Friday, December 02, 2005

Peter Beats Winston To The Punch

In one of the big surprises of the peculiar coalition arrangements this term, Peter Dunne is rattling his sabre.

It's unusual only in the sense that all the commentators expected Winston to lose his rag at Aunty Helen first. Apart from throwing a hissy-fit at international and domestic media and calling for a warming of relations with the United States, which Helen Clark would rather be kept on ice, Winston has been relatively well-behaved. He hasn't engaged in any alcohol-fuelled late-night brawling with taxi drivers since becoming a Minister Outside Cabinet. He hasn't been filmed staggering out of a Chogm meeting, haranguing foreigners. He hasn't even made defamatory remarks about a political opponent. All in all, Winston has kept his head down, and has deserved Helen's feint praise by performing "pretty well".

One of the features of the coalition agreement that Peter Dunne has signed with the Labour Party is that the doctrine of collective responsibility applies only to the ministerial portfolio that Dunne holds. Dunne is the Minister of Revenue. He is bound by the will of the whole Cabinet on revenue matters. He cannot speak out against, or seek to undermine, any policy area relating to the revenue portfolio. Otherwise, he faces instant dismissal.

So what, then, of Dunne's recent encouragement to National's campaign to ditch the Carbon Tax proposal? The Carbon Tax is government policy. It was agreed to, collectively, by the last Labour Government. Helen Clark has signalled a review of it, but it still remains a key policy feature of this Labour-led Government, until such time as the Government acts on any recommendations to ditch it.

The Carbon Tax is a revenue proposal, which will add a further $360 million to Government coffers. Dunne is actively seeking to undermine a revenue proposal. He is breaching the collective responsibility he holds with respect to the revenue portfolio. If any other minister in her Government had acted in a similar fashion, Helen would have sacked that Minister.

Dunne is supposed to be the straight guy. He's the one who is supposed to engage with officials on arcane aspects of revenue policy, and get his jiffy out of their equally arcane responses. Dunne is the geek. He's not the troublemaker. But strange times call for strange actions, and even the most boring of men can rise to the occasion and start a shit-fight.

How much longer will this ridiculous farce continue?

1 comment:

Oswald Bastable said...

"How much longer will this ridiculous farce continue?"

3 years, for starters- in one form or another.


Winston is as likely to stay out of trouble, as a schoolboy is to swear off wanking- and mean it!