Political intrigue, mysteries and monkeys

James Elliott mulls over the mysteries of the week in Yesterdaze, his column wrapping up the news

Last weekend there was a botched attempt to steal squirrel monkeys from Wellington Zoo. Apparently the monkeys fought back and the would-be primate pilferers may have been bitten.  The police have no suspects but I would be investigating the National Party’s communications strategy team for suspicious bite marks. It’s a reasonable assumption that any sentient primate could do a better job of articulating an environmental policy than National did this week. To those upset by that suggestion I apologise to any monkeys who are offended.  

To be fair it’s a new environment for National’s communications team who, now that they are in opposition, have to come up with more sophisticated messaging than “the Minister is not available for comment”.  Speaking of Jonathan Coleman, it was surprising to see him front to the media this week, but not at all surprising when we learned what he was fronting about. As Minister of Health Coleman was notoriously media-averse and media-adverse when asked what he knew about his portfolio.  But now that he’s stepped away from politics he’s only too happy to front to the media, only this time to confirm what he doesn’t know about, like the state of hospital buildings.  If not knowing about stuff is the criteria for his future media engagements then we can look forward to a long-running new Netflix series “The Jonathan Coleman Mysteries”.           

Another mystery that ended at the weekend after 73 days of intrigue was the Greens co-leadership contest.  It was won by Marama Davidson in the most non-Green of outcomes, a landslide.     

Some people have confused Marama Davidson with Marama Fox so let’s clear this up once and for all.  Marama Fox is the former Maori Party co-leader who is going to be on Dancing With The Stars, whereas Marama Davidson is the Greens co-leader who is going to be doing an awkward two-step with her partner working out who’s supposed to be leading and trying not to get voted out. 

Davidson’s co-contender for Greens co-leader Julie-Anne Genter got her own share of the limelight by announcing a zero road deaths target by 2020. Keen to show the line between a laudable goal and an unrealistic one, Mike Hosking responded by crashing his own car while racing at Hampton Downs.  This from a guy who wrote just a few days earlier, and this has to be quoted verbatim:

“Since joining Hampton Downs and taking my car round a track at 220km/h I have not crashed, will not crash, and have concluded I am vastly less likely to be in trouble on a track than I am on a road. Why? Because there are no idiots.”

Turns out there was an idiot all along.

Also not voted out, again, this week was Clare Curran.  PM Jacinda Ardern declared the Radio NZ fiasco over and Curran also did her best to move on. Wearing her tinfoil hat as Minister of Communications she announced a review of the government’s cyber-security strategy.  Top priority is to be given to securing voicemail messages left for the chairs of state-owned public broadcasters.  

Having drawn a line under Currangate, Jacinda Ardern then drew a line in the shale by declaring that the Government is banning all future offshore oil and gas exploration.  Concerns about regional job losses were countered by the announcement of a new employment initiative, in the form of yet another government inquiry.  This new inquiry will be into the allegations about the NZ Defence Force’s ‘Operation Burnham’ in Afghanistan in the Stephenson/Hager book  Hit and Run. It is estimated that by 2020 one in 10 New Zealanders will be working for a government inquiry. The results of those inquiries will then be aggregated and televised in a New Zealand version of QI to be called YNNTI – Yeah Nah Not That Interesting.        

There was some media speculation about Shane Jones’ apparent discomfort during the exploration ban announcement.  This probably had less to do with the impact on his regional portfolio and more to do with the announcement being made at 9am. Following the announcement Andrew Little was dispatched to Taranaki, by petrol-powered car, to face the oil industry in his own electorate.  As he headed north Little would probably have been feeling quite comfortable about his own exploration into a more incognito look of beard and no glasses.

However most governmental goings-on were cast aside by the raging storm that swept over the country midweek.  Film maker Taika Waititi described New Zealand as “racist as f**k”, a comment which seemingly caused power lines and trees to fall, and floods – floods of comments on social media and talkback that really just proved his point. The surprising element wasn’t the self-fulfilling pile-on by the keyboard clowns but that they were able to work out what the missing letters in f**k were.          

Have a peaceful weekend.

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