The Cabinet reshuffle at the weekend was a chance for Prime Minister Bill English to change the tune of his Government. It was a change to renew the Ministerial line up and give a lacklustre Government that had clearly relied too much on Brand Key. So how did Mr English go?
I had low expectations in terms of how the Cabinet reshuffle would turn out when I opined about this several days ago. Largely my thoughts have been correct. Mr English has not used the opportunity to spruce the Cabinet up and give New Zealand any reason to think they could have renewed confidence in a collection of largely uninspiring Ministers (Photo source: NZ National Party):
- Nick English retained the Environment portfolio as well as the Construction and Building one
- Hekia Parata keeps Education,
- Jonathan Coleman keeps Health
- Murray McCully keeps Foreign Affairs
- Anne Tolley retains Social Welfare
- Gerry Brownlee keeps Defence, Christchurch Regeneration and Civil Defence
- Chris Finlayson keeps Attorney General, Treaty Negotiations
The lack of vision in naming new Ministers was quite telling. By allowing Dr Smith to retain his two portfolio’s Mr English has exposed his friend from the days of the Brat Pack to potential Green Party attacks on his lacklustre environmental record. His handling of the housing crisis has earned him considerable criticism, and is something that will continue up to the election. By having Mr Coleman retain Health, Mr English is opening up the possibility of the Opposition scoring hits that will be damaging going into election year. National is accused of cutting $1.7 billion from health, which is desperately needed.
The biggest winner is Alfred Ngaro who picks up the Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary Sector portfolios as well as the Associate Children and Associate Housing roles. Joining him as new Ministers of the Crown are Mark Mitchell (Statistics and Land Information) and David Bennett (Veterans Affairs and Food Safety).
The major loser was Judith Collins who lost her Police and Corrections portfolio’s. This I found quite surprising given she was the most enthusiastic advocate for the Police and setting a tough standard for Correction. This is all the more so, since Ms Collins is considered an ambitious Member of Parliament and she wanted to be Prime Minister when John Key stood down at the start of this month. She is likely to be quite disappointed with losing a portfolio she had so obviously stamped her mark on. The question is whether or not she will keep her proverbial knife sheathed or will as a mark of irritation at her ambition being curbed, she sharpen it in case an opportunity arise.
Nikki Kaye retains her Youth and Associate Education roles as she recovers from breast cancer. The support party Ministers are unchanged. United Future Leader Peter Dunne remains Associate Minister for Health and Te Ururoa Flavell keeps Maori Affairs, Whanau Ora and Associate Economic Development. David Seymour remains Under Secretary for Education.
And so the final political act of the New Zealand calendar for 2016 comes to an end. The politicians are gone. Parliament is empty. The electorate offices are or shortly will be on holiday. We enter 2015 11 days and 15 hours from when this article is published with the battle lines for 2017 well and truly drawn.