Mrs Grumble phoned during the boring bit of Parliamentary proceedings today to recommend giving a Sergeant Schultz award to Police Minister Michael Woodhouse.
Woodhouse won plaudits from her for his skill at saying nothing about his role in the Mike Sabin matter.
Well, almost nothing.
He refused – again – to confirm whether he was briefed by Police about Sabin.
‘But he said he was “absolutely” confident he had handled the situation properly.
If he handled the matter properly without being briefed by the Police, of course, he is entitled to another award, this one for prowess in the Police portfolio while being kept in the dark.
Another matter on which he said something while remaining mute, in effect, for the practical purpose of enlightening the public is explaining what sorts of information he would normally refer up to the Prime Minister.
“I pass on a range of matters to the Prime Minister on an as required basis. I’m satisfied we have very good channels of communication.”
The NZ Herald has reported today on Michael’s admirable stone-walling on the critical matter of what he was told about Mike and when.
The newspaper also provided readers with some background notes.
Mr Woodhouse was appointed Police Minister after the election in September but Mr Key has said his office was not told of Mr Sabin’s issues until late November and he was told on December 1.
That has raised questions about whether ministers were told about the events that resulted in Mr Sabin’s resignation but did not pass it on to the Prime Minister.
Former Police Minister Anne Tolley again refused to comment, too.
Labour’s deputy leader Annette King questioned whether the Prime Minister was deliberately kept in the dark about Mike Sabin’s plight in the lead up to the election as a political tactic.
Ms King, a former Police Minister, said it was standard for ministers to pass any sensitive information on to the Prime Minister.
If Mr Key was not told by his ministers, it was possibly for political purposes.
The political purpose of not telling The Boss is a matter of great bemusement to Alf.
But let’s hand it to the Opposition. They have given it a go.
The TVNZ has reported police started investigating Mr Sabin in August – about six weeks before the election. If the news had broken at that time it risked derailing National’s campaign at a critical point. Ms King said she had regularly briefed former Prime Minister Helen Clark on sensitive matters.
“Prime Ministers do not like to be surprised by issues and information Ministers have, they like to know. Unless you want to go round saying ‘I don’t know anything about this” and you want to have deniability. Now that could be a political tactic this Prime Minister has, but I can assure you it wasn’t the last Prime Minister.”
The Herald has seized on something Police Commissioner Mike Bush said and didn’t say. Bush had refused to confirm any briefing of ministers
… but said that overall the Police had not dropped the ball on the ‘no surprises’ practice.
Woodhouse did have something to say about this. He said it was a general comment from Bush rather than confirmation of a briefing on the Mike Sabin case.
Labour’s Andrew Little is claiming the Prime Minister had known more than he was admitting to.
But Little is desperately trying to demonstrate he is a more effective leader than wotzisname or whoever it was who preceded him.
Alf’s advice to constituents is to take no notice.