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Cunliffe makes space for the Greens

Written By: - Date published: 7:49 am, September 24th, 2013 - 57 comments
Categories: greens, labour - Tags:

The cleverness of David Cunliffe’s reshuffle extends beyond how he has united Labour by keeping worthy MPs who opposed him in senior positions while demoting no-hopers like Curran. He’s also left space for the Greens to move into both in opposition and in government. That acknowledges the reality that Labour and the Greens need each other.

Economic Development: yes, Shane Jones showed he can crack out a good line or two (at about the rate he cracks out bad ones, in fact) but no-one’s under any illusions that he’ll do the necessary hard work as Economic Development spokesperson, let alone as Economic Development Minister. There space, then, for Russel Norman. He’s not going to be Finance Minister but he’s going to have enough bargaining power to demand nothing less than a senior economic role – economic development is the obvious answer, and Jones wouldn’t kick up a fuss.

Health: Annette King will almost certainly retire at the next election. Kevin Hague is a steady, if uninspiring, pair of hands with direct experience and expertise in managing the health system. Labour would happily have him as their own MP. He is a natural choice for health who won’t give Labour any headaches and will keep a lid on a difficult portfolio just like Ryall has.

Energy: David Shearer is going to be Foreign Affairs Minister. He obviously can’t then keep his new energy portfolio in government. That leaves energy for the Greens, too. I don’t see the current energy spokesperson, Gareth Hughes, as minister material. Maybe Norman would take it or Kennedy Graham.

Climate change: Moana Mackey or Kennedy Graham. It’s not much of a choice, eh? Graham would be a safe pair of hands and isn’t radical enough to scare Labour or worry them.

Conservation: Ruth Dyson is probably going to retire. Conservation is a natural Greens portfolio. Eugenie Sage is the spokesperson and would be an unspectacular, low-risk minister.

Transport: it stands out like a sore thumb in Cunliffe’s reshuffle. This $3 billion a year portfolio, which is held by National’s number 3, going to the heavily demoted Darien Fenton at number 25. The Greens’ spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter, is Parliament’s only transport expert and wipes the floor with Brownlee. Labour is very close to the Greens on transport policy but doesn’t want to burn a lot of political capital on cancelling National’s stupid motorways. They’ll be happy to let the Greens do the heavy lifting there.

That’s five Green ministers, maybe four of them in Cabinet. They would probably aim for seven ministers, five in cabinet based on current polling. So, there’s room for a bit of bargaining there, too.

You’ll notice that I haven’t suggested a portfolio for Metiria Turei. Two reasons: the portfolios she would be after are held by strong Labour MPs and there’s a school of thought that says the Greens would be smart to keep one of their co-leaders out of government, to maintain a separate identity from Labour. Or she might go for something like housing.

At the same time, by strengthening his line-up on finance, jobs,education, and work rights, Cunliffe is signalling the areas that are going to be home territory for Labour. He’s neatly giving the Greens space in areas where their people and their policies are competent and trustworthy while cementing Labour in the areas it will need to dominate to win back the non-vote and the aspirational working class who went to National.

57 comments on “Cunliffe makes space for the Greens”

  1. George D 1

    That may well be. I’ll deal with some assumptions in the next comment.

    Cunliffe’s very strong approach to the economic portfolios is a sign that for the next year he wants to shut down Russel Norman, who has been taking Labour’s oxygen in the media and thus in the minds of the public. It’s absolutely what I’d do if I was a Labour leader, but the Greens will need to work twice as hard to maintain and grow their vote in the next few months, so they can ensure they have their brand of decision making strongly represented at the Cabinet table.

  2. Chooky 2

    Interestng Post …thanks….Labour must be generous to the Greens.

    Many former Labour Party activists are now Greens and Green issues are of growing national and international importance …as well they have some very able MPs

  3. tracey 3

    Was there an election????

  4. George D 4

    Jones wouldn’t kick up a fuss. [about losing ED]
    That’s not the impression I get. Expect a fight here. There are no economic portfolios Labour can give without demoting and disappointing capable performers who rightly feel they have the talent to hold them.

    Annette King will almost certainly retire at the next election.
    I’ve heard conflicting statements from Labour people about this. I’m not as sure as you are. If so Hague would be a natural to take it. A better decision would have been to hand it to Iain LG to make something of.

    I don’t see the current energy spokesperson, Gareth Hughes, as minister material.
    He’s aiming for it, and his party would support him. If energy was in play, it wouldn’t go to Graham over Hughes.


    You’ll notice that I haven’t suggested a portfolio for Metiria Turei. Two reasons: the portfolios she would be after are held by strong Labour MPs and there’s a school of thought that says the Greens would be smart to keep one of their co-leaders out of government, to maintain a separate identity from Labour. Or she might go for something like housing.

    Metiria wants to be in Government as much as any of the MPs. And because Government in NZ is exactly equal to Cabinet, that means a Ministerial position. There is a conflict here, and it will have to be resolved. Twyford is extremely capable and would be an excellent minister of housing.


    Graham would be a safe pair of hands and isn’t radical enough to scare Labour or worry them.

    I’d say Graham would be equally likely to be given Associate Foreign Affairs, to allow Labour to give climate change to Norman or Turei. Graham is trusted, and thus is viewed as a capable deputy.


    Conservation is a natural Greens portfolio. Eugenie Sage is the spokesperson and would be an unspectacular, low-risk minister.

    Most likely presumption.

    Julie Anne Genter, is Parliament’s only transport expert and wipes the floor with Brownlee.
    Taking Twyford off the portfolio means the Parliamentary tag team has been reduced to one, so this holds.

    If it’s 33-16 things will look very different than if they’re 37-12. The Greens don’t have any room for complacency.

    • George D 4.1

      Twyford is extremely capable and would be an excellent minister of housing – particularly because housing is huge. Housing is the number one issue in Auckland, and the next election will be won or lost in Auckland (which will have 1-2, possibly 3 new electorates). Metiria needs to step up on this issue, and quickly – without her support MP on this, Holly Walker (sidelined by maternity), she can’t get as much done.

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      If it’s 33-16 things will look very different than if they’re 37-12. The Greens don’t have any room for complacency.

      Spot on.

      But the most interesting combination is one that you did not mention…37-16 :D

  5. “demoting no-hopers like Curran”

    Ouch! I approve.

  6. Puckish Rogue 6

    He’s not going to be Finance Minister (hes not because Nationals going win the next eletion but I’ll let that pass)

    – Thank goodness for that

    Kevin Hague is a steady, if uninspiring, pair of hands with direct experience and expertise in managing the health system

    – Sounds exactly what a health minister should be

    Kennedy Graham

    – Good man

    Eugenie Sage

    – Looks like Velma Dinkley (hopefully has the same common sense and brains)

    So what happened to the annointed one? ie Jacinda Ardern, is she really the best choice for police and corrections?

    Metiria “I want to see kiwis lose value in their homes” Turei for housing would be…interesting (I’d suggest not mentioning that in the election campaign)

    I don’t see the current energy spokesperson, Gareth Hughes, as minister material

    – No neither do I but maybe Clint does? Does clint ever post here…

    [lprent: I assume that is a rhetorical question bearing in mind that he was one of our mainstays as Steve Pierson a number of years ago. Read the posts, the about to find out who we let post here and the policy to find out what I do to people who waste my moderating time.. Don’t be a lazy commenter. ]

    • It continues to show how out of touch National and their hard core supporters are that they hear “let first-time buyers afford homes” and immediately start shedding tears for the poor, poor property investors who can afford multiple properties.

      If housing prices around the board go down, then it doesn’t matter if your family home sells for less when you want to move, because it will cost you less to get a new one. Literally the only people who lose out are people renting properties, who quite frankly have it very sweet at the moment in New Zealand.

  7. bad12 7

    i don’t want to speculate on who would get what portfolio after the November election as there are still the variables of the Mana Party and NZfirst which may or may not become factors of consideration,

    One scenario is that NZFirst does not regain the 5% party vote thresh-hold and is not in the 2014 Parliament,

    Another, the Mana Party gains 2 more MP’s from 2014,

    Depending on it’s strength after November 2014 the Green Party may be in a position to gain one of the big portfolios such as Social Development,

    In no particular order of importance i would see the Green Party to be interested in these Cabinet positions,

    *Conservation,
    *Climate Change,
    *Transport’
    *Social development,
    *Economic Development,
    *Housing,

    i cannot imagine either of the Green Party’s leaders not becoming a Minister in a Labour/Green Government…

    • Pasupial 7.1

      In particular order of precedence, the top four listed Green MPs are spokespersons for:

      1 Turei; Social Equity, Education, Māori Affairs.
      2 Norman; Environment and Economics.
      3 Hague; Health, ACC, Cycling, Rainbow Issues, Sport & Recreation, Alcohol & Other Drugs, Older persons.
      4 Delahunty; Environment (Mining, Toxics), Treaty of Waitangi.

      https://www.greens.org.nz/people

      The 2011 list continues: 5 Graham, 6 Sage, 7 Hughes, 8 Clendon, 9 Logie, 10 Browning, 11 Roche, 12 Walker, 13 Genter, 14 Mathers.

      By 2014, I’d expect these list rankings to have shifted a bit – mainly Genter being higher, and Clendon being lower (I’m a Green party member who follows politics when I’ve time and I’d honestly never heard of him till I just now typed out that list), plus a few extras at the tail end.

      I agree with Bad12 that I “cannot imagine either of the Green Party’s leaders not becoming a Minister in a Labour/Green Government”.

      If Labour want to keep Norman away from finance (though he should at least get some associateship), then giving him Environment would seem to be the best option. I’m assuming that Māori Affairs will be the bargaining chip for either Harawira or Flavell (depending on whose party gets the most seats – I’m guessing Mana). So that leaves Social Equity or Education, for Turei – and given her long advocacy for the poor, I’d pick her for Social Equity by preference.

      It’d be sensible for Labour to use the other high-ranked Greens in the ministerial positions they’d prepared for as spokespeople (particularly Genter in transport), but I imagine that’ll come down to post-election negotiations. I’ve speculated enough for one comment already.

      • Bunji 7.1.1

        Labour will want to keep Maori affairs (w Shane Jones) – they wouldn’t give that away (Assoc, but not main portfolio).

        Also they’ll want to keep Housing – they want to make that a defining portfolio for their next term in government. They’re not going to have another party implementing Kiwibuild.

        Norman seems a fit for Econ Development – they can find other roles for Jones.

        If Greens get enough seats I can see Turei being Deputy PM to make up for Norman having the big portfolio (Econ Dev). Gives the male-female combo on PM-Deputy too.

        But I like the idea of keeping one leader out of government so they can keep themselves defined. Don’t know if it’ll happen but it’s got a lot of plus-points, with minor parties often being damaged by going into coalition.

  8. yeshe 8

    So who is Attorney General in any of these scenarios ? We lost our best when Charles Chauvel left for UN ..

    Then who ? Is this a possible role for Metiria Turei, or just too dry for her many capabilities ?

  9. andyS 9

    The Green/Labour alliance didn’t work out that well in Australia

  10. Nate 10

    Gareth Hughes really should be getting ICT. He is amazing and extremely knowledgeable about this area.

  11. The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 11

    Oooh. How clever.

  12. Comrade Coba 12

    Looks a pretty good reshuffle to me, scope for the Greens which is heartening. Big loser was Phil Tyford who has lost housing & has suffered for his attitude towards Cunliffe, I thought he was playing a dangerous game flanking Robertson on some of the hustings meetings. Also glad Ardern has been knocked down a peg or two, she now needs to preform. Moroney should add a bit of bite against Bennett. I like the idea Little gets his forte ‘Labour’ spokesmans role. Transport is interesting as it’s been passed around Jones-Tyford-Lee Galloway & now on to Fenton. She is a tireless worker & being Auckland based deserves the opportunity given she has lost Labour which she has been passionate about, so yip she will fire up against Brownlee not a problem, however needs to work & mentor Greens Genter, who Gerry got the better of her during oral question time last week.

  13. Richard29 13

    +1 to Metiria in Deputy PM – she would provide a good Robin to Cunliffes Batman. Plus complements him well in terms of Male/Female, Pakeha/Maori, Economic Focus/Social Focus.
    I could also see her picking up associate housing and assoc Maori affairs.

    But it’d all be heavily dependent on the Lab/Green coalition winning over sufficient numbers of the 800k non vote to govern alone. If they fail to make 50% and have to hobble together a deal with Winston then all bets are off…

    • bad12 13.1

      That’s not a bad point, perhaps there has been a lot more thought and forward planning gone into the make-up of a future Labour/Green Government by David Cunliffe than we have given Him credit for,

      David Parker as Minister of Finance would not be giving much away by relinquishing the Deputy PM’s role to Metiria or Russell…

  14. Rogue Trooper 14

    “How do you like them apples”.

  15. Rich 15

    Wasn’t Economic Development invented by the Clark government because she couldn’t get Treasury to do anything other than spout neo-liberal dogma. One might hope that a new government might require Treasury to provide policy advice in line with their general goals and beliefs, in which case there’s be little point in ED.

    • Murray Olsen 15.1

      That’s why it would fit in Sealord Jones’s capable hands so well.

    • srylands 15.2

      “One might hope that a new government might require Treasury to provide policy advice in line with their general goals and beliefs, in which case there’s be little point in ED.”

      I suggest you read the State Sector Act.

  16. A.Ziffel 16

    The fascinating presumption here is that the new leadership wants a coalition with the Greens.
    Clark said no.
    Goff said yes with ministerial appointments for the 2 co-leaders.
    Shearer said yes with a proportional cabinet.

    As yet, I’m unaware of any indication from Cunliffe on this topic.

    • Rogue Trooper 16.1

      “keep feelin’ fascination”

    • Lanthanide 16.2

      The new leadership wants to be in government. The only way that will happen is in a coalition with the Greens.

      The new leadership would probably prefer to get an absolute majority and not need any coalition partners, but not even Key managed that.

      • A.Ziffel 16.2.1

        Clark led a minority government for 3 terms without being in coalition with the Greens.

        • George D 16.2.1.1

          As far as I can tell, against the wishes of most of the membership.

          The proof was in the eating however. Look how coalitions with United Future and then New Zealand First hobbled their ability to enact a progressive agenda and then tainted them with the negativity Peters was able to generate. They couldn’t be their own party and they couldn’t bring a solid coherent progressive vision to the people. The public got tired, it all fell apart, and look where we are now…

          • handle 16.2.1.1.1

            Clark chose partners to the right because they would help drag votes off National and the Greens had nowhere else to go. We did not see much internal ideological tension over that decision.

        • Lanthanide 16.2.1.2

          Gosh, you’re right!

          Want to go back and look at the number of seats each party had in the house during that government?

          Then, once you’ve done that, come back and tell us about everything you’ve learned, and how next time you’ll try and make relevant comments!

          • George D 16.2.1.2.1

            Sure, as I’ve done many times before:

            In 2002, 52 Labour MPs were elected, Jim Anderton and Matt Robson were elected, and the Greens got 9 MPs. 61 MPs were needed to form a majority.

            In 2005, 50 Labour MPs were elected, Jim Anderton got elected, 6 Greens were elected, and 4 Maori Party MPs were elected. 61 MPs were needed to form a majority.

            Now, in either case, Government actions in the previous year had caused the loss of support from within and formation of new parties, and had created dynamics in which forming a coalition came at a cost to Labour. It meant that Labour would have had to do some things they weren’t comfortable with. So they took the other way out, and we have what we see today. You can argue the choices and that I’m deluded about their likelihood, but they did exist.

            ETA: I’m glad all of this is history.

          • A.Ziffel 16.2.1.2.2

            Apparently the juxtaposition of minority & coalition government was lost on you.

            Labour don’t necessarily have to be in coalition with the Greens to form a government.
            They do require support on confidence and supply.

            I don’t know whether the new Labour leadership wants a coalition, nor whether the Greens would support Labour without a coalition. But I certainly don’t see that a coalition is a prerequisite for the next “Labour-led government”.

  17. outofbed 17

    Cunliffe makes space for the Greens?

    The best way to do that is let the Greens have ago in Chch East with a sitting MP if they got elected the Greens get another list MP and there would be no National party Majority 61-61 eh?
    Just needs a cup of tea in some cafe in chch and is done and dusted

    Anyone know if the Greens are standing an MP or standing at all ?

    • bad12 17.1

      Lolz, i too used to think something along those lines, and have been corrected a couple of times both here at the Standard and by none other than the Electoral Commission,

      By-elections for some reason are First Past the Post affairs and whomever wins doesn’t have the ability to alter the proportionality of the list,

      So if Labour didn’t win the by-election they would be light one MP…

      • outofbed 17.1.1

        So what you are saying is that if a list member for the Greens wins a byelection The Greens list proportionality remains the same? even though he/ she is not a list member anymore?
        You would think there would be a vacancy on the list seat
        I agree labour would be light one seat but replaced by a greenie who therefore is a list mp and an electorate mp at the same time

        • bad12 17.1.1.1

          Yep, fortunately or unfortunately that is how the cookies are crumbled as far as by-elections go, they are run simply on FFP without any changes to list makeups even if proportionality would demand it,

          i made the mistake with the Ikaroa-Rawhiti one thinking Labour would be better to let the Mana Party win, lolz it doesn’t work that way…

          • Lightly 17.1.1.1.1

            No, the number of list MPs per party is fixed for the term and the number of electorate MPs a party has can change as a result of by-elections, meaning parties’ total number of MPs can change.

            If a list MP becomes an electorate MP, a new list MP comes in to maintain the party’s allocation of list MPs (remmber the ‘Tizard effect’ that kept sitting MP Phil Twyford from standing in Mt Albert?). So, a sitting Green MP winning a by-election would increase the number of Green MPs to 15. That was actually one of the Greens’ campaign messages in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti campaign.

            However, if Labour doesn’t win the seat, they go from having 34 MPs pre-Dalziels resignation to having 33 – their number of list MPs stays the same and their number of electorate MPs decreases by 1.

            It’s a zero-sum game for the Left.

    • George D 17.2

      The Greens are standing, they haven’t decided and declared a candidate yet. I believe it’s in a few days.

  18. outofbed 18

    I suppose for it to work they would have to resign their list seat

    • bad12 18.1

      We are being a bit naughty here taking the Post miles off of it’s topic, so my last comment, in a little email exchange i had with the Electoral Commission over the question of by-elections and their inability to alter the Proportionality of the Parliament the EC says while there is no specific Legislation which addresses this particular question they arrived at ‘doing it that way’ by their interpretation of the existing Legislation,

      My opinion: pretty shoddy Legislation…

  19. Anne 19

    I have been watching today’s question time and there is no doubt that the Labour caucus has found a new lease of life. I noted a sense of confidence and purpose in their questions and supplementary responses that hasn’t really been there since the 2008 election. Congratulations to David Cunliffe. I don’t know how he did it but morale seems to be high including among the now largely defunct ABC club.

    That spells hope for all the opposition parties too.

  20. Georgebolwing 20

    It works like this:

    a) Lianne Dalziel resigns from Parliament. Labour’s caucus is reduced to 33. National/ACT/United stays at 61; Greens stay at 14 (all list).

    b) Green list MP stands for bi-election and wins.

    c) Greens entitlement to list seats remains at 14, plus one electorate seat: total 15.

    d) next available person on green list offered vacant list place.

    e) National/ACT/United retain current majority. Labour caucus minus one, Green caucus plus one.

  21. Murray Olsen 21

    I’d like to see Hone Harawira as Minister of Police. It’s about time they had a minister who knows what they get up to and would rein them in. I can’t see much except business as usual with Jacinda Ardern.

  22. Sable 22

    Labour have no choice but to accommodate the Greens if they have a hope of forming a government. The Greens have been doing a lot of the hard work taking on Keys and they have most certainly earned their place at the table. Now its up to Labour to show they can do the said same.

  23. Tony 23

    Eddie says:

    “Annette King will almost certainly retire at the next election.”

    Annette has indicated she will run in 2014 so not sure where Eddie’s information is coming from!

    “Ruth Dyson is probably going to retire.”
    Again wrong. Ruth Dyson indicates she will probably stand again.

    Ross Robertson is going and possibly Trevor Mallard but not King and probably not Dyson.

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