Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The quid pro quo

This morning's Independent Financial Review reports that Don Brash was offered a significant diplomatic post in exchange for going quietly. "Significant" in this case means London or Washington, and Brash reportedly prefers the latter. So if National is elected, we can have Don making more promises to the Americans about how we'll get rid of our anti-nuclear policy. Quite a quid pro quo, neh?

The interesting question here is "who talked"? Did John Key use the same back channels he used to sink Brash to publicise the deal, allowing him to wiggle out of it and avoid the public odium of a transparently political appointment? Or did Brash's habit of bumbling strike again? Either way, now that it's been made public, it should be sunk. Jim Bolger had the foreign policy experience of being Prime Minister to back him up. Jonathan Hunt can at least hold a good party. But Brash was always a lightweight on foreign policy, and all he ever did was stick his foot in his mouth. That's not something we can afford in the case of a top diplomat.


Oooooh, ooooooh, perhaps they should put him forward as the next leader of the IMF where he can totally screw indigenous people at a global scale.... (fade to wicked Dr Evil laughter)

Posted by zANavAShi : 12/13/2006 01:52:00 PM

Where is the story here? Political appointments have been going on for years. Graeme Kelly's experience was...? Sandra Lee? Being able to host a party is considered a qualification for a major role in London? Where does my wife sign up?

Try not to let your anti brash hysteria get in the way of reason.

Brash has long term leadership experience of large regulatory organisations and private businesses, and mixed with similar at an international level for years. That would make him far more qualified than most political appointees.


Posted by Anonymous : 12/13/2006 03:16:00 PM

Insider: Political appointments have indeed been going on for years, and they're not always a good idea (Graham Kelly is a prime example of this). And I look forward to some of the right-wing bloggers who heaped vituperation on the government for sending Hunt to London showing some consistency here.

Oh, and contrary to right-wing opinion, being a bean counter does not make you universally competant or good at anything other than counting beans. In Brash's case, foreign policy is one of his notable weak points; a siplomatic role would therefore seem to be a particularly bad idea.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/13/2006 03:35:00 PM

What National government? Oh, the one relying on support from the Maori Party.

Dream on, Orewa Don.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/13/2006 04:05:00 PM

Insider: Political appointments have indeed been going on for years, and they're not always a good idea (Graham Kelly is a prime example of this). And I look forward to some of the right-wing bloggers who heaped vituperation on the government for sending Hunt to London showing some consistency here.

National made a big song and dance about both Hunt and Kelly, but don't hold your breath for that consistency.

I agree with you about Brash. He'd be a bloody hopeless ambassador.

Posted by Russell Brown : 12/13/2006 08:02:00 PM

Clark's had some major diplomatic foot-in-mouth moments over the years, so why pick on Brash?


Posted by Anonymous : 12/14/2006 01:35:00 AM

Gone by lunchtime.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/14/2006 08:21:00 AM

Of course this is the country that made Winston Peters Minister of Foreign Affairs outside Cabinet. A man who made speeches questioning Asian immigration before every election since 1993... methinks the left can hardly point fingers at who a future Nat government may appoint as an ambassador under those circumstances.

Seriously - or has everyone forgotten this?

Posted by Libertyscott : 12/14/2006 12:14:00 PM

Wallace Rowling was a very good Ambassador to the United States, as far as political appointments go.

This government has stacked every crown entity, and a long line of diplomatic appointments, with Labour's friends.

Brash a poor choice for an Ambassador? Both political parties have made bloody appalling choices in diplomatic appointments for the last sixty years. Most political appointments, for the sake of expediency, have been atrocious. Graham Kelly and Jonathan Hunt rank as two of those. I was appalled when Bolger appointed John Collinge to London, and he proved to be an utter embarrassment. Muldoon reached the depths of cynicism when he appointed Ed Latter to Ottawa, and Laurie Francis to Canberra. Joe Walding wasn't in London long enough to make a fool of New Zealand.

But you're stretching a thin point to suggest that Don Brash left quietly with the promise of a diplomatic appointment. He seemed to pretty much go of his own accord. He doesn't need the money. He isn't personally vain. It's never a job he's aspired to, and I think the story is hogwash. Brash left quietly because that's the guy he is. Many in the Labour Party could learn from that kind of graciousness. By the way--Jenny Shipley left quietly as well, without any rumours of political appointments under a National government.

I don't doubt that John Key will call on Don Brash's enormous skills when Key is Prime Minister. But I don't think it will be an appointment to Washington.

There has been a general consensus from both parties over the last twenty years that Washington demands the kind of skills that really are reserved for career diplomats. Canberra likewise, as with New York. They are our three key political and economic relationships in the world. Bolger was an exception: as a former long-standing prime minister, he could open doors in ways that most career diplomats can't: but he still had a very senior MFAT guy holding his hand as his deputy, who is now Ambassador in Washington himself.

I think John Key can set a much higher standard by declining political appointments, with very few exceptions. There's no point in spending half a billion dollars a year on diplomatic representation overseas if we're going to taint what we do by sending political never-weres to represent us. Brash would actually do a pretty good job, but there's better things he can do at home.

Posted by Insolent Prick : 12/14/2006 10:21:00 PM