The new Cabinet: PM is focused on beating Covid-19 and rejuvenating the economy as she names her team

The Prime Minister’s press statement announcing her new Cabinet (400 or so words) has been posted on The Beehive website.  The speech she delivered when naming the cabinet (1780 words) has not.

Indeed, no ministerial speeches have been posted on the website since October 10, when David Parker posted the speech he delivered to a global audience as Minister of Trade and Export Growth.  (New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020).

Because of the press statement’s comparative brevity, it mentions many fewer names than were mentioned in the speech (although it does provide a link to the full ministerial list).

The press statement most notably does not include the names of Kelvin Davis (or the explanation in the speech about why he won’t be deputy prime minster) or Phil Twyford (but there is no mention in the speech, either, about his slippage to the rank of minister outside of cabinet).

As Ardern impressed in her speech:

“The Cabinet will have two overarching priorities: to continue our health response to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID-19, and to drive our economic recovery and ensure we take the opportunity we have in front of us to build back better.”

There is a greater coordination around the management of each, she says, with both an enhanced and co-ordinated health team, making use of Labour’s caucus talent, and a senior and co-ordinated economic team.

Moreover, she is bringing in some new talent, with first-hand experience in the areas the new ministers will be working in,

“ … and reflecting the New Zealand that elected us on the 17th of October”.

This suggests diversity might have triumphed over ability in the PM’s considerations.

She then explained that forming a government in the midst of a global pandemic

“ … creates an absolute focus on the enormity of the task in front of all of us.

“The world is in a situation we have never seen before. The UK and Europe are re-entering lockdowns, daily case rates are back to the peaks seen in the first wave and recent cases at our border show we aren’t immune to what is happening in the rest of the world. The challenge of COVID will be with us for many, many months to come. It will not be easy, but we have the team to continue taking on that challenge, and that is what you elected us to do.”

As Prime Minister she will remain the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction and Minister for National Security and Intelligence.

She has reallocated the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio to Carmel Sepuloni but will keep an associate role, and will pick up the role of Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services.

Kelvin Davis (the next person to be named in the speech)

“ …  has been re-elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, with the strong endorsement of the caucus, but has made the decision that he does not want to be the Deputy Prime Minister.”

Really?  A deputy party leader who does not wish to become deputy Prime Minister?

What’s up?

According to the speech:

“Kelvin shared this view with me before the election. I asked him to reconsider, but to also wait until the outcome of the ballot before making a final decision. More recently Kelvin has again confirmed that this is not a role he wishes to take on.

“I respect his decision. Kelvin reminded me recently that his driving force in parliament is twofold, he wants to improve the outcomes for Māori and will do so in his roles as Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti. He also has a passion for ensuring our families are safe, and will take on the role of Minister for Children with responsibility for Oranga Tamariki. He will also remain Corrections and Associate Education Minister.”

The PM then named the economic recovery team and her deputy.

“Following Kelvin Davis’s decision that he does not want to be the Deputy Prime Minister I have appointed Grant Robertson into that role. He will continue as Finance Minister and also pick up Infrastructure to drive the ongoing work needed to roll out our historic $42 billion investment into our country’s infrastructure to create jobs and build back better. He will retain Sport and Recreation and pick up Racing.

“As Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Infrastructure Minister Grant has been given the seniority and portfolio mix required to drive our economic recovery. I am excited by the opportunities we have here, it will be hard, but the legacy that we can leave the next generation in the way we choose to rebuild, is immense.

“That’s where our next minister, Megan Woods comes in. She remains the Minister of Housing, overseeing our extensive build programme, as well as Energy and Resources, and Research, Science and Innovation, as well as picking up Associate Minister of Finance. She will be a key part of the team looking at ensuring a renewable energy future is part of our rebuild, and I expect will work closely with our Minister of Climate Change.”

David Parker continues as an Associate Minister of Finance and remains Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment to continue work on Resource Management Act reform.

He picks up Revenue and a newly named portfolio of Oceans and Fisheries.

“This is an excellent fit with his existing Environment portfolio, and will give us the chance to take a clear focus on sustainability and abundance in this space.”

We will watch what happens with interest as Parker performs a challenging balancing act, satisfying the demands of business people involved in the commercial catching of fish versus the demands of those pressing for the greater conservation of fish stocks.

Stuart Nash has been given a suite of portfolios focused on supporting economic activity in the regions. He will become Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Tourism Minister, Forestry Minister and retains Small Business.

This means he will get to distribute the big bucks which his New Zealand First predecessor, Shane Jones, got to distribute from the Provincial Growth Fund and the One Billion Trees Fund.  Except the PGF trough will be called something else and won’t have nearly as much slush money in it.

Then it was Damien O’Connor’s turn to be mentioned:

“Considering the importance and strength of our primary sector to our export led recovery, Damien O’Connor will pick up Trade and Export Growth to continue our pursuit of quality free trade agreements including with the UK and EU as well as retaining Agriculture, and the roll out of our plans for primary production as captured by ‘fit for a better world’.”

Carmel Sepuloni will continue in Social Development, and the Employment portfolio will be rolled back into her work. She will keep ACC and Disability Issues (“so that we can continue to improve the interaction across these different areas”) and will take on the primary Arts Culture and Heritage role.

Ardern reiterated that the ongoing response to COVID will be a priority for this term and “there are ways we believe we can improve our response even further”.

Chris Hipkins picks up the new portfolio, Minister for COVID-19 Response, which will draw together responsibilities from testing, to managed isolation, border management, right through to details like flights carrying returning New Zealanders.

He will continue with his Education and Public Service portfolios, and as Leader of the House.

Andrew Little will become the Minister of Health.

“It has become clear to me over the past few months that the major health reforms we need to embark upon cannot be carried out successfully by the same person managing the day to day of COVID. Andrew will ensure we continue these reforms, but also ensure that the remainder of the health system and New Zealanders that access it, are getting the services they need and deserve.

“It will be a big piece of work, and he will be assisted by a team of Associate Ministers.”

Peeni Henare moves into Cabinet and will be the Associate Minister responsible for Māori health. He retains Whānau Ora and an associate Housing role focused on Māori housing and will become the Minister of Defence.

Our readers might never have heard of first-term MP Dr Ayesha Verrall until yesterday, but now she has been promoted directly into Cabinet as another Associate Minister of Health with delegations for public health, as well as picking up Food Safety and Minister for Seniors.

“It is not without precedent to bring new members straight into cabinet, and in the middle of a global pandemic, I believe we would be foolish not to use the considerable expertise Dr Verrall brings in infectious diseases into our response.”

First of the next echelon of key appointments mentioned in Ardern’s speech was Nanaia Mahuta, who will become the Minister of Foreign Affairs – the first woman in our nation’s history to hold the portfolio.

Yes, most commentators were surprised by this, but the PM explained:

“She brings the experience of being an Associate Trade Minister in the last cabinet. She will hold on to Local Government continuing the work started on three waters and will pick up an associate Māori Development role.”

Poto Williams moves into Cabinet and will become the Minister of Police, and Minister of Building and Construction. She will also take an Associate Children role given her experience in child protective issues.

Kris Faafoi retains Immigration and Broadcasting and Media and picks up Justice.

Willie Jackson moves into Cabinet and will become the Minister for Maōri Development.

Jan Tinetti becomes a Minister and enters Cabinet as Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister for Women, along with Associate Minister of Education (“where she will utilise her skills as a past principal”)

Former whip Michael Wood becomes a Minister and enters Cabinet as Minister of Transport and Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, an area he has a background in.

Kiri Allan becomes a Minister and enters Cabinet as Minister of Conservation, Associate Environment, Associate Arts Culture and Heritage, and Minister for Emergency Management.

“Kiri brings with her huge energy, talent, and a background in law.”

Then we get to a come-back-all-is-forgiven (but perhaps not forgotten) appointment.

David Clark re-enters Cabinet with the roles of Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the new consolidated portfolio of Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications (also covering government digital services), Statistics and Minister for SOEs.

Ministers outside of Cabinet will be:

  • Aupito William Sio, as Minister for Courts, and Pacific Peoples.
  • Meka Whaitiri returns to the executive as Minister of Customs, Veterans, and picks back up the position of Associate Minister of Agriculture with responsibility for animal welfare. She will also work alongside David Clark on the considerable data issues we have been working with maoridom on.
  • Phil Twyford will be Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, and Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth. He also picks up two associate roles.
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan joins the executive as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities and Minister for Youth.

As previously announced, James Shaw and Marama Davidson are Cooperation Agreement Ministers outside of Cabinet and we will also have two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries.

Rino Tirikatene will be Under-Secretary to the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, and Minister for Trade and Export Growth (Māori trade).

And Deborah Russell will be Under-Secretary to the Minister of Revenue.

The PM wrapped up:

“This is a refreshed line-up that focuses our most senior and experienced Ministers onto the most pressing issues facing our country, while bringing forward and rewarding new talent.

“There are seven Ministers new to Cabinet, and six Ministers overall who hold a ministerial warrant for the first time.

“I am excited by this team. They bring experience from the ground, and from within politics. But they also represent renewal. We know we have a big job ahead of us as New Zealand continues to respond to some enormous challenges, but the commitment this team has to the task is absolute. Now, it’s time to crack on with it.”

With those words ringing in our ears, here at Point of Order we dug out a BBC report posted during the election campaign.

Throughout her tempestuous first term as New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern has maintained a message of kindness, it noted.

“But as she seeks another term in power, critics say that it will take more than kindness and charisma to get the economy on its feet and lift tens of thousands of people out of poverty…”

The report referenced data that must be reported annually under the Child Poverty Reduction Act.

Material hardship is one of the most prominent measures which includes not eating fresh fruit and vegetables, putting off a visit to the doctor, or not being able to pay bills on time.

For June 2018 to June 2019 there was no significant change to the percentage of children living in material hardship, compared to the previous year. The figure remains at about 13% – that’s 151,700 or one in eight of New Zealand’s children.

Readers might care to check who had the Child Poverty Reduction portfolio in the previous government and has kept it in this government.  We will help you monitor progress over the next three years.

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