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.