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Yesterdaze: When a child is born

James Elliott looks back on a week of a new child, an old politician, an autocrat and Donald Trump

It seemed like the entire country was in a holding pattern this week, waiting expectantly for the pitter patter of tiny feet and perhaps even the first cries for attention.

We didn’t have to wait too long. Winston Peters pitter pattered his way to the microphone on Monday afternoon albeit with shiny rather than tiny feet to host the weekly Prime Minister’s press conference. He was hosting as Deputy Prime Minister not Acting Prime Minister because he only got to step up to that role when Jacinda Ardern stepped out of partner Clarke Gayford’s car to go into Auckland hospital on Thursday morning.

Winston didn’t need to cry for attention as he’s well-accustomed to holding the fort and holding forth, and Monday’s press conference didn’t fail to deliver a healthy dose of Peters’ press-conference piquancy. Those expecting him to perhaps not be across the detail of the issues de jour were disappointed as Winston had all the key numbers at his fingertips. He knew how many miles he’d been underground working on the Island Benn tunnel in the Snowy Mountains in the 1970s as if that somehow had any relevance at all to the proposed Pike River re-entry – eleven. And he knew how many ways he might be notified of his elevation to the role of Acting Prime Minister when Jacinda Ardern went into labour – five. It also became clear how many apologies Shane Jones was going to be made to give for his attacks on Fonterra – none. But all these numbers were shaded by the number 12 which was reported by the NZ Herald as being the number of minutes it took Clarke Gayford to drive Jacinda Ardern from Sandringham to Auckland City Hospital on Thursday morning – so clearly not in rush hour.

Simon Bridges is probably also supporting Germany in the Football World Cup but reserves the right to back Brazil if results, particularly in the final, go the other way.

Winston was also across the numbers involved in the nurses’ pay dispute. Nurses have rejected the Government’s offer of three, three percent pay rises and unless there’s a last-minute resolution by mediation there will be strikes on July 5 and 12. Strike action by 27,000 nurses has the support from an unexpected quarter in the form of National leader Simon Bridges who’s finding out just how freeing it can be to be in opposition. On Monday he acknowledged that ‘climate change is real’ while supporting the establishment of a Climate Change Commission although he wouldn’t commit to following any of the Commission’s recommendations should National return to government. Bridges is probably also supporting Germany in the Football World Cup but reserves the right to back Brazil if results, particularly in the final, go the other way.

Meanwhile the Act Party continues on his own knock-out run in Dancing With The Stars. Although this week he was seen as sabotaging his fan base when he said he was open to scrapping public holidays. That’s as bad a misstep as any he’s made on the dance floor and more than a touch ironic from someone who’s been criticised as taking a quite public holiday while twerking off from his own Parliamentary duties.

Mayor Phil Goff has had a “clear the air” meeting with councillors who have been critical of his leadership style although the only thing that’s clear is that there’s still distrust on both sides.

And Act’s fellow parliamentarians have been very busy this week with Parliament going into urgency to debate amongst other things the Regional Fuel Tax Bill so that it can be enacted by Auckland Council by July 1. That’s assuming the Auckland Council is capable of enacting anything in the coming days. Mayor Phil Goff has had a “clear the air” meeting with councillors who have been critical of his leadership style although the only thing that’s clear is that there’s still distrust on both sides. Goff denied that he has an autocratic leadership style and did so in the same interview in which he disclosed that in his very first week in office he fired a staff member for leaking. But again, not autocratic, because he says so.

But by far the most interesting disclosures of the week were those in relation to private security firm Thompson & Clark and concerns about biased and unprofessional dealings with some very important state acronyms including the SIS, MPI and DOC. The details are murky which is just how the Security Intelligence Service likes details to be, but there are a slew of ‘serious staff misconduct’ allegations across several agencies and ministries and the State Services Commission has announced a broad and expanding inquiry. One released email between a member of the SIS and Thompson & Clark refers to ‘après ski’ which has clearly raised the alarm because, as we well know whether it’s a code name, a euphemism or just being used literally there’s almost always something dodgy associated with après ski.

'Almost always something dodgy’ is an inadequate segue into the horrors that we see coming out of the Trump White House on a daily basis. We’ve almost reached the point where there are no words to describe the madness and the cruelty. But find them we must, just as we must remind ourselves daily that this is not remotely normal and must not be normalised because that’s the slipperiest slope of all.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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