I got back from a trip to Washington today to hear our media outlets trying hard to say something of substance about John Key’s visit to the East Asia Summit in Ha Noi. So, I might be a bit imbued with things American after a a few days there, but I am reminded of an old American advertising slogan which Wendy’s ran in the 80s against a fictitious rival. Their (imaginary) hamburger was all fluffy bun and a tiny meat pattie, so Wendy’s slogan became “Where’s the beef?” It was taken up by Walter Mondale against Gary Hart in the Democrat Presidential primaries in 1984 when he said that every time Gary Hart said “new ideas” he was reminded of the ad which said “where’s the beef?”
And so it is with John Key and the East Asia Summit. Our PM, aka Mr Smile-and-Wave, sat next to Gen Thein Sein from Burma for dinner because Myanmar comes just before NZ in the alphabetical seating arrangements. According to one media report (NZPA), Key told him “that NZ had some concerns and wanted a proper democratic election” – as opposed to the pre-ordained elections due to occur on 7 November. Say what? The whole NZ Parliament passed a resolution unanimously a few weeks ago, calling on the Burmese junta to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, allowing them and her to participate in the elections, and calling for the junta to allow the 3 freedoms – association, speech and assembly. Don’t you think he could have “beefed” it up a bit?
Then according to Newstalk ZB, he said he had “a feeling” (!) that Japan was interested in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, this really complicated trade deal amongst some Pacific-rim countries, including us and America. Where’s the beef PM? Or the seafood, or the value-added timber products, or the technology and IP? Did he talk to them about their position on agricultural subsidies?
Then, poor old Jessica Mutch was reduced to telling us how they had to go through scanners in Ha Noi, in a brave attempt to give the meeting some gravitas. That’s only because there was no substance to report. Where’s the beef PM?
What about the comment on Russia – “they’re a really interesting market”?!! Can he see it from his kitchen window too?
Then there is John Key’s exchange with Hillary Clinton. It was “relatively brief” he said because he is going to meet her this week in NZ. This is arguably our most important US exchange in his term so far. A few days ago, Jonathan Milne in the Herald was “beefing” up expectations around this. Let’s see if John Key can deliver some beef this time, not just a fluffy bun.