Up until last week, the Speculator had assumed the National cabinet to essentially be constituted of the Bash Street Kids and John Key.
So it was with some surprise that The Speculator realised at last week’s presentation at the Torpedo Bay museum that Attorney General and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Chris Finlayson was not all teeth and trousers.
What was more pleasing was Finlayson’s clear interest in and the considerable knowledge of the latter portfolio, from his understanding of the complexity of land ownership to his enthusiasm for the recognition of New Zealand’s role in the Battle of River Plate.
While not a man foolish enough to commit to specific actions or promises, it is likely that he will have not only taken away, but also absorbed a lot of the information he was presented with at an earlier meeting with Devonport heritage and history groups.
The oft-unblinking Mr Finlayson answered the questions put to him with a lawyer’s deceptive circuitousness; the tactic of seemingly not answering the question when in fact really marshalling the facts, before delivering an apparently unarguable conclusion based upon that previously assembled evidence.
He began the public meeting with some background to his background, relating an amusing anecdote about some advice ex-Attorney General Jim McClay had given him about the job. McClay suggested that the role should take no more than half an hour a day. This came as quite a surprise to Finlayson, given McClay had had the role during the tumultuous reign of Rob Muldoon, whose penchant for making up laws as he went along is well known.
Finlayson, under the admiring gaze of local MP Maggie Barry and future Prime Minister Joe Bergin, then fielded questions from the audience.
Watching the Q and A session, and asking a couple of questions of my own, the sense I got was of a Minister who was – as mentioned – taking away quite a bit to think about.
What was also obvious was his knowledge of the minutiae; when The Speculator asked him about the likelihood of the proposal for a Passchendaele museum at Fort Takapuna going ahead, he clearly knew all about the idea and identified the specific government process that was in place to examine the issue.
Once again, The Speculator was also impressed with the knowledge, passion and intelligence of many of the Devonport spokesfolk; we are indeed fortunate to have such people fighting Devonport’s cause.
Also in attendance was erstwhile mayor and inhabitor of the political wilderness Andrew Williams, now NZ First candidate for North Shore.
It was fortunate that the meeting was held in the Navy’s old mine storage building, as it allowed for a carefully constructed de-militarised zone to be implemented between Williams and fellow attendee Chris Darby.