Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Gordon Campbell on the Cabinet reshuffle

Gordon Campbell on the Cabinet reshuffle

There are not many problems in life where “Bring back Nick Smith!” seems like an ideal solution. Nor will the public be inclined to think that keeping Hekia Parata on a Ministerial salary is a very wise use of the scarce resources in Education. Which suggests that yesterday’s Cabinet mini-reshuffle is unlikely to convince the public that the government is serious about (a) rejuvenation or (b) rewarding achievement.

Nick Smith hasn’t been a fount of new ideas since…well, lets just say that his young fogeyness was already evident in the 1980s when he was National’s youth spokesperson. In this role as the party’s in touch with youth guy, a 27 year old Smith told the Listener how much he disliked rap music, and how Simon and Garfunkel was more his thing. Now, Smith’s re-instatement to Cabinet so soon after his attempt to use his Ministerial clout to influence the Bronwyn Pullar case, makes a mockery of John Key’s promise to hold his team to the highest possible ethical standards.

If Key was serious about that, Smith would have been out of contention for this entire term, rather than being re-instated mere months after his fall from grace. Talk about being slapped with a wet bus ticket. (Smith is getting a new Ministerial ticket before the old one has had a chance to dry.) Still, at least Smith’s placement in the Housing portfolio means that the government has recognized that it needs to counter the Labour/Greens attack on the housing front with someone more substantial than Phil Heatley.

As nearly everyone has already noticed, Parata will be the Education Minister in name (and salary) only. From here until the election, Parata will be surrounded with colleagues to handle most of the combustible issues. Apparently, Parata will be ring fenced and confined to what she does best : photo opportunities, school galas and other general duties as the Cabinet’s de facto greeter and resident smiley face.

It is a teaching point, too. By keeping Parata in Cabinet the government is sending a message that no-one fails in Education, and everyone takes home a prize – starting at the top, with the Minister. Learning is a lifelong experience, and Parata appears to have a job for life. (The 90 day trial doesn’t seem to have been applied to her.)

Parata’s retention can only be taken as a sign that Ministers who fail in senior portfolios cannot be replaced, for fear of the blowback on the government as a whole. After all, if Parata was held accountable where would it stop? The public might even begin to hold Steven Joyce, the Cabinet’s erstwhile jobs czar, responsible for his dismal performance on the jobs front, for his track record in stimulating economic growth, and for the ongoing collapse of the government’s overtures in oil and gas exploration.

In other words, this reshuffle was really about finding token, expendable victims. One can feel some sympathy for Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley. Normally, the Aztecs felt that regeneration required the spilling of young and vital blood – and not the sacrifice of loyal timeservers like these two. Wilkinson can hardly be held solely responsible for what has been two decades of de-regulating workplace health and safety, under successive governments. Wilkinson did her bit by resigning when the Pike River findings were made public, but that gesture has not been enough to save her Ministerial career.

The real question in the Pike River aftermath – whether the government will accept the Commission’s recommendation to create a truly independent regulatory agency to promote health and safety in the workplace still remains unanswered. Steven Joyce might like to give that one his full attention. In the wake of the reshuffle, sorting out Novopay is to become Joyce’s responsibility. While an urgent issue, it is not that urgent. No-one after all, is dying as a result of Novopay’s failings. They are dying unnecessarily on New Zealand’s farms, and in our forests and other workplaces. In the same fashion to Wilkinson, Heatley has been made a scapegoat for the government’s dereliction of duty in affordable housing, for which Key himself (as Brian Rudman recently reminded us) should be taking a major share of the responsibility.

The fate of Wilkinson and Heatley sends an interesting message to the National party caucus. Is this Cabinet reshuffle a sign that the young and ambitious have a chance to advance – which is how Key has been spinning it – or is it a sign that even if you do get a foot in the Cabinet door, you still risk becoming one of the expendables who regularly get thrown overboard to promote the fiction of an accountability that plainly does not apply to the front bench?

It must be something of a dilemma. Because the same ingratiating qualities of being pliable and biddable that are necessary to get you into Cabinet can set you up for being disposable a bit further down the track. As Christopher Moltisanti found out in The Sopranos, when you become a made guy is when your worries really begin.

********

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Myopia Of The Business News

Listening to the business news is a bit like eavesdropping on the radio transmissions from space aliens. There is no discernible connection between the concerns of the captains of these space ships – the bank economists and the finance house spokesmen – and the concerns of ordinary listeners back on Planet Earth. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Clinton, Sanders, Trump And Cruz

Come November, the world will have a new US president-elect and the least unlikely winner still looks to be Hillary Clinton. Right now though, the polls are showing a rocky stretch ahead for her in the immediate future. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Sean Penn And El Chapo - Vanity, Hollywood And Reportage

Leaving aside Sean Penn’s personal history with drug use, let alone alleged efforts to get a slice of celebrity in portraying a drug lord, the furore surrounding his interview with El Chapo is instructive in a few respects. One is worth noting: the blind rage it has provoked with some US political figures and advocates who show how utterly lacking in understanding they are of their own liberal market system... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Podemos, And Spain’s Election Stalemate

By hard grassroots effort, it convincingly rejected the fragmented, individualising forces that had shaped political life for the past few decades – instead, it organized its supporters on the basis of their common, communal experience via collective decision-making aimed at rolling back (a) the austerity-driven cutbacks in public services and (b) the home evictions of those unable to meet their mortgage payments. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Merkel, Refugees And The Cologne Attacks

Huge pressure was already on Angela Merkel’s shoulders prior to the New Year celebrations. When it came in its waves of chaos on the eve, the security services in Cologne were found wanting. The police document from Cologne, leaked to Der Spiegel, speaks of chaos and lack of control. More>>

NZ Media In 2015: ‘Digital First’ Strategies Put Journalists Last

Journalism in New Zealand is threatened by the constant culling of editorial jobs and current affairs programmes… Additionally, journalists investigating issues which are in public interest have become under scrutiny as seen most clearly in the cases of Nicky Hager and Heather Du-Plessis Allen. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news