Maybe Bond isn’t the best role model?


Vegas Update: Clark Tells More Lies

It looks like the Prime Minister’s Office is lying again. Helen Clark’s Chief Press Secretary Kathryn Street is telling journalists that the Prime Minister didn’t know about Winston Peter’s Las Vegas junket until two Fridays ago – but that is at odds with what MFAT sources are telling WOBH.

WOBH is reliably informed that the Las Vegas junket, and its unorthodox nature, was discussed at the very time it was underway at no less and august forum than MFAT’s Friday morning Divisional Officers’ Meeting. This is a big meeting at which MFAT bosses get instruction from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Senior Management on what is going on all around the world within the organisation, including what the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Trade Minister, and their Associates, are all up to.

Also represented at this meeting are the Foreign Affairs representative in the Prime Minister’s Office, Andrea Smith; the Foreign Affairs Private Secretary in the Foreign Minister’s Office, Rob Moore-Jones; and the Trade Private Secretary in the Trade Minister’s Office, Taha Macpherson. They keep in close contact not only with the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Heather Simpson, but also with the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Maarten Wevers.

WOBH’s deep-throat sources within MFAT and the Beehive say Wevers, Smith, Moore-Jones and Macpherson are all savvy political players.

Wevers is a former Ambassador to Japan and the mastermind behind New Zealand’s successful hosting of APEC in 1999. Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, former Foreign Minister Don McKinnon and former Trade Minister Lockwood Smith are eternally grateful to him, and continue to keep in touch, to the extent appropriate given his close relationship with Helen Clark.

Smith has represented New Zealand in Brussels, Jakarta and Washington and is about to go off as Ambassador in Turkey. She worked closely with Tim Groser, now a National MP, on agriculture negotiations at the World Trade Organisation and was deeply involved in producer board reform.

Moore-Jones has served New Zealand twice in Manila, once as Ambassador, and is being rewarded for his excellence performance in the Beehive by being appointed Ambassador to Madrid. Extremely social, he too has friends across the political spectrum.

Macpeherson previously represented New Zealand in Washington, working closely with former Prime Minister Jim Bolger, and is seen throughout Wellington as Trade Minister Phil Goff’s right-hand man, both in a policy and now a political sense. The incoming National Government is likely to recognise his talent by appointing him, early in his career, as an Ambassador to Vietnam, with a view to trusting him, before his 40th birthday, with an ambassadorship to a strategically-important major trading partner.

All four are bright, internationally-sophisticated, well-connected across all sides of Parliament and act entirely in the interests of their political masters. It is implausible that not one of them reported from the meeting to Clark or Goff that Peters was in Las Vegas and that eyebrows were being raised within MFAT as to why.

Kathryn Street may be wise to check her facts on the Las Vegas affair with all of these four, before she digs the Prime Minister any deeper into the hole.

This affair has very close parallels with the Air New Zealand troop charter issue, and many of the same players are involved (and briefing WOBH). Remember how Wevers and MFAT CEO Simon Murdoch knew everything, but then tried to claim Ministers were not informed? Will the same li(n)es be run this time?