Clark Announces Cabinet And Rethink On F-16s
Labour Leader Helen Clark today brought forward the announcement of her cabinet team after an election was held at caucus today. (See earlier story for details of who is in.)
Ms Clark had earlier said the caucus would be electing its cabinet line-up next Tuesday. The final result from the election is expected on Tuesday after special votes are counted.
The Labour leader was accompanied at her announcement by the 20 successful candidates who arrayed out on either side of her. The 20 include the speaker, deputy speaker and the senior and junior whips as well as the 14 elected to cabinet.
Ms Clark and deputy leader Michael Cullen are automatically part of the team and with four more cabinet members from the Alliance the final cabinet will number 20.
Cabinet portfolios have not been allocated yet. Ms Clark said they will need to be finalised by Thursday next week, in time for the first cabinet meeting the following Monday. She did not rule out bringing forward the announcement however.
Clark said she had asked those successfully elected - all on the first ballot - to put their preferences on which portfolios they would like to her in writing by 4.45pm today. She and Michael Cullen would likely discuss the lineup on Monday.
In response to further questions Clark said:
- the issue of experience was the reason why only one Maori was among the group - in-spite of their being 20% Maori MPs in the government, she said more appointments, outside Cabinet, would address this apparent imbalance;
- she would not be continuing with the "team" approach to Cabinet adopted by the Shipley Government, and would instead use the more "traditional" cabinet committees to facilitate inter-ministerial coordination. On the team system Clark said, "I always thought that a bit cosmetic";
- the new Cabinet would be working very hard and would meet weekly not fortnightly as it has recently under Shipley;
- there would be post cabinet press conferences. "I fear so", Clark said eliciting an excited "so that's a good start", from TVNZ political editor Linda Clark;
- she had made a commitment to the editor of The Dominion that there would be no Minister of Food Fibre Border Control and Biosecurity in her new cabinet - though there might be other new names;
At the conclusion of the press conference Ms Clark was asked to respond to reports that the departing US Ambassador Josiah Beeman has said the decision to review the F-16s purchase will sour relations with the US.
She replied saying that she detected no signs of the souring in her talk with President Clinton this morning. "He said he was sending his good friend Carol Moseley-Braun out here to talk to me about it," she said.
As for the decision to cancel the F-16
lease deal, this was now under review.
"The cost benefits of proceeding or not with the deal has to be assessed," Ms Clark said.
Ms Clark said President Clinton had begun his call - from Air Force One - discussing recent events in Seattle and they had agreed on several points in relation to what issues ought to be discussed by the WTO. The President had then raised the question of the F-16s.
How quickly a decision will be made on the fighters was a moot question. Ms Clark said she didn't want to be too slow or too fast and would be taking advice from officials.
Scoop then asked if she had taken any advice on the decision to change NZ's position on inclusion of Labour and Environmental issues on the WTO agenda.
replied that it had been unnecessary as that was clearly
Labour Party policy even if not many people appeared to be
aware of that