Key points to poor 2012 performers
Are the fun times over for Key? At 51, John Key must be wondering at times whether there is more to life than this.
Just as Parliament rose for the holiday break, his front bench gave him not one but two own goals.
First, the High Court found that Education Minister Hekia Parata had acted unlawfully in seeking to close down a special school for girls in Nelson.
In many countries, this would have left Parata facing two options: Resign or be sacked. In her case, that latest disaster came in the wake of problems over classroom sizes, schools closures in Christchurch and the ongoing failures of the Novopay system.
Luckily for Parata, the High Court decision was overshadowed by the mess Justice Minister Judith Collins has made of handling the investigation by eminent Canadian retired judge Ian Binnie into whether David Bain should be paid any compensation after spending 13 years in jail for a crime for which he was ultimately acquitted. Owing to the Bain case controversy, Binnie had been hired to provide an outsider’s expert viewpoint.
When he did so, Collins baulked. She consulted with the prosecution about his report (while ignoring the defence team) and publicly criticised Binnie’s work while initially keeping the contents under wraps.
Public pressure finally forced Collins to release the Binnie report, which she said contained errors and flaws. However, it appears Collins had decided to scrap Binnie’s report even before she received a critique of it by Robert Fisher QC.
Well, as the Black Caps regularly prove, a captain can do only so much when the team fails to fire.
In that respect Key, Labour leader David Shearer and NZ First’s Winston Peters would probably have a lot to commiserate with each other about, over a beer at a Christmas barbie. It must be hell having to keep on making excuses for the underperformers in your ranks.
Parata must now be living on borrowed time, yet decisive action will always run the risk of coming back to bite you.
For instance, by expelling Brendan Horan from his party, Peters has made an enemy already showing every intention of spending his remaining time in Parliament on ways of getting even. Endure, demote or expel them: The underlings can be a real pain in the neck, whatever you do.
It takes its toll. During 2012, Key has been bringing noticeably less energy to the tasks at hand.
Chronic issues such as unemployment, child poverty, income inequality and poor economic growth continue to dog him.
For now, Key has few other career options – unlike Helen Clark, he has no major international agency waiting to employ his talents. (Is the World Bank hiring these days?)
For the next two years, Key will need to battle very hard to remain on the same treadmill. On present poll projections, an election victory for National in 2014 would almost certainly mean he would need to spend the 2015-17 term in tandem with NZ First and its unpredictable leader. Good luck with that.
Even if Peters was made foreign minister and sent overseas regularly, life at the top wouldn’t be much fun.
One can only hope the PM enjoys his holiday break in Hawaii, while it lasts.