Letting the bastards get under your skin

The reaction of John Key to criticism of his GCSB bill by the Human Rights Commission was politically unseemly.

He threatened to cut the Commission’s funding:

“I actually don’t think it was a very good submission at all and they need to pull their socks up. If they’re going to continue to be a government-funded organisation they should meet the deadline should everyone else.” [sic]

In New Zealand, the semi-autonomous position of Commissions is closely guarded by media, and a little by the public. A threat to their independence is frowned at by the political class (it’s likely that the public give as much credence to a Commission’s criticism of Government as they give to their criticism of public and social issues).

Key was probably frustrated because he had got through the public hearings and was on the home stretch to pass the legislation. Then the Commission late-tackled him with criticism he knew would reignite public attention.

In that case, Key would have been better to give himself a small shoulder-shrug, count to ten, and answer the criticism properly.

Instead, he let his frustration show. It was a significant moment of weakness on this Bill (if the petulant and clunky exchange with Dotcom wasn’t signal enough). ‘Amiability’ has been his watchword, but he’s letting critics get under his skin.

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