket stuff, nation building, and Cullen ran the day to day mechanics of Government sorting out issues such as Foreshore & Seabed.
  • Smart manipulator of the media – her coverage in her first term especially was almost hagiographic as she would ring selected journos and gossip with them. No way did they want to lose the inside edge. Very smart (from her point of view).
  • In first two terms, showed pragmatic streak when needed. Backed down on certain employment law changes in 2000 facing Winter of Discontent. Dropped Closing the Gaps. Now in reality the work streams re-engaged at a later date, but from a political management point of view that is superb – you appear to back down even if you only delay or retitle. Remember this is judging Clark on achieving what she thought was best for NZ.
  • Very sound on international affairs. Never seriously put a foot wrong. Dragged Labour to the mainstream on trade issues
  • The FTA with China a massive achievement, and also getting the US to the table on one involving them.
  • Managed good relationships with world leaders, despite differences – good with Howard and even Bush. Very close to Blair and Brown.

Failures/Weaknesses

  • Never quite got the vision thing. The closest she came was her speech about how NZ should aspire to be the first carbon neutral country on Earth. People will vote for leadership and vision, even if it is not one they 100% agree with – Howard got re-elected despite majority opposition to Iraq War, because people respected him for doing what he believed was right. The one time she did get visionary, she never backed it up with substance – her record on carbon emissions being one of the worst in the world.
  • A certain meanness of spirit. Her description of Don Brash as cancerous and corrosive. Her “haters and wreckers” description of foreshore and seabed protesters. I could go on.
  • Loyalty above talent. Clark kept Tizard as a Minister for nine years. Even Hawkins lasted for six years. Samuels was twice made a Minister. While talented MPs such as Tim Barnett and Charles Chauvel were kept out.
  • Over time she confused criticism of her Government and her, with criticism of New Zealand. Not the only PM to do this.
  • A near total inability to say sorry and apologise.
  • The culture of Helengrad – where civil servants, board members etc were all afraid to give dissenting views.
  • Treatment of the Greens – took them for granted, and locked them out of Government three times.
  • Ethical lapses – lying about Peter Doone to force him out of office, Paintergate and the associated coverup etc. More worrying is seemingly unaware did anything wrong.
  • Maori Party – did not even try to negotiate an agreement with in 2005, calling them last cab off the rank. A strategic blunder that had long term consequences.
  • A tendency to blame others and distance herself. There is no way she did not know what Mike Williams was up to in Australia, yet puts him out to hang. Another example is when she let her DPS drivers get prosecuted for getting her to the rugby on time. Pretended she never even noticed the speed of 180 km/hr. Would have got huge kudos if she had fronted and said “I’m horrified that my drivers are being prosecuted for just doing their job”. Many Police never forgave her for not sticking up for them.
  • Failed to rejuvenate in time. The 2008 list rejuvenation should have happened in 2005, and the 2007 Cabinet reshuffle in 2005.
  • Seriously lost her judgement in third term on numerous issues – almost every decision forced out of her at a stage when too late to stop harm – Benson-Pope sacking, pledge card paying back, anti smacking law compromise. Let these drag on for months more than they should have.
  • Electoral Finance Act – need more be said. Will always stain her record.
  • Winston – despite massive evidence that Winston had lied numerous time, she would take no real action. Her decision to have Labour vote against the Privileges Committee report was a disgrace.

This isn’t comprehensive. It is just off the top of my head thinking about it for a couple of hours. There are probably more you can add to both the strengths and weaknesses.

If I have time, I’ll do a Michael Cullen one also.

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Espiner on Clark

April 14th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Colin Espiner writes:

The change of Government last year left Helen Clark feeling rejected. She couldn’t and still can’t understand why Labour lost.

Nor her colleagues.

Like her Australian counterpart John Howard, or former British prime minister Tony Blair, or any other number of world leaders (in democracies at least), Clark fell victim to the curse of not knowing when it was time to go. We all thought we had given her a fair suck of the sav, to use the Kiwi vernacular.

If a party wants a good chance at a fourth term, it should have completed a massive rejuvenation by mid way through the third term – including the leadership. And for such rejuvenation to be credible, you have to start it towards the end of your first term. I hope National retires around six Ministers in 2011.

Clark felt rejected by us. She couldn’t and still can’t understand why Labour lost. Why voters wanted a fresh face on the ninth floor of the Beehive. She had given blood, sweat, and even a few tears to the job. Why wasn’t it enough?

Clark always wanted to remodel New Zealand in the social democratic traditions of Western European democracies, where the same party remains in power for decades and the support parties revolve around it.

This is what they looked to have after the 2002 election. And then Don Brash and John Key came along and spoiled the dream. Hence why they introduced the Electoral Finance Act.

Clark was the most popular New Zealand prime minister of modern times. No-one else, since the advent of reliable and regular political polling in the 1970s, has averaged such a consistently high approval rating.

This is true – her Preferred PM ratings stayed strong throughout.

The newspaper is only the first draft of history, but it is doubtful Clark’s long-term legacy will be judged as that of a great prime minister.

Great leaders have a vision, and the ability to get people to follow them to it. Clark was always more the manager than the visionary.

However, her intellect, determination, energy, accomplishments, and devotion to her country means she is likely to be remembered as a very, very, very good one.

An interesting perspective from Colin. I’m actually planning to do my own review of her career achievements, and her strengths and weaknesses – will blog it later this week. I hope it will be seen as pretty fair – I won’t be focusing on policy disagreements, but on political management, vision etc.

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Further thoughts on Clark valedictory

April 11th, 2009 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar

There has been some interesting commentary on Clark’s valedictory speech – mainly commenting on the total lack of reflection that she ever did anything wrong.

Guyon Espiner blogs:

Her valedictory was like her premiership: cautious and competent; meticulous and managerial.  I’d hoped Helen Clark might show us a flicker of feeling; a sliver of humanity; a scintilla of humility. …

It was similar when she spoke to us on TVNZ’s Q+A show last Sunday. There was no acknowledgement of her mistakes. Could she not have conceded to mishandling the anti-smacking law? To rushing the Electoral Finance Act? To being a little too lenient in her handling of Winston Peters?

I don’t think she considers any of them mistakes. Just as she has never conceded she was wrong to sign paintings that others painted. Her career has been marked by a refusal to say sorry and to blame everyone else.

I think she owed it to Labour to show a little contrition about the election defeat.

Clark sticks to the line that New Zealanders only voted National because they felt they could have the same policies with a new face. With that statement there is the underlying belief that before too long voters will realise the grave mistake they made in throwing her out.

The Dim-Post has a shorter version of the Clark speech:

‘I’ve been a very great Prime Minister and I’m proud of that.’

I think Clark was a very, very good Prime Minister, but her massive ego and unshakable faith in her own historical awesomeness is one of the main reasons she was not a great one.

If this seems harsh then I guess it’s because the endless, pointless debacles of her third term government are still fresh in my mind – and most of them seemed to be driven by Clark’s belief in her own infallibility and her parties blind worship of same.

A valedictory speech for a politician like Clark is obviously a time to celebrate an impressive career, but in the wake of a devastating loss it’s also, one would have thought a time for self-deprecation and also an opportunity, a chance to signal to the party and the public that mistakes were made, lessons were learned, a corner has been turned, the torch passed to a new leadership etc. But not a flicker of self-reproof seems to trouble Clark’s astonishing mind: the public rejected her for reasons that remain mysterious but are probably to do with their own fickleness and stupidity, and also Crosby-Textor.

I’ve listened to valedictory speeches from six Prime Ministers, and Clark’s was the only one which did not touch on regrets. You would have thought it was the speech of someone who had won a fourth term, not someone who had been decisively thrown out of office.

The more I think about it she also glossed over stuff such as the 4th Labour Government, the relationship with David Lange, how she became Leader. It was rather opaque.

Labour supporters, rather like Clark, seem more focused on defending her legacy, than a serious analysis of where they went wrong. Indeed some of them do seriously blame it all on Crosby-Textor and a gullible public.

Clark and Cullen’s departure provide Goff with a real opportunity to stamp his own leadership on the party. His first challenge will be the Mt Albert selection. Goff knows having Tizard back in Parliament will be a nightmare for him. Does he place her in the shadow cabinet? What portfolios does he give her? How do they deal with s92A when its architect is in caucus insisting it is perfect and should remain intact. If she gets back in, then do they stand her again in Auckland Central? If not, what electorates should she shadow?

Goff’s instincts have been very sound in the past. It will be interesting to see him now able to put them to work. Key won, by following his instincts. Goff, to be viable, needs to also make changes and do what he thinks is right – not necessarily what Labour has done in the past.

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Helen Clark valedictory speech

April 8th, 2009 at 2:27 pm by David Farrar

Clark’s valedictory speech is at aroudn 5 pm today, and viewable on Parliament TV, and through the Parliament website.

I have watched (either in person or via TV) every former PM’s valedictory speech from Muldoon onwards – except for Geoffrey Palmer. All very different styles. Muldoon was sad yet powerful. Lange was hilarious. Bolger was excellent talking of prides and regrets and had a farewell from the Maori MPs at the end of it.

Moore was funny but with some bitterness. Shipley was dignified and optimistic.

For those who can’t watch it, I’ll probably live blog any noticeable parts.

THE SPEECH:

Starting now. I note Jonathan Hunt is in the House, next to the Speaker’s Chair. Clark says she has mixed emotions. Enrolled at Auckland Uni in 1968. Talking of big issues in 1968 such as Vietnam War, nuclear testing, South Africa.

Says Kirk’s independent foreign policy inspired her. Referred to Radio Hauraki breaking state radio monopoly by broadcasting from a boat in Hauraki Gulf.

Never imagined being PM when young, as senior politicians were all elderly men. Now paying tribute to Hunt and Anderton for getting her involved, plus Kirk again. She was foot solider in 1972.

Grew up on a farm in Waikato. Wider family had many political allegiances. Parents initially surprised by her political direction, but always personally supportive and now fully politically supportive. Mum too ill to be hear but 87 year old Dad is in gallery. Pays tribute to them both. Lots of clapping.

Stood in 1975 in Piako against Gentleman Jack Luxton and he was a Gentleman. Advice to young people in politics is to start off by running in a seat they probably won’t win as you learn a lot. Success is seldom instant, and quick wins can fade quickly.

Referred to how Muldoon said in his valedictory was how many more women were now in Parliament and how he found them somewhat frightening. Clark says it was mutual – especially if you tried to interject him :-)

Attracted to politics by desire to make a difference. Has a sense of gratitude for opportunities NZ has given her. NZ was an escape for many from the class bound order of the UK. Detests social distinction and snobbery. Hence dislikes titular honours.

Focused in first six years on Mt Albert. Grateful to them. Chaired Foreign Affairs Select Committee and highlight was anti-nuclear law. Now talking about various Ministerial things she did. Helped bring in seven day trading (yay).

Plague on both your houses (National and Labour) in 1992 and 1993 saw MMP introduced. Lots of defections to minor parties in mid 1990s. Labour lost support to NZ First and Alliance and in mid 90s a poll had Labour on 14% and Clark on 2% as Preferred PM. In hindsight surprised concerned delegations to her door did not occur more often.

1999 saw Labour/Alliance Government with Green support. Believes they have made life better for many New Zealanders.

In last term in particular big focus was sustainability and believes it is vital for our international credibility. Jewel in crown was transfer of Molesworth Station to DOC to preserve for all NZers.

Talking about heritage projects like Te Ara.

NZers now very familiar with settlement of historical grievances and important they continue to be settled. Also apology to Samoa was important as was apology to Vietnam Veterans for what they endured in lack of recognition and support.

Proud that Maori are now significant economic stakeholders in NZ. Has enjoyed engagement with all the ethnic communities. Says it is inevitable that we will become a republic – not if, but when.

Pleased we stayed out of Iraq War but also that have rebuilt relationship with US. Big commitment to peace keeping.

Regards selection as UNDP Administrator as reflection on not just her, but NZ’s record internationally.

No regrets but it is time to go and let others lead. 2008 result was disappointing but in a democracy must respect the people’s will.

Never a solo act in politics. So many people have supported her. Her parents gave best possible start. Her sisters and their families always supportive of Peter and her. Peter has been a staunch supporter of her career, no matter how unpleasant it got. Lots of clapping from all sides.

Mt Albert backed her for 10 elections. Thanks to all those, esp Mt Albert electorate committee. Also electorate office staff – esp Joan Caulfield.

Thanks to all in Labour at all levels. Special thanks to Cullen. Friendships will be life long. Expects many texts and even the occassional tweet. Very well timed joke.

Thanks Jim A. Then Jeanette from Greens. Also honourable relationships with Dunne and Peters based on common interests. Also acknowledge Turia and thank her.

Relationships with National and ACT less significant. But acknowldge Key and Hide for their courtesy, especially recently. And previous MPs such as Paul East. Also talks to Bolger, Palmer and Moore.

Thanks DPMC CEOs and Cabinet Secretaries by name.  Also thanks MCH and Ministerial Services. Enjoyed work with SIS and GCSB. Trusts them and their staff. They work in the interests of NZ.

Also thanks MFAT for support on so many issues and summits and visits. Privilege to support NZ Defence Force and seeing their work overseas.

Thanking PM’s Office – Heather Simpson, Alec McLean and others. Also Police/DPS for keeping her alive! They are unsung heroes. Also kudos to VIP Drivers (I agree they rock). Privileged to continue using them, so not an end.

27 years since her maiden speech at 32. Said greatish wish was to have contributed ot making NZ a better place for peopel to live in. She thinks she has played her part – has been a privilege and an honour. Wishes Goff and Labour best for the next election and NZ the best for challenging times ahead.

All over. Clapping and hugs. Key gave a cheek kiss. Now given a Maori cloak by Nanaia.

Speech was very good. Covered the whole life, not just the achievements as PM, which makes it more interesting. No masively stand out moments, but nothing you can fault either. No bitterness or sniping, and no defensiveness.

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SST Interview with Clark

April 6th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve supported Helen Clark’s candidacy for the UNDP job, and have always acknowledge her considerable political skills. It has been her policies and judgement (in the third term specially) I have had issues with. Her interview with the SST reminds me why:

She was surprised by the standing ovation she got in parliament. There were “a lot of people there obviously that I’d crossed swords with, but I don’t believe I’ve ever been seen as a nasty, mean-spirited person. Sure, I’ve been a tough and strong politician but you know not in a way I think of as being personally vindictive”.

So calling Don Brash cancerous and corrosive is not personally vindictive? Suggesting John Key shouts over his wife at home is not nasty or mean spirited? Let us not totally rewrite history here.

She read later that one person Act MP David Garrett had not joined in the applause, but “to be honest I wouldn’t recognise the person, so it’s not of any great moment. Maybe he will learn after a while in politics that there are some things you do and some things you don’t”.

This is the same Helen who walked out of the House as Don Brash was about to start his valedictory speech?

She won’t discuss her legacy, but she does note that during the election campaign “I talked till I was blue in the face saying, `Look, a change of government isn’t just changing a brand of toothpaste there will be substantial change’. “And I think people didn’t want to hear that. Now we see the things that are happening show that it wasn’t just about changing toothpaste. But you can’t rewind the film.”

She admits she is exasperated that her prophecies were ignored. “Of course, but I can’t do anything about it. I always think of that old homily that used to hang on my grandparents’ wall, which said, `Give me the grace to accept the things that I cannot change’.”

And again we get the sense of total denial that Labour did anything wrong. It is all the fault of the NZ public voting for a change, and not realising what they were doing. It just doesn’t even occur to Helen that peopel did vote for change. That they were sick of no tax cuts until the week before the election. They were sick of nanny state. They were sick of her defence of Winston’s behaviour. They were sick of law & order policies that made parole and bail easier to get, not harder.

And her so called prophecies consisted of hundreds of advertisements that said just one thing – you can not trust John Key. It was the most personal and negative campaign in NZ’s history – they did not run even a single positive television advertisement – they were 100% negative.

To be fair to Clark, her view appears to be shared by most in Labour. They still think the public was conned by John Key, and that all they have to do is wait for the public to come to their senses and beg Labour for forgiveness for not letting them rule for ever.

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Clark on Q&A

April 6th, 2009 at 5:57 am by David Farrar

Some interesting parts to the Clark and Davis interview on Q&A. I do have to say though that I hope it will not become a permanent feature having an MPs partner on with them.

PAUL Exciting times. Looking back, what was the biggest mistake you made as Prime Minister, I’m sure you’re not gonna tell me your biggest mistake, can I change the question. What is the thing that you did which if you looked back you might do differently?

HELEN No I wouldn’t even go there because I never look back, that’s part of my style, I know journalists often got fed up with me saying move on move on, but I do. You know in politics there’s always an opposition employed to pick over the things you’ve done and why this why that why not the other way, well let them do it but I’m moving on to the next thing.

It is a real pity that Clark won’t answer this question, because I think you learn a lot from a person when they talk about what they would do differently. And while one should not dwell over long on mistakes, I find it useful to acknowledge them and learn from them.

PAUL Not so the one MP who’s name we cannot remember who did not stand up. Peter can I ask you this seriously, what was Helen like in the weeks or the days and the weeks after last year’s electoral loss?

PETER I think she felt rejected basically, because she felt she’d done a good job which I also believe and had put her best foot forward and had been frankly an almost incomparable Prime Minister and yet somehow the public had not seen that the same way. So it took some time for her to frankly come to terms with that and if I was in that position I’d feel the same way I guess.

This has a bit of an attitude about how the public made the wrong decisions, and Labour/Clark did nothing wrong. The reason I say this, is not to swipe at Davis, but because from all accounts most of the Labour Caucus are still in this space. They think John Key just conned the public and all they have to do is wait for him to be exposed.

FRAN Yes she has but I think it’s more than just you know meet and greet and all of that, I think where Helen Clark has scored is she’s also made a contribution and I saw her for instance one example chairing the OECD ministerial in Paris in 2003, and that was probably her first forum where she brought together a number of players, it was after September 11, there was a big you know fracas going on between Europe and America at that stage over the invasion of Iraq which had just happened but she brought together some disparate players to talk about what they could do to move economies forward and particularly also on the trade dialogue, so she chaired that, other actors paid tribute to her, so I’ve seen it there and I’ve also seen her at APEC where she has quietly moved a number of issues on to the agenda, for instance climate change in Korea, it wasn’t on the agenda, Australia claimed credit for it later but she put it there.

I quote this part from Fran, partly because it does highlight where Clark was skilled, but also to balance Fran’s later comment.

FRAN Well that’s right and it was interesting that she said she’s been empowered to do exactly that by Ban Ki-moon the Secretary General. I’d like to just go back, I think she will shake it up and she’s had that track record in New Zealand but one thing that struck me from that interview was that slight disconnect about not understanding why Helen Clark was voted out despite being competent, and to bring to the point one of the issues really was this issue about democracy in New Zealand with the Electoral Finance Act, that and together with Winston Peters that long running scandal that basically cost her her leadership here.

Disconnect is the right word for it. Now Labour have at least done a mea culpa over the Electoral Finance Act, but that was only one part of an arrogance the Government displayed on everything from the pledge card to Winston Peters. Frankly Labour should apologise for their disgraceful behaviour at the Privileges Committee and afterwards. Those MPs are not stupid and they all know that Winston knew about the donation. Yet they covered up for him. Until we get some mea culpas for that also, I’m not convinced they have understood why they lost the election.

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Fitzsimons advice to Clark

April 4th, 2009 at 10:16 am by David Farrar

The Herald Political Diary notes:

Just about all parties suspend politics for half an hour to honour Helen Clark for her appointment as United Nations Development Programme Administrator. She is given a standing ovation after John Key’s truly magnanimous speech and every leader’s speech is applauded as well – except that of Greens’ co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons who is not even applauded by her own MPs. In a piece of misjudgment, Fitzsimons lectures Clark on how she should do her job, concluding: “What we wish most for you is that in endless rounds of cocktail parties, travel, high-level meetings and negotiations to which you are no stranger, the most desperate people who rely on UNPD programmes to eat, to be housed, and healthy and educated are always top of your mind.” Does she really think cocktail parties are more important to Clark than the poorest and weakest?

No wonder Helen never let the Greens into Government, if this is how sanctimonious they get. The full lecturing speech is here.

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