Murray McCully (with a slingshot) goes striding on to the world stage to bring peace to the Middle East

June 5, 2015

2013 P11 03 David Goliath

Peace is assured – at long, long  last – in the Middle East.

Or at least, it looks like it is assured in some bits of the Middle East.

Kiwi taxpayers have despatched Alf’s good mate Murray McCully to play a critical role and do something the heavyweights of world diplomacy have egregiously failed to do.

He is trying to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to the negotiating table.

It’s a great week for him to be doing this, because the Black Caps’ defeat of England in that test match the other day was a great reminder of what we Kiwis can do when we are pitched against international heavyweights.

Moreover Murray has gone tripping into a part of the world where comparative small fry (a bloke called David who became the king of Israel way back in history and is held in high regard by people of the Jewish faith) showed a bloke called Goliath (a big bugger and a Philistine) where to get off.

Read the rest of this entry »


An Ambassador’s job would be great, but the climate in Baghdad surely is best avoided

May 28, 2015

Dunno what James Munro has done to blot his copy book.

But the poor bugger is being despatched to Baghdad as our ambassador.

Frankly, Alf would have been inclined to give the job to someone like Winston Peters, to get him out of our hair.

Any one of umpteen greenies or lefties should also have considered.

But no. Foreign Minister Murray McCully today announced New Zealand will be opening an Embassy in Baghdad, and it will be headed by career diplomat James Munro.

“As signalled when the decision to deploy to Iraq was announced, the Government has now finalised arrangements to open a permanent mission in Baghdad,” Mr McCully says.

“Our resident Ambassador will be charged with supporting New Zealand’s non-combat training mission to Iraq and assessing how we can better support and build relations with the Iraqi government.

“The New Zealand Embassy will be co-located within the Australian Embassy in Baghdad and Mr Munro will arrive there next week.

“In addition to leading New Zealand’s engagement with the Iraq government and providing diplomatic support to the training mission, our Embassy will also be responsible for maintaining relations with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

“Mr Munro, the Ambassador designate to Baghdad, is an Arabic speaker and former military officer who has previously been posted to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh,” Mr McCully says.

The appointment has been made within days of Islamic State seizing control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province just 110km from Baghdad.

Fallujah, located between, is already a terror stronghold.

Whether diplomatic support for our training mission is what they need is a good question.

Alf is minded that some commentators are musing that the fall of Baghdad to Islamic State would harm American strategic interests as the fall of Saigon did in 1975. The blow to US credibility and the enhancement of ISIS’s prestige, of its black flag rising over an evacuated US embassy, would be incalculable.

Fair to say, the article from which this was quoted went on to advise the Americans on what they could and should do to keep Baghdad from falling to ISIS.

But the job of NZ Ambassador doesn’t sound too tempting. Alf enjoys a warm climate but not one as hot as Baghdad’s.


Hark, the Herald’s angle sings – mostly because it emphasises McCully’s thoughts on Saudi sheep deal

May 9, 2015

The NZ Herald perhaps has summed up the deal correctly with its headline. Or Stuff has done so.

But they can’t both be right – can they?

The Herald has gone for…

Saudi farm spend ‘an opportunity’

At Stuff you will be told...

Government’s $6 million investment into a Saudi farm ‘dodgy’

The differing attitudes depend on whose observations were given emphasis early in the story.

The angle taken by the reporter, in other words (or by the rewrite staff if it was rewritten).

Let’s start at Stuff.

Read the rest of this entry »


Up and at ’em – but let’s make sure this sovereignty stuff doesn’t rule out defending ourselves

February 13, 2015
With a bit of luck, our navigator got it wrong and this is a beach in Miami.

With a bit of luck, our navigator got it wrong and this is a beach in Miami.

It looks like it’s all on for Kiwi troops to be despatched to Iraq.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari today met a heavyweight bunch of Alf’s colleagues, The Boss,  Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee.

There was a request for us to help his beleaguered country and as Radio NZ said:  

The request for support takes New Zealand one step closer to a decision on deploying troops to help train Iraqi forces, with back-up from special forces.

The Government has repeatedly ruled out the troops having any combat role.

Read the rest of this entry »


What’s the difference between the HMNZS Wellington and a toothfish? The fish has teeth

January 15, 2015
More teeth than the NZ Navy.

More biting power than the NZ Navy.

When the Member for Eketahuna North thunders his demand that we sink the toothfish pirates in Antarctic waters, the hacks at Radio NZ ignore him.

When the former Mayor of a sister town in the Wairarapa, Carterton, calls for the navy to use its fire power, the hacks jump to attention and give him top billing on their news bulletins.

But he’s a New Zealand First MP, not a National one.

Go figure.

Read the rest of this entry »


We’ve sent our gunboat and caught fishing felons red-handed – now let’s sink them

January 13, 2015
Oops. Shouldn't Hitler's permission been sought?

Oops. Did Hitler give his approval?

Dunno why Royal New Zealand Navy officials have got to be so damned prissy.

According to the NZ Herald, last night they were seeking permission to board two fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean which have been found with illegal catches.

The offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Wellington has been monitoring the ships, Songhua and Kunlun, for close to a week and has captured video evidence of fishermen hauling in Antarctic toothfish – one of the most lucrative catches in the world.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the vessels were using gill nets, which were banned in the strictly regulated fishery around Antarctica because they were considered damaging to the marine ecosystem.

So – a fair cop, by the sounds of it.

Read the rest of this entry »


A diplomatic response to Terence O’Brien would be to tell him Murray has the whip hand

November 27, 2014
If we did win the next election, which one of us would be Minister of Foreign Affairs?

If we did win the next election, which one of us would be Minister of Foreign Affairs?

Alf has politely (as always) declined a nice offer made by his mate Murray McCully.

The offer was that he should step into the shoes of John Allen, who has quit as boss of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to take up a position with the New Zealand Racing Board.

Well, perhaps it wasn’t a firm offer, to be honest. He was testing the waters, so to speak, and trying to ascertain Alf’s interest.

But Alf has no urge to stop representing the interests of the good people of Eketahuna North and will be sticking to his job here on the National back benches , where there is always the prospect of a long-overdue promotion to a ministerial job.

Mind you, the report this week that gave Crusher Collins a clean bill of health means she may well be higher up in the queue than he is.

More important, however, Murray’s chat with Alf somewhat scuttles the hopes of Terence O’Brien, the former New Zealand ambassador to the UN and a senior fellow at the Victoria University Centre for Strategic Studies.

Radio NZ reported him as saying Murray must accept that only a top-ranking experienced diplomat can head New Zealand’s new role at the UN Security Council.

Mr Allen’s controversial appointment in 2009 as the first non-diplomatic post to take up the top job was designed to promote New Zealand interests to the world and reinvigorate a diplomatic service marred by complacency.

Mr O’Brien said it had been five years of revolutionary change within MFAT but it was time for a chief executive with considerable diplomatic experience

“It would be timely to revert now to appointing a seasoned professional, particularly in the next two years.

“The burden of the Security Council membership is going to require leadership from the top.”

Beyond that, Radio NZ essentially provided O’Brien with a platform from which to be bitchy.

O’Brien said Allen has fulfilled Murray’s  plan to corporatise the diplomatic service, changing the job of diplomat, which has created silos and forced the departure of experienced diplomats.

But he said this approach was rejected in several countries and it should not have been attempted in New Zealand, though it could not yet be called a complete failure.

“They detracted from MFAT’s performance particularly over the question of career opportunities; a system that he introduced has made career opportunities at the top a somewhat uncertain business.”

Radio NZ also gave David Shearer the chance to remind us of his existence somewhere around No 14 or 15 in the Labour batting order.

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer said many experienced highly-skilled diplomats left the service in mid-career, because their job security was stripped away.

“Much of that was ordered by Murray McCully. It was carried out by John Allen. John Allen was left hanging out to dry by Murray McCully, who put the blame on him, unfairly in many cases, I believe.”
Mr Allen has had to apologise to Mr McCully for the badly-handled Malaysian diplomat case earlier this year, something Mr Shearer said highlighted significant failings.
“John Allen was completely oblivious to what was actually going on in his own ministry. McCully didn’t even ask about the situation.
“We’ll see more of those sorts of issues but more importantly we we’ll see a decline in quality, so it won’t be completely measurable but it won’t stand New Zealand in good stead.”

But Murray was having none of that pap and said MFAT was now in a strong position to capitalise on the opportunities presented by New Zealand’s term on the UN Security Council, and to meet other challenges.

“Under Mr Allen’s guidance, the Ministry has realigned New Zealand’s aid programme to ensure we are making a tangible difference in our region, continue to push for free and open trade, and managed our campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.”

So why should Allen want to bugger off from the MFAT job?

Besides getting away from a job in which he is constantly exposed to carping from Opposition politicians, Allen will get a pay rise.

He gave up a million-dollar salary at New Zealand Post when he took up the MFAT job, slicing his income in half.

The top pay band at the Racing Board – according to the Radio NZ report – is currently $960,000-$970,000.

Oh, and another thing.

The racing industry deals with galloping thoroughbreds. They won’t express any disgruntlement in the same way as Labour’s braying donkeys.