Education Minister missing in inaction

It’s not every day that the highest profile public servant, the chief executive of one of our biggest Government departments, stands down, a  week before Christmas, and after a year in which her department was almost never out of the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons.

The resignation of a public service chief under fire is a big deal, and represents a major day in the career of their responsible Government Minister as they stand before the nation asserting control over their ministry, and assuring the public they have it fully under control as they outline the plan for moving forward.

But when Lesley Longstone stood down yesterday, her Minister Hekia Parata had literally disappeared into thin air. Who knows where Ms Parata actually is? But as everyone by now does know, she chose yesterday to start six weeks of annual  holidays.

Clearly Minister Parata is running away from the attention that would fall on her, and the inevitable calls for her to step down too after overseeing an historically shambolic year in education. It must be a pretty yucky time to be Hekia Parata.

But it is patently ridiculous that she was not there to front Ms Longstone’s resignation, and it is a comprehensive dereliction of duty for her to fly off the radar at such a crucial time in her portfolio. She is a government minister for goodness sake.

It is also profoundly cynical of John Key to announce he has confidence in Ms Parata in the midst of all this.

Its cynical because we all know he doesn’t’ mean it. That he’s hoping that a nice long break will take the heat off him and her, and when the National MPs return in late January he can use the cabinet reshuffle to quietly shift her sideways and down a bit.

This is about playing to media cycles, and exploiting the silly season, to meet his political ends.

An honest Minister would have taken the heat yesterday.

And an honest Prime Minister would not have expressed confidence in her while blatantly undermining that by allowing her to slink out the back door.

12 Comments Posted

  1. “This competition takes place in a context of parents having poor information on which to base their choice of school and empirical evidence that suggests the gains from competition are minimal or negative….”

    “We remain sceptical around the student achievement benefits that could be gained from introducing more actively competitive mechanisms into the New Zealand schooling system, such as vouchers, removal of zoning arrangements and increasing financial support for private schools. Systems that have pursued these policies have not gained systematic improvements in student outcomes.

    “There are provisions within the current system to increase the diversity of schooling choices available to parents….although these have been used infrequently…..this may indicate that the current level of diversity within the state sector is sufficient to meet parents demands.”

  2. “But when Lesley Longstone stood down yesterday, her Minister Hekia Parata had literally disappeared into thin air.”

    The Prime Minister is similarly avoiding any attempt to ask him unpopular questions.

    Ministers and MPs generally get inflated salaries and fringe benefits compared with most of the population, which may be justified in many cases because it can often be stressful work away from home during unusual hours, but the salaries are also repeatedly justified as being necessary to attract good and responsible people towards wanting to do the job.

    I know there were many reasons people disliked the previous PM (even if you ignore the idiot ‘she-looked-like-a-man’ criticism), but one thing that could definitely be said about Helen Clark is that she was always prepared to face media questions about issues happening in the government she was charged with being responsible for. More often than not she was reliably briefed and up to date on it.

    I hope that all opposition parties, including but not limited to the Greens, are taking notes on this and everything else to ensure people are reminded during their next election campaigns.

  3. A Hawaain girl stayed with us for a week, just recently. She said Hawaii suffers from infestations of all sorts of nasty foreign pests, snakes being the worst.

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