John Armstrong 's Opinion

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Moa no goer, but Cunliffe must wish dead ducks could fly

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Cunliffe had decreed the moa was not a goer. Like Mallard's wacky idea, this bird was never going to fly. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Cunliffe had decreed the moa was not a goer. Like Mallard's wacky idea, this bird was never going to fly. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Trevor Mallard's mind-boggling suggestion to harness science to bring the moa back to life will likely end up being much-a-dodo about nothing.

And won't David Cunliffe be relieved. Trying to breathe life of its own into his faltering leadership, Cunliffe had recently promised that Labour henceforth would be focusing on "the things that matter".

Mallard may have misunderstood his leader, but it is unlikely that the "matter" Cunliffe was referring to was recovered DNA from moa egg shells.

Along with his front-bench colleagues, Cunliffe had to grin through gritted teeth as they were lampooned mercilessly by Government MPs for much of Parliament's afternoon hour-long question-time and beyond.

Never one to look a gift moa in the mouth, National's Steven Joyce kicked off the mass ribbing by manipulating his forearm and hand to resemble the neck and head of a moa and then waved the ensemble at arriving Labour MPs -- a pantomime act so polished that Joyce must have devoted all but a few moments of his lunchtime to perfecting it.

The subsequent deluge of puns and wisecracks became progressively more lame from thereon -- with one exception. When Winston Peters got to his feet, National backbencher Scott Simpson interjected: "A live moa!".

Peters -- for once -- was silenced, albeit briefly. He had no answer to Simpson's clever jibe, which labelled Peters a dinosaur without calling him a dinosaur.

The person who should have been quivering in embarrassment at having created yet another distraction from Labour's less zany efforts to connect with voters instead seemed to be revelling in all the attention. Maybe Mallard has been so ostrich-cised (sorry) by Cunliffe that he no longer cares too much what he says or does. To escape Cunliffe's fury, Mallard could have argued his idea was a cunning plan to outflank the Greens. The latter have been devoting much time and energy to saving the Maui's dolphin from extinction. Labour could go one better by saving an already extinct species ... well, from extinction. On the other hand, maybe not.

When it comes to saving animals headed for extinction, Cunliffe would probably happily exchange a dead duck for a live moa.

Before you could say Dinornis giganteus novaezealandiae, however, Cunliffe had decreed the moa was not a goer. Like Mallard's wacky idea, this bird was never going to fly.

- NZ Herald

John Armstrong

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

Herald political correspondent John Armstrong has been covering politics at a national level for nearly 30 years. Based in the Press Gallery at Parliament in Wellington, John has worked for the Herald since 1987. John was named Best Columnist at the 2013 Canon Media Awards and was a previous winner of Qantas media awards as best political columnist. Prior to joining the Herald, John worked at Parliament for the New Zealand Press Association. A graduate of Canterbury University's journalism school, John began his career in journalism in 1981 on the Christchurch Star. John has a Masters of Arts degree in political science from Canterbury.

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