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

 

Valerie Morse: Key And NZ Police At G20: What A Contribution

While 200 New Zealand police officers are helping to repress protests outside of the G20 in Brisbane this week, John Key has been inside pushing the interests of giant multinational corporations to fast track the World Trade Organization (WTO) ... More>>

ALSO:

Gabriela Coutiño: Ayotzinapa Caravan Meets With EZLN In Oventic

In their visit to Zapatista Territory, parents of the 43 students disappeared from Ayotzinapa Guerrero, agreed with the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), to articulate a national grassroots movement that would question forced disappearances ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Talk Of A Third Intifada: Where To From Here, Palestine?

When a journalist tries to do a historian’s job, the outcome can be quite interesting. Using history as a side note in a brief news report or political analysis oftentimes does more harm than good. More>>

ALSO:

David Swanson: Who Says Ferguson Can't End Well

Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something ... More>>

Melanie Duval-Smith: Homeless Is Where The Heart Is

So, you are not allowed to feed the homeless on the streets of Florida. Last week, a 90 year old man and two Christian ministers were arrested for doing just that. I can hear the cries of the right wingers from here. “Not in our back yard”, ... More>>

John Chuckman: What We Truly Learned From the Great War and the Absurdity of Remembrance Day

No matter what high-blown claims the politicians make each year on Remembrance Day, The Great War was essentially a fight between two branches of a single royal family over the balance of power on the continent of Europe, British foreign policy holding ... More>>

Redress Information: A European Call To Suspend EU-Israel Association Agreement

More than 300 political parties, trade unions and campaign groups have called on the European Union to suspend its “association agreement” with Israel. The agreement, which came into force in 2000, facilitates largely unrestricted trade with Israel ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Age Of TV Jokers: Arab Media On The Brink

As I was finalizing my research for this article, I found myself browsing through a heap of hilarious videos by mostly Egyptian TV show hosts Tawfiq Okasha and Amr Adeeb. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news