Correction: This article has been amended to correct the fact that Neale Jones was chief of staff to Jacinda Ardern as Leader of the Opposition, not as Prime Minister, and Jones' website does not claim he still has unparalleled access to the halls of power. Apologies for the errors.
I had imagined that my first diary report from 151 Off the Bench would have been about some of the processes that I had gone through as part of my pre-departure preparations for the flight to LA and what, if any, changes might be able to be made to those with some of the new technologies available to us.
Those observations will have to be addressed tomorrow because there is something else that I think needs to be addressed from the outset if we are to take anything constructive from this self-isolation trial.
In a Twitter post yesterday, Neale Jones wrote the following:
"Ian Taylor really is king of the patronising koru club reckons. [sic] Everything is so simple, if only the Prime Minister would listen to this man of unparalleled genius."
Normally I would let a comment like that slide by, but Neale Jones was once a chief of staff to Jacinda Ardern when she was Leader of the Opposition and his comment highlights something that I have come to suspect might be the case. Advice going through to ministers can be tainted by the beliefs of those providing them, and views that might run counter to those advising the ministers are either never passed on or dismissed as coming from a self-interested group pushing its own private agenda.
In this case, I suspect that I am being sidelined into the business camp of "patronising koru club members", whatever that might mean, who only care about making money and have no idea what the Government and its advisers are having to deal with.
Putting aside the fact that as chief of staff for Ardern, Neale almost certainly took advantage of his Koru Club membership on a regular basis, it is a concerning statement from someone whose resumé places him at the core of decision making in past governments.
From day one all I have ever suggested was that there were players on the bench of this Team of 5 Million who could help the Government with some of the huge challenges it is facing with a game plan that is increasingly moving in directions that have been difficult to respond to. I have never claimed to have the answers, and "a man of unparalleled genius" I most certainly am not.
What I have done over 30 years of business has been to gather around me people who are far smarter than I am, place my trust in them, and let them do the things I could never have done on my own. This current exercise is exactly that, and I have been overwhelmed by the people and ideas that have been shared freely and openly over the past couple of weeks.
My genuine hope was that government officials would engage openly and collaboratively with these players off the bench who have so much to offer. I have learned a lot in the past few weeks from people who are world-acclaimed in their fields. The most common feedback is that they have not been listened to, many of them finding that their skills and technologies are more readily accepted overseas than they are here in Aotearoa.
These players are genuinely here to help – at home.
In a follow-up statement, Neale concluded with this.
"I have no doubt he's smart. But he comes across as incredibly patronising, and his take on MIQ when we had strict elimination would have had this country riddled with covid in no time."
Patronising? Neale, I have simply tried to match the tone of the daily press conferences in my notes to the Prime Minister. The word patronising is yours, not mine. Clearly, PR is the business you're in so I will certainly demur to your description of my approach. It wasn't intended to be patronising, I had simply tried to learn from people who were better at this than I am, and the daily press conferences have been a great source of learning.
As for "elimination" – closing in on 2000 cases I think that horse has bolted, don't you?
So, let's try and take the politics out of all of this and start working together.
- This is part 1 of a diary that Sir Ian Taylor will be providing to the Herald over the course of his travel trial.