Own goal by Labour flunky

Ben Clark, the Labour?candidate on the North Shore and also a blogger on The Standard is trying to bash Murray McCully up for taking an Air Force flight up to Vanuatu in February. On the surface the stopry appears to have legs but it does not.

I was aware of this?story?the moment McCully took off and spent the next couple of days chasing it thinking I would get to smack him in the nuts. Unfortunately the story as?originally?passed to me didn’t stack up.

I verified all my information from sources outside of McCully’s office.

On February 13 the same day that McCully left I recieved an email that told me that at approximately 1pm Murray?McCully, boarded Royal New Zealand Airforce Boeing 757, bound for an overnight stop over in Vanuatu to attend a Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group on Fiji. The aircraft was at short notice, late in the week specially refitted in full VIP trim with $80,000 leather lie flat recliners and mahogany tables, a service normally reserved for heads of state and royalty, far beyond the luxury of standard airline first class travel, however onboard the 126 seater airliners, there was only Murray McCully and 7 close?colleagues. Out-numbered by the airforce personnel on the aircraft required to run it.

As you could imagine I thought this would be a great opportunity to bash the crap out of McCully.

Originally I thought that this is not so much a show of force in the Pacific, but more a way of circumventing the strict criticism that is currently placed on ministerial travel, being a defense asset the costs of running this frankly unneccessary and frighteningly expensive jaunt are not born by the travel allowances but by the countries meager, to say the least, defence budget. This arguement had further?weight added to it when Murray McCully turned up over two hours late for departure, apparently due to a heated?argument?between himself and the defense minister on the need to take the airliner. This ended up?resulting in a waste of crew duty which will postpone Mt Erebus commemorations in Antartica for the families of those lost to the tragidy, as well as around 300kg of Jet-A1 gas that the APU burnt whilst waiting for ‘doors closed’.

When the aircraft returned, the VIP config (which requires a change in not only false floor, but the rollers and assorted anchor points underneath, the carpet, curtains, class divider screens, suit hobs, passenger entertainment wiring and overhead passenger support units), would need to be removed, taking a team of around 8 skilled technical staff around 12 hours continuous.

I thought I was definately onto a bashing of immense proportions here. But as I learned from a couple of screw up over the past few years, fact checking is paramount.

I checked international flights into and out of Vanuatu. This is where the story started to come un-raveled. The timing of the meeting meant that international flights didn’t provide useful connections. I think from memory that if they had used commercial flights then all the Pacific diplomats in attendence would ahve had to have stayed over 3 more days before the next commercial flight out from Vanuatu.

Although the RNZAF Boeing may have gone over next to empty and configured for VIP travel at short notice, however it returned with a greater number of pax on the return leg to New Zealand (I didn’t receive any passenger details, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find out who has used the service after the fact if one was that inquisitive), one can only speculate at to who they may be, but as even politicians don’t replicate that fast it seems logical that foreign dignitaries were using the service and New Zealand as a transport hub, which is hardly unheard of, and hardly the travel rort which the first leg made it appear.

I have no further details, but the previous use of this aircraft to make up for a shortfall in international travel, especially at shorter notice and at times which suit, paints a clearer picture, that and the fact that New Zealand would want to maintain its stance as a leader in the Pacific may only add more clarity to the facts.

The story on the surface looked like a good one to give McCully a serve, something I relish at the best of times. However the facts didn’t stack up. In the end NZ was actually offering a ferry service back for pacific nations diplomats and staff.

In his eagerness to bash Murray McCully and look like he has a scoop Ben Clark has fallen into a trap I have a couple of times. He got his facts wrong, he wants to stand for public office, I don’t, so his mistake is a whole lot worse?reputation?wise than mine.

UPDATE: Obviously Labour has shopped this story to the media as Stuff is now running the story despite?the?facts of the story being completely wrong. David Shearer, Ben Clark and now Kate Newton look complicit for sure. Not a single one of them has bothered to check the facts of the story.

UPDATE2: Lies, smears and still getting wrong at The Standard by Eddie. I didn’t get the inside word, none of my sources were in National. The paid lap-bloggers are going to look really silly on this one. But hey let them. If I could?have?kicked Murray McCully in the nuts for being a dick I wold have, trust me on that one. Eddie tries valiantly to blame National for the scheduling of a meeting they didn’t organise. Shows just how?pathetic?their claims are. If Eddie had checked the commercial airline schedules to Vila like I did she would realise very quickly the problem that arose. If Eddie has ever been to Vanuatu then she would realise that this is a real problem for people going on holiday there too. You either go for 4 days or 7 days, there is no other option. Like I have said before, if there was a chance to bash McCully I would be hooking into him not letting them.