Reflections on PM’s New Cabinet

An Opinion by Michael Charity

After reading Rupert Pye’s comments  here’s some quick, random thoughts on the new cabinet of the Labour Government.
It is a very interesting and very different lineup than anything previous. It is very diverse, reflecting a large pool of different talent Ardern had to chose from. It has a very Polynesian feel, and that is obviously where and how she wishes to position NZ internationally. Given what is happening overseas at the moment with allies old and new, as well as traditional foes, that is probably a very smart move.
Obviously, top performers in the previous administration have been rewarded, but there is a real mixture of old and new, and a great diversity of ethnicity. This is a real reflection of NZ’s multi-cultural makeup, and also reflects the PM’s previous remarks about centrism. There are huge risks in playing the centre in times of crises, and there are some very large crises looming, which will make the current pandemic look like kindergarten, and require some significant shifts in social structure to overcome.
To this end, I am disappointed that the PM wasn’t more accommodating of the real political talent in the Green Party. What she did was good, and more than she needed to, but to lose performers like Genter and Swarbrick from the decision tables will be a loss. 
Shaw Choice
However, Shaw as Climate Change Minister was a good and obvious choice. He probably knows more about it than anyone else, it just remains to be seen how effective he can be outside cabinet. I think that the arrangement ended up with was a political compromise. But I’m not sure that we can afford compromises on such a vital issue when our performance to date can only be described as abysmal. 
Nor do I hear an appropriate amount of urgency from the PM and Labour cabinet on the subject.
The appointment of Marama Davidson to a new position supporting a line-up of Ministers within cabinet (including the PM) all focused on addressing poverty and equity hopefully signals a concerted attack on these issues. We are one of the most inequitable countries on the planet, financially and culturally, and until and unless this gets addressed, little else of substance will change. And it needs to.
As for individual Ministers, I shall reserve my judgement on most of the new ones until they have had the chance to prove themselves or otherwise. 
Ardern has signaled that she sees financial management as the main focus of this term, especially given what CoVid is doing to overseas economies, and Grant Robertson would have to be the safest pair of hands around at present for this. He seems to have a knack of keeping businesses happy while still pursuing the Party’s goals. His opponents would have us worry about debt, but compared to previous crisis’s, and what is happening elsewhere, it seems pretty small beer.
David Parker Test
The media seem pretty eager to write off Kelvin Davis and his career, but my understanding is that he has huge mana with Maori and Iwi, and this is obviously a strategic positioning. Whether he did an Andrew Little over the deputy PM’s job or not, we can only surmise.
Hipkins, Woods and Little are obviously high performers and have been rewarded accordingly. How Little will go with Health will be interesting, but perhaps someone with his tenacity and social justice attributes is just what is needed.
David Parker seems to be the only previous cabinet minister capable of standing up to the business representatives and economists over the environment, so it is great to see him retaining the environment portfolio. Adding Oceans and Fisheries is an interesting move and will really test his ability to sway cabinet on the subject. Being associate Minister of Finance may help some of the more strident opposition as well.
Nanaia Mahuta as the external face of NZ has certainly exposed some of the racists around the place and will continue to do so. However, it is her role as Minister for Local Government that interests me, as there are huge changes necessary for these bodies if we are to see any improvement in our environmental management. An even bigger challenge I suspect.
Wasted Space
Damien O’Connor is a complete waste of space as far as I’m concerned and has shown no ability to drive any sort of change to the agricultural sector. It is a disappointment to see him still where he is. He obviously has Ardern’s favour, why I don’t know.
Kiri Allan I have grave reservations about. 
I think she will be a disaster as Minister of Conservation from our point of view. Not just pro-1080, but with strong empathies for Maori Development and revenue generation, I think that she will fit into the current DOC culture like a hand in a glove. 

© “David Parker seems to be the only previous cabinet minister capable of standing up to the business representatives and economists over the environment”




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1 Response to Reflections on PM’s New Cabinet

  1. Nicholas Lorenz says:

    Thoughtful reflections Michael. Yes time will tell, i.e. next three years. Labour failed to deliver on several promises in 2017-20 term. In 2017 rivers never featured much in campaigning in 2020 yet in 2017 it was a big issue. I am sure voters just as in 2017 want rivers cleaned up in 2020, only the politicians forgot. Even the Greens have dropped the ball on the water issue as they diverted to becoming a more centrist, social engineering party. Keep up the good work CORANZ and NZFFA. You are invaluable reminding the politicians about water and rivers. After all water/rivers is a public resource.

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