John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: Offer to quit should have been taken


Brownlee broke rules of his own portfolio with airport breach and must face music.

The Prime Minister should have accepted Gerry Brownlee's offer to resign his Transport portfolio for breaching airport security regulations.

The Transport portfolio includes responsibility for civil aviation. If the minister responsible for the rules covering airport security cannot be bothered abiding by those rules, why should anyone else feel they have to.

His being a minister also put airport security staff in a compromising position - and that is also unacceptable. As a minimum. John Key should have relieved Brownlee of the portfolio on a temporary basis until the Civil Aviation Authority's investigation has ascertained exactly what happened - something which should take only a day or so at most. To some extent, however, Brownlee has - to his credit - pre-empted that investigation by admitting he was in the wrong and the one who is to blame.

This is no minor matter. Avoiding security screening is a serious offence which carries a fine of up to $3000 and up to two months in prison.

Like anyone else, Brownlee should not receive any special treatment and should face the potential legal consequences of his actions.

Cabinet ministers, however, also have to set an example. Otherwise the rule of law is rendered meaningless.

As was the case with the drink-drive charges faced by Labour's Ruth Dyson when she was a minister, Brownlee's resignation should have been cut and and dried.

Dyson lost her Cabinet post but was later reinstated.

Brownlee's offer applied only to his transport role.

But then his remaining in Cabinet was never in question.

Some will draw parallels with Murray McCully's handling of the recent Malaysian diplomatic immunity case. However, there is a vast difference between individual ministerial responsibility for the actions of a Government department and a minister's own (mis)behaviour.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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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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