Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

Dunne Speaks

It is often said that no government can legislate for commonsense. And it is also often said that the first thing every new Minister should do upon appointment is read and comprehend the provisions of the Cabinet Manual. Both statements are particularly apt in the case of Defence Minister Ron Mark.

The Cabinet Manual is the primary authority on the conduct of Cabinet government in New Zealand, and its confirmation and endorsement is always the first item of business considered by any new Cabinet upon taking office. It covers the full spectrum of Cabinet functions, including spelling out the roles and powers of Ministers, and their financial responsibilities and legal obligations. It also offers guidance as to how they should conduct themselves in carrying out their official duties and the management of any potential conflicts of interest.

In particular, the Cabinet Manual notes that, "... at all times, Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional." Elsewhere it notes that, "...In all areas of their work ... Ministers represent and implement government policy." Thus the scope for individual Ministerial action, particularly of the capricious kind, without the authority of the Cabinet, is constrained.

Now, there is an inevitable tension between the role as a Minister in the government, and the role as an individual Member of Parliament representing a political party. In these days of multiparty government, there will be times when the policy of an individual's party may not necessarily be the agreed policy of the government. These situations require a certain subtlety of judgement, something clearly lacking in the case of Mr Mark.

As a coalition partner, he is obliged to show clear support at all times for the collective government position, and in the words of the Cabinet Manual "... show careful judgement when referring to party policy that differs from government policy." Interestingly, a confidence and supply partner (like the Greens) are bound by a lesser standard being bound by collective responsibility only in relation to the particular portfolios they may hold, or when representing the government outside New Zealand.

Mr Mark's speech to veterans, apparently linking continued funding to political support for his party clearly did not breach the Cabinet Manual standard of acting lawfully. However, whether the essential crudity of his message that veterans and defence personnel should be voting New Zealand First "or else" met the "highest ethical standards" test and demonstrated "a professional approach and good judgement" is an entirely separate matter.

It may be easy and tempting to dismiss this incident as just another example of the immature strutting bluster and swagger that generally accompanies this Minister's behaviour, but that is no real defence. Any Minister, should, by virtue of the office they hold and their consequent seniority in the political process, know and act better, particularly after almost 20 years as a Member of Parliament, as in Mr Mark's case.

The more worrying aspect is that after almost eighteen months in the job he does not to have learnt the constraints that go with it. This is not to say that Ministers should be muzzled from making partisan political speeches - far from it, they are politicians after all, with a right to promote their re-election - but that they need to act with a dignity and decorum that was lacking on this occasion.

It all comes down to, as former Speaker Margaret Wilson once declaimed, a question of "hats" and people making it clear which hat they were wearing on a given occasion. Had Mr Mark been making his speech as a New Zealand First MP, and not as the responsible Minister, it probably would have no raised no eyebrows, which is where the good judgement question arises.

Yes, Ministers like the trappings of office and they way they are deferred to. They often make the mistake of assuming that gives their pronouncements a greater than normal authority, but there also times when Ministers need to become mere mortals again and make it clear when they are not speaking in a Ministerial role to meet the standards of the Cabinet Manual. The worry here is that even at this stage of his Ministerial career Mr Mark seems unwilling or unable to make and comprehend the distinction.

Mr Mark can feel relieved on one point though. The Cabinet Manual also makes it clear that, "Ultimately Ministers are responsible to the Prime Minister for their behaviour." As the Prime Minister has consistently shown in the case of the serially errant Mr Jones, that means no substantive action will be taken, so long as the Minister is from New Zealand First.


ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Covid-19: Dissolution Of Parliament Delayed As Govt Hunts Source Of New infections


The dissolution of Parliament has been deferred by at a least a few days due to the new covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
This was in case Parliament had to be reconvened as more information came to light, Ardern said at a briefing on the three-day level 3 lockdown in Auckland and level 2 alert for the rest of the country.
A decision about the dissolution of Parliament and any flow on effects for the timing of the election would be considered on Monday, Ardern said... More>>

 

Government: Plan To Tackle Problem Plastics

Following the success of the phase out of single-use plastic shopping bags, the Government now has plans to phase out more single-use and problem plastics to reduce waste and protect the environment announced Associate Minister for the Environment ... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The New Lockdowns, Leadership And Lebanon

As Melbourne has shown, the webs of urban life overlap so extensively that community transmission can be very hard to trace, let alone control. Each of the family members in the South Auckland family at the centre of the current outbreak will have had ... More>>


ALSO:

National: Emma Mellow As Auckland Central Candidate

Tonight the National Party has selected Emma Mellow to stand in the Auckland Central electorate for the 2020 General Election. Emma Mellow replaces retiring MP Nikki Kaye who first won the seat from Labour in 2008. Emma leads a team of communications ... More>>

ALSO:

Travel: Update On New Zealand And The Cook Islands Bubble

The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Henry Puna have welcomed the completion of phase one in the establishment of a travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Island. More>>

Election 2020: Labour Launch

E ngā mana e ngā reo Ngāti whātua ngā mana whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau, e tika te kōrero Ehara taku toa he toa (taki tahi) he toa (taki tini) No rēira tātou e huihui mai nei, ka ‘Hoake tonu tātou’ Thank you for that welcome. And thank ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Political Twins, And On Labour Extending Its Wage Subsidy Scheme

A quick quiz for the weekend. Which political party currently represented in Parliament issued a press release yesterday that contained these stirring passages: “[We have] long supported a free trade and free movement area between Canada, Australia, New ... More>>

ALSO:


Covid-19: Poll On Management Approval

New Zealanders’ overall trust in the Ministry of Health and Government to manage the COVID-19 pandemic is at 82%, down from 91% during April. Overall distrust that the Ministry and Government will manage it in ways which best protect themselves More>>

Election 2020: National Releases 2020 Party List

National’s 2020 Party List is a strong mix of experience coming up through our Caucus, and new and exciting talent joining our team from communities across New Zealand, Party President Peter Goodfellow says. “The National Party is incredibly ... More>>

Horizon Research Limited: How Judith Collins Stopped The Bleeding

Horizon Research includes questions on voting from time to time in its surveys – for both forthcoming referenda and general elections. More>>

Your Vote 2020: Bringing Election Coverage To Viewers Across TVNZ Channels And Platforms

As New Zealand gets ready to head to the ballot box this September, 1 NEWS is bringing voters comprehensive coverage and analysis of this year’s General Election. TVNZ’s coverage will draw on the depth of experience held across the 1 NEWS team, says Graeme ... More>>

Economy: 30% Believe Households Worse Off, 298,000 Expect To Lose Jobs

64% of New Zealanders feel the economic position of their households is the same or better than a year ago – and 30% think it is worse or much worse, while 298,000 think they will lose their jobs in the next 12 months. Households’ perceptions ... More>>

State Services Commission: Findings Of Investigation Into COVID-19 Active Cases Privacy Breach

Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter has today announced the findings of an investigation into a breach of privacy regarding sensitive personal information. The investigation looked into who or what caused the disclosure of the information, ... More>>

International Security: New Zealand Suspends Extradition Treaty With Hong Kong

The New Zealand Government has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and made a number of other changes in light of China’s decision to pass a national security law for Hong Kong, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says. More>>

ALSO:


 
 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 


 

InfoPages News Channels