We have been grimly chortling into our cornflakes over the poetic justice of it all. Michael Cullen--one of the most economically destructive politicians ever to slough off the warrants of government--has just been appointed chairman of NZ Post. Now there will be plenty of folk who will once again be wondering at the moral compass of the present government. Michael Cullen, an academic (history) turned politician, has almost single handedly skewered the New Zealand economy.
One will never forget his profligate waste of the citizen's money in a desperate political ploy to ensure re-election, and his self-serving political motivation to throw away our fiscal surplus to make it harder for the National Government. One can still here his chortling in Parliament, saying of the surplus, "I have spent it all". And don't get us started on his repurchase of NZ Rail, which against all commercial and Treasury advice, for sake of socialist ideology, blew off over one billion dollars in overpaying Toll Holdings--which the Aussies gleefully characterised as the "Sale of the Century".
One searches in vain for worse examples of a venal politician being willing to weaken and compromise the interests of a country for sake of personal political point scoring and gain. Public servant Dr Cullen is not. Yet, current Prime Minister John Key--seemingly oblivious to such malfeasance (and there is no other word for it)--has been more than willing to employ Dr Cullen in governance roles over government owned businesses. It's as if Key believes that politicians are all just playing a game. Everything is all a bit of fun, really. No hard feelings. Nothing personal. Destroy a country--who cares. We are all good old boys.
One grimly looks forward to the long shadow and influence of Dr Cullen swanning around continuing to shape and push New Zealand in left wing directions--in much the way another former Labour politician, Sir Geoffrey Palmer has done. New Zealanders vote these guys out, and they just hang around like bad smells, enjoying government perquisites, continuing their destructive ways from other vantage points.
But there is a grimly ironic side to all this. The offical notice of Cullen's appointment to NZ Post contained this sober warning:
State Owned Enterprises Minister Simon Power today announced . . . . (A)t New Zealand Post, Hon Michael Cullen has been appointed chair from November 1 to replace Rt Hon Jim Bolger. . . ."I look forward to working with Dr Cullen to develop NZ Post's strategy to accommodate declining mail volumes and a challenging financial environment."
NZ Post, like all government owned postal services around the world, is in trouble. It is a sunset industry. It is inevitably going to go the way of the dodo bird. It is a horse-and-buggy service. Moreover, NZ Post owns Kiwibank--another socialist initiative--which while Minister of Finance, Dr Cullen championed. Kiwibank is supposed to be the replacement gem in the crown. It will turn out to be a voracious gobbler of capital and in the longer run will weaken NZ Post still further.
It is inevitable that the entire business will be broken up and sold off in the end. We expect that Dr Cullen will have to bear the ignominy of gloomy annual public reporting. NZ Post's failure will reflect back on to him. Warren Buffett once remarked that when a business leader with a superb reputation takes charge of a bad business, it is usually the reputation of the business which survives intact. In this case, we have a leader with an exceedingly bad reputation taking public responsibility for an equally exceedingly bad business. Dr Cullen's reputation will now be irrevocable and irredemiable for posterity.