Analysis of the Cabinet and ministry changes

The decision to give Finlayson responsibility for the SIS and GCSB is an inspired move for two reasons.

Finlayson is one of the smartest legal minds in NZ. There is no way that either agency will get the law wrong in future if he has anything to do with it. Finlayson will scrutinise any warrants and documents so they are beyond reproach. The appointment is also useful politically – it removes the PM from being tied for for three years answering questions on the GCSB, rather than talking about the Government’s agenda.

English having a formal role in the housing area should ensure that useful work continues to occur there.

Having Joyce take ICT back from Adams, but Adams keeping Communications is interesting. Yet clear where the boundary between the two portfolios will be. My guess is that as the fibre project was Joyce’s baby, he is keen to see its further evolution.

I thought Paula Bannett’s talents are a bit under-utilised. She has given up welfare, which was a huge portfolio, to take on state services, social housing and a couple of associates. But she could do very well in state services if she pushes the investment approach pioneered at MSD to the wider public service.

Jonathan Coleman’s move to Health was widely expected. As a doctor, he knows the sector. However Health is a notoriously volatile portfolio, and this assignment will challenge him beyond what he has had to date. I expect he will be targeted by the Opposition, when we get one.

Adams has a chance to shine as Justice and Courts Minister. There is always a ton of legislation as Justice Minister to see through the House. She failed to gain majorities for a couple of laws in her old portfolios, but shouldn’t have this problem in Justice. She may be able to get NZ First on board for some of it.

Simon Bridges loses Labour but gains Transport. The combination of that with Energy will make him the number one target for the Greens, and possibly Labour. They will try and paint him as unsympathetic to environmental issues, and his challenge is to now allow the left to determine his public image.

Tolley in Social Development is a safe pair of hands. Don’t expect too many issues there.

Kaye swaps Food Safety for ACC, which is a great opportunity to build up her economic credentials. ACC can be a political minefield, as it affects so many New Zealanders. It is a large company with $6.7b revenue last year and almost $30b of assets.

Woodhouse gained Police and Labour. Police should be easy for him. Labour (now Workplace Relations and Safety) will be a bit of a test for him, as there’s nothing Labour fights more than laws which weaken their union funders.

Lotu-Iiga will have big shoes to fill in Corrections, as Tolley had near universal acclaim for her work there. If he does as well as her, he’ll carry on rising.

Maggie Barry’s portfolios of Conservation and Senior Citizens are naturals for her. Getting Arts an unexpected bonus. Shewill be one of the Ministers invoted to the most public meetings. Still has a very positive brand with older New Zealanders.

UPDATE: John Armstrong writes:

For a party about to start its third term in succession, today’s reassignment of portfolios and rankings along with the introduction of new faces is arguably less radical than it should have been in terms of rejuvenation. But equally neither is the reshuffle as cautious as it could easily have been.

Key is conscious voters can quickly tire of third-term governments. however. That makes some form of noticeable renewal essential. Key has given himself the flexibility to do so as the term progresses.

The reshuffle thus promotes a number of more junior ministers as National’s “new wave” for the future.

 

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