Wednesday, December 03, 2008

National stumbles—already

The new National-led government isn’t even a month old, and already it seems wobbly and unsure what to do. Specifically, it’s seemed ill-prepared and indecisive about what to do for New Zealand citizens stranded in Thailand: Should they send in a plane? Will it all just go away?

Also, last week Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully warned that taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to pay for rescue operations when anti-whaling protestors have trouble after opposing Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. Apparently, he’s unaware that international law requires that New Zealand come to the aid of any ship in distress, regardless of whether the NZ government of the day approves of how they got into strife or not. Hopefully he’ll study quickly and learn New Zealand’s international obligations before saying something so ill-informed again.

Early days—that’s what I keep telling myself. So far, though, John Key’s premiership isn’t inspiring confidence.

Update 03/12/08, Midday: Prime Minister John Key dispatched an Air Force Hercules to work at airlifting stranded New Zealanders from a military base near Bangkok. The planes would ferry 65 Kiwis at a time to Kuala Lumpur. There are about 300 New Zealanders stranded in Thailand. At present, protesters are said to be ending their occupation of the airport tomorrow.

The Government has maintaines that people should ideally find their own way out on private carriers, but was sending in the Air Force because no one could count on the commercial option working, particularly because the country may be edging toward civil war. The Hercules will still be available if the protesters don’t actually leave the airport.

My earlier criticism about this was based on what was best summed up in today’s New Zealand Herald: “Mr Key began yesterday unable to give a clear indication of what could be done for the up to 300 New Zealanders stranded in Bangkok. Asked if he was confident he could get them out should the violence escalate in the next hour, he replied: ‘I don't know the answer to that.’”

The Government is acting now, however, and I doubt very much they’ll be caught again without a contingency plan.

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