In major policy news yesterday from the Labour Party, Trevor Mallard is reported to have told a group of businessmen that he wants to see moa resurrected and wandering Wainuiomata, thanks to DNA extracted from the extinct birds.
Ordinarily, one would simply expect a few snide posts on the interweb about Labour “talking about the things that matter” (and there were), but this was one diversion that spiralled out of control in a way that was entirely predictable, and had indeed even been seen coming by Mr Mallard (note the stuff.co.nz article stating “He was aware that he had opened himself to “bird jokes and extinction jokes…”).
What followed were an endless stream of moa and extinction jokes in the House (the best being National’s Scott Simpson interjecting with “A live moa!” when Winston Peters got to his feet), a parade of National MPs lining up on the evening news to snigger at Mallard and Labour, and any political message Labour may have wanted to push being utterly eradicated.
The odd thing was that it doesn’t appear to have been an off-hand quip, thought up on the spur off the moment. Look at the photo above – there’s a picture of a moa being beamed up beside Mallard. His speechwriter actually thought Mallard’s moa musings were a fantastic idea.
Over at the Standard, Micky Savage attempted to run defence for Mallard, noting that “Our politicians should be future thinkers and should be willing to discuss ideas and concepts, no matter how bizarre they currently may be” and “Politics can be a brutal, overly serious business sometimes. We should tolerate the odd occasion when our elected representatives break out of their shell and make the odd wisecrack”. He was swiftly rebutted by Colonial Viper, who noted:
Next question: why is there “irrelevant crap like this” being put out there in the first place, 80 days before an election.
The moa quip could have worked – if Mallard had followed up with serious points on how Labour was going to support genetic and genomic research (and science in general) in NZ over the long timeframes needed to pull off something like a moa project. Backed up by a real commitment of money. Stuff that a government in waiting might say on the campaign trail in other words.
But no, there was no actual substance or follow up. So it just looks daft.
Colonial Viper may have been perhaps a tad unfair to Mr Mallard. After all, the stuff.co.nz article noted Mr Mallard saying that his speech included a long term look to the future. I haven’t seen the speech notes, but it’s entirely possible that the moa quip was part of a segment taking about the importance of long-term planning. Nonetheless, even if there was a context within the speech, Mallard’s strange comedy routine for the cameras afterwards, where he talked about only wanting small moa that he could pat on the head, simply looked inane.
National’s odds for an upset victory in Mallard’s Hutt South seat may just have shortened slightly…