Red Alert

Don’t blame the help John

Posted by on February 21st, 2011

So it turns out that John Key was informed about the purchase of a new fleet of BMWs, he just didn’t read the briefing papers. And now he is trying to blame his staff for not telling him. That’s pretty weak John.

Before I became an MP I worked for several different Ministers, and I can recall a few cases where staff slipped up and didn’t pass on information. In every case that I was involved with, the Minister concerned took the rap. Blaming the staff is a pretty weak way to operate. I certainly can’t imagine any of those Ministers, including Helen Clark using the excuse that they were too busy heading off on holiday for not attending to their job.

No doubt tomorrow Key will have a new set of excuses, but for now the chronology goes something like this:

  • Firstly, Key claims he didn’t know anything about it;
  • Then his limo driver told him about ‘a week ago’;
  • Then his limo driver told him about it ‘some weeks back’;
  • Now it turns out he was briefed in December, but chose not to read it.

John Key has been equally devious about the nature of the contract:

  • First he said they couldn’t get out of it without paying a high penalty;
  • Then he said the contract could have been cancelled without penalty;
  • Then he said the contract is a good deal for taxpayers;
  • Now he is saying the Solicitor General has advised that the govt can’t pull out of the deal.

He is hardly consistent either when it comes to how the deal was authorised:

  • First off all, he said the decision was made by the Internal affairs Department, which did not think it had to check with Ministers;
  • Then he agreed Ministers had known about the contract last year;
  • Then he said his Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy assumed last year that he would know all about and didn’t bother telling him;
  • Now he says he was informed but didn’t read the briefing paper.

This whole saga has been a shambles and suggests that Key just isn’t on top of his job. If he isn’t willing to do anything more than smile and wave for the cameras, perhaps he should hand over the detail work as Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services to somebody who doesn’t find the thought of sitting down with a thick briefing paper quite so daunting.

28 Responses to “Don’t blame the help John”

  1. Matthew says:

    Key has had a bad slip up on this its been cringe worthy to watch. Its certainly not the most important matter of the year.

    I actually support the purchase of new BMW’s simply because it make better financial sense considering the only cost (Approx $69,000!). You’d struggle to buy one NZ New for that price today! The cost of purchasing a new ones will be not much more I imagine after the sale of the current ones to BMW the max it would cost would be $500,000 but more likely 3-400k so long as they are stock standard.

  2. In management, there is little to be detested as much as the manager who fawns upwards, yet blames downwards.

  3. pdm says:

    He obviously took lessons from ms teflon herself – Helen Clark. I am sure you guys remember how nothing was ever her fault.

  4. logie97 says:


    you obviously despised Helen Clark for such failings yet somehow, it is acceptable and to countenanced for the current Prime Minister. Come come – should be “odiferous behaviour” – full stop.

    (Take the “d” out your nom-de-plume and you get pm. Says a lot really.)

  5. Pete says:

    In the Bush years, Americans had to endure “B-b-b but Clinton”

    Now it looks like we have to endure “B-b-b but Clarke”

  6. Gooner says:

    I just put up a comment that was two links, both to Herald articles. They were articles on the speeding motorcade, and how Helen Clark ordered the DPS to speed through Ashburton to catch the plane so she could watch the Bledisloe Cup test.

    The comment was deleted.

    I thought by way of balance, to counter Mr Hipkins’ contention that “blaming the staff is a pretty weak way to operate. I certainly can’t imagine any of those Ministers, including Helen Clark using the excuse…”, they might have stayed there. Sadly no. So I post this, which will probably be deleted also.

  7. Gooner says:

    Oops, I take it back and apologise :)

    The comment is in moderation.

  8. Unpleasantly Odouriferous says:

    The PM’s handling on this has been a shocker. To deflect blame, he’s now saying he didn’t read the briefing note and made some dissembling remarks about having a tonne of paper to read.

    So, let me get this straight:

    He’s saying that because he gets so much paperwork he cannot be bothered to read and absorb it all? Seriously, that’s his defence?

    Our premier man in government cannot put in the effort to read all of the paper that an entire bureaucracy and large personal staff has filtered upward *specifically* for his attention?

    So, I guess that briefing about the illegal entry of a person with a security flag on their file…didn’t bother to read because he was too busy?

    That briefing about the soldiers in faraway lands needs agreement to participate in hostile action? …nope too much telly to watch.

    How about the detailed briefings about upcoming bilaterals with key foreign leaders? No…he has to go to a football game. Sheesh.

    I mean there are defences and then there is self-immolation.

  9. logie97 says:

    … amazing what becomes folklore. Can you produce the evidence that Helen Clark “ordered” the DPS to speed…? We do have evidence, however, that Key has been changing his story, including blaming his back office. Just like he changed his story about Tranzrail share holdings and the purpose of the visit of Lord Ashcroft.

    And, in hindsight, I wonder if the left’s campaign last election was targeting the right sort of trust.

    I am sure the PM will be able to squeeze in a little bit of tourism while at the imminent society “do” and check out such attractions from Aldgate to Whitechapel.

    [sorry logie – this got caught in the SPAM filter last night, not sure why, I’ll check it out – Chris]

  10. sica says:

    For John Key

    Those who can’t be trusted in small things cannot be trusted with large.

    Helen Clark tried to warn us when she asked us who did we trust at the 2008 election. I trusted her to do the best for New Zealand and knew from 9 years experience that she was on top of her job. The best and most genuine leader I had had in two countries and 59 years of life.
    I was not sure about John Key and although I did not think he had very good quals. for the job of P.M.but had to give him a chance. I now know after two and a bit yearsof experience of him as P.M. that sadly he tells porkies and cannot be trusted. This BMW issue displays both of these ugly facets.
    And @ Matthew I think it IS a really important issue that our P.M. apparently does not tell the truth and therefore is hard to trust. Help!

  11. Dominoes says:

    That’s just not true that Labour ministers didn’t blame their staff Chris.

    You might have forgotten Trevor’s attacks on civil servants. First We don’t have civil servants in NZ secondly the only person whose work quality I challenged is currently taking legal action against the crown but suffice it to say she was on a contract not a public servant. Thirdly I’ve deleted the balance because it is untrue defamatory and a few other things as well. Ban next time. Trevor

    I think I prefer a PM who admits that his office’s handling of an issue has been sloppy when by any measure it has been, rather than arguing blue in the face that nobody has done anything wrong and that it’s just a beat-up by the media and the opposition.

  12. Dominoes says:

    Why are my posts now in mod?

  13. Adrian says:

    Two other things pertinent to this 1 ; Key has admitted to sitting one of these cars a few months ago as he has said .”…theres not much difference, the upholstery is a bit darker” and 2 : Has anybody else caught the reference that the new ones will arrive before the world cup and the old model go back to BM after the cup. That makes 68 of them because, “… we need more cars to ferry dignitaries around.” JK obviously likes those big motorcades, but he should be a bit nervous when he sees what is happening around the world to others of similiar ilk.

  14. Tom Brady says:


    There is a reason why I despise politics. It goes for both sides of the House and it relates to following nonsense stories such as this. For me the hierarchy of what you should be focusing on is as follows:

    – Making NZ more productive
    – Reducing government and private debt
    – Increasing the savings rate of NZers
    – Making NZ more competitive
    – Reducing poverty and improving the wealth of NZers
    – Education, literacy etc

    As you will note, none of the above relate to a new fleet of BMWs as a specific issue of national importance. I am astounded you politicians focus on stories of trivial importance when weighed against what’s really importance.

  15. peterlepaysan says:


    Very early in Key’s reign I recall a comment he made when asked what he thought about being leader.

    His reply was on the lines of “I did not realise how much reading I had to do.”

    Perhaps he has given up and lets English and his Treasury cabal write his responses. Certainly his food bank response sounded rehearsed and designed to appeal to party members.

    It bore no resemblance to reality.
    Just ask anyone who has had to use a food bank.
    Just read the studies done on food bank use.

    Smiling, waving, cat walking, having a barbie with a prince, drinking out of a beer bottle, having Valentines Day articles about JK and Bing Bing do not make a compelling leader.

    The fact that he knew nothing about the BMWs is very revealing.

    He is Winston Peters enjoying the baubles of power and not giving a toss about anything.

    Remember the toadying “Bronnie , I want to be PM” headline that the craven Dominion Post ran?

    The National Party are running true to form.
    A “strong, charismatic leader” will take us to heaven.

    Anyone remember Muldoon? Mr economic fixit? He would sort the mess that the economically illiterate Labour Party types had led the country into.

    Now we have this ex state house wunderkind financial expert telling us how to behave.

    Methinks his “success” in the banking/financial world has rather blinded him to the realities of the world the rest of us live in.

    Both he, and English, have used a “borrow and hope” policy that Muldoonists accused the Labour Party about.


    Somewhere there is a phrase about “mutatis mutandis”

  16. logie97 says:


    I cannot believe there was anything contentious in my post on Gooner’s comment around 10 last night. What’s up?

  17. Tracey says:

    pdm, do you now admit that when John Key campaigned on higher standards of behaviour than Labour, he was lying or naive and is now at the same standard as pointed out by you his behaviour is akin to that of Ms Clark, in your eyes?

  18. Sean says:

    So it turns out that John Key was informed about the purchase of a new fleet of BMWs, he just didn’t read the briefing papers. And now he is trying to blame his staff for not telling him. That’s pretty weak John.


    Further, I can not believe that the Prime Minister thinks it is acceptable to admit that he didn’t keep up with a major expenditures in one of his Ministries. Wayne Eagleson is not Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services, John Key is. A briefing paper on expected expenditures in Ministerial Services surely would have crossed his desk months ago with “Attn: John Key” on it. It is John Key’s job to read it.

    Ministerial Services probably can largely run itself, but the Minister is supposed to keep an eye on it. Can we have a journalist question this story closer please?

  19. tracey says:

    There are only 2 major capital expenditures within the remit of his portfolio, so it’s not a big ask to keep an eye on them.

  20. Crashcart says:

    Tom National is built on brand Key. The fact is they know that they can mess those big things up but as long as Key shows up, smiles, waves, and does somthing stupid but endeering the general public will accept it and National will continue to poll high. This is one of the few instances where Key has let the mask slip and shown who he truely is. It is happening more and more but it needs to be bought to the public attention. When the true Key is exposed (untrustworthy, uncareing, out of touch) then vboters need to actually look at what the parties are doing. This is where they look and see tax cuts for the rich vs tax free below a certain rate.

    The fact that you think this is the only thing going on in election year shows how much people ignore every thing else and focus on Key.

  21. Sean says:

    Interesting article on Stuff.

    Looks like the Public Servants were doing their job and getting sign off from the Minister on this expenditure, four times.

    It is just John Key doesn’t remember signing documents at all. Perhaps he didn’t read them.

    Does John Key generally sign documents that he doesn’t read? Isn’t Key due to sign the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership shortly? Will he read it first?

  22. ianmac says:

    Have you seen this thanks to Iprent? The devil is in the detail re BMWs.

  23. tracey says:

    This is the man who cant recall his stance on the 81 springbok tour so memory IS his fallback position on mot things sticky.

  24. Tom Brady says:

    Crashcart – I think you’ve missed my point. There are things of great importance to this country – increasing savings, reducing debt, making the country more productive. These are the issues that should be discussed and debated I don’t really care about this BMW issue as it’s not materially important to the issues facing the country.
    I am not aligned to any party and am more interested in the actual problems of the nation NOT muck raking or the pointless character assassination that is the raison d’etre of parliament.

    Tracey – what is the relevance of someone’s view on the Springbok tour? who really cares? I am sure many of us have held views in the past that have since changed.

  25. logie97 says:

    @Tom Brady

    in your Utopian world, the elected representatives would govern with integrity.

    The current PM came to office on a wave of promised honesty and trust (though many doubted it). However, he has turned out to be just one more of the kind you despise and in the Westminster style of government, it is the job of the opposition to expose the charlatans. When he has been so obviously exposed as economical with the truth, one can reasonably question his honesty on previous statements and positions he has taken.

    Now, with so much uncertainty around the world, I would be particularly concerned about the PM’s position on which causes he might support boots and all. He is on record claiming that we were “missing in action” in Iraq. He would appear to be following the U.S. where ever and when ever.

    I felt far more reassured, for most of the last decade, that NZ seemed to be following a non-aligned approach to international affairs.

    So Tracey is right to be concerned about the honesty of Key’s views on the Springbok tour, as with other issues.

  26. KJT says:

    Labour should bear in mind that Key has proven very competent in his real job.
    Delivering the resources and people of NZ to be exploited by his corporate backers.

    BMW’s are just a sideshow.

    The message we are going to be robbed of billions by NACT should be continually hammered.

  27. Peter Freedman says:

    So he signs papers without reading them, who does he think he is – Colonel Potter?

    Could Radar somehow slip a resignation letter into the pile?

  28. Colonial Viper says:

    Tom said:

    As you will note, none of the above relate to a new fleet of BMWs as a specific issue of national importance. I am astounded you politicians focus on stories of trivial importance when weighed against what’s really importance.

    Oh I agree with you Tom. So why do we have a Prime Minister who minces up and down catwalks, leers at Liz Hurley with Tony Vietch, and tells people seeking food parcels that too bad, they made bad choices?

    You know, instead of focussing his Prime Ministerial time on the important stuff you listed?

    Especially when he is telling all of us to tighten our belts, no pay rises etc. he goes ahead and buys Beemers for his own use.