Shooting blind

John Armstrong writes in the Herald about the Air NZ fuss:

Labour is clearly fed up with constantly being forced on to the defensive.

With electoral defeat looming ever closer, Labour is shifting into survival mode, with trigger-happy ministers shooting first and asking questions later.

This was typified on Wednesday by Defence Minister Phil Goff letting fire with both barrels, firstly at Air New Zealand for flying troops into Kuwait, and then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for failing to alert ministers to a breach of Government policy forbidding any involvement with combat operations in Iraq.

Goff’s apology should be to Peters. Not for the first time, Goff has trampled all over Peters’ portfolio. Previously, it has been as the reflex of a former foreign minister. This time, his motives were purely political.

Peters seemed remarkably relaxed about the incursion, though he pointedly mentioned he would get all the facts before apportioning blame.

Peters stood by his chief executive, accepting his apology and declaring that there the matter should rest. It was a show of respect and loyalty to one of the country’s most senior, most diligent and normally most dependable of public servants. However, standing by your officials has gone out of fashion in the Beehive where the default setting for any crisis is to see how much blame can be attached to officials, rather than ministers accepting responsibility.

Fran O’Sullivan comes in also:

The flights carrying Australian troops to the Middle East did not breach any United Nations sanctions, nor did they infringe on Government policy. That was the judgment call made by the country’s top diplomat six months ago when he effectively approved the flights as falling within Government policy parameters.

Now, Ministry of Foreign Affairs boss Simon Murdoch is being castigated by senior cabinet ministers for what the Stalinists would recognise as a political crime: failing to pre-judge six months ago that senior cabinet ministers like Phil Goff (and others) would decide to use New Zealand’s position on the Iraq war as a wedge against their National opponents – particularly leader John Key – with a damn-the-consequences approach.

Fran notes what damage this has done to our relationship with Australia.

Australia has now issued a formal sanction forbidding its 50,000 strong defence force to use Air New Zealand under any circumstances, including scheduled commercial flight travel.

In Canberra, Downer dressed down New Zealand Ambassador John Larkindale and requested High Commissioner John Dauth to express Australia’s “extreme displeasure” to Murdoch in New Zealand. Downer also pointed out the Kiwis had sent troops to Iraq after the fall of Baghdad.

That was also the judgment call made by the senior officials from police, defence, the Security Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Security Bureau, Foreign Affairs and the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, who were also told the airline was taking Australian troops to Kuwait, and assessed whether that posed a security threat to New Zealand.

Not one of them (or so we are told) decided the issue warranted attention by their political masters. It’s a pity those political masters did not take the same approach and laugh it off as the “latest conspiracy story” instead of making themselves – and New Zealand – a laughing stock.

I mean it is ridiculous.  The same Government which sent 61 troops into Iraq is now saying a private company (with a majority govt owner) can’t transport our closest allies to Kuwait.  And we won’t even mention how we also were transporting the Tongans and that somehow a commercial rather than charter flight is different.  One could argue having troops on commercial flights is a far bigger risk.  Hypocrisy abounds.

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