Some of the problems in Health as well as other portfolios require a new broom at Immigration. Faafoi’s departure where, as one TV commentator observed, he’d been sleeping at his desk for months, is good news. But Michael Wood is scarcely a dynamic successor. The man who proposed the swiftly killed walking and cycling bridge over the Waitemata, and who is yet to get his head around the gross irresponsibility of his proposed $29 billion rapid rail to Auckland’s airport, doesn’t possess sufficient commonsense to handle the variety of complex and urgent issues that await him at Immigration after so many months of border closure. Farming, horticulture, hospitality, health and education are all crying out for migrants; can Wood handle the pressure? I wouldn’t bet on it.
And what about Police? It shows how little talent Jacinda has in her caucus that yet again she had to call on Chris Hipkins to try to grapple with a crisis. And just as happened when he took over Health a few years ago, and then Covid, his extra burden comes at the expense of his major portfolio, Education. Five more years under this government of steady decline in standards of literacy and numeracy have put our kids’ achievement scores near the bottom of the OECD. School truancy rates have never been worse. This will continue to blight the country’s future, further turning us into a hermit kingdom. The Education department hasn’t been strong since the days of Dr C.E. Beeby 70 years ago. With its long parade of less than stellar ministers and CEOs, some terrible things have been inflicted on our children. Take for example the wickedly erroneous New Zealand history syllabus built on Maori myth and Treaty ignorance that is now compulsory for all students. It’s Mahuta’s influence in part; Hipkins’ intermittent attention to his principal portfolio has enabled her to get away with it. To date, the Associate Minister, Jan Tinetti, hasn’t shown much interest in getting to grips with the portfolio’s biggest challenges.
Possibly the worst news of all from the portfolio shuffling is that Willie Jackson, he of the Roast-busters’ notoriety and never-ending nonsensical interpretations of the Treaty, is now the Minister of Broadcasting and Media. Main Stream Media are taking things very cautiously now, because they have gradually succumbed to the on-going constraints which come with taxpayer grants from the Public Interest Journalism Fund. Our media are becoming hooked on government handouts and want them to continue. There is a real danger that Jackson will push, shove and threaten them into further submission.
All in all, when she undertook her shuffle Jacinda Ardern showed few signs that she takes any heed of the serious unease about many aspects of her ministers’ stewardship. This leaves us with our only option: bundle the Labour Party into opposition at the earliest opportunity.
Historian Dr Michael Bassett, a Minister in the Fourth Labour Government, blogs HERE.