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The Genter letter and how non-release has damaged ‘Brand Ardern’


Heather du Plessis-Allan writes at Herald on Sunday about the ongoing stoush over the release of a letter from Julie Anne Genter to Phil Twyford and the reputed contents of said letter. The reason for the brouhaha is because at the present time Genter and Twyford are refusing to release the letter

As HDPA writes

It doesn’t actually matter what the secret letter says. So, a Green Party MP wants a tram instead of a tunnel for cars. Not a big surprise.

The claims are that the MP cares so deeply about the tram that they threatened to quit unless they got it. Again, not a big surprise.

Which is what makes it all the more extraordinary that Julie Anne Genter refuses to release the secret letter.

Because, chances are, its contents will be a massive disappointment.

However, Genter and Twyford have turned the non release into a minor cause célèbre. By their stupidity, arrogance, secretiveness and hubris they have turned a small matter into potentially a much bigger issue with negative impact for ‘Brand Ardern’

HDPA then wrote

If the letter is what we expect, then its release will kill the story. We’ll read it, feel a slight pang of disappointment and turn the page. A bit like finally seeing the monster in the horror movie. It’s always better to imagine the monster.

I am not certain about this, because as Stuff reported the other day

The Green Party confidence and supply agreement would have been put in jeopardy if a watered down Let’s Get Wellington Moving wasn’t accepted, city councillors claim.

A number of Wellington city councillors have revealed to Stuff the behind-the-scenes conversations that pushed the mass transport deal over the line in council chambers.

It comes as the Chief Ombudsman investigates Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter’s ongoing refusal to release a letter relating to Wellington’s transport plans.

It is understood Wellington Mayor Justin Lester told a number of city councillors Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter and another Green MP threatened to resign if councillors did not vote for the new mass transit plan and the Government would use the money elsewhere

There is speculation that this letter from Genter to Twyford goes some way to corroborating the claims by the Councillors.

Now Lester denies the claims by the Councillors, as he is a committed Labour man hardly surprising or as Mandy Rice-Davies said of Lord Astor in a famous courtcase and his testimony“Well he would, wouldn’t he?” Given that several Councillors have made this claim one part suggest that Mayor Lester is at best being economical with the truth.

Then we get to the nub of HDPA’s proposition

So, as long as we’re left to speculate on what it says and why the politicians want to keep it secret, its power is greater. It keeps on doing damage.

Where this letter is doing the most damage is the Government’s claim to be the most transparent ever in the history of this country.

Indeed, it is one more instance in the large list by now of instances where this Government’s claims on openness and transparency have been found to be honoured in the breach. The list is extensive, but a few examples will suffice:

  • Clare Curran and her forgotten meetings
  • Shane Jones forgotten meetings and his relationship with business lobbying for Government favour
  • Jacinda Ardern and the failure to release aspects of the Labour – NZF coalition agreement

Indeed, Matthew Hooton in his most recent NZ Herald column looked at this issue as well and he slated Ardern’s administration, including this

Her confidence and supply agreement with the Greens’ James Shaw promised to “strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information”.

She appointed an Open Government Minister, Clare Curran, who declared the Ardern regime would be the most open and transparent in history.

The opposite has of course occurred. Hilariously, Curran was soon forced to resign for hiding information from the public, Parliament and the Prime Minister.

Intriguingly in the context of that statement Hooton went on

Even more comical, Genter now demands to keep secret her letter about the $6.4b funding package on the grounds that it would not be in the public interest for anyone else to see it.

Comical yes, but so typical of the attitudes stuck by this coalition of incompetent, arrogant , ideologues in Labour and Greens and the naked self interest of Peters and his cult.

Perhaps as well Genter who has consistently been one of the more offensive MPs, remember her stale white men comment, and her comment about car fascists, plus her recent nonsense on hospital diets and climate change

Maybe Genter should do a Curran and resign!

However, let us return to HDPA’s article – where she notes

And, because that promise is deeply connected to the Prime Minister’s kindness brand and her personal ambitions to make politics nicer, it is in effect doing damage to Jacinda Ardern as well.

True. Though Ardern has contributed plenty of damage herself. Another example would be how Ardern sought to dictate to the media on her recent trip to Tokelau.

Every time the Opposition proves that this Government is not the most transparent in the history of this country, they are hammering Jacinda Ardern. Same with this letter. This isn’t an attack on Genter alone. It’s an attack on Ardern too.

They are doing what an effective Opposition needs to do, they are ensuring ‘Brand Ardern’ suffers the consequences of Ardern being one of the least competent politicians in the world. Hijabs and hugs just do not compensate for lack of management skills

HDPA continues

This isn’t a risk this Government can afford. The Prime Minister’s personal polling has slipped a surprising 10 points in just three months. Ardern is under pressure at the moment, accused of being a part-time prime minister, of meddling in the Ihumātao land protest unnecessarily, written up by some commentators as weary.

She is under pressure because of her staggering incompetence and lack of leadership. Let us not forget the broken election promises re Cancer Agency, mental health and of course the running sore which is KiwiBuild.  Plus immigration issues, economic issues and her loose lipped ministry and a support part the Greens which is increasingly restive.

One might think that this is a moment when Ardern if she was knowledgeable enough might recall Kenneth Williams’s quip ‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!’ .

Then HDPA sets about the government with a will

But, she is this Government’s chessboard king. Without Ardern, they would not be in government. They should be rallying to defend her and her personal brand. If Genter is protecting herself by withholding that letter, she should seriously consider instead sacrificing herself for Ardern right now.

The naivety on display is gobsmacking. Genter’s go-to line has been “this is not a big deal”.

That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of modern politics. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big deal. It matters that it looks like a big deal. And these two words — secret letter — look like a big deal.

Genter’s attitude is incredible. Not for one moment do I think Genter is naive. This is arrogance and betrays her attitude to the little people, i.e us. Genter is an authoritarian Green cultist on a mission to save the world at our expense. She personifies all the worst traits of progressive politicians.

This is what makes this issue a ‘big deal’

What also looks like a big deal is when Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Genter both deny the letter’s existence before then admitting its existence. It also looks like a big deal when the Chief Ombudsman agrees to investigate whether the letter should be released. And then it really starts to look like a big deal when several Wellington city councillors go on the record to say they were told by mayor Justin Lester (which he denies) that the letter was a threat letter.

See earlier for my views on Lester. Twyford and Genter have made this a big deal. Ardern has compounded the issue by not telling them to release the letter, thus yet again she looks weak and ineffective.

So yes, it looks like a big deal. A big deal that could be much reduced by simply getting rid of the problem, and releasing the possibly disappointing missive.

Nothing in that letter can be worse than the trouble the letter’s causing right now.

At the end of the day no matter what is revealed or not revealed key takeaways are

  • openness and transparency is a bad joke as far as this government is concerned
  • ministerial arrogance abounds
  • being economical with the truth is a way of life for this government
  • there are tensions within the administration
  • Ardern is exposed as weak and lacking in leadership and management skills
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