Cruel to be kind?

In Newsletter Editorial3 MinutesBy Gavin MyersJune 23, 2023

When does the kindness we show to each other become too much? It’s a difficult question to pose in the decade of Western wokeness this is panning out to be. However, it needs to be asked for the reality check inherent in its answer. Kindness can be a mask for weakness or neglect.

New Zealand’s former PM, for example, was perhaps so focused on kindness that she failed, or maybe chose not to see, the conflict of interest in former Minister of Transport Michael Wood’s portfolio of undeclared shares. Of course, we could never say for sure. His shares in Auckland Airport were evidentially just the tip of the iceberg, but they were known about, and Wood was given ample time – a couple of years – to sort out his affairs. That’s pretty kind.

Maybe it’s the effects of an election year, but Prime Minister Hipkins seems to have been slightly less kind about the whole debacle. Wasting no time accepting Wood’s resignation from Cabinet was the least he could do to unburden himself of the situation. Would being even less kind when the problem came to light have been a better option? Sure, Hipkins eventually relieved Wood of his duties as transport minister, but it certainly would’ve sent a stronger political message if he was firm-handed – or booted – from the offset. The adage ‘three strikes and you’re out’ has now been upped to 12. How kind is that?

Of course, Wood isn’t unique in the group of politicians playing smoke and mirrors, nor is he the worst. But it’s good to know that some of our ministers are so well taken care of, they can essentially lose track of their financial interests. Yet more kindness.

As far as transport is concerned, wouldn’t it be nice to have a minister who’s genuinely interested in and engaged with the industry? At the start of his term in November 2020, that was certainly the appearance Wood tried to project.

David Parker comes into the role – he’ll have some familiarity with it, having been minister of transport and energy following the 2005 general election until March 2006. As attorney-general, his level of integrity is bound to be up there with the best (not to be too kind – in March 2006, he resigned from his posts after an allegation that he had filed an incorrect declaration with the Companies Office, of which he was cleared following an inquiry). Hopefully too, his concurrent roles as minister of environment, revenue, and associate minister of finance will place him in good stead for a successful term in the transport portfolio – these being intrinsically linked.

Of course, things could all change in October, depending on how kind the voting public is.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers