Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Point of Order: Covid is still with us, so don’t expect gang violence and ram raids to be eradicated now that Hipkins has the Police portfolio

On the Beehive website, news of Kris Faafoi resigning from Parliament preceded news of the PM reshuffling her cabinet. Indeed, Faafoi’s resignation – along with news of Trevor Mallard stepping down as Speaker of the House – provided the rationale for the PM’ reshuffle.

The timing in our email in-tray was different. First (at 3.14pm), we learned of the Cabinet reshuffle and then (at 3.16pm) we were advised of Faafoi’s resignation.

No matter. The PM’s press statement said she has made changes to her Cabinet line-up following the decision of senior Minister Kris Faafoi to resign from Parliament and Speaker Trevor Mallard’s nomination to a European diplomatic posting.

There will be no mucking about with the reshuffle (which is more substantial than generally had been expected). The changes will take effect after a ceremony at Government House this afternoon.

“These changes are triggered by two departures. It’s also an opportunity to give newer Ministers greater responsibility and to bring new members onto the team,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Buried well down in the PM’s press statement was the widely portended news of Poto Williams losing the Police portfolio – or (if you want to put a different spin on it) the somewhat surprising news that the Police portfolio has been placed in the hands of Chris Hipkins.

But don’t expect the plagues of gang warfare and/or teenage ram raiding to be eradicated any time soon. Hipkins has been Minister in charge of the Covid Response since the 2020 general election and the portfolio has not disappeared in this reshuffle, which attests to the reality that the country is still grappling with the virus.

Another shift that was not highlighted in the press statement was Megan Woods yielding her Research, Science and Innovation portfolio. She is Dr Woods, but her doctorate was in history – for a thesis titled Integrating the nation: Gendering Maori urbanisation and integration, 1942–1969.

Ayesha Verrall takes over the COVID-19 Response portfolio but she also has been given Research, Science and Innovation. Her winning the science job was mentioned in the PM’s press statement without any reference to Megan Woods losing – or surrendering – that job to concentrate on Housing.

A politically convenient overseas posting for Trevor Mallard, of course, had been a matter of widespread conjecture within the political commentariat for some time. Ireland, we hear, is to be blessed with his presence.

That’s not where we would send him. Point of Orders Foreign Policy Wish List includes a yearning for the Government to acknowledge it (a) should strive to improve New Zealand’s relationships with Yemen; (b) will establish an embassy there; and (c) will despatch the rambunctious Speaker as our Ambassador (although some readers might quibble that “c” does not gel comfortably with “a”).

But it looks like Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta (or someone) has other ideas. Perhaps she is anticipating another Cabinet reshuffle before the next election and fancies Yemen as her own bolthole.

The way has been cleared by these manoeuvrings for two new List MPs. Dan Rosewarne and Soraya Peke-Mason will replace Faafoi and Mallard from the Labour List.

The consequence for the composition of the Cabinet (according to the bullet points in the PM’s press statement) are:

* Kris Faafoi resigns from Parliament. Kiri Allan promoted to Justice Minister, Michael Wood picks up Immigration

* Speaker Trevor Mallard to end 35 year parliamentary career in mid-August as he prepares to take up a diplomatic post in Europe.  Adrian Rurawhe to be nominated as Speaker.

* Priyanca Radhakrishnan moves into Cabinet and gains Associate Workplace Relations and Safety

* Kieran McAnulty becomes a Minister outside of Cabinet with a focus on regional issues – picking up Emergency Management and Racing. Duncan Webb to take over as Chief Whip.

*Chris Hipkins takes over Police and passes COVID-19 Response to Ayesha Verrall

You have to drill deeper down into the press statement to learn:

“I have also made the decision to change Poto Williams out of the Police portfolio.”

Has she been demoted to the back benches?

Don’t be silly. The PM said:

“ We both share the view that at this time it’s critical that our focus is on supporting the Police, implementing our record investment in the frontline, passing our further gun law reforms and developing additional measures to deal with the current escalation in gang tensions and violence.

“She picks up Conservation, and Disability Issues, where there is a significant work programme following the establishment of a new Ministry. Poto has a background in the community sector and was also was a member of the Parliamentary Disability Alliance and will be well suited to this new role.”

Explaining Hipkins’ shift into the Police post, the PM said he has a degree in criminology and “a long interest in working in the youth justice space”, which dovetails with his education work.

Along with the Minister for Social Development and Employment

“… he will co-lead a youth justice ministerial team to focus on the drivers of the spike we have seen in some parts of youth offending recently”.

This suggests a softly-softly approach is to be taken to tackling the law-and-order challenge.

But don’t fret, dear reader. Some of us will remember Softly, Softly, a British television police procedural series produced by the BBC as a spin-off from the series Z-Cars, which ended its fifth series run in December 1965. The spin-off series took its name from the proverb “Softly, softly, catchee monkey”, the motto of Lancashire Constabulary Training School.

At least, it was the motto back then but it may well have been replaced by something less inclined to be deemed offensive by a younger generation of Brits.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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