Franklin County News
Rash Nash needs to close Cabinet door
OPINION: The business of politics is not usually about things that happened in the past. Most of the time, politicians live in the eternal present of who is up, and who is down in the polls, or on policy promises due to happen sometime in the distant future.
Of late, though, our politics have taken a decidedly retro turn, with the news being dominated by what happened in the weeks, months and years gone by. Ever since he took over the top job, Chris Hipkins has been engaged with throwing overboard many of the past pet projects of his own party, and of the Greens.
In similar back-to-the-future fashion, Charles Dickens would probably have relished seeing Rob Campbell, Steve Maharey, Ruth Dyson and, now, Stuart Nash being haunted by the ghosts of Politics Past. What were they thinking when they did what they did?
Nash has been the most striking example of political karma. Two years ago, Nash erred by trampling on judicial discretion when he openly called for a long sentence on a matter still before the courts. At the time, he narrowly avoided being prosecuted for contempt of court.
Undaunted, Nash went on to intervene on police discretion. He recently boasted in a radio interview about having rung up Police Commissioner Andrew Coster concerning what Nash had felt to be an overly lenient judicial sentence that – apparently – Nash had wanted Police to take to appeal.
Nash had been offering the Coster phone call as evidence to listeners of his own ‘‘tough on crime’’ credentials.
It was only after the Act Party picked up the comments that Nash grasped the need to submit his resignation as police minister – while still doing interviews in which he minimised what he’d done.
Nash’s lack of genuine contrition – beyond a selfinterested plea for mercy – left his boss with few options. After all, Hipkins had set something of a precedent in this area. At the time, the explanation Hipkins gave the public as to why Rob Campbell had to lose all of his chairing roles with Crown agencies (while Steve Maharey could be kept on) was that
Maharey had expressed contrition and Campbell hadn’t. So by Hipkins’ own recent precedent, Nash should have been gone from Cabinet by lunchtime.
Instead, Hipkins initially sought to separate out the two incidents. He treated one as a historical event that had been done and dusted, and the other as one for which Nash has been adequately punished by losing the police portfolio. Yet the two incidents shared too much in common for that argument to be very convincing.
To repeat: the pattern of serial offending indicated that Nash had learnt nothing at all from his initial transgression and warning.
At some point, surely, there needs to be a judgment call with respect to wilful (or witless) repeat offenders.
Especially so, one would have thought, given that Cabinet ministers such as Stuart Nash are being paid a basic salary of $296,007 plus perks.
This is on the understanding that such levels or remuneration disqualify them from the luxury of stuffing up on the job, and expecting to carry on regardless.