I’ll say this for Key’s media people, they’re masters of the undersell when it comes to the insubstantial. And they know the media love to be surprised. John Armstrong gushed “Key has displayed all the sentiment of a corporate restructurer. So ministers are given the chance to perform. If they do not they are out. Simple as that.” But how ‘ruthless’ was Key really in the reshuffle? Two mediocre ministers with little political clout got the chop, but the real under-performers were too powerful for Key to touch.
Take, for example, the austerity-leading Finance Minister who was caught out lining his own pockets in the Double Dipton affair. Did Bill English get the boot due to the fact he is running one of the most under-performing economies in the developed world, one which is experiencing rising unemployment while it is falling elsewhere? Fuck no.
Steven Joyce, does he get the sack given that his economic development agenda (dig up oil, build a convention centre, seize Canterbury’s water) is falling apart, with only the last leg succeeding, and only because they won’t let Cantabrians vote for their own council. Again, unemployment is rising, the economy is under-performing relative to the other developed countries – look at the stats and we have more in common with the PIIGS or the UK (now entering its triple dip of recession) than strongly performing countries like Germany, Australia, and even the US. Instead, Key calls this perennial failure his Mr Fix It (interesting that he’s been given the job of ‘sorting out’ Novopay just as the largest problems are being solved, Camp Collins won’t be pleased).
Gerry Brownlee has made enemies everywhere in Christchurch through an abrasive attitude that takes every complaint or suggestion as a personal insult, to which he replies in kind. If there were any other senior Nats in our formerly second largest city, Brownlee never would have got the job. But he’ll keep it.
Judith Collins has overseen a dysfunctional culture of privacy invasion in ACC and, in an effort to cover her arse she has taken out everyone else int he vicinity from Nick Smith to various board members and the CEO. Certainly, she’s done worse than the quite little workhorse that was Heatley. But she keeps her jobs.
Hekia Parata. Enough said. You can’t claim to be making competence a test of continuing to hold a ministerial warrant and leave Parata on as minister of education.
Paula Bennett. It’s not so much that the number of people on the unemployment benefit has increased 150% under her watch. Or that her gimmicks, such as boot camps, have been abject failures. Or that, as a former solo mum on the DPB, she has chosen the moment of the worst economic crisis in a generation to beat up on women like she used to be. It’s the growing disparity between the number of unemployed and those getting unemployment assistance. Something very disturbing is happening almost unseen as Unemployment Benefit and DPB numbers fall while the number of people out of work rises – what is happening to the people who are out of work who aren’t getting help? Does Bennett even know?
Murray McCully made Mfat, the unleakable organisation, leak, and then his reforms fell over. That’s incompetence, pure and simple. He keeps his job.
Anne Tolley. You wouldn’t trust her to do the dishes. She’s just been lucky nothing’s blown up in Police yet.
Craig Foss. Somehow keeps his job despite being directly responsible for Novopay.
Maurice Williamson. It’s not that he’s done anything really wrong (well, not that we know about, yet), it’s just that you can’t say you’re rejuvenating when Williamson, who was first a minister in 1990 and was the architect of the leaky building disaster, is still in your ministry.
John Banks. The very name makes a mockery of the notion that Key has set accountability standards.
And what about the Minister for GCSB that is asleep at the wheel? Or the Minister of Tourism who holidays overseas for a month each year while the industry here is in steep decline? Yes, that failure keeps his jobs too.
The truth is, this had nothing to do with accountability or standards. Key wanted to get two new young, attractive faces into Cabinet, so he ditched the two that were easiest to ditch. It’s ruthless, perhaps, but it’s not about principles or competence.