Big fish Brownlee let off the hook

MATHEW GROCOTT - DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF
Last updated 12:00 29/07/2014

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The prime minister was never going to offer Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee a ticket to the back benches over his skirting of airport security last week.

Running late for a flight, Brownlee went into the Christchurch Airport departure lounge through an exit door, and thus avoided being held up going through security screening.

Granted, Brownlee's faux pas was a bad look, especially given his areas of responsibility include airport security, but his offer to resign was not going to be accepted.

Key publicly backed his minister, part of his "kitchen cabinet", within a few minutes of Brownlee's statement offering his resignation.

It was an effective piece of political choreography and should serve to kill the story pretty quickly.

It also helped to take some of the attention away from the Claudette Hauiti spending saga.

The opposition and media are still asking for more details on how Hauiti misspent her parliamentary charge card. We know she booked personal flights to Australia and purchased more than $1000 in petrol, but not a lot else.

Her actions were serious enough that she's withdrawn as a candidate from the September 20 election. She's a much smaller loss to National than someone as important as Brownlee, of course.

In his tenure, Key has shown reluctance to sack under-fire ministers facing more serious allegations than Brownlee.

Judith Collins is still in her post despite the Oravida saga and Hekia Parata remains education minister despite being openly derided by many in the education industry.

It's a different approach to the one Helen Clark took during her nine years as prime minister, when ministers faced being sacked at the first whiff of a controversy or misdemeanour.

Of course, Brownlee still faces the prospect of a Civil Aviation Authority investigation into last Thursday's security breach and if that's particularly damning, Key may need to reconsider.

However, the only statement from the CAA on the matter makes it sound like the investigation will focus on how the breach occurred and how it can be prevented in future, rather than on Brownlee himself.

So a somewhat red-faced Brownlee will stay as transport minister until the election. He may also start arriving earlier for his flights.

ONE MORE THING

The latest figures from the Electoral Commission show the Palmerston North electorate has the third-lowest rate of voter enrolment in the country. The news should serve as a reminder to everyone to check that they are enrolled to vote, and if they're not, to get themselves on the electoral roll.

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- Manawatu Standard

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