Editorial: Too busy to explain?

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully kicked off a busy month (so far, at least) with a statement on September 1, jointly signed by Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The statement covered a raft of issues discussed at their meeting in the Cook Islands, such as regional development in the Pacific, Fiji's return to democracy, and the environmental, economic, developmental and security implications of climate change.

A few days later, Mr McCully and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman were confirming Cabinet's agreement to withdraw the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team from Bamiyan province in Afghanistan by the end of April next year.

On the same day Mr McCully announced he would be travelling to Russia within a few hours for the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation ministerial meeting. The minister also would attend bilateral meetings with Apec counterparts.

Thursday brought confirmation the Government will submit its own proposal for a Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea, rather than a joint one with the United States. The proposal would mean fishing for toothfish would be banned in the area.

But Mr McCully has been tardy about disclosing some matters within his bailiwick, even when the Official Information Act has been invoked. His Labour counterpart, Phil Goff, accused him of operating under "a cult of secrecy" by refusing to release Treasury documents on this year's Foreign Affairs budget. Every other minister released their papers on June 29.

Perhaps embarrassed by the secrecy accusation, Mr McCully relented and released his ministry's Four Year Budget Plan on Thursday. He must have known what would happen next. Mr Goff said it proves he knew and had approved the botched ministry restructuring plan a month before he publicly distanced himself from it and heaped blame on MFAT chief executive John Allen.

This seems to be so. The pity is that the busy minister has not issued one more statement, this time to explain how Mr Goff has misinterpreted the document - or just to say sorry.

Waikato Times