McCully’s valedictory

As time allows I’m going to cover a few of the valedictory speeches. Second up is Murray McCully:

It was in this grim climate in October 1991 that I received an early morning call from the Prime Minister’s senior private secretary, who advised that the Prime Minister wanted to see me. Convinced that this was to be yet another of the disciplinary discussions that were then a regular feature of my parliamentary timetable, I not very politely declined. Eventually the senior private secretary convinced me that it would be very much in my interest to get my useless carcass up to the Prime Minister’s office right now. So Jim Bolger informed me bluntly that he was making me the Minister of Customs but that would not make me very busy, and that he decided that, despite our political predicament, he was going to win the next election, that I was going to help them, and that we would discuss it on a later occasion. We never did discuss it later, but I did find myself fairly quickly immersed in the political management machinery of the place, a role I came to play for many years.

I can’t recall a time Murray wasn’t involved in the political management!

In 2008 the decision was made by John Key, looking towards the election later that year, that I was to move seriously into the area of foreign policy. Members will recall that the right honourable, now knighted, former Prime Minister had a wonderful capacity for lofty Shakespearean prose. In early 2008, addressing me in such terms, he said: “My little friend, there is one portfolio where those guys can hand me my ass, and that’s foreign policy. I want you to make sure they don’t.” Ha, ha! Never before or since has the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs been so graciously bestowed. Ha, ha!

That sounds very much like what John Key would say.

New Zealand’s campaign for election to the UN Security Council in 2014 was unlike any other diplomatic challenge. You see, foreign ministries from all nations have this wonderful capacity to record every meeting as a diplomatic success. The problem with the UN Security Council election is that one day the numbers go up on a board in New York, and the numbers do not lie.

The fact that three quarters of the countries in the world voted for New Zealand on the first ballot, leaving heavy weights Spain and Turkey to fight out the subsequent ballot, says something that is both totally objective and massively positive about our standing in world affairs. I am extremely proud of the way that New Zealand conducted itself during our 2-year term on the United Nations Security Council. We were diligent, fair minded, consistent, and prepared to call out poor conduct wherever we saw it, even from our friends.

A win on the first ballot was an exceptional result.

There is one outstanding Rugby World Cup manner that I do want to touch on briefly. In the lead up to the event, I had occasion to host a dinner for all of the members of the International Rugby Board. Because they were official guests of the New Zealand Government, the Department of Internal Affairs was supposed to have arranged for payment of the account, but, for some reason best known to itself, had not. So to avoid any embarrassment at the end of the evening, the bill was quietly charged to my office credit card. Even though we were reimbursed the next day, the subsequent release of my credit card receipts containing five bottles of Ata Rangi pinot noir at $185 a bottle attracted an unhealthy and, it would be fair to say, universally negative interest from the nation’s media. To make matters significantly worse, for weeks afterwards, every time I attended a public occasion addressed by the then Prime Minister, he would draw attention to my presence and to my expensive taste in pinot noir.

It is a sad comment on the state of investigative journalism in this country that not one media outlet asked such blindingly obvious questions as: does the Minister for the Rugby World Cup drink pinot noir? Did the Prime Minister attend this dinner? Does the Prime Minister drink pinot noir? Now, I can no longer recall the answers to any of these questions, but I do recall clearly that I lamented the very poor state of our investigative media at the time.

Heh, that is hilarious.

First, some personal advice: always keep an open mind about people. When some financial whiz kid who gets elected in your neighbouring electorate irritates the management and you are asked to take him out behind the woodshed for a chat, always leave room for the possibility he might end up being your boss for 8 years. Ha, ha! And when some overconfident young woman marches into your electorate office, interviews you, and then instructs you to hire her on the spot, before you tell her to get lost, always leave room for the possibility that she might end up being your Deputy Prime Minister. 

I first met Paula when she worked for Murray. He’s always had great staff.

Those who have worked with me will know that I am not a great fan of multilateral institutions, but we must persevere with bodies like the United Nations, not because they are good but because they will get a great deal worse if countries like New Zealand do not play their part. Good international rules and effective international institutions are important for countries like ours. The alternative is to live in a world where the big guys always win and the little guys always lose.

A good point.

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