The Cabinet Reshuffle

Written By: - Date published: 10:25 am, February 1st, 2023 - 22 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, Carmel Sepuloni, chris hipkins, david parker, grant robertson, Kelvin Davis, labour, Nanaia Mahuta - Tags:

Chris Hipkins has announced his cabinet reshuffle and there have been some dramatic changes.

Here is the list showing changes in ranking.

Hipkins 4
Sepuloni 4
Davis 0
Robertson -2
Woods -1
Tinetti 9
Wood 9
Verrall 11
Jackson 5
Allan 6
Nash 1
O’Connor -1
Little -6
Parker -6
Henare -2
Mahuta -7
Radhakrishnan 3
McAnulty New
Andersen New
Edmonds New

Biggest losers are Andrew Little and Nanaia Mahuta and David Parker.

Little has had a huge workload in Health not only overseeing what is probably the most complex portfolio but also dealing with a large reorganisation, possibly the most radical ever seen.

He does not suffer fools and it could be argued that a more nuanced response to issues is politically best.

And there have been lots of stupid attacks.  Like Dunedin City Council getting up in arms because a cost explosion has forced the Government to trim design plans for the new Dunedin Hospital.

From RNZ:

Dunedin City Council will consider paying up to $130,400 to fight changes to the city’s new hospital that would see fewer beds, operating theatres and MRI units available when it opens.

Last month, the government announced an additional $110 million after project costs ballooned by $200m, with the remaining $90m shortfall being met through design changes.

When it opens there will be 398 beds, not 410 as first planned, 26 operating theatres instead of 28 and two MRI units instead of three.

But there is space for all these facilities to meet the original plan in the future.

The capacity will still be there but will be staged.  Delivering not quite the same because of extreme cost pressures is the sort of thing you would expect a fiscally responsible Government to do.

Nanaia Mahuta has also suffered from a demotion.  Media has noted that she has been “stripped” of her Local Government portfolio but it is a huge portfolio, as is Foreign Affairs, and to expect someone to handle both was always a huge ask.  I am pleased that she continues to be our Foreign Minister and I believe she has displayed a very deft handling of issues.

David Parker has also been moved down the rankings.  Once the RMA reforms are finished I wonder what his intentions are?  Policy wise he has been on of the heavy lifters in Cabinet.

The side movements allow for the Health Reforms and Three Waters to have a significant review and this may have been the intention.

Chris Hipkins has certainly shown that he intends to exert control over the Government’s future.

Following on from two good polls I suspect that these changes will also be electorally beneficial.

22 comments on “The Cabinet Reshuffle ”

  1. Incognito 1

    @ MickySavage: I have turned on comments.

  2. Stephen D 2

    It's a canny selection.

    Rewarding new blood for work done in select committee. Promoting proven performers, and making room for others.

  3. James Simpson 3

    The rankings are largely meaningless but I do wonder why Mahuta and Little have dropped by 7 and 6 places respectively.

    But overall a good reshuffle. Health and 3 waters are two of those issues that were beginning to bog the government so some fresh leadership is certainly a good thing and I think you will see a further bounce.

  4. Peter 4

    The words 'winners' and 'losers' figures in so much of the Cabinet reshuffle talk. I think it's a lowest common denominator, simplistic, trite perspective. It's valid though because that's the way politics operates here. It's a frame for journalists to hang their stories on, it has become the frame of our perspectives. It's another part of the navel gazing way things are.

    If you were Minister of Underwater Marbles and had that job taken from you and you were made Minister of Underwater Hockey and moved from 49th ranked to 51st ranked, are you a winner or a loser?

    Do you get less pay? Did you get a better car to be driven in? Do you get to be called "Ma'am" or "Sir" more often. If what you've been appointed to is so unimportant you're a loser, why is it a job at all?

    In a rugby or football sense which players are less important? "You're a loser because you're only a wing. If you were a winner you'd be centre forward or in rugby the halfback."

    • observer 4.1

      Agree 100%. It's meaningless in government, and even more so in opposition, where it's not even a real job. But the opp spokesperson on marbles/hockey still has to be ranked. Why?

      Worse, the press gallery seem to care and think that we care. I've met (e.g.) teachers who certainly care who is Minister of Education and what they're doing, but I've never met a single one who got excited because that Minister was now up to 8 from 10.

      It's BS.

  5. Ad 5

    I'm having grudging admiration for Prime Minister Hipkins already.

    The speed of rollout tells me he has had his preferred Cabinet in mind for quite some time, should he ever get the shot at Number 1.

    He has totally monstered the media cycle and looks set to do so for weeks. The upcoming Australian visit is also smart.

    Verrall at Health means she can bring out her list of all bureaucrats who ever wronged her over 20 years in the service. She knows all their processes, and all the limits to their delegations.

    Woods with the Auckland portfolio is just a piece of magic against Mayor Brown. Our medium-term black-wite advertisement for competent governance. My concern is that Transport as a portfolio is getting out of control and he's very distracted.

    Surprised more of the load hasn't come off Woods. She and Hipkins will need to press on with the NZBattery preferred decision soon or the risk of National getting in and killing it will get very high – after which point NZSuper can come in and pretend Taranaki Bight wind farms can replace it. Nor is Kainga Ora development arm under any control either.

    Weird that Parker is demoted but still holds onto Revenue. Give it up already. Edmonds or Russell need more to cut their teeth on. Also either of those two need to be groomed as new AG or Minister of Finance.

  6. Incognito 6

    Moving the right people in place for a tough election campaign whilst providing strong governance/leadership (without screw-ups!) and giving a few newbies a go, with appropriate mentorship, no doubt, to test them out and make them hungry enough for more. The move suggests a clear vision for the present and the (near) future. So far, a very united team despite some suggestions by some of internal fights in the Party especially with the Māori caucus. Good!

  7. gsays 7

    Well, more than one nurse is hoping third time lucky with the new minister.

    I still can not understand the resistance from Little to one, settling the wage round and two, the pay parity claim. There isn't a downside.

    • I agree that the ongoing unrest about the nurses pay seems to be entirely inexplicable – both from a fairness and a PR perspective.

      Look forward to Verrall cutting the Gordian knot – and just getting on with it.

      It would have to be one of the most popular government spending decisions out there.

    • Craig H 7.2

      My guess is cost and implications for wages for the rest of the public sector, especially elsewhere in Health, Education and Police. That said, I think they should accept that paying more is necessary to actually get stuff done.

  8. Woods seems to have a huge workload – picking up Infrastructure in addition to her already monster portfolios of Housing, Energy and Building. She's also Campaign manager – which is another very significant hat to be wearing.

    • Personally I think Chris is looking to Megan to do his past role. The "go to" Minister to sort problems.

      This refresh brings the average age down, and creates connections.

      Parker and Little's peers have mainly retired.

      Nanaia Mahuta needs a rest from the nasty attacks and will be given other policy to work on, plus her role as Minister of Foreign Affairs could become far meatier with Pacific Asian tensions.

      Working with Tainui is a great Diplomatic training ground.

      • Belladonna 8.1.1

        I agree that Woods is the 'go-to-girl' of the new cabinet – but it's a really heavy workload.

        Sepuloni has associate Foreign Minister with Pacific responsibilities – so I expect that we'll be seeing more of her in relationship-building across the Pacific.

        Which would leave Mahuta for the long-haul heavy lifting. I note that she's just about to leave for India.

        I'd be really surprised if Hipkins uses her to front any other policy areas – he's got to be wary of the fact that she's been front-and-centre of all of the brouhaha around 3 waters – and the associated poor communication. Not to say she won't be working behind the scenes – but I'd be surprised if there are any other ministerial roles.

    • SPC 8.2

      There is nothing wrong with that, but usually there is an associate and under secretary trainee working with them under oversight.

      • Belladonna 8.2.1

        Woods has an associate Housing minister (Barbara Edmonds) – but doesn't appear to have an associate in any of her other ministerial roles. She's also associate minister of Finance.

        I'm not saying there is anything 'wrong' with it, per se. But it's a huge workload for any Minister to carry. And, bringing on a new Associate Minister (new to cabinet), is a workload in itself.

        • SPC

          The usual ("Westminster") practice is to bring in newbies as under Secretaries, then next step is to Associate Minister in that area.

          Housing and Building, Energy and Infrastructure are two jobs. She should have associates in each and an under secretary in all 4 areas.

          Twyford and Parker would be ideal (short term).

          • Belladonna

            Given that neither Twyford nor Parker has been appointed – I'd think it's highly unlikely that they would be, retrospectively. Twyford just seems to be unsuited to Ministerial responsibility.

            And Woods doesn't seem to have (or at least I haven't found) any Associate Minister apart from Edmonds. [Well, also Marama Davidson as Associate Minister for Housing (Homelessness) – who appears to be entirely invisible in this portfolio]

            I don't think you can automatically assume that Housing and Building are a single job – until the middle of last year, Poto Williams was Minister of Building – Woods only took it over in June; whereas she's been Minister for Housing since 2019. Woods has been Minister of Energy since 2017 – but has only just picked up Infrastructure in this re-shuffle. So those aren't the same job, either.

            Jo Luxton seems to be the only listed Parliamentary Under-Secretary (for Agriculture and Education) – so Labour don't seem to be appointing these, widely, either.


            • SPC

              The Westminster tradition exists for a reason – to develop competence. For example, before the neo-liberal era ministries developed their leadership internally, rather than hiring in managers from the private sector and outsourcing by contract historic functions. Competence was king. Not now.

              Sure there are 4 separate ministry roles – my point is that the 4 would usually be seen as enough for 2 Ministers.

              The lack of under-secretary development in a caucus that large is surprising. It would improve their capacity to perform on the Select Committees.

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