Fantastic with the compassion, not so good with the politics. How big of a gaffe, how big a mistake has this Government made with Turkey?

In the midst of last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan injected himself into Christchurch in an egregious way. Across the Tasman, Aussie PM Scott Morrison was ropeable and hauled the ambassador in and, when given an explanation, like it was for domestic consumption, he didn't believe and said so.

We, on the other hand, seemed to avail ourselves of a nicely placed op-ed piece in the Washington Post written by Erdogan's henchman designed to appease the gullible. We were one of the gullible. Meantime he carried on at his rallies stirring the pot by playing excerpts from the mosque gunman's livestream.


Our Prime Minister, immersed in Christchurch and its grief, dismissed the outrage by suggesting Winston Peters was on his way to Turkey via Indonesia, and he would deal with it. It was suggested Peters may not even get to see Erdogan, but nevertheless the message would be delivered and matters would be sorted out.

The good news was Peters did get to see the President - but then astonishingly did not raise the matter with him. He said he didn't need to because the whole thing was sorted and Erdogan wasn't "doing that any more". And yet half an hour later that's exactly what he did. We had more footage, and more vitriol.

Peters, even more astonishingly, denied Ardern had ever said what Ardern had said. How do we explain this? An abject failing of a diplomatic mission and complete denial of reality?

The fault is two-fold. The Prime Minister here, quite rightly, earned plaudits from not just us, but various parts of the world for her passionate and humane response to the grief on an event the likes of which we had not seen.

Winston Peters' trip to Turkey has proved an abject failure of a diplomatic mission and a complete denial of reality.
Winston Peters' trip to Turkey has proved an abject failure of a diplomatic mission and a complete denial of reality.

But the clues were there mid-week with the dismissal of the concern over a major diplomatic incident. The trouble with the Prime Minister, in fact much of the Government, is that as big as their heart might be, the experience is nowhere to be found, nor indeed as it turns out is Peters' backbone.

Was he jetlagged? Did he honestly think he could get away with that?

And in diplomatic terms what does that say about us? What has Erdogan learned about our resolve and approach to international events that land on our doorstep? And what does it say about us when you compare us to Australia?

We are diplomatic doormats. We are timid, inexperienced, soft touches afraid to face up to a bully.


To travel halfway round the world to bottle it, has got to be the diplomatic cock-up of a career. We hang our heads in embarrassment.