Teething problems are a small sign of bigger issues

Claire Trevett writes about the teething issues that exist within the government, over silly things like a letterhead.

As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set about her first international mission, a minor imbroglio over letterhead was erupting back at home.

In an apparent bid to show Labour and its partners NZ First and the Greens were united in solidarity, the letterhead Labour had sent to ministers to use for correspondence and press releases came in a deep red.

It was apparently carefully blended to combine the brighter red of Labour with a bit of the black of NZ First – in MMP proportions. It is Coalition Red.

It is unclear whose brainwave this was, but the chances of NZ First leader Winston Peters kowtowing to a demand to use red letterhead with the underlying symbolism of his party “blending” with Labour are next to zero.

He has seen enough parties shrivel and die to know that what begins as a joyful dance around the maypole with a major party can rapidly turn into a mortal embrace.

Thus far, the NZ First ministers have resisted and continue to use plain old black.

Oddly, the ministers from the Green Party have been obediently using it despite green not being included in Coalition Red. Maybe it was sold to them as Communist Red.

Such are the teething problems for a new government.

Those are small beer compared to what is happening elsewhere and what is looming. Though, for the life of me why isn’t it just consistent black or some neutral colour?

The teething problems have gone beyond fripperies such as letterhead loaded with symbolism.

The one who has really needed some Bonjela to help soothe the pain of teething was poor old Kelvin Davis.

To Davis fell the job of Acting Prime Minister and with it a bout of stage fright.

Labour ministers are under orders not to outshine the Prime Minister and not to say or do anything stupid.

The response of the usually descriptive Davis was to not say anything at all.

His stock answers as Prime Minister in Question Time were variations of “yes”, “no” and “we will make decisions in due course.”

On Wednesday, he mixed it up a bit by saying “yes”, “no” and ‘in due course” in te reo Maori instead of English.

On one occasion, he had help from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who could be seen muttering “yes and no” to Davis before Davis stood up and answered “yes and no”.

Even with so few words at his disposal, he ended up having to correct himself for having said at first that the costs of providing 1800 new police had been worked out when they had not.

National should target Kelvin Davis mercilessly. He won’t learn, he’s a muppet, and he already shows signs of fright in the house. He needs a drubbing each and every Question Time so he becomes shell-shocked and a blithering mess.

Davis was not the only victim suffering from what Robertson diagnosed as bouts of “enthusiasm”.

There was Revenue Minister Stuart Nash’s enthusiastic proclamation GST would “absolutely” be charged on lower-value goods ordered from overseas because “it’s the right thing to do”.

Robertson quickly hauled that back by simply declaring Nash had got ahead of himself.

Rather embarrassing for all concerned, including Robertson who is supposed to be Finance Minister but is clearly not in command of his portfolio or those of his reporting ministers.

Robertson himself more capably contended with National’s attempts to resuscitate its much mocked $11.7 billion hole.

After economists last week predicted Labour would have to borrow much more than it had believed to afford its policies, Joyce sensed his Eureka moment could come true after all.

That was the much discredited $11.7b hole he had claimed to unearth in Labour’s books.

My sources tell me the fiscal hole is much bigger and that Joyce will eventually turn out to be correct. The last number I was told was $18b.

All in all, there were loud sighs of relief when Ardern jetted back into the country.

Most of those ministers suffering from Robertson’s diagnosis of “enthusiasm” will quickly settle into their jobs.

But for the time being it is sink or swim – with National doing bombs into the pool to help them along.

Jacinda Ardern came to the house and it seems her promise of “relentless positividdy” has disappeared. Her caring, concern-face has gone, botoxed away, replaced now with scowly-face without the wrinkles due to the aforementioned botox.

There are serious head smackings going on inside the government with most smackings being delivered by Heather Simpson who is busily vetoing ministerial staff left, right and centre. There is also some retribution going on as well with some staff being punished and some ministers receiving dud staff as a penalty for being in one faction or another.

All and all things aren’t happy inside the government halls. If I know this stuff then it is open in Wellington. Something will give.

I’m just waiting for Sue Moroney to deliver her utu….that one is still on simmer I understand.

 

-NZ Herald

 


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