It had been obvious for some time that eventually she would have no option but to relinquish her portfolio responsibilities given her capricious approach to her role from week one of her appointment to Cabinet last December.
The last few weeks of her apparent struggle to recognise the concept of open government, let alone administer it, was politically inept and her ‘possum in the head lights’ response to valid challenges was clearly going to end in tears no matter how determined the Prime Minister was to rescue her from complete political disaster when Jacinda Ardern returned to the House following her maternity leave.
It may be that senior Ministers, in light of the Prime Minister’s absence from the political arena, were not aware of how the junior Minister was conducting her portfolio responsibilities.
However, it seems more likely that, in a political environment of ‘sink or swim’, none of her colleagues were interested in throwing her a life-line.
Or it may be the floundering Minister didn’t recognise she was going under for the third time and did not need any assistance to get back to political terra firma.
Either way, attempts by her staff to rationalise her below the radar activities were apparently ignored.
Griffin was of course a first hand witness to some of what happened. It must be galling as a Board Chair to find out that the Minister has been secretly meeting staff behind your back, and that the nature of the meeting was lied about.
A valid point he raises is why Curran wasn’t given assistance when it become clear that her political instincts weren’t very good.
It is not rare for new Ministers to struggle with their new role.
When this has happened in the past, the PM and/or their office often intervene to make sure the Minister is better supported. Examples have been:
- A senior experienced Minister mentors the junior Minister, showing them how their office operates
- One of the old time professional Senior Private Secretaries is parachuted into an office for a month or two to make sure systems are set up to protect the Minister (diary management system, meeting procedures etc)
- A roving Press Secretary or Political Advisor is seconded to the office for a month or two to make sure political risk is managed well
As far as I can tell none of this happened with Curran.
This has some parallels to the Whaitiri fiasco. Again if a Minister is in trouble, going through lots of staff, you don’t just do nothing. You send someone in.