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Own goal by National flunky

Written By: - Date published: 6:09 am, May 4th, 2011 - 24 comments
Categories: national, scoundrels - Tags: , ,

Cameron Slater has the inside word on Murray McCully’s $75,000 trip to Vanuatu on a New Zealand Air Force plane that involved flying the 126-seater there and back to drop him and seven staff off, then there and back again the next day to pick them up. This story gets worse the more details come out:

On February 13 the same day that McCully left I recieved an email that told me that at approximately 1pm Murray McCully, boarded Royal New Zealand Airforce Boeing 757, bound for an overnight stop over in Vanuatu to attend a Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group on Fiji. The aircraft was at short notice, late in the week specially refitted in full VIP trim with $80,000 leather lie flat recliners and mahogany tables, a service normally reserved for heads of state and royalty, far beyond the luxury of standard airline first class travel, however onboard the 126 seater airliners, there was only Murray McCully and 7 close colleagues. Out-numbered by the airforce personnel on the aircraft required to run it.

I wonder if Murray had time to make use of the $80,000 VIP lie-flat seats. Commercial Auckland to Port Vila flights take 3-3.5 hours. Slater describes the use of the air force as:

a way of circumventing the strict criticism that is currently placed on ministerial travel, being a defense asset the costs of running this frankly unneccessary [sic] and frighteningly expensive jaunt are not born by the travel allowances but by the countries meager, to say the least, defence budget. This arguement [sic] had further weight added to it when Murray McCully turned up over two hours late for departure, apparently due to a heated argument between himself and the defense minister on the need to take the airliner.

I think the public of New Zealand deserves to know more about Wayne Mapp’s opinion of McCully using the Air Force as a luxury limo service. Slater continues

This ended up resulting in a waste of crew duty which will postpone Mt Erebus commemorations in Antartica [sic] for the families of those lost to the tragidy [sic].

Wow. The government really abused those poor people, eh? Remember that Key had planned to take 24 seats on the flight to Erebus for himself, his entourage, and the photo-op monkeys journos.

as well as around 300kg of Jet-A1 gas that the APU burnt whilst waiting for ‘doors closed’.

Nick Smith will be loving seeing those carbon credits go up in smoke.

When the aircraft returned, the VIP config (which requires a change in not only false floor, but the rollers and assorted anchor points underneath, the carpet, curtains, class divider screens, suit hobs, passenger entertainment wiring and overhead passenger support units), would need to be removed, taking a team of around 8 skilled technical staff around 12 hours continuous.

Is this what the Nats used to call low-value government spending? But now, Slater goes into defence mode:

The timing of the meeting meant that international flights didn’t provide useful connections. I think from memory that if they had used commercial flights then all the Pacific diplomats in attendence [sic] would ahve [sic] had to have stayed over 3 more days before the next commercial flight out from Vanuatu.

Slater seems to think that this is an adequate defence that excuses all the rest.

Hmm. Let me think. Perhaps, if the commercial flights from Vanuatu didn’t work well with that date, they should have arranged the meeting to work better with the international flight schedule.

Was it really so critical that it took place on that day in that place? Was it worth an extra $75,000 (the average family income for a year) to have it in Vanuatu on that particular day?

Perhaps McCully could give us a detailed account of the outcomes that were only made possible by having the meeting on that day in Vanuatu. Just so that we can see that he has been putting our money to good use and not employing our air force as his personal airborne luxury limo service.

In other words, is spending a family’s yearly income to fly Murray McCully to a one-day meeting and back good value for money, or is it a ‘nice to have’?

24 comments on “Own goal by National flunky”

  1. Kaplan 1

    Just listening to McFly (great name) squirm on RNZ. He can’t remember why he had to rush back but he know’s there was something important happening. Predictably he ends by trying to blame Labour… it’s all their fault. They bought the plane he simply HAD to use it. What a joke of a minister.

    • rosy 1.1

      What! he doesn’t keep a diary? yeah right – maybe we can help him…he left on Feb 13th back on 14th? – perhaps a valentine’s day dinner? or an early birthday party (born 19 February 1953)?

  2. toad 2

    The Slater defence of McCully’s flight is nonsense. Qantas has daily return flights between Sydney and/or Brisbane and Vanuatu.

    If McCully and his entourage had flown to Vanuatu return via either Sydney or Brisbane they could have got there and back in 2 days, and at a cost of less than $2000 per passenger, or $16,000 all up. Actually, depending on the timing of the meeting, they probably could have flown one way direct Auckland to Port Vila, reducing the cost to around $1500 per passenger, or $12,000 all up.

    Instead, they chose to spend $75,000 of the defence budget so they can fly in luxury and cut a few hours off the trip. There can be no excuse for that.

    • toad 2.1

      McCully is now trying to spin it that the RNZAF 757 was needed because he had offered to pick up Pacific leaders on the way. As it turned out, that was only the Samoan entourage that took advantage of his taxi service. If he wanted to financially support Pacific nations attending, paying for their representatives to fly commercially might have bumped the costs up a bit – perhaps to $20K or $25K, but still substantially cheaper than the $75K the 757 is reported to have cost.

      • todd 2.1.1

        The RNZAF, a taxi service for the worlds politicians at our expense… How fucked is that. Don’t worry though, there’s some sick people that need their benefits cut because they cant work for the dole. We can just make some more cuts to Youth Justice, DOC, Legal Aid and Woman’s Refuges etc. I mean who needs those things anyway?

        We need our politicians to fly bigger faster planes. Shit give them a chopper and jet each, we can afford it… can’t we? I’m sure the one in five children living in poverty don’t mind paying for it. Who needs health or an education after all. Good to see National have their priorities right.

    • Terry 2.2

      Indeed there should be no excuse for McCully, but is it not entirely consistent with the ways of the National Party? The element of surprise is gone now, one with the rich and acting like the vastly rich.

  3. Jono 3

    Good. Let’s hope this gets some traction. it’s sad but about the only thing that’s really stuck against the nats has been the stuff like BMW heated seats etc & this is just as bad as that; from Mister “unelected NGO bureaucrats throwing money out of helicopters” no less.

  4. Lazy Susan 4

    In addition to not remembering why he had to be back so quickly he also challenged the quoted $75,000 but didn’t know how much it cost.

    Given the lack of attention he gives to his ministerial responsibility to be accountable one wonders where he’s managed to get such a misguided sense of self importance from. Seriously this man’s got his head in the clouds

  5. tc 5

    For traction I believe the Hollowmen of nzonscreen.co.nz should be mandatory viewing for anyone wanting to vote NACT……same agenda/backing, different messaging, branding.

    Saw it for the first time last night……plenty of the dark lords in the current setup feature and Sideshow John is portrayed very accurately, make your own judgements, the footage is damming, their behaviour breathtakingly arrogant and disrepective of average kiwis.

  6. I wonder if any of the airplane seats were heated?

  7. Bill 7

    So this is what the National policy of ‘civilianising’ the armed forces means? Meaning that on the bright side, privatisation of logistical support isn’t on the agenda afterall. Which of course must have been something Labour knew and helps explain their support for the civilianisation process. Just when I was thinking Labour had done another soft shoe shuffle sell out too. Shame on me.

  8. ianmac 8

    That RNZ interview had Geoff helpfully getting McCulley through the questions raised. It was Geoff who suggested that it was just a Labour trouble making. McCulley leapt at the lifeline. It seemed strange to me that McCulley is very vague about just who these others were who needed this urgent transport.
    And wasn’t there two different planes involved? One going. Different one sent up for his return?
    [audio src="http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mnr/mnr-20110504-0750-Government_under_fire_again_for_using_Defence_aircraft-048.mp3" /]

  9. Rich 9

    One standard argument that McCully and his apologists will trot out is that the airforce needs the training hours anyway on the 757.

    Which ignores the fact that the 757’s are themselves a boondoggle. They are designed as airliners and somewhat unsuited mechanically to the on-off operations of the air force. They need a decent runway to operate (Whenuapai needed an upgrade) and have limited self-defence capabilities.

    Almost all the 757 fleets operations (including Afghanistan, etc) could be replaced by commercial scheduled and charter flights. One of the reasons for keeping them is of course, to provide a VIP transport capability (hence the lie-flat beds, flat screen tellies, jacuzzi…). So McCully’s jaunts are actually part of the reason we spend huge dollars on a very dubious addition to our defences.

  10. ghostwhowalksnz 10

    Qantas flies from Sydney and Brisbane to Port Vila ( vanuatu) .

    There are flights EVERY DAY plus 3 flights a week from brisbane ( more in peak season)

    So much for the nonsense about only flights on two days a week. Its no big deal to get from Sydney back to Auckland or Sydney to various pacific islands

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      The issue is that McCully didn’t care about the details or how much Defence resources it took, he simply felt that he was worth it.

      Going into the nuts and bolts of how many flights here or there misses the point: he clearly didn’t plan his activities in advance, and he decided to treat himself to a Heads of State VIP service at the expense of the Defence Force budget.

  11. randal 11

    about time the nats started trimming the fat from their gross desires to be big men on the world scene.
    if they dont do it then the electorate will. byeeeeeeee.

  12. handle 12

    Is it in yet, Murray?

  13. ianmac 13

    Good question from Mr Shearer coming up today Question Time: ” DAVID SHEARER to the Minister of Defence: Does he agree with all of the statements made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on that Minister’s use of RNZAF aircraft to travel to Vanuatu in February of this year?”
    Given that the delay on take off was reputed to be a dispute between McCulley and MOD

    • And in response Mapp said that Cameron was “woe­fully ill informed” in say­ing that there was a stand up argu­ment between Mapp and McCully.

  14. Graeme 14

    this is why the left are going to lose another election. who gives a shit the plane was used….the budget is set and allocated. if mccully uses it to go to vanautu or the ait force burn it in training, the plane is still going to fly.

    For fuck sake, find something substantial to moan about.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      Got proof that the plane was going to fly anyway? Just because the air force has a budget doesn’t mean that the entire budget was going to be used. It’s also possible that this flight sent them over budget.

      This line that come out of the RWNJs since the helicopter flights about “training” sounds like nothing but an attempt at distraction.

    • Colonial Viper 14.2

      Graeme thinks because the budget was allocated (was it really? for this trip? for McCully’s portfolio?) its has to be wasted.

      Clap clap, more good Righty economic sense.

  15. seeker 15

    I can feel a billboard coming on – thanks Cammy.

  16. Jum 16

    Clive Matthew Wilson tells like it is for road and public transport, about 5-10 minutes into the discussion when Clive starts talking.


    You’ll love the bit where Clive starts talking about what the rich think of the lowly public transport users – children, uni students, old folks, blind folks, poor folks, disabled folks, those who hate driving in Auckland. This is John Key and Don Brash and their mates talking. Remember that on 26 November.

    And don’t forget NActMU WILL SELL your assets whether they promise to or not. Remember that.

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