And now for something NOT about the Royal Wedding….has anybody noticed how remarkably consistent Murray McCully is? I mean, recall the Tourism Board fiasco when McCully was last a Minister? First, he created a little advisory unit to advise him alone on Tourism and Sport. He made it up. He appointed all the members – no precedent in the public service. Then he forced people he had appointed to the Tourism Board to resign, but made sure they took $340,000 tax free with them to make them feel better. The Auditor-General’s Office later found the payments to be unlawful and recommended the Board get the money back. Good luck with that – that was 1999. He also got a one-off $12.5 million boost for the Tourism Board for promotional work so that his mate Kevin Roberts, head of Saatchi and Saatchi at the time could live comfortably, given the Tourism Board was one of S&S’s clients. That got Jenny Shipley into a lot of hot water but she couldn’t remember what she and Kevin had talked about over dinner so that was alright.
Now he’s at it again, but this time with a Ministry (MFAT) which is a little harder to push around, but he’s still succeeding. Last year he passed over $75,000 or so to his old mate, Mark Blumsky, ex-shoe seller, Mayor of Wellington and fleeting MP. No tender process, no bidding required – just “here’s some money Mark, go and see what you can do to develop tourism in Niue. Oh, and by the way, I’ll chuck in the High Commissioner’s job as well.” He’s building on that success to reach over the top of trained and qualified diplomats to open postings to the private sector, who as we all know, are supremely qualified to run everything (eg: Merrill Lynch, Hanover, South Canterbury Finance, etc.). So how can we continue to train diplomats who have NZ’s interests at heart when they know that McCully is simply going to reach over them with his sticky little fingers and dish out goodies to mates? Much has been made recently by Iain Rennie, State Services Commissioner, of how good it is for public sector workers to be seconded into the private sector. Well, it might be. But it would be really good for private sector whizz kids to spend some time in the public sector also – learning the difference between public interest and private interest; service and corruption. I am proud of our public service. They help us maintain our international reputation for being transparent and virtually corruption-free. I don’t know if Murray McCully understands that. Leopards and spots….that’s all I’m saying.