McCully's explanation and Mallard's moa won't fly

DUNCAN GARNER
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2014

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OPINION: After losing an entire commercial aircraft, surely the Malaysians couldn't make New Zealand government ministers and officials look more inept and incompetent than themselves.

Sadly, they have.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Mfat chief executive John Allen have both failed in their jobs. Failed miserably, utterly and completely.

They look incompetent over the handling of the Malaysian diplomat and the alleged sex offence. There is simply no way a competent Cabinet minister, on top of their portfolio, would have let this alleged offender head home to Malaysia.

As soon as the incident happened it should've been on the Beehive's risk list.

A competent chief executive should know what's happening with matters like this. This wasn't a parking ticket. It's an alleged sex offence. It doesn't get much more serious than this.

I'll admit to something of a conflict of interest here.

Foreign Affairs officials have never been my best friends. After 17 years of putting up with their mind-numbing briefings and paranoia, I never found them in touch with the real world and its problems.

Frankly, I found them to be intellectual snobs, living in their own bubble of self-importance.

That said, I don't buy the emerging spin that it's all the ministry's fault.

Murray "Houdini" McCully and his master John Key have thrown John Allen under a bus.

I fear some junior "protocol" officer may lose their job in time.

But only two people should be fighting for their jobs at the moment: McCully and Allen. They're the two responsible.

Let's start with McCully.

He knew about the alleged incident on May 10, the day after it happened.

Incredibly, Allen only found out about it about six weeks later. If you ever needed proof that Mfat is dysfunctional - given no-one thought to alert the boss - then there it is.

McCully knew. He's the minister. He's in power. He holds the cards.

But he's also the one with the reputation for high-handedness with junior staff.

These nervous minions rush in and out of his door daily, trembling at the thought of another trip to his Beehive office.

McCully and the prime minister knew about this incident early on in the piece.

Surely that raises a flag - if this didn't scream "diplomatic incident" then I don't know what would.

It is unforgivable that McCully wasn't all over this from the start, engaging Allen and seeking regular updates. That's a minister's job.

Perhaps the minister was too busy wining and dining those who may vote for us to get a place on the UN Security Council?

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Or was he hopelessly distracted while greasing up the Yanks in Washington with the prime minister to worry about a young Kiwi victim and the whereabouts of the Malaysian diplomat?

How hard is it to ask a few questions?

McCully said this week that he'd followed good process throughout.

That is laughable.

Is the relationship between Allen and McCully so dysfunctional that all this got simply lost?

Something is not right here. Blaming Mfat staff might be politically convenient, but it doesn't look or feel right.

The buck stops with ministers. Yes, McCully grabbed a late victory by getting the diplomat to return here for trial - but I say the damage has been done.

He and his department have got this one horribly wrong. You can only imagine how the female complainant is feeling watching this circus play out.

Speaking of foolish politicians, Trevor Mallard's bizarre call to bring back the moa this week highlights just how desperate he is.

It also illustrates perfectly why Labour can't get any traction.

Mallard is in trouble in his Hutt South electorate, which he knows is now a marginal seat. National is pulling out all the stops to up-end him.

So Mallard set out to court some publicity with a bird-brained idea that detracted from some sensible Labour policy, offering to fund $100 for every pupil at schools that do not hit up parents for "voluntary" donations.

Mallard is one of Labour's most experienced MPs. He should be taking the fight to National. Instead he's content to play the class clown, dragging leader David Cunliffe into the fray, who was forced to declare that the "moa's not a goer".

When you're trying to present your party as an alternative government you need to stay on-message - and look like you're ready to govern.

If National gets it way in Hutt South Mallard could have plenty of time to roam the hills in his beloved Wainuiomata.

No wonder he's already thinking about who could keep him company.

- The Dominion Post

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