The Nick Smith diversions – sauce for the geese?

The Nick Smith diversions – sauce for the geese?

Most of the media are missing the point and always have. The Nick Smith brouhaha has not really been predominantly about Nick Smith, long resisting the prolonged onslaught of a no doubt tiresome woman friend apparently expecting as of right what many would regard as an extraordinary ACC claim from hard-pressed taxpayers. The badgered Smith finally gave in to suggest to his own department that her case be reconsidered.

The whole issue carries all the extra baggage of Prime Minister John Key’s self- preservation instinct kicking in. What commentator David Farrar is not alone in seeing as an annus horribilis year for the National Party moves into gear.

 Smith is certainly answerable for his blinkered and economically damaging promotion of the cult of global warming – apparently on the basis of the utterly discredited hockey stick graph he reportedly still likes to invoke at community meetings. His has been a too compliant endorsing of whatever line of action the Prime Minister has, as usual, unilaterally decided on. As other columnists have pointed out, Nick Smith, recently resigned or pushed as ACC minister was, for example,  recorded in Hansard on May 10, 2005 as stating that  “New Zealand emissions amount to less than 0.5% internationally, and per head of population our emissions are about half that of Australia’s and the United States’ emissions. So why are we going to impose costs and impose controls and impose red tape on New Zealanders.”

Why in indeed?  Is it because during his term as Minister he has largely been his master’s voice – one among many yes-sir politicians – the essentially over-compliant ministers of John Key’s National Cabinet – not one of whom has ever stood up to oppose the damaging directions in which the country has been determinedly taken with the ambitious John Key, former currency gambler/trader, laying down as its course?  In that same Hansard surprise, surprise on the issue of Kyoto and climate change, Key is on record as saying, “The impact of the Kyoto Protocol, even if one believes in global warming – and I am somewhat suspicious of it – is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that we are not even sure is a problem.” He concluded that “The public are sick and tired of paying additional taxes for all sorts of crazy ideas.”

We are paying for even more of them under his domination of political directions.

There is something afoot here, because the evidence against the global warming, almost semi-religious cult demonising evil humans raping and plundering virgin Gaia has not been diminishing but is exponentially growing by leaps and bounds. It is now too late for New Zealand to claim back the taxation losses of the ETS …because of the fact that John Key changed his mind – and whatever John Key decides, insider leaks have shown us is endorsed by Cabinet, The question why Key changed his mind has been almost totally ignored. His turn-around was certainly not evidence-based. What then?

 Nick Smith has loyally played follow-my-leader, not only supporting the demonstrably unnecessary and costly Emissions Trading Scheme (there has been a great deal of very big money made internationally on this issue of global warming) but falling into line with regard to National’s disgraceful stance on the anti-smacking legislation (another decision John Key inflicted on his puppet Cabinet – many of whom were very unhappy about it. But did one of them even say this publicly? We know the answer to that one. Then we have had the Coastal and Marine Area legislation. All these damaging and unnecessary directions have been forced on the country by a highly determined individual, the question of whose long-term agenda the media have culpably failed to question.

And this is an evasive leader. In 2011 Key was caught up in a controversy over the buying of government limousines which he denied knowledge of. However later reports showed that his office was aware of this purchase. Accused of being dishonest he eventually apologised, calling the deal sloppy.

In October of this same year, the Prime Minister made a statement claiming that Standard and Poor’s had said at a meeting in the prior week that “if there was a change of government, that downgrade would be much more likely.” This claim was contradicted by standard and Poor’s after Key’s credibility had been called into question.

Why then was the ever-loyal Nick Smith hustled out by his leader, over the Pullar case? Undoubtedly his judgment could be questioned. But in one of his letters at least, in essence apparently asking the Department to re-examine her claim, he had made known that she was a friend of his – very probably now a former friend…

The old saying – With friends like these, who needs enemies? must have since occurred to many. However, and while the chances are that Smith will be rehabilitated well before the next election, back on board receiving his reward as a  National Party yes-man,  very much the same thing is constantly happening with representations made both by MPs and ministers drawing their department’s attention to cases they wish reconsidered. In fact, many would consider it the duty of an MP, even if he or she became minister, to raise the question of a possible miscarriage of justice, or to carry on representing constituents to bring their cases to their departments – if possibly a need arises.

The buck after all stops with the minister when his/her department may need issues investigated or clarifying. MPs are expected to represent their constituents, who go to them for help.

It is a very fine line indeed, this question of either undue influence or legitimate representation.

I recall a former Minister of Health being asked to intervene in the case of an individual denied an operation and doing so, on what seemed reasonable grounds, with a successful outcome. The Minister of Immigration, presiding over  a particularly inept – if not  questionably incompetent government department which has made some shocking decisions in recent years, is constantly being asked to intercede to prevent miscarriages of justice. There are cases where ministers have unequivocally misled Parliament. The ubiquitous Gerry Brownlee, bosom friend or useful stooge of the PM, remained as minister even though what he said was apparently simply untrue in relation to the appointment in April of the four members appointed to the Christchurch Earthquake Review Panel chaired by a former High Court judge.

In a letter to State Services Minister, Tony Ryall, Brownlee is on record as saying with regard to the committee members (one of whom later said he would have done it for nothing) that “it will not be possible to secure their services under the current fees range.” He has never properly been called to account for this statement, made without any backing evidence – one which profited individuals he, too, as may well have known on a personal basis – such as former National Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley.  The Cabinet Fees Framework had recommended a daily pay rate of $360-$655 for the chairman and $270-$415 for other members. However Brownlee then suggested a rate of $1400 a day for the chairman and $1000 a day for the other members, which Ryall and the Cabinet approved. In a paper to the Cabinet, this minister stated that all the boxes for the hiring process had been ticked. “I can confirm that an appropriate process has been followed in considering the proposed nominees in terms of the State Services Commission Appointments Guidelines.”

A doubtful claim. According to the guidelines,  a position should be advertised, a short list drawn up and candidates interviewed before a consultation process on who is the best person for the job. “But the document showed there was no shortlist of possible panel members, no interviews, nor any advertising for the positions.” In his defence Brownlee cited the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act which merely required that the minister appoint the panel members, based on relevant expertise.

However, Brownlee’s drawing up his own list of desirable appointees based on his personal choices, rightly or wrongly, is hardly the same. While he cited exceptional times requiring exceptional measures, the old ghost of cronyism always hovers around appointments relying upon a ministerial decision alone.  But the crux of the issue was his assertion that it would not be possible to secure the services of his hand-picked appointees under the current fees range. None of them publicly supported this assertion.

Yet – in contrast to Nick Smith being obliged to fall on his sword, this Minister was never asked to resign for misleading Cabinet by stating that it would not be possible to secure the services of his chosen appointees under the current fees range- although no evidence whatsoever was produced to substantiate that this was the case.

How different is this issue of ministerial responsibility – of making personal choices without further accountability – from Nick Smith’s approach to his department on behalf of friend, where he was on record on at least one occasion as having stated that she was a friend? And what of Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson’s apparent closeness to neo-tribal litigants he seems particularly well disposed to – while labelling worried New Zealanders as “clowns”?   Sauce for the geese?

©  Amy Brooke