Soper lashes Government over transparency

Barry Soper writes:

Jacinda Ardern promised her Government would be the most open and transparent the country’s ever seen, but they’ve failed.

The fallout from the country’s biggest industrial spat in the health sector in a generation put paid to that.

This time last week it was pretty clear nurses were going to go on strike. Surgery was being delayed in preparation for the walkout and district health boards were working to ensure no lives would be put at risk.

Meanwhile, the minister in charge of the whole shebang – David Clark – was busy packing his bags, along with his family, to take a holiday in Australia. If politics was about perception, this was not a good look. It gave the appearance of a minister who had a cavalier approach to his portfolio.

Now to be fair to David Clark, he has three young children. As a parent myself, I don’t think I’d cope flying by myself with one toddler, let alone three young ones. Clark not going would probably mean his whole family couldn’t go.

But it was his fudging of the holiday that made matters worse.

In his first appearance before the media, post the nurses’ strike, he explained his absence by saying he was always going to be here during the strike, but he had to transport his wife and family to Australia, presumably to ensure they arrived safely. This selfless politician was then virtually on the next flight a day later to rightly attend to his responsibilities.

He cancelled his holiday, he said, leaving the clear impression the family was left sunning themselves on the other side of the ditch. But it turns out his family accompanied him on his return flight home, which indicates to me he was fully intending to stay on holiday with them until he was told by someone higher up the food chain to get home and do his job.

Media always get annoyed when they feel they have been misled. This wasn’t a lie, but a false impression.

The hum from the spinning top in the Beehive was deafening. It was always the minister’s intention to be back in the country before the strike began and for its duration, he insisted.

Bollocks. If this Government wants to be taken seriously, it’s got to be what Ardern promised it would be: transparent.

No one would argue politicians, like everyone else, deserve a break with their families. But if Clark had really planned to be in the country before the strike began, why leave with his family just over 24 hours before they downed tools? It just doesn’t gel.

It’s – yet again – another instance from this Government of spin over honesty.

Harsh words from one of the longest serving press gallery journos.

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