Repairing McCully’s ‘legacy’

Former NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully

MFaT is in disarray after the departure of Murray McCully as Foreign Minister.

He pretty much gutted the department and as a result it is largely dysfunctional, which is why Winston Peters is moving to rectify matters.

The Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) needs more grunt and will get it on his watch.

His comments follow revelations that 46 percent of all New Zealand diplomats have less than five years experience.

That information came in the Ministry’s briefing to Mr Peters.

The briefing went on to say lack of experience posed a risk that needed to be managed over the next few years.

It said this was necessary “as New Zealand strives to retain its place in the field of all those [countries] competing for international advantage.”

Winston is also going to have to address the lack of grunt in international relations from Jacinda Ardern, who has been embarrassing so far in her Prime Ministership.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Peters said he was going to work really hard to overcome MFAT’s diplomatic inexperience.

“We will ensure [the Ministry] has more resources and we will encourage people with talent in a highly specialised field to help their country overseas and back home in New Zealand,” Mr Peters said.

“It simply means [the Ministry] are going to get more grunt which is what they got last time I was Foreign Minister.

“We could and should do better… it is nothing new, I have argued for a long time that Foreign Affairs is the one department that needs the greatest output in this country because they do the most.”

Mr Peters did not give any details about how much more money, if any, would be granted to the department.

McCully played favourites, and expunged those who he didn’t agree with from the department, including many senior diplomats.

“We are investing in further developing their capability to build the skills and knowledge to serve New Zealand’s interests in a demanding global environment.”

Information on staff turnover at the Ministry in recent years was not available.

However, it has been alleged several times that a series of public controversies damaged the morale of people working at MFAT.

These including a long running saga over leaks from the Ministry that led to a charge of unfair treatment of senior staff being upheld by the Ombudsman.

Staff turnover has always been a problem associated with Murray McCully, and not just in his own office. Leaks happen when people feel powerless.


MFaT is important for New Zealand as a trading nation. Having it filled with a bunch of bunnies who knew that when Minister McCully said jump the correct response was “How high minister?” wasn’t at all helpful.