Soper: Clark saga shows Govt's lack of transparency

David Clark
David Clark
OPINION: Jacinda Ardern promised her Government would be the most open and transparent the country's ever seen, but they've failed.

The fallout from the country's biggest industrial spat in the health sector in a generation put paid to that.

This time last week it was pretty clear nurses were going to go on strike. Surgery was being delayed in preparation for the walkout and district health boards were working to ensure no lives would be put at risk.

Meanwhile, the minister in charge of the whole shebang - David Clark - was busy packing his bags, along with his family, to take a holiday in Australia. If politics was about perception, this was not a good look. It gave the appearance of a minister who had a cavalier approach to his portfolio.

But it was his fudging of the holiday that made matters worse.

In his first appearance before the media, post the nurses' strike, he explained his absence by saying he was always going to be here during the strike, but he had to transport his wife and family to Australia, presumably to ensure they arrived safely. This selfless politician was then virtually on the next flight a day later to rightly attend to his responsibilities.

He cancelled his holiday, he said, leaving the clear impression the family was left sunning themselves on the other side of the ditch. But it turns out his family accompanied him on his return flight home, which indicates to me he was fully intending to stay on holiday with them until he was told by someone higher up the food chain to get home and do his job.

This transparent Government's spin doctor for Clark was in high dudgeon when he was called to find out whether the Clark family accompanied him on his trip back home. He snapped, saying send an email. When I did, I got this reply: "I'm reluctant to discuss my minister's family with you on the fly or at all to be honest. Can you explain the relevance of your question?"

By return email he was told it was obvious: Clark indicated he'd left his family on holiday in Australia when he hadn't. It had a bearing on what he'd told us publicly.

The hum from the spinning top in the Beehive was deafening. It was always the minister's intention to be back in the country before the strike began and for its duration, he insisted.

Bollocks. If this Government wants to be taken seriously, it's got to be what Ardern promised it would be: transparent.

No one would argue politicians, like everyone else, deserve a break with their families. But if Clark had really planned to be in the country before the strike began, why leave with his family just over 24 hours before they downed tools? It just doesn't gel.

It's - yet again - another instance from this Government of spin over honesty.

Comments

There was sickness and the family wanted to come home.

~ source, commenter, Radio NZ/The Panel.

I saw a news report on Sunday that the Minister for Regional Development is basically been given a billion dollars and no accountability on where it is spent. A lot of it appears to be going to constituencies where NZ First is strong. As a consequence 1% is earmarked for the South Island. I think we should be more concerned about that sort of transparency rather than Dr Clark's holiday.

 

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