Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 11 July 2008 - 11 July 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

More Cronyism on Steroids

This week’s announcement that former Labour list MP Diane Yates has been appointed a director of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) gives a good indication of just how hard it has been to dislodge some of the Labour MPs selected for the cull. The FSANZ job pays $38,000 a year and comes with plenty of business class travel.

This is the fourth appointment Yates has received from her former colleagues in the few months since her departure. She has also scored directorships at Trust Waikato ($15,000 a year), Learning Media ($21,000pa), and Waikato Institute of Technology ($8,000pa).

The Yates retirement was deemed essential to Labour’s campaign strategy in order to bring Sua William Sio into Parliament from the Labour list. Having been selected to replace Taito Phillip Field in Mangere, Labour bigwigs were determined to have their new flagbearer for the Pasifika vote firmly ensconced in Parliament for Election Year.

So the small pretence that Ms Yates possessed skills that were essential to the trans-Tasman FSANZ, the Waikato Polytech, Learning Media and Trust Waikato presented no difficulty whatsoever.

It is interesting to note that this assessment appears not to be shared by the good people of Hamilton. Having represented them as MP for Hamilton East from 1999 to 2005, and then as a List MP subsequently, Ms Yates failed to win a seat on the Hamilton City Council in last year’s local body elections, dealing Labour’s succession plans a hefty blow. Hence the necessity to find not one, but four separate political appointments, pulling around $80,000 a year to occupy Ms Yates in her retirement.

Ms Yates still has a little way to go to rival the performance of Labour Party president Mike Williams, who has collected directorships on Transit NZ ($25,000pa), the Crown research institute GNS ($20,000pa), Genesis Energy ($33,000pa) ARTA ($35,000pa), and OnTrack ($23,500pa). But then it took Mr Williams about four years to accumulate five jobs and $136,000 a year. Ms Yates has accumulated four jobs and $80,000 in the space of four months. Who knows what taxpayer-funded munificence awaits if the Clark government was to win another term.

The Non-Retirement at ACC

It is a sure sign that governments are losing their grip when those who can normally be counted upon to do their bidding instead tell them to take a running jump. And that is what has happened at ACC in recent weeks.

Former Race Relations Commissioner (appointed by the current Government) Gregory Fortuin has been favoured with numerous appointments by the Clark Government. The boards of NZ Post, Kiwibank, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, Transpower, Industry New Zealand, and the Accident Compensation Corporation, have all been adorned with his presence. And the Clark Government had formed the view that Mr Fortuin could be counted upon to cooperate with an early resignation from the ACC board in order that they might replace him with one of the many untalented and undeserving Labour flunkies who remain waiting in the wings for their just rewards.

Mr Fortuin was informed that his retirement had been scheduled for the end of June. A board dinner was scheduled to thank Mr Fortuin for his loyal service and invitations were duly dispatched.

Unfortunately for Ms Clark and her colleagues, Mr Fortuin seems to have formed an adverse view of the fact that no alternative appointment appeared to be on offer. And potentially an even more adverse view of the prospects of the current Government being in a position to offer him similar future appointments. And so Mr Fortuin decided that it would not be right, as the only director of the ACC with any insurance industry experience, to depart in line with the Government’s design. He told the Minister to take a running jump.

There were scenes of panic at ACC head office. The farewell dinner had already been planned. The invites had been dispatched. Word of its cancellation would merely serve to compound the embarrassment to their political masters. But then one of ACC’s highly paid and very politically correct advisors had a brainwave. A quick check of the Maori calendar and the Fortuin Farewell Dinner became the Matariki Dinner. And everyone was happy. Except for Minister Maryan Street, of course, who is now left to explain to some untalented and undeserving Labour flunky that their planned excursion on the ACC board has been brought to an abrupt end.


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