Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Situations increasingly vacant

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Presumably, Prime Minister John Key found Susan Devoy was unavailable. Photo / Michael Craig
Presumably, Prime Minister John Key found Susan Devoy was unavailable. Photo / Michael Craig

Some time ago, I used to monitor the Government Electronic Tenders Service, a site on which government contracts are listed so freelancers and others can tender for them.

I applied occasionally until an older, more experienced and, frankly, much more successful friend said he had long since abandoned this practice himself as all the contracts seemed to go to applicants from Wellington and he could make better use of his time doing real work.

This is not necessarily analogous to the process by which Ian Fletcher was appointed as head of the Government Communications and Security Bureau. After all, that position is an important one, crucial to our national security. It is vital that the job should be above politics and untainted by any suggestion of impropriety. In any other country there might be a bit of a fuss if it was learned that such a position had gone to a childhood friend of the country's leader, after a shortlist of candidates was rejected in toto and that leader had contacted the friend and suggested he apply (Susan Devoy presumably being unavailable) and that the friend was the only person interviewed and became, unsurprisingly, the successful applicant.

The revelation of this, at best, odd situation would spark immediate efforts to reassure citizens that the country is not being run along less than scrupulous lines by a cadre of opportunists. We are not that sort of country. Just as well, because all we've had so far from the man at the centre of the murk is smirking and eye-rolling.

Unfortunately, the more blatantly politicians spurn the niceties of process and transparency, the more people can be found who will admire that approach as showing a can-do spirit and an anti-PC get-on-with-it attitude in the face of nit-picking from the media.

I've decided to throw my hat in the ring and go for the job of world women's squash champion. I've got some time on my hands and, unlike other recent appointees to high-profile positions, I have a smidgen of relevant experience, having played a bit of squash before the dickey knee kicked in.

Some might see the fact that I'm not a woman, can no longer play the game and have forgotten the rules as a handicap, but I believe, as current thinking in circles of power has it, that it will be good to have a fresh face in the role, especially mine.

Our place names have always been all over the place. "New Zealand" was first used in the early 17th century - about 50 years before Abel Tasman passed this way - by another Dutch explorer, Jasper Janssen the Younger, to describe part of the southwest coast of New Guinea.

It's debatable whether Aotearoa was ever used to describe the whole country before colonial times. And, at one stage, our three main islands were called New Leinster, New Munster and New Ulster.

Perhaps all this confusion explains why we have been happy to accept such bland but unambiguous labels as North and South to describe two of the world's most beautiful land masses. If we must now give them official names, let's make them names worth having, names that reflect the identity and traditions of the locations they describe.

Accordingly I suggest we call the southernmost of the two major land masses Really Pretty Island and its northern neighbour Produces All the Revenue to Pay for Your Excellent Roads Island.

Should those names not find favour I nominate as second choices, Where The Hell Are All the People Island and Do You Have Any Sort Of Coffee Besides Latte Island?

- NZ Herald

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