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Yesterdaze: Ron Mark’s Poseidon adventure

James Elliott's week in review farewells TOP and Gareth Morgan, watches Ron Mark provoke China and goes on holiday, like Health Minister David Clark, for three hours.

Hoax celebrity death stories are about as commonplace in the media as Judith Collins’ denials of leadership ambitions. They also lack credibility. A mischievous viral tweet of an A-Lister’s supposed cliff fall or drug overdose is quickly corrected by media confirmation that the supposedly deceased is in fact very much alive. Just like Collins’ leadership ambitions.

By contrast, this week started with the confirmation of a D-Lister death that many of us assumed had happened some time ago. On Monday The Opportunities Party announced it was scratching its registration as a political party, depriving 97.6 percent of the electorate the opportunity to not vote for TOP again in 2020. That 97.6 percent are presumably the ‘fat, content and complacent’ part of the electorate who ‘just want politicians that are maintenance managers, nothing aspirational’ according to the TOP founder, funder, no longer fond of politics Gareth Morgan, who slunk off the political stage in predictably catty fashion.

So what’s next for Gareth Morgan? Well, given that the ACT Party recently made the semi-finals of Dancing With The Stars and yet he only got a fifth of the votes that the TOP party got in 2017, Morgan must be a shoo-in for the next series of DWTS. And to help get him started, I can use his evidence-based mantra to confirm that he can get different-coloured packs of 300 faceted sequins on Trade Me for as little as $2 a pack, excluding shipping. But they’re only 6mm in diameter whereas the 8mm craft factory sequins are probably better for TV broadcast, although they’re $7.60 a pack.

Defence Minister Ron Mark would probably advise Morgan to go for the 8mm sequins on the basis that it’s worth paying a little more for the assurance of quality. That was Mark’s rationale when announcing a spend of about $2.3 billion to replace the Defence Force’s ageing fleet of six P-3 Orion aircraft. We’re buying four P-8A Poseidon aircraft, principally for maritime surveillance, to be delivered in 2023. They are presumably non-sequined but at that price who can know for sure? And although not covered in the Minister’s press conference I’m assuming for his sake that the aircraft are named after the Greek god of the sea and not the 1972 disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure.

An announcement of the Poseidon purchase followed groundwork laid in the Strategic Defence Policy Statement which explicitly stated the threat that China and Russia pose to the international community. This was a departure from the accepted norm of Voldemort diplomacy whereby everyone understands who you’re talking about you just don’t name them explicitly. For example it’s quite okay to say that you fear being let down miserably, yet again, by a New Zealand-based team in the NRL.

And despite Mark having predicted that the policy statement would not come as a surprise to them, the Chinese government described the wording as ‘wrong and irresponsible’, which rebuke probably came as a surprise to Mark. He also defended the policy statement saying that ‘there’s a price for having independence of mind’. Unlike the Poseidon purchase he didn’t say how much that price would be but it’s likely to be a number subtracted from our $30 billion worth of two-way trade with China given that we’re still in the throes of negotiating an update for our free trade deal with them.

PM Winston Peters also responded to the Chinese rebuke stating simply, and perhaps cutting and pasting from any one of his previous public statements, ‘the words weren’t wrong’. Peters added that ‘we’re a sovereign nation’, which I hadn’t understood to be at issue but was nonetheless a helpful reassurance to get in these troubled times.

Peters was equally forthright addressing the nurses’ strike that went ahead on Thursday, saying the government’s offer was ‘as good as it will get’. In fact it did get better, particularly for Peters when Health Minister David Clark took some heat for apparently taking an overseas holiday in the lead-up to the strike. Clark clarified that he hadn’t gone on holiday but that he had taken his family to an overseas holiday and was out of the country for 33 hours. Which reminds me, I’m not going out to see a band tonight. I’m taking my wife out so that she can see a band. I’ll just be standing beside her, and I’ll be away from home for about three hours.

An event I would never attend is the speech by Canadian white supremacists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux who have been banned by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff from speaking at any council venues. They may yet get the chance to speak as the council’s ban is being threatened by a legal challenge from the Free Speech Coalition headed by free speech advocate Don Brash. I’d never heard of Southern and Molyneux until Mayor Goff banned them so maybe they’ll decide that there’s no longer any need to visit our shores given all the free publicity their toxic platform got this week.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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