Claire Trevett 's Opinion

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett: McCully, jobs go missing somewhere out west

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Murray McCully. File photo / Ross Setford
Murray McCully. File photo / Ross Setford

It was somewhat refreshing to find out this week, courtesy of WikiLeaks' release of Stratfor emails, that New Zealand was "an isolated island to the east of Australia".

New Zealand's was the shortest entry in a briefing on the Southeast Asia region by the private intelligence firm, which said the only interesting point about New Zealand was a close economic relationship with the much more interesting and important Australia.

Their point was rather proven in domestic politics this week.

In Australia, the riveting leadership battle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard played out towards its inevitable conclusion.

It was a glorious technicolour nightmare, high noon on the savannah which ended with gobbets of shredded ego festooning the caucus walls and trailing along the passage from ministerial benches to the back-benches.

Meanwhile in New Zealand, politicians were obsessed with the lost-and-found bin.

First in line was Prime Minister John Key, who had lost his Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully. Mr Key's admission on Monday that he had no idea of the whereabouts of Mr McCully prompted various games of foreign minister peek-a-boo.

In this Where's Wally game, anybody's guess was better than Mr Key's, who had to admit he had failed to install a GPS locator on Mr McCully.

Instead, his default was to assume Mr McCully was somewhere north or west of New Zealand doing his utmost to convince the rest of the world that New Zealand was not an isolated island to the east of Australia.

With Mr McCully off in search of our lost relevance, back at home Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was sending beneficiaries to the lost-and-found to search for jobs. The welfare reforms require solo parents to look for part-time work when their youngest is 5, full-time work when their youngest is 14, and for those naughty solo parents who have further children while on the DPB, to job hunt when their youngest turns 1.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei could smell a script for a Home Alone movie a mile off. She bailed Mr Key up on it, claiming the policy of "coercion" would result in the forced mass abandonment of babies. They would be left home alone, they would be left home with other young children, they would be left with "unsuitable carers".

This caused some confusion for Mr Key, who pondered why it was "abandonment" for solo mothers to put their children into early childhood education to go to work but not abandonment for any other parent to do the same. Meanwhile, the Labour Party busied itself looking for the same jobs the beneficiaries had been dispatched to look for. They emerged to say such jobs were as rare as sightings of Murray McCully. What Labour got in return was a taste of wedge politics. There was some bandying about of statistics before both the Prime Minister and Ms Bennett suggested beneficiaries were just being picky.

Mr Key pointed out that immigrants were shipped in for jobs such as fruit picking. This proved there were jobs out there - and the question was not the way, but the will. Ms Bennett went further, saying any job was a good job, that jobs such as cleaning and fast-food restaurants were "noble" and acted as stepping stones to other jobs.

It was aimed at middle-class voters who still believe in the value of a day's honest work.

It was also aimed at former beneficiaries who have the fortitude to take on such jobs to get themselves off the benefit.

Mr Key finally sought to quell dissent by calling on an apparent celebrity endorsement for National's reforms in the form of the One Sanctified Labour Being - Michael Joseph Savage - who Mr Key claimed had said welfare would never be "an armchair to prosperity".

Mr Key's channelling of Mr Savage usually elicits a storm of hissing from Labour MPs. On this occasion there was simply silence, possibly because the quote in question was actually from Mr Savage's successor, Peter Fraser.

Enter Steven Joyce, who spotted a few more things missing in action: first, any sign of a firm opinion from Labour leader David Shearer, "a back story with no front story".

The second was Labour's own plan for economic growth. Mr Joyce reported he had found at least one sign of a growth plan and that was the new beard on the face of David Cunliffe - "the K-Rudd of the New Zealand Labour Party". The tension was broken by one confirmed sighting of Mr McCully, who Labour's Trevor Mallard reported had been seen in Bellamy's on Tuesday.

As for sightings of jobs, Stratfor's briefing on Australia suggests Mr McCully will find them on that continent to the west of an isolated island to the east of Australia.

- NZ Herald

Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor and joined the Press Gallery in 2007. She began with the Herald in 2003 as the Northland reporter before moving to Auckland where her rounds included education and media. A graduate of AUT's post-graduate diploma in journalism, Claire began her journalism career in 2002 at the Northern Advocate in Whangarei. Claire has conjoint Bachelor of Law/ Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Canterbury.

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