Judith Collins’ on-brand speech to Rotary members at the Ellerslie function centre, politicians’ unfortunate summer reading choices, and MediaWorks’ decision to shut the barn after John Banks had bolted. James Elliott has the news of the week. 

The summer hols are a great time to catch up on the leisure reading you didn’t quite get to before Christmas. Not only that, we get to catch up on the holiday reading choices of our political class. “So, what have you been reading?” seems an innocuous enough question but I don’t think our politicians realise just how revealing their holiday reading choices are. Consider the following choices, and I’m not making this up, you can verify the reading lists here.

First, Grant Robertson’s reading list included Nothing To See and A Mistake, both unfortunate choices for the Minister of Finance. Presumably he didn’t have time to get to Jared Diamond’s Collapse or Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.   

National’s Paul Goldsmith has made his 2021 ambitions clear by immersing himself in the well-known how-to guide on making a leadership challenge, otherwise known as Game of Thrones.   

And, David Seymour read The Road To Character which I assume is a self-help book.     

It’s high time the Government formed yet another working group to establish who’s to hold whom to account and for what including who’s to be held to account for the number of working groups that have been established since November last year.

Meanwhile, Judith Collins was reading The State of the Nation in 2021 by Judith Collins as she prepared for her first ‘state of the nation’ speech as National Party leader earlier this week. Spoiler alert, but this treatise outlined five priorities for National over the next three years. Education, poverty, climate change, Crown-Māori relations and the environment. None of these made it into those five priorities. Instead the Covid-19 response, economic recovery, hardship and public safety, housing and infrastructure, and technology and post-Covid opportunities are the five priorities that Collins said she can be held to account on. And since she’s the leader of the Opposition, I assume she means being held to account on holding the Government to account on those five priorities notwithstanding that the Labour-led government has pledged to hold itself to account as well. So to avoid confusion as to who’s supposed to be holding whom to account, it’s high time the Government formed yet another working group to establish who’s to hold whom to account and for what including who’s to be held to account for the number of working groups that have been established since November last year.

Is there anything more National than giving a speech to Rotary members at the Ellerslie function centre for $65 per head with a cash bar? Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Collins’ speech was also an opportunity to zhuzh National’s brand heading into 2021. This was done with aplomb. You don’t get more National than giving a speech to Rotary members at the Ellerslie function centre for $65 per head with a cash bar. But it does raise an obvious question – what is Rotary and is it still a thing? A Google search for ‘Rotary’ lists a number of excellent questions and responses to help answer those existential questions about Rotary. The Google questions include: What exactly does Rotary do? Can a woman join Rotary? and What is the wife of a Rotarian called? To answer them in turn, first, as we now know, Rotary exists to provide a paying audience for politicians who want to give speeches. Secondly, women have been able to join Rotary since 1987 following a US Supreme Court ruling against the exclusion of women members, although that status might be short-lived were the issue to be relitigated before the Trump-infected Supreme Court. Finally, as to the title given to wives of Rotarians, Google advises that the usage of ‘Rotary Ann’ (Do you see what they did there?) has not gone completely out of usage, but the more commonly used title is ‘Rotary Spouse’. I couldn’t find the question – What title is given to husbands of Rotarians? – because of course I couldn’t.

MediaWorks’ CEO Cam Wallace has confirmed John Banks won’t ever be employed by MediaWorks again while he’s CEO. That’s a bit like closing the barn after the horse has bolted and led a White Pride parade up the steps of Parliament.  

I reckon that John Banks must be or has been a Rotarian. These days he’s just a has-been. Or at least he was a has-been until earlier this week when he was given the opportunity as a talkback radio host to show, again, what he has been and is, and why he needs to be a has-been again. Filling in as a morning host on Magic Talk Radio, Banks agreed with a caller’s view that Māori culture was from the Stone Age. He apologised on air the following day explaining that he “didn’t pick up at the time” that the caller’s statement that Māori were “a stone age people with a stone age culture” and “genetically predisposed” to crime, alcohol addiction and educational underperformance was racist.

That’s a bit like saying that when the mob who invaded the US Capitol were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” you didn’t pick up at the time that they wanted to hang Mike Pence.

In any event Cam Wallace, the CEO of Magic Talk’s owner MediaWorks, has confirmed that John Banks won’t ever be employed by MediaWorks again while he’s CEO. That’s a bit like closing the barn after the horse has bolted and led a White Pride parade up the steps of Parliament.     

Perhaps Banks’ media banishment will afford him the time to write a memoir. If he’s looking for a working title, The Human Stain is already taken.        

Have a peaceful weekend.

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