Too many Gov­ern­ment prat­falls

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

at­tempt­ing to si­lence health of­fi­cials over sewage and mould run­ning down the walls at Mid­dle­more Hos­pi­tal.

That in it­self will be noth­ing new. Govern­ments have used var­i­ous tac­tics over the years to wres­tle the nar­ra­tive and con­trol the story. But those levers are usu­ally pulled be­hind closed doors.

Clark has erred un­for­giv­ably by ex­pos­ing the in­ner work­ings of the po­lit­i­cal ma­chine; if the leaked voice­mail is gen­uine, he has com­pounded that er­ror by ap­pear­ing to link that si­lence to the pos­si­bil­ity of fu­ture em­ploy­ment.

Even worse, if that were pos­si­ble, he has placed a po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing record­ing in the hands of a man he played a role in re­mov­ing: the mes­sage was for for­mer Coun­ties Manukau Dis­trict Health Board chair­man Rabin Rabindran, who re­signed af­ter clashes with Clark over is­sues at the hos­pi­tal.

The ‘‘rocket man’’ is likely to walk away from the crash, but it rep­re­sents yet an­other in­ci­dent of un­con­trolled and dam­ag­ing com­bus­tion in a young coali­tion Gov­ern­ment strug­gling to launch.

Shane Jones is a walk­ing, talk­ing com­bus­tion en­gine. He likes noth­ing more than light­ing a fire un­der what he deems the soft un­der­belly of cor­po­rate com­pla­cency and re­gional ne­glect.

He will find plenty of fuel for his lat­est pop­ulist at­tack, on dairy gi­ant Fon­terra, but his in­cen­di­ary lan­guage and calls for co-op chair­man John Wil­son to ‘‘catch the next cab out of town’’ go too far for a man of his stand­ing and in­flu­ence.

Some dis­miss the or­a­tor­i­cal ar­son­ist as a po­lit­i­cal out­lier and a mere buf­foon – fel­low min­is­ters roll their eyes and shrug their shoul­ders at the lat­est out­burst from ‘‘Jonesy’’ – but it’s not just his rep­u­ta­tion and a few ivory tow­ers he’s burn­ing down.

Jones is a min­is­ter of the Crown, a party to some mea­sure of Cab­i­net re­spon­si­bil­ity. No-one is ex­pect­ing him to en­tirely toe the line, but they are right to be con­cerned at his pen­chant for oblit­er­at­ing it.

Oth­ers have been join­ing him at the bon­fire: Broad­cast­ing Min­is­ter Clare Cur­ran was lucky to sur­vive her naive meet­ing with for­mer RNZ head of con­tent Carol Hirschfeld and the clumsy han­dling of the fall­out; Kelvin Davis has frankly made a pig’s ear of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s highly sen­si­tive moves to­wards cut­ting the prison pop­u­la­tion; and Phil Twyford has demon­strated that a man wanting to build 100,000 homes must first have a good grasp of the num­bers.

Some of this has been sim­ply am­a­teur­ish. Such things are of­ten a sign of a Gov­ern­ment that has out­lived its man­date and be­gun to im­plode around the core of its own per­ceived im­por­tance. In its tired­ness it can trip over the most ob­vi­ous hur­dles.

This Gov­ern­ment is barely nine months old. It needs to find its feet, and quickly.

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