Tracy Watkins on the ‘Minister of Dodgy Meetings’

Tracy Watkins comments on the “Minister of Dodgy Meetings”: Quote:

On one level, it was the answer of a minister trying to defend the indefensible. Curran’s admission that she uses a private Gmail account from time to time had a whiff of “cover up”, about it akin to accusations 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton faced in the United States.

Any other minister might have got away with it – but Curran’s reputation?as the minister of dodgy meetings made her use of a separate email account look like part of a pattern.? ?

But the “um”s, and “ah”s and stumbling performance was also the response of a minister who had been humiliated and already stripped of her authority and most of her portfolios.

Curran was a dead woman walking and knew it. She was widely expected to be further demoted in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s next Cabinet reshuffle – likely to be sooner rather than later now.

Forcing Curran to limp on until then would have been as cruel as it was unwise politically.

Curran could not walk into a room and command the attention of officials without knowing that the sideways glances were at her expense.

Press conferences would have been like hammer blows to her credibility. Politics, like sport, is a confidence game. The scrutiny is relentless and the pressure can be immense.?End quote.

Curran showed she wasn’t up to the pressure…describing it as intolerable. Hardly, she got rinsed by Melissa Lee! Quote:

It’s said that the publicity surrounding Curran’s $1000 limo ride from Brisbane airport to the Gold Coast and back – revealed with the release of ministerial expenses – helped drive home to her that she had become not just a distraction, but a liability.

Certainly the focus on Curran’s stumbles in the House would have driven that fact home to Ardern and her inner circle.

In short, Curran’s woes had gone beyond damaging herself to damaging the government. The perception was that she was not just a bad minister but that Ardern had not been strong enough in her handling of her former flatmate. End quote.

Ardern has not handled this well. Her dishonesty, including releasing a false transcript, has now damaged her in the eyes of media, and they smell blood. Quote:

Ardern says she did not pressure Curran to quit, but that it was the minister’s decision alone due to the “intolerable” pressure and “heat” brought to bear on her by the media and Opposition.

In reality, Ardern had boxed herself into a corner. She had previously refused to strip Curran of all her ministerial portfolios after it was revealed she misled Parliament about a meeting with entrepreneur Derek Handley over a new Government chief technology role.

Curran used her private Gmail account to arrange the meeting, which she failed to disclose in response to written questions.

She was already in hot water for a similar breach over a meeting with broadcaster Carol?Hirschfeld.

Ardern resisted calls to sack Curran from her broadcasting portfolio over the Hirschfeld affair – but sacked her from her “open government” and other portfolios over the Handley cover up.

In both instances though Ardern backed her minister’s plea that it was a mistake not a cover up.?End quote.

Now it is Ardern with egg all over her scowly face. Quote:

But Curran’s appalling display in the House left no room for doubt that she had to goexcept falling apart in public is not a sackable offence.

People would have read between the lines on Friday and assumed Ardern had more than a hand in forcing Curran to quit, however – if not for Curran’s sake, then the Government’s.

Allowing that perception to take root would not have done Ardern any harm. If anything, it is an impression she should have cultivated, that hers is the iron hand in a velvet glove.

Instead, Ardern went on a radio show in the morning and talked around the issue by suggesting sacking Curran would be disproportionate – when she knew Curran had by then already resigned.

Ardern may have wanted to preserve Curran’s remaining dignity by giving her the space to announce the resignation personally.

It also bought time to parachute in some extra support for Curran – Ardern’s chief of staff Mike Munro was on his way down to support Curran at a brief press conference on Friday afternoon.

But Ardern’s obfuscation on the issue came across as less than truthful.?End quote.

Because it was. Lying by omission is still lying. Quote:

She will know better next time, which might be sooner rather than later with the other problem minister yet to be dealt with, Meka Whaitiri.

Whaitiri is under a cloud over allegations that she assaulted a staff member.

But Ardern has boxed herself into another corner over Whaitiri. She has refused to stand her aside until the outcome of an investigation.

Yet that investigation may only show what is already widely known. There are no witnesses, the staff member concerned has declined to lay an assault complaint, and it has turned into a “she-said, she-said” case.

Ardern could have sacked Whaitiri immediately, given the seriousness of the allegations, and kept the door open for her return down the track.

Ardern is entitled to hold her ministers to account on issues of character and judgement – those are not matters for forensic examination or the usual employment tests.

But her?hands are tied by the investigation.

Ardern will be relieved, however, that she has at least cleared the “Curran problem” off her desk after a torrid political week.

Ardern might want to hold onto that thought.

Her popularity in huge part was based on her putting a softer kinder face on Government. But there is a fine line and strong leadership isn’t always just an image thing.

It can also make problems go away. End quote.

Ardern has made an awful rod for her back. She backed Curran all the way and now looks stupid. But then I’ve always said that she was stupid. Looks like I am being proved right in a slow excruciating exposure of her ineptitude.

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