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"Action Man" Finlayson Takes Trans Tasman’s Top Honour

Embargoed: 9am Monday December 3rd 2012

"Action Man" Finlayson Takes Trans Tasman’s Top Honour

Rises To The Top In Sea Of Mediocrity

The Trans Tasman Editors had a tough job with this year’s Roll Call (see attached PDF), now in its 8th year. To whom would the accolade “Politician of the Year” be awarded? It was a year where National and Labour stumbled along seemingly more intent on self harm than doing their jobs effectively. This meant Trans Tasman’s eight panellists found the task more difficult than usual, and their comments showed the way some of our MPs had made an impact in the past 12 months, not always good…

Of Chris Finlayson: “He’s a National Party Minister, he’s given away a national park to Maori, and no-one seems to mind much. That’s pretty good going.”

On Russel Norman: “He has kept the Greens up in the polls - higher now than on election night - widened the party’s policy platform far beyond “greenie” issues, outclassed David Shearer as an opposition leader and used the media far more effectively to push his party’s message. As John Key said “Russel Norman is eating David Shearer’s lunch.”

On John Banks: “He has overseen the complete destruction of a political party”

Louisa Wall was considered for “for getting more debate and air time over any single issue.”

And David Cunliffe entered the discussion after he “ensured his ambition and ego kept him in the headlines and Labour as a weakened political party.”

But when the votes were counted, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson’s outstanding work in pushing through Treaty of Waitangi settlement Bills and deals, and his growing reputation as a safe pair of hands got him the nod. His increasing stature as a politician and member of the inner circle was evident when John Key passed responsibility for the Department of Labour to him after Kate Wilkinson stepped down.
He was also charged with the role of informing the Pike River families of the outcome of the Royal Commission into the mining tragedy. He had been viewed as a back-room person, interested in the arts and on the fringe of the Government. He has now been pulled into a more overt political role, to go with his increasing confidence in the House.
As for others in Ministerial ranks, John Key and Bill English both slipped in what has been a poor year for the Key administration, as second term blues began to haunt it.

Last year’s Politician of the Year, Gerry Brownlee slipped from 9 out of 10 to 7.5 as the pressures of trying to rebuild Christchurch started to tell. He lost points for his lack of visibility in the Transport portfolio.

Hekia Parata has had an awful year. She falls from 6.5 to 2 out of 10 after a series of gaffes, and “it looks as though she has moved past the point of her competence in the education portfolio.”

Paula Bennett goes up, “greatly admired as the former beneficiary cracking down on welfare recipients.” Murray McCully’s role in the botched reform of MFAT, and his eye off the ball performance as the Govt’s “master political strategist” sees his score go from 8 to 6.5.

Kate Wilkinson’s bad year is recognised with a drop in her score from 4 to 3 and the comment “Key rated her highly when he appointed her - he might now be wishing he hadn’t.”

Of the Ministers outside Cabinet Chester Borrows is the pick, lifting his score from 6 to 6.5, and described as being “ready to step up the next level.”

Among the support party Ministers Peter Dunne rules the roost, boosting his score from 5 to 6.5. He “handled the pressure of being painted as the key vote in what is a knife edge Parliamentary majority.”

Also in the support party Minister’s category is this year’s low scorer, ACT’s John Banks. He rates 0 out of 10, for overseeing the utter destruction of ACT’s brand. “scandals and police investigations over donations have left his political reputation in tatters…essentially now National’s 60th MP and a lame duck one at that.”

Banks seemed incapable of learning the lessons taught him by his experience as Auckland’s Mayor and rather than entering this Parliament as a senior statesman full of experience and subtlety, he simply pushed the self destruct button.

Stepping across to Labour’s front bench, no-one has really covered themselves in glory. David Parker is one of the few who managed to lift his score, but it comes with barbs attached. “Should leave the wacky stuff to the Greens and assert himself in putting together some coherent economic policies.”

Another to boost his score was Trevor Mallard, from 5 to 5.5 - “As shadow leader of the House he has had a huge influence on the passage of legislation.”

Phil Goff’s statesmanlike performance and ability to play grown up politics, while the rest seem stuck in the 6th form common room, sees his score go from 6 to 6.5.

On the back benches Chris Hipkins and Darien Fenton boosted their scores, along with Clare Curran who gets marks for “visibility and indefatigability.” Kris Faafoi and Louisa Wall both pushed their scores in the right direction, while Ross Robertson gets points for his performance as Assistant Speaker, jumping from 3.5 to 5.

The Greens mostly held their ground. Co-leader Russel Norman holds onto his score of 8 from last year, gaining the respect of the panel for his work as what amounts to de-facto leader of the opposition. “Looks and sounds like the leader of a much larger, more mainstream party.”

The NZ First MPs all score less than 5, except leader Winston Peters, who picks up a 6 and “has shown Labour how to do opposition politics - snipe away, dig up scandal and snap at the heels of the Government at every opportunity.” Loses marks for not having a succession plan for the party, which remains a creature of his “albeit larger than life personality.”

As for the numbers, of National’s 59 MPs, 20 boosted their score, 18 went down, and 11 stayed the same. 29 of the 59 had scores of 5 or above. 10 MPs could not be compared with last year as they were new entrants.

In Labour’s ranks 9 MPs boosted their score, 12 went down and 8 stayed the same. 12 of 34 had scores of 5 or better. 5 new entrants could not be compared with last year.

Of the Maori Party’s three MPs, two went down, while one went up, all had scores over 5.

The Greens managed 2 higher scores, 2 lower scores, 3 stayed the same and just 2 rated 5 or better. 7 of their MPs were unable to be compared with last year.

For NZ First none of the 8 could be compared with last year and just one had a score better than 5.


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