Alf’s caucus mates prefer he stick his borax only into Opposition politicians and spare his party colleagues.
But it’s hard to resist taking a tilt at the Minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service, Chris Finlayson, who has been apologising for dismissing Parliament’s select committee process as “chit chat”.
Alf took a dim view of this remark because he is often advising his constituents, when they are bitching about this, that or whatever legislation, that they should shut up if they did not take the opportunity to influence things by making submissions to the select committee which considered the law when it was at the bill stage.
Finlayson, who also happens to be our Attorney-General, has acknowledged that as soon as he said the process was just chit-chat, he knew his remark was “uncharacteristically flippant”.
“It’s certainly not chit chat and I apologise,” he says.
TV3 reminded its viewers the apology followed comments Chris made about public submissions on the controversial Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill.
“The interview was at 10 past six and I’d just awoken from my slumbers,” says Mr Finlayson.
Oh dear. He is telling us it takes time for him to sharpen his wits.
Alf is unconvinced and suspects Chris said exactly what he thinks of the select committee process rather than saying what the public would like him to think about it.
Let’s not forget he is a bloke who fancies himself as a good communicator who not so long ago issued his staff with 10 pages of guidelines , setting out the language he expects officials to use in correspondence and briefing papers.
It was accompanied by speech-writing instructions, with a list of more than 20 banned expressions.
Staff are forbidden to use “heads-up” and should instead plump for “early” or “preliminary indication”.
Also out in his language jihad are “process”, “outcome”, “community”, “stakeholder” and “cutting edge”.
Mr Finlayson, who is also attorney-general, harbours a special dislike of Oxford commas, split infinitives and any extraneous uses of “that”.
“The minister has commented ‘commas hunt in pairs’. This would, for example, look like this’,” the memo instructs bureaucrats.
The guide revealed that Chris is a prissy bugger who has a strict style for his letters.
The address must be preceded by eight to 11 blank lines, with four lines for his signature. The font should be Arial, 12 point, and centred. “Don’t split paragraphs over pages,” the guide warns.
A bloke who pays so much attention to style perhaps might become somewhat lax when it comes to substance.
But Chris has clearly demonstrated his disdain for our democratic structures long before now.
He has been diluting them by agreeing to co-governance arrangements as part of his Treaty work.
Alf is be no means surprised, therefore, to hear him scoff at the need for anything more than a cursory select committee hearing of the terrorism legislation.
He should take a lesson from The Boss, who gives apologies a wide berth.