Written By: - Date published: 7:00 pm, March 30th, 2013 - 59 comments
Categories: Conservation, energy, john key, Judith Collins, national/act government, newspapers - Tags: annette sykes, fran o'sullivan, gareth hughes, georgina beyer
Fran O’Sullivan is most usually a fan of John Key, except she can show how she thinks Judith Collins does it better. In today’s column, O’Sullivan argues that, Key’s ministers are using dubious tactics in dealing with Rio Tinto over Tiwai Point:
The problem is Key’s Cabinet ministers – particularly State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall – have become so captive to the Budget forecasts which Finance Minister Bill English wants to make good on when he unveils the next major numbers in Parliament on May 16, that they are prepared to sacrifice the integrity of the State-Owned Enterprises model for short-term gain. Cabinet ministers are not supposed to bypass an SOE board when it comes to negotiations between the company and its customers. Yet Ryall – without even a blush – has done just that.
On top of this, O’Sullivan argues that Key has lost his edge in the negotiations with Rio Tinto, and suggests an alternative:
If they had strong guts they should simply call Rio Tinto’s bluff (as Key originally signalled would be the case). If the aluminium company walks away the price of electricity will come down (no bad thing) and Meridian will have the potential to market renewable power to attract other energy-hungry international users like data centres instead of a company which just adds to our carbon emissions profile.
However, in critiquing Key, O’Sullivan can’t resist the attention-getting ploy of drawing on the mainstream style of sexing politics. In so doing she equates sharp, savvy and successful deal-making in business and politics with masculine dominance and prowess. Her column begins:
John Key earned himself a fabulous reputation as one of the “big swinging dicks” of the international foreign exchange business. But in going toe-to-toe with Rio Tinto over the Tiwai Point smelter electricity negotiations, all the signs are his Government is about to be screwed by a major player with plenty of form in the tough world of international brinkmanship. Cruel observers of this political game would probably say it’s just another example of the “swinging dick to limp dick” syndrome which afflicts too many business people when they enter national politics.
That kind of thinking also spills over into Judith (Crusher) Collins style, who does a slightly feminised version of macho bullying. This is in keeping with many studies of gender in politics, which show that it is a dilemma for women as political leaders because they need to portray feminine characteristics, while embodying the dominant (masculine) ideals of leadership. For instance, in Women and Politics: The Pursuit of equality (2012) by Lynn E Ford (pp 192-3) women politicians in the US tend to be more into consensus building and collaborative approach as politicians and leaders. In contrast, men tend to be
strong, directive and oriented to power and control. (p.193)
O’Sullivan collaborates with such sexing of political leadership styles, right to the end of today’s column. She finishes saying:
Meridian’s board has not been cut into the Government’s secret negotiations with Rio Tinto’s representatives. The Meridian directors include some tough players: chairman Chris Moller formerly chaired the NZRU for five years and also chairs NZ Cricket; Mark Cairns runs a tight ship at Port of Tauranga and Jan Dawson, formerly head of KPMG, and Ballantyne’s chief executive Mary Devine weren’t brought down in the last shower. So far, they are remaining a cone of silence. They should simply resign – as they have been neutered.
Ultimately this does no favours for women inside and outside politics. It creates a major challenge for those who don’t want to play the macho game;
those who cross traditional boundaries a sex and gender
and all those who want to contribute to a more collaborative, nurturing and inclusive society.