Monday, February 19, 2024

JC: All Smoke, But No Fire

The Labour Party is desperate to light a fire under the Government’s tobacco excise increases. Unfortunately they have a very weak person on the job. It’s the former Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, who, going by her performances in the House, would be hard pushed to light a cigarette, never mind start a fire. The person she is up against is one lady used to the cut and thrust, namely Casey Costello. Casey, while new to Parliament, is not entirely new to politics through her time spent with the Taxpayers’ Union which is a battleground for taking on politicians.

This fact seems to have escaped both the Labour Party and their friendly Herald political columnist Claire Trevett. They regard Casey as a ‘rookie’, one that can be bullied early on. Both will find themselves on a learning curve. Bullying is, of course, the go-to for the nasty party. It’s the only thing they could claim to have excelled at while in office. They might not want to puff on a cigarette, but they’re sure going to puff and blow on the excise tax issue.

Claire Trevett, in a Weekend Herald column recently, says Labour won’t let it lie: it has the sniff of a weak link. It is now trying to sow the perception that NZ First – and by extension other government parties – are too cosy with the tobacco industry, using the same arguments and doing their bidding. She says the rookie excuse won’t last long. What rookie excuse? The fact is there is nothing to excuse. The Coalition Government is simply going about its business doing the groundwork and seeking advice prior to bringing legislation to the House.

Claire points out that the reason the Costello issue has dragged on is mainly because Costello dug in on it. I find this an interesting comment. Is the implication Costello should have engaged in behaviour similar to Verrall when she was minister? When it was obfuscation, fudging facts or simply not making them available? Claire will find out (she probably is aware but wouldn’t want to admit it) that the right side of politics has quite a different modus operandi to her buddies on the left.

This Government will produce facts and numbers to back them up. They will not back away from Labour’s arrogance and will be only too happy to show them up for who they are. Back to Claire’s article: having criticised Casey for digging in on the issue, she then proceeds to do exactly the same herself. By the time she’s stopped her digging the reader is left in a state of confusion as to who said or did what, where and when. It’s a clumsily written piece of journalism to try and prove a point.

The focal point of Claire’s discourse appears to be Casey asking officials for advice, what sort of advice and was it specific advice. This is no more than a pathetic attempt at a hatchet job in conjunction with her lefty comrades and she basically admits it with the following – “Newsflash, Costello. That is a request for advice – whether it is specific advice or bog-standard advice is moot.” Moot, according to the dictionary, means ‘subject to debate, dispute or uncertainty’. So Labour are trying to catch a minister out on a point which in itself is debatable. In other words they’re never going to prove it one way or the other.

Their whole exercise is therefore rendered pointless, yet predictably the mainstream media (who are pretty close to rendering themselves pointless) have run with it and, as Claire says of Labour, trying to make a marathon out of it. This whole dreamed-up saga is at best a Wellington beltway issue and the intricacies of the topic will be lost on the general public. The job of the Opposition is to score points and get runs on the board but, if this is an example, they risk, in cricket parlance, ‘playing on’ rather than looking to get ‘on the front foot’.

Since Claire’s article it would appear the worst Casey could be accused of, in terms of Ms Verrall’s accusations, is a ‘fail to inhale’ and then blowing right back in her face. The potential ‘fire’ has since died down if not completely gone out.

JC is a right-wing crusader. Reached an age that embodies the dictum only the good die young. This article was first published HERE

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