Monday, November 14, 2005

Nothing but a bauble

In his oft-quoted Rotorua speech on September 7th, Winston Peters disclaimed any interest in the perks and baubles of office. He then turned around and accepted the position of Foreign Minister outside Cabinet in the Labour-led government. This has raised lots of issues - issues of deceit, and of the role of Cabinet Collective Responsibility, and his suitability for the job - but ignoring all those, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: despite his declaration in Rotorua, this job is nothing but a bauble. Just look at the evidence:

  • Peters won't be going on international visits, at least where they are at all sensitive. He didn't attend the Pacific Islands Forum (despite a previously expressed interest in a greater focus on our Pacific neighbours), and while he will be attending APEC, he will be babysat by Helen Clark and Phil Goff;
  • He doesn't issue press releases on foreign affairs. The official government response to the recent bombings in India was late, and issued only afte rhe had been kicked. The response to the weekend's bombings in Jordan was issued by the Prime Minister, rather than the Foreign Minister.
  • He will not even be sitting on Cabinet's external relations and defence committee - the chief body which decides foreign policy in New Zealand, and which the Foreign Minister traditionally chairs. Instead, the committee will continue to be chaired by Phil Goff.

Winston's role will be limited to greeting ambassadors, attending cocktail parties, and going on junkets and those overseas visits deemed unimportant enough that they can be entrusted to him. Meanwhile, the actual work of his portfolio will be done by other people. And we're paying him $195,000 a year for this?

This has nothing to do with Cabinet Collective Responsibility or any of the other issues mentioned above. The question isn't whether Winston is suitable for the job - but whether he's even going to do it. And if he's not - if we're going to continue this absurd situation where he has the title, but the actual work is done by others - then he simply shouldn't be a Minister.



Sadly, I don't think you're being very cynical at all - but I have the strangest feeling the rest of the international community isn't going to see the joke.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 11/14/2005 05:15:00 PM

Couldn't agree more. The whole arrangement is laughable and internationally embarrassing. A foreign minister outside of cabinet and not responsible for actual foreign affairs policy? WTF? That said, if he's not doing anything, there's less potential for him to stuff up on a grand scale, which would be a real concern if he were actually doing the job his title says he's doing. I think the racing community would be quite keen to see a similar arrangement for his other portfolio too, quite frankly.

Posted by BerlinBear : 11/15/2005 03:34:00 AM