Parliament

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 

2001 Cabinet Manual - Jim Anderton Speech

Hon. Jim Anderton
9 April 2001 Speech Notes


2001 Cabinet Manual

I should first remark on the significance of this occasion.

It's not that long ago that the launch of a "Cabinet Manual" would have been unthinkable.

A Cabinet Manual originally began to be developed from January 1948 when the Secretary to the Cabinet was first admitted to the Cabinet room.

In those days, the rules and procedures of Cabinet were a closely guarded secret.

There was an Official Secrets Act instead of an Official Information Act, and the prospect of a public launch would have been anathema.

A consolidated Manual of the 'rules, precedents, conventions and procedures' of Cabinet was eventually issued in 1979.

But until 1996, the Manual was published in loose leaf form, because it was amended so frequently.

It's important to look at the history of the Manual because it shows that the practices associated with Cabinet Government can and do change.

The Cabinet Manual of course is a guide to constitutional rules, not the source of them.

But it is an authoritative guide.

It is an enduring document – even if, as I have observed – it is one that allows for frequent and significant change.

This 2001 Manual reflects still further updates.

One of the most significant concerns collective responsibility.

Before the last election, the Alliance and Labour signalled that we would take a new approach to government.

The Coalition Agreement we signed after the last election put the new approach into effect.

The 2001 Cabinet Manual captures the idea in a more enduring form.

The new approach specifically envisages that parties may publicly disagree from within Cabinet.

It establishes a process for doing so.

In addition, the new Manual notes at paragraph 3.22 that parties within government will have different policies.

It notes that Ministers can be expected to refer to those separate policies –although, obviously, with some care.

Part of our job as politicians is to persuade the public to our point of view.

To build public support for ideas.

That is a role that parties should always jealously preserve within government.

The approach we have adopted will fit any coalition government – not just ours.

Some thought the constitutional and political sky would fall in if we re-drew some of the lines in the doctrine of collective responsibility.

Some thought Cabinet Government would never work.

In fact, we have changed the way we work because it was necessary to do so in order to make Cabinet Government work better.

I well remember watching from Opposition as parties would come into government and then abandon their previous policy.

It gave rise to enormous cynicism among the public.

Having worked under the new rules for about sixteen months, we can observe that the public has reacted with the deepest calm.

The sky did not fall in.

In fact, it might be said that the sky looked more like falling in when the pressure cooker was applied to prevent parties from publicly disagreeing.

In voting for MMP and then voting for coalitions, the public wanted parties to be able to promote their own policies with integrity.

It is inevitable that when two or more parties govern together, they will have different policies.

(Otherwise, they would be the same party).

But that fact alone does not have to undermine government.

It enriches it.

There is hardly a single day when the Alliance and Labour do not have a different starting point on a policy question before the Government.

That is good, because it means that all sides of a question can be explored and arguments get strongly tested.

But it hasn't meant that coalition parties have had to fight for their respective corners across the front page of the newspapers.

On the other hand, it is universally acknowledged that we do have different policies, and that both parties have a responsibility to rehearse those policies.

Both coalition partners in this government recognise the importance of that, and that is why we have taken a relaxed attitude to the fact of disagreement.

I think that historians of New Zealand's constitutional change will record the Alliance's contribution to this Cabinet Manual.

That contribution has been that our conventions must recognise difference, as well as collective responsibility.

It is hard old dogs to learn new tricks, and it has been hard for our old First Past the Post institutions to learn some new tricks under MMP.

When Chou En-lai was asked if he thought the French Revolution had been successful, he replied that it was too early to say.

I risk speaking a few centuries too soon, therefore, if I suggest that we have found some magic answer.

We are still learning to make party difference and stable government work.

The test will not only be the successful completion of a stable government for this term of office.

The test will be whether the approach we have taken is also adopted by other governments in future.

I am confident that it will.

I believe we have pioneered something that will last.

I would like to pay tribute to the Cabinet office staff who have spent hours and contributed their official wisdom in compiling this Manual

And I would like to end by paying tribute to our coalition partners for having the courage to make changes to the way government works.


…Ends


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Suffrage 125: NZ A Trailblazer For Women

“We acknowledge the work of Kate Sheppard, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, and all of the suffragists who tirelessly campaigned for the vote. We also acknowledge the men who supported the cause and voted for the Bill to pass.

“Today we also need to ask each other: how we can continue to make our country a fairer and better place to continue the legacy of the suffragists.

“Aotearoa New Zealand has a female Prime Minister, we have women in cabinet. And I’m here as Acting Minister because the Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter is on maternity leave. New Zealand is a good place to be a woman!” More>>

 
 

'Post-Settlement Era': Māori Crown Agency To Be Established

Cabinet has approved the final scope of the Māori Crown portfolio and agreed to establish an agency to oversee Government’s work with Māori in a post-settlement era, announced Crown/ Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Our Military Roles In Iraq & Afghanistan

The politics of the deployment extension have degenerated into a slanging match about whether the previous National government was right or wrong to make the initial commitment to Iraq – and whether the extension is a responsible thing given our joint training role in Iraq with Australia, or is hypocritical in the light of prior statements made by a previous Labour leader... More>>

ALSO:

Commissioner To Be Appointed: Govt To Dismiss Board Of Whitireia And WelTec

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has made a preliminary decision to appoint a Commissioner to Whitireia and WelTec to address the two polytechnics’ financial woes. More>>

ALSO:

Open Government Action Plan: Government To Proactively Release Cabinet Papers

The Cabinet papers will be released no later than 30 business days after a Cabinet decision. This process will be in place for Cabinet papers lodged from 1 January 2019... More>>

ALSO:

NZ Initiative: Evidence Of "Huge" Government Waste

It is not so much that spending is being literally wasted. Rather the best performing countries are achieving much better outcomes relative to their spending. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Ardern Pep Talk

The intolerance being shown as the coalition process unfolds in New Zealand betrays our depressing appetite for a tidily totalitarian style of government where everyone is expected to march in lockstep. More>>

ALSO:

Last Two: All Charter Schools To Join State System

The decisions on Tūranga Tangata Rite in Gisborne and Waatea School in Auckland mean that all 12 charter schools that applied to become designated character or state integrated schools have now been approved. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels