Friday, September 10, 2010

National Lampoon's Spies Like Us

I'd feel more foolish about announcing Farrar's "engagement" if it weren't for the unfortunate story involving NZ's armed forces and Stephen Wilce. TV3's 60 Minutes program uncovered what the NZ Defence Forces were unwilling to do, namely perform an elementary background check on a man handed a $350,000 a year salary and top security clearance.

John Key has said that it wasn't the role of the SIS to fact-check the details. That was presumably the job of employment consultants Momentum, who selected Wilce. Former National Prime Minister Jenny Shipley happens to sit on the Board of Directors for that company, so it's looking pretty eggy for the Nats whatever face they try to put on it. Not that Labour can make much hay out of the fiasco. Wilce was hired under their watch, along with the now-disgraced Mary Anne Thompson, the Immigration head who pretended to have a PhD.

Unlike Thompson, who seemed quite competent in her job up until trying to bend the rules for her family, Wilce seems to have been an incompetent and habitual fantasist for a very long time. At least Thompson worked towards a PhD at one stage. There are no mitigating circumstances for Wilce's pathological lying.

And there's no excuse for the Defence Services either. A complaint in 2008, presumably after Wilce claimed credit for inventing the Polaris missile, led to an overseas junket for Wilce, according to Patrick Gower. Talk about rewarding failure.

The last decade has been a reign of error for the Defence Forces. Whether it's LAV over-supply, unseaworthy navy vessels, double dipping military attaches or un-sellable Skyhawks, the only thing that seems to work properly is the front line grunts.

There needs to be a sea change in Defence culture, but there's little sign of it happening. The SIS will continue to maintain files on traditional targets such as Green MP Keith Locke and cannabis reformers such as NORML. We're obviously much more of a threat to national security than fabricating morons in highly paid and sensitive military positions.