The Ardern govt has invited a former PM, Jim Bolger, to head up the working group on fair pay agreements, as part of the Labour Party’s policy to reform workplace bargaining. No-one doubts the vast experience Bolger brings to the task: he was Minister of Labour in the Muldoon govt, and then PM when the National govt abolished the national awards system and banned compulsory unionism through the Employment Contracts Act.
Labour’s idea is to set up a new type of industry-wide employment agreement, to set minimum wages and conditions in particular occupations. It’s a very different concept from that implicit in the Bolger govt’s legislation, which some might think would require a degree of mental flexibility to accommodate.
But not all PMs are like Margaret Thatcher, who famously described herself as a “lady not for turning”.
In pulling Bolger out from retirement, the Ardern govt clearly thought there is some virtue in having a former PM, even from the other side of politics, working for it. Bolger – for his part – believes he still has something to offer the country, and good on him.
Which leads to the question: why hasn’t a job been found for Helen Clark?
After her distinguished career in NZ politics she became a global figure as head of the United Nations Development Programme. Since her defeat for the post of UN Secretary-general, Clark has been back in Auckland, seemingly at a loose end.
Clark’s chief of staff in the PM’s office, Heather Simpson, was quickly on the scene in the Beehive after the Ardern-led coalition was formed, and has since been named to lead the review into health.
Speculation among those who patrol the Lambton Quay hotbeds of political gossip has ranged widely on the Clark issue, with a recent focus on potential international or diplomatic roles.
Former Labour stalwart Annette King is going to Canberra as High Commissioner – so could Helen Clark be a possibility for such a role in, for example, London?
The virtue of that would be that if a Labour govt under Jeremy Corbyn is elected in Britain, NZ would have a representative who immediately would have an “in” with the new leader and his ministry.
Winston Peters as Foreign Minister under Clark, and now under Ardern, would probably be delighted if he could recruit such an outstanding talent into NZ’s diplomatic ranks on his watch.