Prime Minister John Key today announced a series of changes to the National-led Government’s Cabinet, refreshing a Ministerial team which is firmly focused on delivering results for New Zealanders.
Mr Key confirmed the Government’s nominee for Speaker to replace the departing Lockwood Smith will be long-serving National MP and Cabinet Minister David Carter.
“I’m pleased to announce David Carter as the Government’s nominee for Speaker and I’d like to thank him for his service as a Minister,” Mr Key says.
“I have taken the opportunity presented by the change of Speaker to look at the Cabinet line-up as a whole, in the context of the Government’s priorities.
“As we begin a new year I am optimistic about the progress we can make, while being mindful of the challenges created, in particular, by the uncertain international economic environment.
“New Zealanders expect their elected Government to get on, and not only do what it has promised to do, but to do so with a sense of urgency and purpose, with real energy and new thinking along the way.
“It is in this context I have decided to make changes to the Ministry.”
Two other Ministers will also be leaving Cabinet on 29 January - Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson.
“Phil and Kate have both made a real contribution to the Government in their four years as Ministers and I’d like to thank them for that,” Mr Key says.
“I have made the judgement that it is time for fresh energy and ideas, and for other members of our talented 59-strong caucus to be given an opportunity.”
Returning to Cabinet is Nick Smith, who will take on the Housing and Conservation portfolios. Mr Key says Dr Smith will bring his trademark energy to housing market and social housing issues, which are of real public interest.
“I have also asked Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to work with Nick as Associate Housing Minister, reflecting the strong links between these two areas. Tariana Turia will remain as Associate Minister and a part of that housing team.”
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye will be appointed to Cabinet where she will become Minister for Food Safety, Youth Affairs and Civil Defence. She will also be Associate Education Minister, reflecting her work as Chair of the Education select committee.
Senior Whip Michael Woodhouse will be the third new Minister, serving outside Cabinet as Immigration and Veterans Affairs’ Minister as well as Associate Transport Minister.
“I’d like to congratulate Nikki and Michael on their promotions, which are both well deserved,” Mr Key says.
The remaining position inside Cabinet will be filled by Simon Bridges, who will be promoted from outside Cabinet and take on the Labour and Energy and Resources portfolios.
“Simon has had a very good first year as a Minister and is ready to step up and take on more responsibility,” Mr Key says.
Nathan Guy will pick up the Primary Industries portfolio to be vacated by David Carter, with Jo Goodhew assisting him as Associate Minister.
Mr Key says Chris Tremain will be appointed as Local Government Minister and is well placed to work with the sector on the Government’s well-advanced reforms.
The elevation of Simon Bridges and Nikki Kaye to Cabinet was not expected or foreshadowed. Neither of the Ministers they replace (Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson) have had particularly stellar ministerial careers, with Ms Wilkinson resigning from the Labour portfolio in the wake of the Pike River Royal Commission's report. We wish both the new Ministers every success.
And although Hekia Parata has been spared the rope, John Key has acted to sort out one area of the education portfolio; read one:
Mr Key says he had also decided to make a change in relation to Novopay.
“I share the concerns of teachers and principals at continuing problems in the operation of Novopay, and fixing this as quickly as possible is a priority,” he says.
“A fresh set of eyes is needed and I have asked Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to take on this responsibility.”
The change will be done through a transfer of responsibility to Mr Joyce under section 7 of the Constitution Act.
“Getting Novopay working as it should may take some time, given what appears to be the systemic issues involved. I can assure teachers that we want to get Novopay sorted as soon as possible.
“With this change and Nikki Kaye’s appointment, there is no need for Mr Foss to remain as Associate Education Minister. I have instead asked him to pick up the role of Minister of Consumer Affairs, which will link in with his existing responsibilities as Commerce.
The appointment of Steven Joyce with a brief to sort out Novopay is a sensible one. As a senior Minister he carries far more clout than Craig Foss, and on that basis is more likely to be able to get the Novopay mess sorted sooner rather than later.
And Hekia Parata should perhaps be treating herself to a Lotto ticket today. Quite why she continues to enjoy John Key's confidence is known only to him, but she will need to show a major improvement in her leadership of the Education portfolio if she is to have any chance of redemption. At the moment, we would rate her chances of redemption as only just above those of Lance Armstrong. The one thing in her favour is that she has Mr Joyce watching over her shoulder.
Footnote: The full list of Ministers and their rankings can be viewed here.