I’m not sure how widespread it is for government ministers to refuse attendance at public meetings when they are asked to front for unpopular policies but in the case of Minister of Social Housing Amy Adams it is certainly true.
She has an unpopular policy (selling 2,500 Christchurch state houses) and she is refusing to attend any public meeting where she will face questioning critical of the policy.
Her latest refusal was of an invitation to front on Wednesday evening alongside other political parties at a Christchurch election forum on housing.
We are in the middle of an election campaign and one might think a minister would feel honour bound to attend and present their policy alongside other candidates – not so Adams.
Selling state houses might go down well on the farm (or in Adam’s case one of her many farms) but it doesn’t go down well in cities where people live closer to the social problems created by 30 years of neo-liberal economics.
It seems the minister lacks the courage to justify the policy to any gatherings other than closed-door meetings with well-heeled National Party supporters.
It is unfair on voters, and fundamentally undemocratic, that the minister insists on remaining in her National Party echo chamber where no-one will challenge or criticise the policy.
As well as a failure of courage it’s also an effort to stifle public debate on a critical issue. No minister – no media coverage – nothing to see here – move on.
Are other ministers fronting up around the country or are they avoiding controversy?
(One exception might be Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee who is notorious for refusing to front public meetings in Christchurch. However he has made three appearances at public events in recent weeks raising speculation that National’s polling in his electorate is showing he has some work to do against serious challenges from Labour’s Anthony Rimell and independent candidate Raf Manji (who want to become another Peter Dunne in parliament))
One might think the media would hunt these no-show ministers down but not at all – they reserve that for solo parents (particularly Maori women) who give false information to WINZ to enable them to do the best for their children.
The privileged offspring of wealthy farming families are exempt.