Alf feels strong sympathy for Trade Minister Tim Groser this morning. He’s a decent bloke, but he’s been hard done by.
Thanks to some so far unnamed snitch who ratted to the PM about Tim’s tippling on an airliner, he has been warned about his behaviour.
Alf is not sure what Tim is expected not to do. No more drinking? Singing? Joking?
Tim has had his mile-high activities highlighted in the newspaper this morning by a Herald hack who (we must presume) behaves impeccably on international flights.
The warning was sounded not by The Boss, who delegated the task to a bloody flunkey from his office.
It was delivered after a complaint was made “about rowdy drinking and disruptive behaviour” by Groser and some members of a trade mission on a flight from Dubai in April.
The newspaper editors would have inserted the critical word “alleged” before “rowdy drinking” (blah, blah) if they were reporting an account of a shooting or bank robbery, so what has happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty?
It seems a complaint about the behaviour of the delegation and the minister on the April 30 flight was made to the Prime Minister’s office.
The PM should have ignored the complaint, and Alf would have done so if he were PM, because:
…another member of the delegation has defended the minister, saying that if he had a few drinks they were “well deserved” after a stressful trip.
The Herald has been told by one of the Ninth Floor spin doctors that Chief of staff Wayne Eagleson spoke to Tim on behalf of the PM.
“The minister acknowledged there had been some drinking on the flight, but he felt his behaviour was appropriate,” he said.
“The Prime Minister made it quite clear through his chief of staff the expectations he had in terms of ministers’ behaviour.”
The PM would have made it a bloody sight clearer if he had delivered the message personally, which Alf strongly believes he should have done.
Chiding your ministers via a flunkey is not the way these things should be done, and certainly is far from prime ministerial, in Alf’s book.
Moreover, the PM should have recognised that Tim probably needed and deserved a nip or two after what happened.
Mr Key was to have led the trade mission, but he decided to return to New Zealand early for the funeral of three airmen killed in an Air Force helicopter crash at Paekakariki.
Mr Groser led it instead and in the middle of it, on April 27, his mother died.
One delegate on the mission, who was not on the same flight, defended Mr Groser.
“He did a splendid job under trying circumstances,” said lobbyist Matthew Hooton. “Officials let him down with poor logistical planning. They even lost his luggage and his passport on the same day he lost his mother.
“At the same time, he had to step up and stand in for the Prime Minister, and if he had a few drinks on the way home, they were well deserved.”
Alf is with Hooten. Tim deserves a gong in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to trade and the economy, not a prime ministerial rebuke.
It looks awfully like the PM has cravenly surrendered to the wowers.