Initial Views on Reshuffle

I love the three main newspapers having their own political blogs.  It means we get reaction within a couple of hours.  All three have now done a post, so let’s look at what they say:

Colin Espiner at The Press says:

Helen Clark has unveiled her new Cabinet line-up but it’s less than overwhelming.

In fact, this line-up is really little more than a new lick of paint and a replacement of the tapware – certainly not out with the kitchen sink. The faces staring back at the Opposition benches next week will bear a remarkable similarity to the current lot – except that David Cunliffe and Chris Carter will slip into the front bench seats being vacated by Trevor Mallard and Steve Maharey.

Of those reshuffled, the biggest changes are undoubtedly the huge promotion of Cunliffe to health portfolio and consequent sidelining of Pete Hodgson. Clark talked up Hodgson as a magnificent health minister this morning, but there’s no question he’s been pulled for his poor performance.

The next biggest change is the elevation of Chris Carter, who sheds the relatively lightweight portfolios of housing and conservation for the biggie of education. Maharey has left some big shoes for Carter to fill, and he will need to toughen up considerably in this crucial portfolio.

Beyond this, however, there is little to indicate a new team is waiting on the bench. Time-servers like Jim Anderton, Rick Barker and Parekura Horomia remain in Cabinet. Outside, plodders including Judith Tizard, Harry Duynhoven, Mita Ririnui and Mahara Okeroa will continue to draw their ministerial salaries for doing very little.

In fact, Tizard has been asked to do even less, losing her Auckland Issues portfolio, which has been abolished – although whether Auckland no longer has any issues or Clark is admitting they can’t be solved is less clear. (I wonder who will carry Clark’s handbag now?) 

Clark has opted for the minimum of new blood that she felt she could get away with without facing accusations of a Clayton’s (excuse the pun) reshuffle. There are no bold moves and nothing that signifies a change of approach from this administration.

Perhaps that is the right recipe – after all, it’s served Clark and well for the past eight years. But with Labour trailing 12 points in some polls, one might have expected a slightly bigger roll of the dice from the Prime Minister.

Vernon Small from the Dom Post chimes in:

Prime Minister Helen Clark has delivered on her promise to make substantial changes to her cabinet – at least by her own track record – in the drive for a fourth term in office.

In other areas Clark has gone for her safest pairs of hands – Michael Cullen in Treaty negotiations, Phil Goff in Corrections and Annette King in Justice as the head of a team of more right-leaning MPs in the justice and corrections area.

Clark was at pains to point out that half the ministers in today’s line up were not in cabinet after the 1999 election and almost half were not in the post 2002 one either.

But one problem remains – the ministers outside cabinet which she select, as opposed to the caucus election for cabinet – still need a clean out of underperforming ministers. That should be her next job to get her administration ready for the 2008 election.

And finally Audrey Young from the NZ Herald:

It is hardly Helen Clark’s big, fat bold reshuffle.

There is no Wow! factor is this reshuffle. But she has been bolder than usual in a couple of respects.

She has finally done what she has never done before and demoted a minister on performance.

Helen Clark’s other bold move, and her biggest risk, is promoting Chris Carter to Education.

Yes, he was a former teacher and his partner is a school principal but Education is an almighty step up from Conservation and Housing. Just ask Trevor Mallard and Steve Maharey.

David Cunliffe deserved a big promotion and got it with Health.

Steve Chadwick is a surprise promotion to the Cabinet – outside Cabinet, maybe, but inside Cabinet makes little sense other than satisfying the informal quota system Clark operates by: a woman and of the Left to replace Burton. Winnie Laban was probably more deserving.

A significant part of the reshuffle is in what hasn’t happened to Phil Goff. By not giving him the mega-domestic portfolio of Health, Goff is still sitting in the wings available to step up to Finance – without major disruption – when Cullen chooses it is time to go.

Overall not a lot of excitement over the moves.  As Colin said, if 12% behind you should be more radical.

I didn’t pick up earlier that they have abolished the portfolio of Auckland Issues. Does this mean they have all been solved?

While the promotions are all generally reasonably sound, the problem is there are still a hell of a lot of Ministers who are not performing, and doing little to justify their salary. New Zealand does not need an Executive of 28.

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