Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So, just a week after John Key told her publicly that she could not campaign on the anti-smacking referendum, Christine Rankin is campaigning against it in the pages of Investigate. The Prime Minister's response? To wibble and backtrack on his earlier position, of course:

Neither Mr Key nor Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was told of the interview, but yesterday the PM said he did not believe Ms Rankin had contravened his edict.

"I don't think it's particularly provocative. I made it clear I wouldn't want to see her campaigning on the 'no' vote, and I think she's honoured that, so I'm pretty relaxed about it."

This simply makes the Prime Minister look weak. He's sent a clear message (and one that is consistent with and reinforces expectations of political neutrality from Crown Entity board members), and then when it is ignored, does nothing. Yeah, that'll enforce standards in the wider state sector...

As for Bennett, the State Services Commission has washed its hands of Crown Entity board members, leaving them in the hands of Ministers. It is her duty to enforce proper standards on those responsible to her and ensure they are meeting their statutory obligations to act with honesty and integrity and in good faith and not at expense of entity's interests. Rankin clearly is doing neither; rather she regards her position as a bully pulpit to push her own political views in opposition tot he considered position of the Commission. the fact that she's doing this at a time when we expect the stat sector to be silent and leave the decision in our hands is just icing on the cake.

Peter Dunne is right: Rankin must resign. She is abusing her position, and that is not acceptable.

(I should note that the Commission can enforce those duties on its members independently of the Minister by seeking a court order requiring compliance. That would of course cost a lot of money, and be tantamount to a declaration of no confidence in Rankin. But if the Minister won't act - and a second warning in two days isn't 'acting" - then they will have to).