Barry Soper: Awkward farewell for under-fire Treasury Secretary

Publish Date
Fri, 14 Jun 2019, 9:13AM

Barry Soper: Awkward farewell for under-fire Treasury Secretary

Publish Date
Fri, 14 Jun 2019, 9:13AM

The atmosphere in the cavernous Beehive Banquet Hall last night was about the same as it would have been if Donald Trump walked into a Democrat's convention.

Only on this occasion outgoing Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf was the guest of honour and what's more, it was a farewell party thrown by Finance Minister Grant Robertson who stopped short of saying he had confidence in him just a few hours earlier.

Robertson indicated that'd depend on what the inquiry into Makhlouf's handling of the Budget hack/leak turns up.

It's surprising the inquiry wasn't done and dusted in time for the farewell given all the statements so far point to the fact that the Secretary knew full well when he claimed there'd been a hack attack that it hadn't taken place, the GCSB spies had made that clear the night before.

By the time the findings are made public chances are Makhlouf will be unpacking his designer bags in Dublin preparing to take over Ireland's central bank where he's either screwed a much better salary deal out of the bank than his predecessor, either that or he's prepared to take a significant pay cut to get out of here.

Two years ago the Irish Governor was paid more than $200,000 less than Makhlouf was on at Treasury at almost $670,000.

But if last night was uncomfortable they were doing their best not to show it.

There was the obligatory kind words by the Wellbeing architect Robertson, but Treasury's relationship with this Government hasn't been an easy one.

Jacinda Ardern's sensitive tea boy in her kitchen Cabinet Phil Twyford last year called Treasury officials "kids" when they rightly said before the dry rot had set in that the Government's Kiwibuild promises were too ambitious.

Ardern was obviously wrong to disagree with the kids then though, when she said the Government would "just get on and build houses" to prove them wrong.

Wrong.

That was a year ago and they've built just 119 when they'd promised to be knocking the final nails into the 1000th house by now.

Ardern wasn't there to pay homage to Makhlouf last night and neither was her deputy Winston Peters who said he had too many other things on his plate.

He's never been a great fan of the Treasury boffins either, essentially because he's not all that keen on advice.

Before the last election he came close to accusing them of being political, saying they always put a rosy, and reassuring glow, on this country's economic outlook.

Look under the bonnet, he invited, and the superficial gloss and illusion of a strong economy evaporates.

Funny, he doesn't criticise them on that front these days though.

 

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