Saturday, March 28, 2009

Aid memoire

With regard to the argument over foreign minister Murray
McCully’s decision to pull the semi-autonomous NZAid
program back under the umbrella of Foreign Affairs, that
tinny sound you can hear is Labour being hypocritical in
its attacks on the move. In the course of research for my
book on Helen Clark I interviewed Matt Robson, the
Alliance MP who was disarmament minister and
associate foreign affairs minister 1999–2002. He told me
that he and Clark ‘clashed mightily over the setting up of
NZAid, to the point of warfare. She backed Foreign Affairs
keeping the aid division with only a few minor changes.
The review that Phil [Goff] and I did, and Phil had
intellectual honesty, said that this is an absolute disgrace,
Foreign Affairs haven’t got a clue how to do development
aid, they have a hotch-potch of programs around the
world, nobody’s the less poor for anything they do, they
put people in there who haven’t got a clue about
development issues, they’re diplomats on their way up or
their way down—either young ones who’d rather be
somewhere more glamorous or older ones looking for a
soft cushion.' Projects were incomplete or half-arsed, said
Robson: ‘It was a shambles.’ And Clark? ‘She fought that
tooth and nail.’ In the end NZAid was established but not
as a fully separate department. Now it won't even be semi-
autonomous. That's a poor decision by McCully. But
Labour doesn't exactly occupy the moral high ground here.

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