Chief executive John Allen is understood to have indicated to staff he expects more than 200 jobs to go as the ministry is restructured under Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully's plan to create 'a leaner, more adaptable organization, better able to meet New Zealand's future needs.' [NZ Herald 9.1.12]
The transformation of Mfat (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) into Mlean (Ministry of Low Expectations Among Nations) is well under way, and I'm sure I'm not the only New Zealander excited by the change. It has never been clear to me why we need so many diplomats and ministry staff, many of whom waste their time learning foreign languages and studying the customs and culture of other nations in order to represent New Zealand abroad. I think I would be right in saying that Murray McCully himself didn't get where he is today by learning other languages; a smattering of English generally gets the job done for most New Zealand politicians overseas, and if foreigners fail to understand what we're on about, well, that's their loss.
My only criticism of McCully, as he wields his mighty axe like the Norse god he sometimes resembles, is that he has been too timorous in retaining the ministry at all. Keeping in mind that its chief executive formerly headed NZ Post, we should abandon diplomatic posts altogether and replace them with diplomatic postshops, minimally staffed but with stylish decor and interactive displays. I also support the idea, advanced last year by my old mate Johnny Globe, of a reality TV show in which ordinary Kiwis with potential international appeal compete for the right to represent New Zealand overseas. Contestants would be required to sing, dance, crouch, touch, pause, engage, look good in a swimsuit and know where places are on the map—though some latitude (and indeed longitude) could be granted in that respect. That'll widen the talent pool.