Hehir on Ngaro

Liam Hehir writes:

There has been talk of a possible Cabinet reshuffle lately. There’s no certainty of this, of course, but the does at least have the luxury of having some very good backbenchers who look ready for promotion. Foremost among them is Alfred Ngaro, a list MP from Auckland, who is widely tipped by MPs and activists as a certainty for higher things.

I have only met Ngaro once – and very briefly at that. But I have also heard him speak twice. On each occasion, I was impressed with his ability to take and answer questions from the floor. In particular, he was good at acknowledging the concern of the asker, distilling the theory behind the Government’s policy and then illustrating his point with an anecdote or two – which is essentially what you are looking for in a political communicator. Maybe it has something to do with his background as a minister (of religion, that is).

If Ngaro is promoted, then you can bet that the buzz from the media will focus on the demographic “first” of his appointment. As the first Cook Islander to be elected to Parliament, he would also be the first person of that heritage to receive a ministerial warrant. And as the Party is keen to make further inroads into the Pacific community, the would not be displeased about that.

However, there is another thing about him that makes him a bit of an outlier in Parliament. Something that probably won’t get the attention it deserves. You see, before he became a pastor and community leader, Alfred Ngaro was self-employed as an electrician.  

We have far too few skilled tradesmen in Parliament – and probably too many who have spent their entire adult lives in and around politics. There will always be a place for career politicians in since, if nothing else, a lifetime in politics can be assumed to impart knowledge about how the system actually works. But an effective Government should also include people who have experience with how things are in the real economy.

I agree that experience with the real economy is important.

I like the that Ria Bond (NZ First) is a former hairdresser. That means she has run a small business, employed people, and dealt with a wife wide variety of people.

That’s why I think could do with more people like Alfred Ngaro. In addition to the skills he will have picked up in his as a pastor and a backbench MP, the five years he spent as a self-employed tradesman will give him an insight into the world so many of live in. This is the world of GST returns, uneven cash-flows, customer complaints, hard to manage work-flows, provisional tax payments, accounting and legal fees, red tape, health, bad debtors and health and safety compliance costs. It is world with which fewer and fewer lawmakers have much, if any, familiarity.

I spent some time working for a small business on the finance side. You learn first hand the huge difference between profitability and cashflow. You might be profitable on paper, but you are constantly juggling debtors, creditors and the bank.

But if there is a reshuffle, then it looks like Alfred Ngaro will get his opportunity. Chances are he will be assigned to a “social” portfolio – though it would be good if he could also be entrusted with something in the economic or business spheres. Whatever the role, the elevation to high office of somebody who knows his way around a live circuit and a pair of pliers will be very much a good thing.

I too hope Alfred will become a Minister.

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