For the second week in a row, the National Party leadership has been hoisted by its own petard during Question Time. A patsy question from Winnie Laban on withdrawing Indonesia's ambassador provoked Peter "Captain Sensible" Dunne to ask:
Hon Peter Dunne: In light of the Minister's earlier answer that it is appropriate for New Zealand to express concern to Indonesia regarding the outcome of the trial in terms of any appeal that is to be lodged, can he now tell the House what specific actions, if any, the New Zealand Government has taken in respect of that?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have asked the Ambassador to Indonesia, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to ask the Indonesian Government whether it intends to appeal against the decision.
I am, of course, mindful that there is no way that we could instruct such a thing. I am also mindful of the fact that to demand such a thing, and for the Indonesian Government to be seen to be responding to a foreign Government's demand, would be totally counterproductive to what we are all trying to achieve against terrorism in Indonesia.
Rt Hon Helen Clark: How would the Minister react if another country threatened to withdraw its ambassador to New Zealand because the executive here refused to interfere in a court decision?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Quite frankly, to use the vernacular, we would probably tell it to sod off.
This is all part of Election Foreplay. Every party is wooing the middle vote, and it's survival of the fittest. Although Rodney Hide got some flak last week for lining the Nats up on Rongo Wetere's partisan affiliations, today shows it is an effective strategy. Even Winston Peters couldn't resist putting the boot in:
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Minister or his colleagues see the disclaimer from the National Party leader as to the purport of his first demand that the ambassador be withdrawn from Indonesia, and does he give any credence to it?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I did indeed see the disclaimer. It shows that Dr Brash was last night scrambling to explain his statement, stating that he meant that New Zealand should withdraw Mr Elder for consultations unless Indonesia indicated it would appeal against the sentence. The report notes that that is not consistent with Dr Brash's original statement.
National plainly haven't learned anything from Simon Power's "without reservation" faux pas. Nothing turns off a swinging voter quicker than embarrassing policy U-turns.