Faafoi’s folly – his confession to saying dumb things should put focus on his portfolio and the future of fuel prices

Back  in  September,  when the  NZ  Herald  issued  its   supplement  “Mood of  the  Boardroom”,  Commerce  Minister  Kris Faafoi  featured as the  politician who most impressed  top  chief  executives  on ministerial  performance.

The newspaper  reported  it  was the first  time  in the history of the Mood of the Boardroom  survey  that a  minister  ranked towards the tail-end of Cabinet (at  17th) and who  had  been in the position only since   January, had substantially  outranked  his  colleagues.

Faafoi  headed not only the PM, Jacinda  Ardern,  and  deputy PM  Winston  Peters,  but other senior ministers  Grant Robertson, Andrew Little and  David Parker.

Really?

Last week  Faafoi  was  engaged in a  rather  different  exercise, receiving  what he  described  as  a  “stern talking to”  from the  Prime  Minister after  it  was disclosed   he had promised to “speed things up” in an immigration case for Opshop singer Jason Kerrison.

He did not offer the prime minister his resignation, but  he  did present  an apology.

Fronting the  media  last  Friday,  he  confessed  to  saying “some dumb things”.

“But I did not do the wrong thing, the language was loose, as I was communicating with an old friend,”.

Ardern, in a statement, said she had accepted the apology for poor handling of the issue, and told Faafoi she expects better.

Of  course Faafoi’s  political  opponents  thought  he had  got off lightly.  They  believe  a  “stern”   reprimand   from  the  PM wouldn’t  stick in the memory  for more than a  week.

What  possibly is  more worrying  to  all those  CEOs   who praised   him in that  Mood  of the Boardroom survey  is  Faafoi’s  confession  of  being “dumb”  in what he had said  to  his  old mate.

If  he  were   so  dumb  then,   is there a  chance   he   could  also be  dumb in handling  major policy issues?

For  example,  will  the   changes  to the fuel  industry  proposed by the government  as a  result of the  Commerce  Commission  report last week   lower petrol prices as he claims  by  18c  to  32c a  litre?

Faafoi said  a proposed new law would make it easier for new players to enter the petrol market.

This, he told media, in turn , would drive down petrol prices. And the drop could be fairly significant.

Although the government does not appear to have any concrete estimates, Faafoi estimates the drop could be within that 18c-32c a litre price range.

As for when prices might begin to fall, Faafoi said it would be great if they could start falling now.

“But the legislation that needs to come through, especially for the re-jigging of the wholesale market and the contracts that are there at the moment, we’re saying by midway through next year.”

Despite wanting to see petrol prices fall as soon as possible, he said any reductions to fuel taxes were not on the table. Those taxes, he said, help pay for new much-needed roading infrastructure.

National transport spokesman Chris Bishop said the government was squarely to blame for NZ’s high petrol prices.

Based on information provided to National through written questions the party has calculated that the extra revenue the government has collected from increased fuel excise, road user charges and the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax has already hit $565m. That works out to be $319 per household.

Apart  from  National’s  criticism,  others contend the  government’s  policy  on   transport fuel   is  “incoherent”.

On  one side,  it   wants to  reduce  prices  because the oil majors are making fat profits:  on the other,  it    aims to  raise   prices with new taxes to  counter global warming.

But  the  ordinary  motorist,    hearing  the  PM  say he (or she)  is  being “fleeced”,  is  not so  dumb   as to be  unable to work out   just who is  doing the  “fleecing”.

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