Risk and Resilience: Introducing John Key’s “Free Thinkers”.



FREE THINKERS! Wow! How very different this National Government is from its predecessors? Can anybody imagine Rob Muldoon appointing a group of “free thinkers” to help him identify the potential security risks confronting New Zealand in the 1980s? Crikey! Imagine what a group of “free thinkers” might have been able to do in relation to the Springbok Tour of 1981. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: this is a National Government like no other!

So, who are these free thinking New Zealanders? And what mix of talent and experience has Prime Minister Key assembled among the ten members of his new Strategic Risk and Resilience Panel (SRRP). If the Panel’s main function is to “imagine the unimaginable” and to inform the Government of all the things that it doesn’t know it doesn’t know, then let’s take a look at what they bring to the table?

Let’s start at the top with Ian Fletcher, currently the head of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). I must confess that the man responsible for maintaining the security of government communications would not have been my first choice in the free thinking stakes. Indeed, the less free such a person is with his thoughts about such matters the better – I would have thought. But, maybe the PM knows something about Mr Fletcher’s job that the rest of have yet to be told?

Then there’s Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Science Advisor. This looks like a better choice – although, Sir Peter’s association with what some are calling an exercise in muzzling the Government’s scientist critics – people like Mike Joy – does rather militate against freedom of thought. Doesn’t it?

What about Therese Walsh? Well, as the Chief Executive of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, she clearly knows a great deal about the organisation of sports fixtures. Exactly how that knowledge might usefully contribute to “imagining the unimaginable” isn’t immediately obvious. Perhaps she’s learned the knack of envisaging what the rest of us simply can’t imagine: a consistently good New Zealand cricket team! That really would be a boost to our national security!

Karen Poutasi, head of the NZ Qualifications Authority, was obviously chosen to improve the quality of the nation’s spies. Who could question her ability to imagine a new and improved iteration of the New Zealand SIS agent? One whose culinary sights are set slightly higher than the ordinary meat pie, and for whom the contents of Penthouse magazine holds not the slightest interest.

And who better than Keith Turner, the chairman of Fisher & Paykel, to anticipate the dastardly plans of Islamic State engineers to adapt the electronics of his firm’s washing machines to some devastating new purpose? The potential threat to the nation’s delicates and coloureds is huge. There would be terror in every laundry; mayhem on every clothesline! Isis meets Elba is just too awful to contemplate.

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Now, as everybody who watches Boardwalk Empire knows, Al Capone was eventually brought down not by a Thompson sub-machine gun, but by the ineluctable laws of double-entry book-keeping. In this respect, panel member, Richard Forgan, from the global accounting firm PWC, clearly has much to contribute. Perhaps he’ll be able to bring down the Islamic State for tax evasion?

Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, the former head of the NZ Defence Force, is already very good an imagining the unimaginable. He was, after all, able to imagine that New Zealand’s award-winning war correspondent, Jon Stephenson, might be foolish enough to jeopardise his international reputation by claiming he had been somewhere he hadn’t, and met someone he didn’t. That Lt-General Jones wasn’t able to go on imagining such nonsense indefinitely might be considered a weakness. But at least he has proved that imagining things that never happened is a crucial element of the NZDF’s skill-set – one that Lt-General Jones is now very well placed to pass on to his colleagues on the SRRP.

Helen Anderson is a director of Niwa, Branz and DNZ. In a world as festooned with abbreviations and acronyms as the “intelligence community” she should fit right in. Keeping one’s thinking free of unnecessary words and phrases can only improve the SRRP’s (which Ms Anderson must surely be referring to already as “Syrup’s”?) overall effectiveness and efficiency.

Speaking of which, one can only applaud John Key’s appointment of Productivity Commission chairman, Murray Sherwin to Syrup’s distinguished membership. Ensuring that New Zealand gets more national security ‘bangs’ for fewer Treasury ‘bucks’ can only be a good thing. Can’t it?

So, there you have them. The Prime Minister’s free-thinking panel. Those of you who are disappointed that the SRRP does not include people like ‘New Zealander of the Year’, Dame Anne Salmond; investigative journalist, Nicky Hager; former Court of Appeal Justice, Sir Edmund Thomas; TPPA opponent, Professor Kane Kelsey; or that other tireless campaigner for our national sovereignty, CAFCA’s Murray Horton; must understand that when John Key talks about “free thinkers”, he is not talking about thinkers with a proven commitment to keeping us free.


  1. Not free thinkers as we understand it, but corporate thinkers which is all JK is capable of. As if we had any doubt that the action is the middle east has anything to do about freedom, humanitarianism, this group proves that it’s all about business.

  2. This is yet another example of gobbledygook corporate bullshit speak and will amount to nothing that will enhance the lives of most New Zealanders.
    It ties right in with the bullshit line used during the election campaign, that we are on the cusp of something great.
    Did the media challenge this sweeping statement and drill down as for reasons why?
    No they didn’t. And they won’t, as you have, challenge the validity of these people.
    It will be marketed as a master stroke by Key and so the con goes on …..

  3. This corporate laptop panel is yet another entry in the book “really fucking obvious bullshit guys” that gets outright ignored by the MSM


  4. I suspect the ‘free’ in ‘free-thinker, in this instance, means ‘obedient’. Perhaps these people provide obedience at no extra cost, hence the use of the term ‘free’.

    Just a suggestion.

    Either that, or ‘free’ means ‘free of critique’ (more synonymous with ‘vacant’, if you asked me)

    Just another suggestion

    Either way, it would appear the term is being used for something meaning quite the opposite, but hey, what does that matter?, as long as people are fooled into believing JK’s government is ‘reasonable’ what does it matter that concepts are muddled to mean quite the opposite in a manner strikingly similar to propaganda. I mean, it couldn’t be propaganda, because this is a democracy and JK’s government is reasonable. Right?


  5. Beautiful, cutting irony by Chris.

    One can only suppose that John Key mistakes ‘free thinkers’ as being shorthand for ‘free-market thinkers’.
    They will certainly be unshackled from any concerns about civil liberties, and unfettered by any left-wing ideology concerning social responsibility/morality, etc.

  6. When the 40 become 80… If there really are 40 people who have “liked” Isis, (and please note “like” doesn’t actually mean “like” in the usual sense and it doesn’t change your status from “single but searching” to “committed to jihad,” it just means that you receive postings,) that is hardly a surprise. Anyone interested in the goings on in the outside world might do the same. Hell, I might do it myself…..no! sorry! I hates it, I hates it, precious…..
    The usual approach might be to pull these folks in for a chat and get a bit of an idea what they are thinking.
    Nowadays, though we prefer to SURVEIL them. That is much better than just watching them. This way we can move on to surveilling the rest of their touch football team and the staff of the daycare they use as the contagion spreads like ebola. (Let’s pick up the whole rat’s nest of spies and terrorists in one sweep! Then we can make a splash announcement to justify our law changes).
    Like the dude who took a phone call in Australia from a relative in Syria and had a profound effect on our election here, as it made all the bullshit GCSB communication interceptions seem necessary -for five minutes.

  7. The title of this group is ridiculous as Chris has pointed out. There couldn’t be a less apt name for such a group as those listed. They are clearly selected for their loyalty to John Key and the National government.

    Might I ask how they were selected? What were the criteria? Were there nominations? Or did John Key just go, “I need 10 people who’ll do what I say and I need them fast. They need to look like they’re authorities on these matters but really they need to have the imagination of blocks of wood. Let’s start with Fletchy!”

    I wouldn’t expect any announcement from this group to do anything other than support current National party propaganda.

  8. “Sir Peter’s (Gluckman) association with what some are calling an exercise in muzzling the Government’s scientist critics – people like Mike Joy – does rather militate against freedom of thought. Doesn’t it?”

    Yes This scientist Gluckman is a sham, and a disgrace, he wont get involved with Climate change as he is even muzzled.

    We should change “Free thinkers” to “Key thinkers”:

    • Gordon McLaughlan, I suppose, perhaps even Gareth Morgan, Jane Kelsey or even Michael Cullen may qualify, I could imagine. There are many others that have intellect, are informed, educated and dedicated to the well being of their own country, called Aotearoa New Zealand.

    • This panel should be bi-partisan, as everything this Government does it does alone without considering the opposing parties who represent almost half the voters right?

      A good addition should be Dr Michael Cullen as he was very important at steering us to surplus and also Pete Hodgson as he was a climate change Minister and kept a good policy on talking climate change.

      Several others as opposition members also have proved their worth in past Government activity.

      It is a serious issue Security if NZ and should not just be made by a single political party as their decisions in the final analysis affects us all.

    • I think such a panel, if we needed it, should be decided by a cross-party consensus. I actually don’t think we need it at all. It’s just another exercise by Key to keep any responsibility for his actions at arm’s length.

    • NOT …..The guy who makes washing machines , the one who marks exams on French cooking , OR the Sheila who uses her balls to bowl Yorkers….

      But who knows?….maybe Gluckman can invent a new and improved catapult that can lob washing machines at ISIS filled with incendiary French cooking books using cricket balls as anti personnel shrapnel.

      Who knows? , these people have their uses I guess…Key saw that in them….or he might have used the poor sods knowing Kiwis wouldn’t feel threatened by such a bland crew of ‘ irrelevant to security matters ‘ as this lot is.

      Or maybe he was just pissed on the day.

  9. Hey, JK, I am a “free thinker”, why was I not invited??? Is it because I am not part of the neoliberal kinds of “free thinkers” that you prefer, Mr Prime Minister?

  10. Professor Gluckman was confronted with this, and asked, why he invited and consulted Professor M. Aylward from the UK, on welfare reforms:



    Now Mr Gluckman was sent letters, had people comment on articles he wrote on his role as science advisor to our PM, and he NEVER responded to questions and some criticism.

    How “independent’ is our “science advisor”, and how “free thinking” is he really, I ask? No answers, I suppose, as the honest answers would only lead to embarrassment and reasons to resign.

    • Gluckman gave an interesting answer on national radio last week
      He agreed carbonated high sugar drinks are very bad for our and our children’s health but that we cannot legislate against them.
      While that may be a fair comment in general he never offered any solutions for their overuse.
      I wonder if only allowing their sale in smaller containers could be an easy start?

  11. If the panel’s function is to inform the Government of what it “doesn’t know it doesn’t know” the first thing it could pass on is that they don’t know that they don’t know anything about education and kids and learning.
    Secondly they could tell them (the Govt.) that they don’t know that they don’t know the most suitable name for the group. I suggest “Citizens Risk Advice Panel”, CRAP, which will not only be most apposite but will easily fit simple descriptions, headlines and report titles. More CRAP, Total CRAP and Utter CRAP are obviously coming our way.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if next delightful detail to be revealed is that ‘The Free Thinkers’ will be paid a fee of nearly $2000 each for each day they meet.

  12. I think Kevin Bloody Wilson about sums this circus up…called ‘The Kid’…..about a six year olds first day at school… brought up by the shearers….

    But tell me , what times fucking smoko ?

    What time do we knock off ?

    And Im busting for a fucking shit wheres the thunderbox ?

    And do we get our daily rollyweed and six cold cans of piss ?

    And can any bastard tell me , WHO’S FUCKIN ‘ SHOW IS THIS?!!

    If these are the people selected for this bizarre panel…and this is the way NZ is run by this Key clown…indeed…WHOS FUCKIN’ SHOW IS THIS ???!!!!

    • Ha ! That’s very funny @ Wild Katipo .

      You ask ” Who’s fuckin’ show is this ? ”

      My answer might be ; it’s our fuckin’ show . Not theirs .

      The evil clowns have taken over the circus . It’s just that they have us convinced that they know better so sit down and hush now . Daddy’s taking care of business .

      The term ‘ free thinkers ‘ is a logical fallacy . The National Party’s entire manifesto is a logical fallacy , as is Labour’s .

      The concept of ‘ logical fallacies ‘ is a useful tool to help decode bullshit and I wonder just how much advertising revenue generally would drop by if we all had a clearer understanding of the wily nature of lying by using truisms .
      The Banking Industry is a master of the dark art .
      And since The National Party Co Ltd is a branch of Neoliberal Corporation , they’d be using some very clever people to help improve their market share and insure good returns for their investors while keeping us consumers completely in the dark while convincing us that we are in fact in living in broad daylight . I liked a metaphor I read here once . ” How much meat would people eat if abattoirs were made of glass . ”
      How often have I heard ” I don’t wanna hear it . I just wanna get on with my life ”
      Yeah , well good luck with that , I say .
      Logical fallacies are so powerful that when delivered in the correct dosage , at the correct time , one can get an entire country voting in favour of a small group of sociopaths hell bent on behaving in the most abhorrent manner while successfully arguing that it’s in their voters best interests .

      Logical fallacies .

      Soul Sucking Office-speak

      David McRaney

  13. Exactly what is the real intended job of this elite Key selected panel?

    Another group of ‘experts’ in the bleedin’ obvious it seems!

    Free thinkers? My eye they are!

  14. It would be a meeting of total sycophants fawning over each other more like it. How ridiculous. I bet they all arrive in a fleet of ferraris that their employees paid for by banging to work in shitty cars on low wages. I bet the first think tank wont be about raising the wages, just justifying their over inflated self importance.

  15. Well tongue and cheek aside why does this panel, who are obviously going to be mostly directing their energies towards Muslim extremists, not have anybody with expertise in the religion and culture in question.

    This might stop debacles such as , in Australia, a Shia with a plastic Ali sword is arrested for being a Sunni extremist.
    And surprise, surprise I do believe we have ‘free thinkers’ in our universities and our mosques who can provide this kind of knowledge.

  16. Depends entirely on your definitions of the words ‘free’ and ‘thinker’. I mean, Fletcher and Gluckman in the one room, both of them ‘walking, talking conflicts of interest’. Therese Walsh and Karen Poutasi -give me a break! Clearly, Key has replaced ‘Farrar and the Whale with so-called ‘academics’ (he thinks they are anyway, the titles and importance that he conferred on them all give that appearance). He wants to appear erudite and well considered. He might as well be walking around with a bald cat and a gimmicky catchphrase. Nothing that ever came out of his ‘free thinkers’ was anywhere close to intelligent reason. They lost me completely at Fletcher and Gluckman -unbelievable!

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