Hard News by Russell Brown


Idiotic and lamentable behaviour

For Audrey Young, blogging seems to have meant licence to be pissed off the politicians. And she does it so well. Her very forthright post this afternoon followed her Herald story this morning, in which she reported that "John Key says he will sign up to the two-tiered compromise proposal on a transtasman therapeutics agency, a breakthrough that could see legislation taken off ice and passed by Christmas."

But after the story was published, Key released a press statement in which he said:

"Today's NZ Herald story misrepresents our position. The story correctly quotes me as saying 'If they came to us now with that proposal, we will sign it.'

"I was, of course, referring to the Trans-Tasman Therapeutic Goods regime - not the proposal put up by NZ First. I repeatedly made that clear to the NZ Herald yesterday.

"National has never received a copy of the NZ First proposal, to the best of our knowledge.

"Our position is simple: If complementary medicines are removed from the regime, National will support it."

Young, naturally, is furious at being accused of deception. And handily, she has colleagues and a tape recording to back up her case.

I don't know what to make of this. I had planned to write an introduction to today's post along the lines of "You have to give John Key his credit: when he flip-flops, he generally contrives to do so in the right direction."

Until, clearly, he flips back the other way.

Worse, National's position is intellectually empty. When presented with what is a reasonable compromise, on a very important piece of law, it just isn't good enough to ignore the detail and repeat your position. National knows damn well the havoc it will procure by refusing to play ball. And presumably that's the point.

Even if you buy the line being repeatedly pushed by a certain weekly political columnist -- it's all because Annette King is such a cow -- the "it hasn't been presented to us" argument is lame. You read the papers, don't you? Pick up the phone and ask for it.

It is worth noting both that Labour says the compromise proposal was put to national by Michael Cullen. And that Gordon Copeland is on record as having said he'd approached National about it, and been denied permission to vote in its favour.

Also, that Annette King told Young she would be prepared to stand aside from any negotiations if her relationship with Tony Ryall proved to be an obstacle.

And, just as I'm writing this, National Radio is reporting that National is prepared to hold "urgent talks" with the government on the bill, whilst continuing to insist it had never seen the document until five minutes ago.

FFS, is this the way they plan to run a government?

Update: Felix Marwick offered the following helpful information in the discussion for this post:

FWIW Winston put out his compromise option on the Bill about six weeks ago and did promote it to all and sundry as the perfect compromise.

However it turns out he did not show a written version of his SOP to any political party. I did a ring around the week before King put the Government's Bill on hold and was told by every single one of them that they'd not seen it. This includes the Government.

It was seen for the first time this afternoon by National, and the Greens only saw it because Sue Kedgley happened to come into our office as we were reading it.

As far as SOP's go it's not a very substantial one. It's just a smidge over half a page long and had the distinct air of being banged together in one almighty rush.

Am I the only one who finds almost everyone's behaviour inexplicable here?

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