Fallout from the CTO fiasco spreads from Clare Curran to – oh, look! – the PM

The  mystery over  Derek Handley’s appointment as  the government’s Chief Technology Officer, and then its abrupt revocation,  has deepened.

Handley’s own revelation of  his email  exchanges with Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern has shown at best she  was “economical  with the truth” (as commentators  like Bryce  Edwards put it)  in her answers  to  Parliament.  Did  she  just have a  lapse of memory  (something which seems to afflict Winston Peters more frequently these days), about those  emails?

Then there is the plainly shabby  treatment of Handley over the revocation of the  Cabinet  decision to put  him in the job, for which he returned with his family from  New York.   Clare Curran  was  wrapped up  in her own  misery  over the appointment  and her   successor,  Megan Woods, got around to apologising to Handley  only after he had  published  his  side of the story  in the  New Zealand HeraldThe  newspaper front-paged it with lines like

” … the [Handley] family arrived back in the country days before finding out his contract was scrapped.” Continue reading “Fallout from the CTO fiasco spreads from Clare Curran to – oh, look! – the PM”

The de-Claring of more openness – Govt to release Cabinet papers (but with some exceptions)

The most open thing done by Clare Curran, the former Minister for Open Government, was resign, commentator Kate Hawkesby wryly observed in a newspaper column.

Indeed, Curran’s apparent fondness for clandestine meetings and her struggle to explain the extent of her use of a private email account for public business did bring her grasp of the open government portfolio into serious question.

The government’s understandable concern to show it does believe in transparency was reflected today in a decision announced by State Services Minister Chris Hipkins. Continue reading “The de-Claring of more openness – Govt to release Cabinet papers (but with some exceptions)”

CTO appointment process ends with a payout and a review of the need for such a post

The government had  little option but to kill off the process of  appointing a Chief Technology Officer.  It had not only blown away the  political career  of  Clare Curran   but  has severely damaged  the credibility  of the   government, not least the prime minister’s.

For National  it has been a  gift  which  keeps  on giving.  There’s  almost  certain to  be  some more unpleasant  revelations to come  from  the emails  between Curran and  the  PM’s  “friend”, Derek  Handley.  Though they may take some time  to emerge into  daylight, these will prolong what is a disgraceful  saga, one  which  has  few parallels  in the history  of state-sector  appointments.

Megan  Woods  drew the short  straw  to make the latest  announcement on the debacle,  which of  course was made on  Friday, just before the weekend.  This continues the  not-so-subtle technique  being played out in recent  weeks as the  government  tries to minimise in terms of publicity the damage it has been doing to itself. Continue reading “CTO appointment process ends with a payout and a review of the need for such a post”

More fallout from the Curran affair could follow inspection of her G-mail account

The  Curran  affair has  ended  with the  Dunedin South MP  confessing she could not stand the  “intolerable pressure”  she  had been  placed under.  Voters  may not  care  much  about either her  departure from the Ardern  ministry, nor the  causes  which lay behind it.

But her resignation has  altered the  dynamics  within  the  current  government.  Some of the gloss  has  washed  off  the coalition and – more particularly – has washed off PM  Jacinda Ardern (although she  can claim the  choice  of Clare Curran as a  minister  was made by the Labour caucus,  not by herself).

There  may  be  a  degree of  sympathy  for  Curran  who  – some say – had good instincts  for  the issues within  her  portfolios.  But then there’s  the  old  saying,  if you can’t stand the heat…. Continue reading “More fallout from the Curran affair could follow inspection of her G-mail account”

Cyber security is another consideration as the Curran controversy continues

Does   the  Ardern  government have a  ticking  time-bomb inside  its ranks?

PM   Jacinda  Ardern’s  first priority on her return  from  Nauru  would  be an all-out  effort to  find out and defuse it.

Her government may even have called  for officials  from its intelligence  agencies to do some cyber  checks.

The problem emerged in  Parliament when Clare Curran, already stripped  of her Cabinet  ranking for  failing to disclose  sensitive meetings on issues related to her portfolios,  put in another abysmal performance at  question time on Wednesday.  Continue reading “Cyber security is another consideration as the Curran controversy continues”

Clare’s secret meetings: second blunder leaves Nick Smith “gobsmacked”

The   current Parliamentary  session  has  yielded few events, or  speeches, which linger  in the memory  for  more than  a few  minutes. The  Opposition, despite its  strength  in numbers at  least,  has landed   few hits  on  the   government.

That  is  until  this  week   when  it  called for, and  was granted,  a  snap  debate  on  the demotion  of Clare  Curran  from   Cabinet and her resignation  from two portfolios.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the  most effective speeches  from the Opposition  benches  came from  veteran MP  Nick Smith.  Some  of the newcomers within  the Opposition  could  take  it  as  a  model of   its kind,  marshalling  the facts  before the  house  and  then   building  to  a  powerful  climax.

Here’s  how   Smith  made his  case: Continue reading “Clare’s secret meetings: second blunder leaves Nick Smith “gobsmacked””

But without shouting, what will become of robust political debate?

We were minded at Point of Order to bring Oscar Wilde into considerations, on learning of the latest upheaval in the Ardern Cabinet:  “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Then we set about trying to ascertain who had done what to whom in circumstances that warranted Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri standing aside from her portfolio while an investigation into “staffing matters” in her ministerial office is carried out.

The PM’s announcement of Whaitiri’s demotion came just six days after she removed Minister Clare Curran from Cabinet for failing to disclose a meeting she had in relation to the Government’s Chief Technology Officer role.

The PM won’t reveal more information for privacy reasons. Continue reading “But without shouting, what will become of robust political debate?”

Among the questions about Curran – can she make a Cabinet comeback?

Why would a PM want to retain as a minister someone who has committed a cardinal  mistake not once but twice? It’s a question with no immediately transparent answers.

Losing a seat in Cabinet and some portfolios may seem a severe setback, if not a mortal blow, to a political career — but if you keep the two portfolios you really covet it’s not too much of a hardship.

The financial penalty isn’t too severe either – a Cabinet minister’s annual salary is $296,007.  This drops to $249,839 for ministers outside cabinet. Continue reading “Among the questions about Curran – can she make a Cabinet comeback?”

Psst! If you want to keep a secret, put it in Clare Curran’s custody

We learn today of two Cabinet ministers attending a dinner hosted by Google’s top lawyer under secretive “Chatham House” rules, but they made no notes of what was discussed.

According to a report at Stuff, Google’s chief counsel, Kent Walker, hosted the dinner at  the capital’s Wellington Club. Among the guests were Justice Minister Andrew Little, Open Government Minister Clare Curran and top public servants and lawyers.

In response to requests under the Official Information Act, Little and Curran both said they kept no notes or memos from the event.

National’s spokesman for open government, Nick Smith, accordingly is complaining of Continue reading “Psst! If you want to keep a secret, put it in Clare Curran’s custody”