Nick Smith was Minister in charge of ACC (for the furriners that is Accident Compensation Corporation). A good (woman) mate of his had been having a long-term stoush with said ACC concerning the Corporation's rejection of an application for compensation (that is about as simple as I can make it).
He wrote a letter to the Corporation; a sort of personal reference if you like. Unfortunately it was sent on Ministerial letterhead.
The raruraru really got under way when the woman concerned approached the media claiming that she had received from the ACC an email which included a file with the names and details of a good number of compensation claimants. Herald has a reasonable summary of things here.
There is a parallel which has unfolded over the past couple of days.
This second one started with the Acting Prime Minister Jerry Brownlee in a Parliamentary debate describing Finland as
which has worse unemployment than us, has less growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates its people, and has no respect for women."
The best rebuttal probably comes from Finland's equivalent of Laws or Limbaugh. Take a look; it is hilarious...
But the point here is the nexus.
Smith, darling little lad that he is, claimed that the context of the two letters he wrote without revealing personal conflict of interest were such that the Ministerial letterhead would have been on little to no effect.
Sorry Nick, but does sound rather like the shepherd boy who tried to claim that "the shadow over there did look rather like a wolf".
Put it this way -
If Smith had remained as a Minister, how would any Ministerial Directive have been received? Is this Smith with his personal knickers knotted again? Or is it for real? We had better check...
Brownlee's claim, post fact, that his comments "were made in good humour" could have - I believe should have - similar consequences to Smith's indiscretion. His Jonkey boss has had to make direct apologies to the Finnish Prime Minister, a galling thought indeed.
Are we to take Brownlee in the House with any seriousness at all when any he makes statement can be simply dismissed as "in good humour" (irrespective of the consequences)? Is it enough to apologise "if anyone took offence", rather than apologising for his statement that quite a number of people - and at least two European governments other than Finland - thought was offensive? It is less that 150 years since a Parliamentarian in this country was challenged to a duel by another for less. Heaven forfend that Jerry should ever step on the toes of Julia Gillard.
For sure, the Jonkey has a problem; no, make that quite a number of problems. Who is going to shove foot in mouth next? Collins? Sharples?