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Why wasn’t Brownlee sacked?

Written By: - Date published: 8:50 am, December 19th, 2014 - 49 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Gerry Brownlee, john key, national, Politics, same old national - Tags:

gerry brownlee trust me

This Government has three different techniques when it wants to bury adverse news. For run of the mill reports they are released on the Friday at the beginning of a Parliamentary recess period. For bad reports they tend to dump them on days with other notable news events happening. And for the really bad reports they wait until just before Christmas.

By this measure the report into Gerry Brownlee’s breach of security at Christchurch Airport is a doozy.

It was originally going to be released on the same day as the announcement of the new Labour Party leader. Even then John Key expressed surprise at how long it had taken. Stuff reported him as saying this:

Mr Brownlee was advised today and so I’m sure there will be a statement tomorrow … don’t forget it’s got nothing to do with us. We are actually amazed that it’s taken as long as it has. I mean, it’s two months since the election.”

Key’s amazement should by now verge on incredulity.

The decision that Brownlee had been fined $2,000 for the security breach was announced at the time but the report was not released. Some commentators expressed surprise, after all according to Brownlee’s explanation the door was opened for him by the security officer and the definition of the infringement he had been charged with had a defence if Brownlee entered the area with a boarding pass and with the intent of catching a flight.

This morning’s Dominion Post refers to the now released report and has the following passage:

The airport employee “decided to swipe his security card to release the door, open it and explain to Mr Brownlee and his associates that they could not enter the sterile area using that door and would instead have to proceed to the security screening area”.

By the time the airport employee got to the door, one of Brownlee’s aides had already pulled the security door open, something Brownlee has never revealed before. The three then walked through the door.

The airport employee claims Brownlee then said “sorry to do this but we’re in a hell of a hurry”.

The report adds that the trio then walked passed him.

“Mr Brownlee and his aides considered [the airport employee] had agreed to, or at least acquired in, their entry through the Koru exit door” although the officer “does not accept that”.

When the events came to light, Brownlee told reporters that he had not barged passed security.

“No I didn’t barge past security … I went through a door that I shouldn’t have gone through,” Brownlee said.

“We knocked on the door and I said to the guy ‘we’re in a terrible hurry, can I go through here?’ He said ‘okay‘.”

Someone is telling fibs. My bet is that it is Brownlee.

The report is apparently heavily redacted. I have not been able to find it either on the CAA website or on the Beehive website.

The disclosure raises an issue about why Brownlee was treated in the way he was. Section 54 of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 makes it an offence to refuse to leave a security area. If the Security Officer was able to tell Brownlee to go then he should have been charged with this offence which is theoretically punishable by a jail sentence.

The event reinforces the well earned perception of National arrogance, that the rules do not apply to them and they enjoy privilege the rest of us do not.

The timing of the release and the redacting of the report raises serious questions about the CAA’s independence. And Brownlee should have been fired as a minister. After all John Key said in 2008 “I expect high standards from my Ministers … if they don’t meet the standards I set then obviously I will take action if necessary.”

49 comments on “Why wasn’t Brownlee sacked? ”

  1. Why were the police at the airport not called by security staff? Was the pilot of the plane told that three passengers had evaded security? If so, why did that pilot take off? Is airport security for real? Or is it a joke?

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      “Was the pilot of the plane told that three passengers had evaded security?”

      While this is of course true, you do also have to look at the reality of the situation: how likely is it that an unmistakable government minister (given his size) going to commit any sort of terrorist or harmful act while on the plane?

      • Wensleydale 1.1.1

        The fact that Brownlee is a government minister is a terrorist act.

        • Draco T Bastard


        • McFlock


        • mac1

          “In 1999, Brownlee was prosecuted and fined $8000 for assaulting an environmental activist at a National Party conference. Neil Abel, 58, a sympathiser of the Native Forest Action Group, said Brownlee grabbed him by the belt, thrust his knee “up my backside”, and manhandled him from the venue. He said Brownlee then threatened to throw him down a staircase, and that he feared for his life during the scuffle.”

          This from Stuff in 2014, listing Brownlee’s top ten gaffes.


          You would fear for yourself if you knew Brownlee’s record and were confronted by him at a doorway, with his two ‘minders’.

          Brownlee’s behaviour at Christchurch Airport is not atypical of the man.

      • McFlock 1.1.2

        Even if Brownlee was known, the people with him weren’t.
        But the real issue is that any compromise of a security system degrades the effectiveness of that system by setting a precedent for informal/non-procedural work-arounds.

        One incident isn’t fatal. But when you get a culture of this sort of shit, sooner or later something bad happens, and it’s never the people in charge (who let it get like that) who bear the brunt of it.

      • wtl 1.1.3

        …how likely is it that an unmistakable government minister (given his size) going to commit any sort of terrorist or harmful act while on the plane?

        Probably not a lot less likely than any other person would commit such an act. Consider this: What if some ill-intentioned people were holding a family member of Brownlee hostage and were forcing him to do something he wouldn’t normally do?

        • Lanthanide

          “What if some ill-intentioned people were holding a family member of Brownlee hostage and were forcing him to do something he wouldn’t normally do?”

          I think he’d talk to the police, rather than perform any sort of terrorist act against his country. Pretty quick way to lose your job and end up in prison, that.

          • Stephanie Rodgers

            It must be nice to be able to assume you’d act perfectly rationally under extremely stressful/dangerous circumstances.

            • Lanthanide

              If someone has checked in to fly and their luggage is on the plane, the plane doesn’t leave until either the passenger gets on board, or the luggage is removed (which is time-consuming, so they don’t like doing that). That is to prevent people from putting bombs in the bags.

              So, given that, if someone were using duress to get Brownlee to commit an act of terrorism against a plane, he would have to be on the plane himself. Again it seems unlikely a government minister would knowingly act as a suicide bomber no matter what duress someone was trying to put them under.

              So if we take the plane out of the picture, Brownlee could be under duress to do any sort of criminal or other activity – but you could do that anywhere, like a shopping mall, it doesn’t have to be an airport.

              • wtl

                So, given that, if someone were using duress to get Brownlee to commit an act of terrorism against a plane, he would have to be on the plane himself. Again it seems unlikely a government minister would knowingly act as a suicide bomber no matter what duress someone was trying to put them under.

                There is a very good reason why airport security does not make exceptions for ‘trustworthy people’ and that is that any assumption made about what someone would or would not do is an extremely dangerous thing to do. The reality is that if there are loopholes in airport security, it is not unlikely that a committed terrorist group that has planned their attack would take advantage of these loopholes, one way or another.

          • Sabine

            You might think the sky is green or blue or pink. Who really cares. 🙂

            We the peeps of this nation and others have to take of our shoes, have to take of our belts, have to be screened, wanded, x-rayed and have to be polite when uniformed others go through our panties and socks. It is called Airport Security, and it is all there to keep us safe.

            now, we are still a democracy, we are still a nation of laws, and as far as I know we are still a nation of law for all and not just for some.

            Brownlee is a citizen of our nation and as such is subject to the same set of rules as you and I. If he was in such a hurry, someone could have called airport security and let them know that the most important Mr. Brownlee is late and needs to be fast tracked to catch his plane. That would have been the correct course of action.

            All your posts are nothing but very boring apologies for something that you and I could have spend time in prison under our current set of laws.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Why are you trying to shift the responsibility for Brownlee’s actions on to airport security?

      • Sabine 1.2.1

        that poor airport security might have been a labour or green fellow.

        Or, Mr. Brownlee is part of the National Party Machine, and as such is infallible, and always right.
        Ergo, it is Airport Security that needs to be crucified.

    • Murray Rawshark 1.3

      A cop boarded the plane to tell the pilot that Brownlee and his goons had bypassed security. The NAct voting pilot replied that he wasn’t worried because there was a regulation exempting Ministers from security requirements. There isn’t.

      The NAct voting pilot who doesn’t follow security regulations should be sacked along with Brownlee.


    • Kevin 2 1.4

      Why was Goff not sacked for pre-empting the release of the so-called ‘black-ops’ report, and for lying to his leader about same???

  2. RedLogix 2

    On a scale of 0 -10 of Ministerial offenses – surely this rates a 2 or 3 three at worst?

    It’s the kind of stupid thing busy people do when they are running late or under pressure. But nothing was actually broken here. No-one was harmed. The idea that the Deputy PM somehow represented a potential security threat is risible.

    Yes Brownlee did the arrogant born-to-rule twit thing here, and it’s ok to play that up.

    But demanding a resignation? That just devalues the meaning of it.

    • Kevin 2.1


      I wonder what the reaction/consequences will be for me if I try and pull the same stunt on my way to the South Island tomorrow.

      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        Likely you will be pinged and fined $2000. If you’re not the Deputy PM you will probably miss the flight.

      • Paul 2.1.2

        These Tories believe they were born to rule and that society’s rules don’t apply to them.

        • RedLogix

          Maybe. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Brownlee must have been through ChCh airport many hundreds of times. This seems to have been the one occasion he (or his entourage) stuffed up.

          Running late, under pressure – didn’t think it through. Let the importance of his office and responsibilities run away with him. A mistake and a very human one.

          There has to be a valid response to this incident that lies somewhere between rabid frothing and pretending it didn’t happen.

    • mickysavage 2.2

      I thought that at the time. But the subsequent handling of the matter, the burying of the report until Christmas and the indication that Brownlee may not have been telling the truth to the media makes this more serious IMHO.

      • RedLogix 2.2.1

        Yes and that could be the somewhat substantive issue here.

        But on re-reading the accounts – it appears that the employee did open the door so that in that sense Brownlee’s recollection may well be true.

        That the employee intended to prevent Brownlee from entering but didn’t get the chance to do so may not be Brownlees’ fault.

        Fuck it – I don’t want to be maneuvered into defending the man here, but if we are going to fire ammo – lets get the target sorted first?

        • Lanthanide

          +100 Red.

        • McFlock

          Brownlee didn’t notice he was barging past someone to whom both parties agree he said something along the lines of “sorry to do this but we’re in a hell of a hurry”?


          And he certainly wouldn’t think that anybody who says to airport staff “we’re in a hurry” would get to bypass security.

          He used his position to intimidate a person into allowing a violation of security procedures. This, from a government that is so paranoid it wanted to legalise warrantless surveillance of any NZ citizen.

          • emergency mike

            Agree with McFlock. One of his aides pushed open the security door ffs. Plus there’s the point that big Gerry not only sorry but yeah nah’d his way through airport security, he took two other people with him.

            That’s not how airport security is supposed to work and he knew it. These are the clowns we are being asked/told to accept greater spy powers. Nick Smith resigned because he used the wrong letterhead.

    • aerobubble 2.3

      Clark driving speeds similar level of executive arrogance.

      • Crashcart 2.3.1

        Clarke wasn’t driving. They didn’t force anyone trying to stop them to get out of the way. It was the sort of thing Key was referring to when he said he would expect a higher standard from his ministers, yet he then does not.

        Honestly if you are a believer in the old “well they did it so I can” way of thinking then you should feel happy breaking all laws because at some stage they have all been broken and someone got away with it so you should be allowed to

      • tc 2.3.2

        but but labooouurr did it too…so sad and missing the actual context of Gerry’s actual offense V Clark’s driver and not Clark being the one speeding it’s almost funny.

        Can santa bring us some better wingnuts in 2015 please.

        • aerobubble

          Clark needed to get to the rugby, she’d missed the chch flight. Police were speeding to a new trans cook transport. Police were taken to court.

          Brownlee orders security to let him in. The security fearing for his job allegedly swipes him in.

          Now sure its harder to prove it was Clark, or a staffer. And sure not many terrorists are ministers who may even have lawful rights of entry to secure areas for testing security. And for sure police did endanger the PM by speeding.

  3. tc 3

    because he knows where the bodies are buried having served under brash and has fair knowledge of the chch plunder.

    So the last they want is an idle sgt shultz so best keep all those PR spin doctors being a minister brings bolted on keeping him in check.

  4. coaster 4

    Irrelevant of him being recognised, were the other 2 with him?. If brownlee was being forced to go through there against his will and one of the other 2 had a gun or bomb we would be calling for the security to face charges.

    the plane wouldnt leave any faster, unless it was a charter, so how could being in a hurry matter?.

    Personally I dont have an issue of mps going to the front of the line, but the line is there to keep us all safe.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      “the plane wouldnt leave any faster, unless it was a charter, so how could being in a hurry matter?.”

      Er, the point is that he was late and may have missed his flight. That would usually mean waiting 2-3 hours until the next departure, and hence missing meetings or other scheduled activities at the destination.

  5. mac1 5

    Gerard Brownlee has a defence! It wasn’t him! The Minister is Gerald Brownlee, according to his swearing in.

    “…… it is worth noting that Brownlee was the first MP in more than a 100 years to be sworn into Parliament under the wrong name. Parliament called him “Gerald”, but his birth name is actually “Gerard”.”

  6. Skinny 6

    Little surprise that Brownlee cops a slap with a wet bus ticket considering the dirty tricks exposed by the book Dirty Politic’s. The effects of which are clearly shown here.

  7. Scottie 7

    Sorry Greg, Nobody is really interested.These days Unfortunately many politicians from all parties would be arrogant enough to behave in this manner. It was dealt with, he was fined. Time to move on.

    • McFlock 7.1

      Unfortunately many politicians from all parties would be arrogant enough to behave in this manner.

      [citation needed]

    • Always telling which stories the rightwing newbies jump into to declare “no one’s interested”.

    • greywarshark 7.3

      @ Scottie
      Are you putting your point to Micky Savage? That is the pseudonym of the person running this post and those who come to this blog understand his choice of name. It’s the name under the title.

  8. tracey 8

    isnt it at least possible the security guard could have fibbed out of fear of losing his job if found to have been so aquiescent?

    • Murray Rawshark 8.1

      My instinct is to take the word of an honest proletarian before that of a lying, anti-democratic and imperious NAct minister. It’s interesting that you are going to such lengths to defend Brownlee.

      • RedLogix 8.1.1

        And the evidence is that if you ask ten people to give their recollection of an event they all saw or participated in – you will get at least eleven or twelve versions of it.

  9. Andrea 9

    “I went through a door that I shouldn’t have gone through,” Brownlee said.”

    End of story.

    Is there no number for Very Impatient People to call to ask the plane to wait? I would have thought the wannabe ‘elite’ would have jacked that up long ago.

    Or a ‘once a year’ hire-a-plane card for our short term public servants (aka politicians)? Or would that give them ideas above their station?

    Wanders off thinking wistful ‘Hindenburg’ thoughts…

  10. hoom 10

    Meanwhile in Herald land

    ‘Photo Op with famous people hat’ Key family meets Katy Perry aka ‘look the other way’

    ‘Infamous PM dash car sold’ aka ‘see its not only us Nats that have transport related controversies’

    And of course a dig at Len just because they can

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