Apologies galore from the errant Shaw – but what about an apology to the taxpayer?

James  Shaw  has  set  a   new   standard  for  ministerial  conduct  in  the  way he has  performed over  the  allocation  of  $11.7m  of  taxpayer money  for a  privately-owned  Green  school in Taranaki.

The Green School was one of 150 projects getting a grant from a $3bn fund— the shovel-ready infrastructure fund – and Shaw was willing to put them all at risk.

An email  to government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office included a stark ultimatum:

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated”.

 For  all  this,  Shaw did not offer  his  resignation,  but instead  apologised and confessed to an “error of  judgement”.

 So  much for   the  high  ethical standards   the Green  Party  espouses.

Let’s look at  what  the  “error of  judgement”  involved.

First,  the  Green Party  opposes  government funding for  private  schools.  Then  co-leader  Shaw  pressured other  ministers — some might say  he  blackmailed them — into  accepting the  Green  School  should be  included among the  shovel-ready  projects.

Subsequently, in confessing to  an  error  of judgement,  he  says he only “advocated” for  it.

Fronting a press  conference,  Shaw then apologised:

“The decision to support this project was an error of judgement. If I was making the same decision again I would not support the project….I apologise to parents, to teachers and unions. I apologise to Green Party members who… have felt demoralised by this decision. I apologise to the schools in Taranaki who quite rightfully want the best for their children. And I want you to know, all of you, that I have listened to your concerns”.

Wouldn’t  an apology  to taxpayers  be in order?   Shaw   has  managed  to   create the impression  that  the  $3 billion earmarked   for  shovel-ready  projects is  just  another slush fund  set  up for  ministers  to divvy up.  Yet   he  insists:

“I don’t think this is a resignation level event”.

Point  of  Order   wonders   whether    Clare  Curran,  Meka Whaitiri  and  David Clark  would  agree. Each of them one was a member of  the same  ministerial  team  and each lost their  jobs for  various  mistakes.

Still,  Prime  Minister  Jacinda  Ardern  is known for  her kindness and  compassion,  and  she  obviously  has been exercising   these attributes on  behalf  of  her  government  towards   Shaw  who –  despite  his apologies –  is determined  to  cling  on  to his  ministerial  salary..

But there  is still  a  problem:  the  $11.7m  grant to   the  Green  School  remains  a government   commitment, even  though ministers  have been  running  as fast as they can  from  it.

Education  Minister Chris  Hipkins told Parliament  he had a conversation about the application with James Shaw towards the end of July and

“ … I gave him feedback that from an educational portfolio perspective the school would not be a priority for investment”.

 Hipkins insists  he was not one of the Ministers involved in approving the project.  Their  approval  went   against  Treasury  advice,  which    noted  

“… it would be inappropriate to announce or provide government funding for a project that does not yet have the necessary education approvals”.

The Green School  has  yet to  meet the legal requirements for registration.

So  what  does that  say  about  how  the  Ardern ministry goes about its business?

According   to a  report  of the  press  conference  where Shaw offered  his  apologies:

With a deep sigh, he said: “I feel terrible about the way that this has played out.”

There is much to feel terrible about.

One thought on “Apologies galore from the errant Shaw – but what about an apology to the taxpayer?

  1. The thought has occurred to me that not only is the ongoing media focus on the school grant tending to persecution BUT that it seems entirely possible that Shaw was enveigled into putting his name at the bottom of the press release. Your guess is as good as mine as to who would do such a thing but simply examine who in the political sphere might benefit the most if the whole thing was blown up a la Tureigate.


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