Curran needs to wise up and look to the cabinet manual

Dear Clare, on a bad day, or even a good one, do you wish you were cleverer?Are you like me, agonising because I am not clever enough to know if it should be cleverer or more clever? (Even after looking into that, I can't work out which is best.)

I don't want the sort of show-offy cleverness displayed by your cabinet colleague Shane Jones. That I-am-so-good-at-speaking-in-riddles-who-cares-if-it-actually-makes-sense-or-has-much-association-with- the-facts style is not attractive.

I just wish I could be quicker on the draw, verbally, and that such speed would show me to be witty and wise. Usually, I just sound lame. If I fluke it and say something funny, it's likely to turn out to be to my detriment.

On Good Friday, my slowness let me down in typical fashion.

I was biking into the city to catch up with the whanau from Invercargill, bearing apples and still-warm hot cross buns. The combination of the gloriously still warm weather, the anticipation of seeing my grandson strutting his new walking skills and my all-is-well-with-this-little-part-of-the-world feeling may have prompted me to frighten the seagulls by bursting into song.

My speed was a fairly steady 35kmh. Shortly before I was to cross on to the shared pedestrian-cycleway in Company Bay, a passenger in a passing car felt the need to wind down the window and yell ``Why don't you take up swimming?''

What prompted such an outburst? Had he been observing Shane Jones a little too closely? I tried not to picture the car occupants hooting with laughter and slapping him on the back.

Too baffled to come up with some rollicking repartee, my response was a pathetic ``Why don't you shut up?''

Why couldn't I have said ``If you'd seen me in togs you wouldn't be saying that'' or ``Why don't you take up minding your own business?'' or any number of more clever/cleverer responses?

The thing is, I didn't. Instead, I allowed the incident to spoil a beautiful afternoon. And I have thought about it far too much since.

Do you wish when you were asked by MP Melissa Lee last year about your meetings with staff of RNZ and TVNZ that you had fessed up straight away about your ``informal breakfast'' with RNZ's then- head of news Carol Hirschfeld? The thing is, you didn't and I am sure you have been forced to think about it far too much since.

We have no way of checking what you talked about. If it was such high-level stuff, why is it that Carol reportedly repeatedly assured her bosses it was just a chance meeting?

Do you kick yourself for leaving that voice message for RNZ chairman Richard Griffin, supposedly suggesting it might be better for him to send a letter correcting the misleading information given to the select committee about the Hirschfeld meeting rather than appear in person? Much has been made of this and what it might have inferred, but since we haven't heard the message it is hard to know how much weight to give it.

Still, leaving the message seems a less than clever move.

I reckon my life would be a lot simpler if there was a guide giving advice to car occupants on how they should ideally behave in their interactions with cyclists. Something akin to the cabinet manual perhaps, which, we are told, you have not breached.

I wonder though how much thought you have given to this little excerpt from 3.22 (i): ``Ministers should bear in mind that they have the capacity to exercise considerable influence over the public service. Ministers should take care to ensure that their intentions are not misunderstood.''

As you are also the state services associate minister responsible for open government, if you want to be taken seriously, your behaviour has to be above reproach.

You need to model a comprehensive grasp of proper process - something not always seen in our public servants as they obfuscate and delay answering legitimate questions by playing games with the Official Information Act.

Can we be confident you are up to the task, or are you now a lame duck minister who will be the constant target of the Opposition?

During your sojourn at the Commonwealth Games, I trust you've had time to take a few deep breaths and consider all of that.

On that trip, if any yobbo were to shout `` Why don't you take up synchronised swimming?'', you could cleverly point out it's not part of the 2018 programme. Demonstrating diving for cover, with a peg on your nose, would be another way to deal with it, but it wouldn't help your image.

Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.



When family arrived from 'Dry' Invercargill back in the day, they were gasping for a drink.






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