Back in June, a post in Point of Order quoted a range of comments on a reshuffle of five CEOs across the public service by State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, who said he wanted to maintain momentum in key roles and portfolios.
Among the comments, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue observed that the appointments were all male and criticised the process as unfair to top women in the public service.
So there will be keen interest, not least from that quarter, in the competition for the top job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade. Its current CEO, Dr Brook Barrington, was one of the five involved in the June reshuffle and is designated to take over from Andrew Kibblewhite as CEO of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from February 1.
Some might think Bede Corry, who has been deputy secretary of MFAT since November 2015, would be a shoo-in. Corry returned to MFAT from the Ministry of Defence, where he was deputy secretary policy and planning from 2012 to 2014. He also has served as Ambassador to Thailand, and earlier as Counsellor in the Washington embassy.
Corry is familiar with how the Beehive works after a term as private secretary in the office of the Foreign Affairs Minister.
Others would argue that Chris Seed, who has had an equally distinguished career, most recently as High Commissioner in Canberra, has the mana and experience to put MFAT back in its former pre-eminent role in the state sector.
But – no wild card this – a strong bid could be coming from Rebecca Kitteridge, director-general of the NZ Security Intelligence Service since 2014, and before that Secretary of Cabinet for six years.
Earlier she had experience in MFAT and also in the private sector. She has the proven administrative skills to restore the élan that used to be enjoyed by MFAT before the ill-fated reforms executed by John Allen in the term of the National government.
Kitteridge may not be the only female candidate with strong claims. Bernadette Cavanagh, deputy secretary, multilateral and legal affairs group, at MFAT since 2017 has had postings in Moscow, New York and as High Commissioner in Singapore. She returned to NZ in 2015 to be head of the UN and Commonwealth division during NZ’s term as a member of the UN Security Council, where her work was said to be outstanding.
Another candidate with impressive credentials is Tony Lynch, a deputy secretary of Defence since 2014. Earlier in his career Lynch had postings in Geneva, Jakarta and Canberra and as Ambassador in Thailand. He also served as foreign affairs advisor for the then PM John Key.
Despite the high ratings of each of these candidates, there may be others in the running who could make the short list.
A vital factor in the final decision might encompass an assessment of how the new chief will interact with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, who will be determined to ensure the impressive effort he has made to restore the ministry’s reputation at the apex of the public service is consolidated.