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What will National’s cabinet look like?

Written By: - Date published: 10:55 am, November 11th, 2008 - 58 comments
Categories: national - Tags:

Will it be the same tired old faces, the fresh noobs or a mixture of both? Will it be an all National cabinet or will Peter “marginal seat” Dunne secure himself a place at the grown-ups table? Here’s a few off the top of my head:

Bill English – Deputy leader and Finance
Obvious really but given his position on Kiwibank, Kiwisaver and his general predilection toward “window dressing” he’ll be hard for Key to keep under control. The last time he was cabinet we saw benefits, pensions and social services cut. Let’s hope he’s calmed down a bit, eh?

Tony Ryall – Health
The man who let slip that GP fee-caps would be removed and who described bowel cancer-screening as “an election bribe”. He’s likely to be the man driving increased Heceptin funding despite Pharmac advising against it. He’s an accountant.

Gerry Brownlee – Energy
Let’s hope he’s not got anymore Contact shares hiding under the rug. I have heard rumours of a scoping exercise for a nuclear power station in Northland. Seriously.

Nick Smith – Environment
I’ve got a soft spot for Nick Smith. He wasn’t happy about National’s promise to halt the $1bn insulation retrofit policy and he’s been a good electorate MP but the biggie will be the ETS. What people forget is that this scheme is designed to make polluters pay for their pollution and if it doesn’t then it’s the taxpayer that has to. I suspect he’s going to be a fall guy.

Murry McCully – Foreign Affairs
McCully is the patron saint of the Kiwiblog Right. He’s described various Labour policies as “Stalinist”, “Feminazi” and was a frequent user of the term “Helengrad”. Let’s hope for NZ’s international reputation that he doesn’t really believe this sort of nonsense or that if he does he keeps it to himself while overseas.

Wayne Mapp – Labour
Despite Kate Wilkinson being the shadow for Labour, Mapp is the one with a personal dislike for unions and the strongest interest in employment law. He’ll be happy to front the removal of workers’ rights. My fear is that National will take their “fire at will” policy and extend it to all new workers (not just those in small businesses) and a six month no-rights period as both ACT and Peter Dunne have argued for this.

Tim Groser – Trade
This would be a good move. If free trade is your thing.

Rodney Hide – Minister outside of cabinet – Racing.

I don’t have time for the rest but feel free to make your picks in the comments.

Update: Stuff is reporting the Nat’s may have their cabinet decided by Sunday.

58 comments on “What will National’s cabinet look like?”

  1. Now taking bets on the number of days until we see our first worker protest decrying the National government.

  2. Lampie 2

    Thought Rodney might be Minister of Fashion

    [lprent: I’m sure there is a cruel canary coloured joke in there somewhere]

  3. Does anyone know if they are going to attempt to reconstitute the uber-Treasury of the 1980s?

    In 2000, Economic Development was divorced from Treasury because of Treasury’s previous dominance over many policy areas.

    Oh, and heres an oxymoron if ever I saw one – Judith Collins as Minister of Social Development.

  4. Carol 4

    Gee, looks totally white male dominated!

  5. insider 5

    I wonder who will lead the Labour Party this week?

    Will it be a tired old face like David Cunliffe or a fresh noob like Phil ‘BBQ KIng’ Goff (entered Parliament 1981) and Annette “the real” King (entered Parliament 1984)


    There were scoping exercises done in the 60s – I suspect the only person seriously looking at them is Brian Leyland and he is hardly considered at the leading edge

  6. IrishBill 6

    Don’t worry Carol, that’s just my list. I expect they’ll provide minister, associate-minister or minister-outside-of-cabinet positions to Georgina Te Heuheu, Judith Collins, Heather Roy and maybe third-stringers like Kate Wilkinson and Jackie Blue.

  7. Carol 7

    IrishBill, Russell Brown has just said it looks like the Maori Party will get a minister outside cabinet.

  8. IrishBill 8

    Insider: It’ll be Goff and King with Cunliffe as Finance. Care to comment on the government rather than the opposition now, insider? After all they are the ones who are supposed to get us through and even putting aside my dislike of their politics I worry they just are not competent.

  9. Monty 9

    Please do not talk about the same old faces when Labour are about to appoint (uncontested) Phil Goff and Annette (full moon ) King to take over the leadership. How long have they both been around?

    Is Labour’s talent pool so shallow that the best they can do is drudge up some 1970’s student activist?? It is Labour who are stuck in the timewarp no matter how much you protest. John Key is the new face of National and I think you will find (much to your disappointment) that NZ will continue to follow this extraordinary Prime Minister. You can trust John Key.

  10. gomango 10

    Cabinet Ministers who won’t be in Cabinet at the next election.

    Lockwood Smith
    Maurice Williamson
    Murray McCully

    You may even see some very interesting changes in cabinet rankings.

    You heard it here first.

    Key is not an idealogue, he is a technocrat and a realist, and won’t be shy of making hard decisions, getting to the upper echelons of an investment bank proves that. Helen had a mandate for renewal because of her electoral success, so will John. So far you would have to give him a strong pass for the deal with Act. No Roger, Act will do what they told and smile at the same time – they have no power over national. They are to National what the Greens are to Labour.

    And don’t argue that he will get rolled by the old guard of National. Its a numbers game – he bought 16(?) new MP’s in to National. No way they wont support him to the hilt plus all of the new heads from 2005 and the small handful from 2002. Thats a large majority. Lets assume that the Minister of Dark Arts does a headcount of people he can rely on – I think you’d struggle to get past 6 names.

    No one in caucus is beholden to the old style National machine. Areally interesting study for you to do would be to look at the demographics of the National caucus. There is not even an argument that there are lots of 20 year veteran embedded electorate MP’s – I’d guess there are as more on just their first, second or third term.

  11. IrishBill 11

    Carol, that’s a possibility but it would be potentially messy. I know ACT have quietly been talking about how the Maori party could be used as a trojan horse for hard-right welfare legislation disguised as devolving services to Iwi in which case welfare could be a portfolio for Tariana. But ACT’s chatter is based on the belief the Maori Party has no politics and can be sold anything with the correct spin. Unlike ACT, I doubt the Maori party are that stupid.

  12. Daveski 12

    Rodney won’t be minister of Racing. I expect it to be Lindsay Tisch or the outsider would be Simon Power. Anyone but Winston please!!

    Expect to see some of the old brigade get a short term portfolio and then once the dust settles, some of the new blood will be promoted.

    I think Key is also dead set on getting the Maori Party actively involved inside or outside Cabinet. This was the circuit breaker I was suggesting prior to the election.

    Given the grief given the Nats for being the same old tired faces, there is an irony that Labour is replacing the old guard with … the old guard. That’s the reality of politics tho. Got to say that Labour is starting to resemble the Aussie cricketers at present after Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist retired.

  13. Tim Ellis 13

    In 2000, Economic Development was divorced from Treasury because of Treasury’s previous dominance over many policy areas.

    No it wasn’t PP. Economic Development was the renamed Ministry of Commerce, which was given substantially more resources. Treasury wasn’t slashed.

    Care to comment on the government rather than the opposition now, insider? After all they are the ones who are supposed to get us through and even putting aside my dislike of their politics I worry they just are not competent.

    Give me a break, IB. Various writers at the Standard have spent almost all the last year commenting almost exclusively on John Key and the National opposition. Suddenly you want everybody to focus on the government.

    IrishBill: We focused on the opposition because they were months away from becoming a new government and there wasn’t a lot of coverage of who they were. We all know who Labour are and that they won’t be running the show for another three years. Your lot are in government now and they (and you) need to realise that means accountability. Good luck with that.

  14. Tane 14

    Daveski, I think the racing thing was a joke. Rodney will push for something related to finance, or possibly crime, I imagine.

  15. IrishBill 15

    gomango, the only person in caucus Key was close to was McCully. I suspect that bringing Steven Joyce in is a way to avoid that dependency. I forgot to mention Joyce in my post but I reckon he’ll get a cabinet position that is a bit soft and doesn’t take up much time. Key will want to free him up for running numbers.

    If Lockwood makes the first cabinet it’s only because he’s been in John’s camp from the start. I think Williamson isn’t in with a show.

  16. Carol 16

    IrishBill, very recent news reports are that after today’s meeting with the MP, Turia & Sharples are going back to their constituents, and a minister outside cabinet seems to be on the table. Will be interesting to see what eventuates, and how it will sit with Labour-leaning MP voters.

  17. insider 17


    I had thought National had talked about breaking up MED as a result of its infrastructure minister. MED was a merger of agencies including commerce and energy and Crown Minerals. Perhaps you might see transport brought into it to give ita real infrastructure approach, and commerce and consumer affairs separated out.

    I suspect treasury will rise again as the acid goes on budgets. If only we had listened to them on rail – we might not have paid a $400m ‘premium’ that Cullen and CLark were willing to pay with your money – they advised it was a bad deal and were sidelined or shoudl that be siding-ed?


    I dread Brownlee getting energy but there are few backups obvious. My bolter would be Hekia Parata for a junior Maori role to balance out the aging Te Heu Heu and provide some ethnic cred and an alt to the MP

  18. Tim Ellis 18

    Not true, IB. Key’s inner circle includes Brownlee, Power, Ryall, McCully, and English. I know the Left have been banging on about some conspiracy to get Bill English elected as leader of the party, but nobody in the caucus owes English any favours. Everybody in the caucus owes their position in Parliament to John Key.

    If Steven Joyce’s only job is to run the numbers for John Key, then he will have a very cruisy job. Take today, for example, as a day in the life of Steven Joyce:

    7:00am. Woke up.
    7:02am. Did the numbers for John.
    7:03am. Finished doing the numbers for John. Still 59 MPs.

    Surely with that schedule, Joyce can add something big and important, like Infrastructure to his responsibilities.

  19. Daveski 19

    Oops thanks Tane – humour bypass 🙂

    The racing thing is something I’m actively involved with hence why I took it a little too seriously. Unfortunately, the racing industry is a joke and sadly Winston (another joke) actually did a lot of good for racing.

    I didn’t realise Helen was a member of Avondale JC – she also deputised for Winston as Racing Minister when he was on gardening leave.

    I think you all know my politics but I did see her give an after-race presentation at Ellerslie and then be able to present at the music awards to an entirely different audience.

  20. gomango 20

    bill – agreed. Joyce will be the go to guy.

    Look for Craig Foss to get something interesting too.

  21. wow, tim, don’t you understand what running the numbers means or do you think that there will never be any internal debate in national on policy or priorities?

  22. insider 22

    Actually, What I’d really like is a complete pruning of the number of ministers. Why oh why a minister of racing…well we only have to look at the donation returns to understand that, but do we really need one? We don’t have a minister of yachting or shopping malls, which I suspect are far more important economically and leisure wise.

  23. Tim Ellis 23

    SP, I took IB’s description of running the numbers in the context of his assertion, and the assertions of several writers at the Standard, including you, that Key’s leadership was not safe from a challenge by English. This claim is about as palpably untrue as your predictions of a Labour Party win, your constant condemnations of the validity of polls, your assertions that the Maori Party would run a mile from coming to an agreement with the National Party, or you running interference for Winston Peters. None of which were really your finest blogging hours, buddy.

  24. listened to them on rail – we might not have paid a $400m ‘premium’ that Cullen and CLark were willing to pay with your money – they advised it was a bad deal

    Actually, in years to come I believe that this decision will be viewed as “visionary”. Not only will it save the government money vis-a-vis the 2003-2008 situation of Ontrack and Toll, but moving more freight onto rail makes sense in terms of road maintenance, and reducing the incidence of death/injury sustained due to heavy truck volumes.

  25. Chess Player 25


    Re the opposition;
    I think the new Labour leadership is just short term. Remember they are just having the election of a new leadership team because the old one has dipped out. They also need it to be quick, so that just as the Nats are moving quickly into govt the Labs can move quickly into the guts of opposition and not let the Nats go unchallenged for too long.

    A safe pair of hands is there in Phil Goff, but let’s face it, he’s never going to win an election unless by default, as no-one really trusts a guy with a moustache.

    Re the Nats cabinet (the subject of this blog);
    I think that the main loser will be Williamson, as he has proven himself a liability several times over. The problem will be how to manage him out, given that he can be very noisy when he wants to.

    My pick for a bolter will be Nikki Kaye in as associate Communications.

  26. Felix 26

    Yes Tim has a blind spot approximately the shape of reality.

    Can anyone tell me why we have a Minister of Racing at all?

    Was this just invented for Winston or have we had one before?

    Is there also a Ministry of Racing and if so, what on earth do they do?

  27. Paul 27

    Phil Goff – moustache???

  28. Lew 28

    I too favour the minister of racing being put out to pasture, as it were.

    Likewise the Minister in charge of the Rugby World Cup 2011 (yes, I understand it’s an infrastructure project, but how does this not fall under sports?); Minister for Auckland Issues (WTF?); Minister for Trade Negotiations as distinct from Minister of Trade – why? Transport Safety and Transport – huh? Some of these look like sinecures to me. I also think a few others, while important, could be collapsed into one – Housing, building and Construction and Land Information could be Land and Housing or somesuch. Food Safety into Consumer Affairs. That sort of thing.

    Unfortunately I think most people will be complaining about the need to scrap Women’s Affairs, Ethnic Affairs, the ministries which work to reduce inequality rather than entrench it.


  29. iheartmjs 29

    Monty is absolutely right about old faces- why does it seem to be just a given that Goff will be the leader? I am seriously concerned about what it will mean for Labour if this does happen. New Zealand voted for change on Saturday, and Labour pretty much got a hiding. I saw that as a clear message that the same old eighties MPs and ministers weren’t going to cut it anymore.

    Goff may well be the most capable and experienced politician Labour has, I’m not qualified to say, but that’s really not what politics is about. Politicians know when they get into the game that’s only partly about ability- a lot of it is about being in the right place at the right time. We need to be looking forward to 2011. Swing voters don’t like Goff. They don’t like Old Labour.

    I notice than in another thread Tane replied to a similar post that he can’t change anything so discussing it wasn’t very helpful. I disagree. You can do all the grass roots campaigning you like, but this election has shown us that a popular potential prime minister can win an election, even without solid policy and grass-roots organizing to back him. Surely there should be some focus on getting that element right for 2011?

  30. Chess Player 30

    Sorry Paul,

    Just put that ‘moustache’ comment in to see if anyone was reading closely.


  31. Tane 31

    iheartmjs – yeah, I’m just saying I’d rather not see left-wing activists get wound up about something they have no control over. In a perfect world we would, but we don’t. Best to focus our energy where it’s of most use.

    Also, I wouldn’t write off Goff’s appeal. A lot of people I’ve spoken to on the ground have a really positive view of him, far more than I’d expected.

    As for why his leadership has been taken as a given, it’s simple. No one else has the support in cabinet, and cabinet decides who gets to be leader. If Clark had held on another six months it might have been different, but she didn’t so it’s not.

  32. Phil 32

    Mapp to get Defence, assuming McCully is Foreign Affairs.
    Power to get something in the Crime/Justice arena.
    Hide as associate Eductation minister.
    Turia/Sharples in associate welfare and social development role, as well as direct oversight for some specific funding, such as Maori TV.

    Roger Douglas as Speaker.

    Can anyone tell me why we have a Minister of Racing at all?
    Was this just invented for Winston or have we had one before?

    I think Winston pushed hard for its creation in the ’96 coalition negotiations. It’s worth keeping because it’s a big export earner for NZ, and through the TAB makes significant sums of money for the government coffers.

  33. Felix 33

    Douglas as speaker, heh – that’d be a cruel joke. On him and everyone else.

    As for racing, do we really have to have a Minister for everything that makes a lot of money for the govt? Doesn’t that come under Revenue? If it’s an export earner doesn’t it come under trade?

  34. Lampie 34

    With all due respect, Winston did a good job (anyone in the racing industry would agree) as Minister of Racing. The position is debatable, perhaps part of the Ministry of Sport?

    I think why this position was created was due to keeping it seperate from internal affairs and the gaming industry. Just a thought.

    Rodney to get Anderton’s old job, Ministry of Economic Development

  35. Lew 35

    On him, but not on everyone else. The speaker has virtually no policy influence, which is why Peter Dunne doesn’t want it, and why Douglas won’t either.

    I can’t really pick a speaker from the Nats. Worth? Tisch? It’ll be interesting to see who gets chosen.


  36. Pascal's bookie 36

    “Rodney to get Anderton’s old job, Ministry of Economic Development”

    It’s name will be changed to Ministry for Creative Destruction.

  37. Lampie 37

    “[lprent: I’m sure there is a cruel canary coloured joke in there somewhere]”

    Never crossed my mind 🙂 Just call me John hahaha

  38. Do you really think any Government would even think about having a Nuclear Power station?

    By the way, what are these strong rumours you are talking about?

    Any source?

  39. IrishBill 39

    Brett, the rumour comes from one of my sources in the energy industry. I haven’t seen any documents yet but the information I’ve had from this source in the past has been accurate.

  40. Daveski 40

    I don’t want to drag this into a discussion about racing … but …

    The Minister of Racing has been around since the year dot.

    Racing as an industry turns over in excess of $1.5 bill, employs thousands both directly and indirectly and adds considerably to the Govt through taxation. It is both a significant export earner now and has considerable potential in the future.

    Agreed it is a fringe industry but the numbers stack up in anyone’s books.

    Unfortunately for racing, by getting married to Winston, the industry risks going down in flames with him. The biggest and immediate problems are within the industry which is why it struggles to project any sense of outward momentum.

  41. gomango 41

    Lampie – of course “Winston did a good job (anyone in the racing industry would agree) as Minister of Racing.”

    If I cut you a fat cheque, increased subsidies to you, and gave you higher depreciation rates for your tools of trade, you, as my beneficiary would also think I had done a “good job.”

    Have some intellectual honesty please. Look fopeople oustide the vested interests to determine whether a job is well done or not.

  42. Daveski 42


    In fairness to Winston, he addressed the unfair tax treatment. From my understanding, racing paid a higher rate of turnover tax – the rate was reduced from 20% to 4% (which is what other forms of gambling were being charged).

    It was a black mark against Labour that they were happy to continue with this when any fairness would ensure racing and casinos etc were on the same footing, on top of this, the other contributions racing makes to communities and the economy in general.

    The breeding benefits were less beneficial to the wider industry while this year’s $3m injection to the big races was a blatant election bribe that Cullen should have over-ruled. The stakes are not sustainable within the industry if the govt pulls out and the industry almost turned down the money because the concept was so poorly thought out .. but that’s Winston for you.

  43. insider 43


    No disrespect to your source, but there is no need for nuclear in NZ. It’s too big, too expensive and we have no resources to support it (in terms of engineering and science resources). It sounds like wishful thinking or perhaps someone doing a minor study with no actual intent. The thinking around it is not that complex to quickly write it off as a longish term option, and no-one in the industry or govt is seriously thinking about it.

  44. NX 44

    This would be a good move. If free trade is your thing.

    ^ well it’s most certainly Labour’s ‘thing’.

    It’s good the two main parties agree on the fundamentals.

    Is suspect there will be a lot more agreement now that Labour has shifted to the right with Goff & King.

  45. Vinsin 45

    Nx, yes Goff is a worrying thought actually, i wonder if Labour is preparing to position themselves on the center right for the next election.

  46. Blocker 46

    While all of the esteemed commentators here argue over the Racing portfolio (it’ll be Tisch or it’ll be gone), I am much more concerned over who will get Education. And I can’t think of a single National MP who I feel would be good for that portfolio. Pita Sharples would be a GREAT Education Minister but I can’t see that happening either.

  47. insider 47

    Well PP if you think rail is such a good deal, you could have invested in it. If it is going to be a good idea to own it in the future, why not wait till then to buy it? Why wear the cost of it now when it is not required?

    When I hear about politicians with grand visions I want to reach for my gun…

  48. John 48

    The greatest scandal in racing is that huge sums of pokie money are given to racing clubs for stakes instead of to Regional Sports Organisations to help to develop youth sport, fight obesity etc.
    Labour and Winston have known about this and have done nothing about it.
    Hopefully that will change now. Sporting clubs all survive on the bones of their arse.

  49. Lampie 49

    In fairness to Winston, he addressed the unfair tax treatment. From my understanding, racing paid a higher rate of turnover tax – the rate was reduced from 20% to 4% (which is what other forms of gambling were being charged).

    Think you would find that is the answer I’m looking for gomanga. Think you will find old Winston has done a good job overall.

  50. Lampie 50

    In fairness to Winston, he addressed the unfair tax treatment. From my understanding, racing paid a higher rate of turnover tax – the rate was reduced from 20% to 4% (which is what other forms of gambling were being charged).

    Think you would find that is the answer I’m looking for gomanga. Think you will find old Winston has done a good job overall.

  51. gomango 51

    I’m sorry – I just have a blind spot whenever the words “Winston” and “good job” inhabit the same sentence…….. I’ll try to cure myself.

  52. Does anyone get the impression John Key’s in a rush to get to APEC so he can poach some ideas on how to run a country from the leaders attending?

  53. Lampie 53

    No worries gomango, I know where you are coming from. It sure didn’t help us

  54. Chess Player 54


    “Does anyone get the impression John Key’s in a rush to get to APEC so he can poach some ideas on how to run a country from the leaders attending?”

    No, I get the impression that rather than fart round avoiding the issue of a global recession, like the previous govt did, he will try to do something, and given that its a ‘global’ recession, some global activity and relationships will be required.

    Whether he can do anything or not is another question.

    But if I were him, I would be doing the same thing. Either that or pull up the drawbridge and cut the southern cross cable and hope for a miracle.

    Would be interested in hearing what posters would do if they were in that position, with the current situation?

  55. Lampie 55

    “Does anyone get the impression John Key’s in a rush to get to APEC so he can poach some ideas on how to run a country from the leaders attending?”

    Nope, more a teenager about to get his first beer at the pub and make a prick of himself in front of adults

  56. Bill 56

    Nat and Lab both aim to be insipid. As the main parties they simply provide a variation on a theme. The theme is essentially to look after business. We know that. Beyond this, they both simply want to be the ones in that position and colour parliamentary possibilities (red or blue as it were)

    It’s my perception ( I could be wrong), that most of the last government’s policies came from coalition partners. Kiwi Bank, WFF, 4 weeks etc. Labour gave the colour that determined what type of policy would be allowable…then claimed credit for a lot of stuff that wasn’t actually theirs, but that’s an aside. They didn’t seem so much to drive things as act as navigator.

    Had they apologised to the Maori Party and brought in the Greens last time, policies would have been more left than we got from NZF and UF. The change, I suspect, that most of NZ actually wants but is unable to identify as existing anywhere in the parliamentary make-up.

    If the Nats want to be there for a while (and JK says he does), then they’ll play the same game. Yes, more right wing policies will go through than under Labour….but they will be policies that come from their partners….modified and shaped by Nat. Navigators, not drivers.

    Ah shite. Hope I’m kinda right ’cause the last thing we need when the Capitalist shit hits the fan next year is some bunch of crazies trying to break our fucking legs as we try to hobble on through.

  57. randal 57

    a whole lot of chimps at a zoo tea party

  58. Dom 58

    Key will, as he has been known to do in the past, hire and fire ruthlessly – it sounds decisive on paper but will make for bad blood in his party and it will be the reason he will (a) not inspire loyalty (he’ll leave you out to bleed rather than take a bullet for you) and (b) will be rolled for English within 2 years. In trying to hold this government together his management style will ultimately push partners away. Should be fun to watch.

    White males everywhere. Yes, they’ll throw some diverse faces in spots with no power…that’s called tokenism – expect a lot more of it from the Nats…

    Captcha – Zeeland Negro…?

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