Joe Hendren

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Musical Cabinets #2: Peters, Goff and Foreign Affairs

Interesting to see Phil Goff appointed as Minister of Trade. He is expected to take over the Trade Negotations job when Jim Sutton retires.

When Winston Peters was first appointed to the Foreign Affairs job Clark said Peters would consult directly with her over his work in the portfolio, and there would be no Labour MP working as an associate to Peters. But Goff's new job as a Minister of Trade, seemingly a separate portfolio to Trade Negotiations, is an associate Foreign Affairs role in all but name.

Jim Bolger, in his book 'A view from the top' explains how he attempted to put a break on Peters during the coalition negotiations in 1996, when Peter's position of Treasurer was split off from the Finance portfolio.

"Winston Peters, as ever seeking maximum flexibility, was reluctant to agree to a clear division of responsibilities. Bill Birch with his clear insight into Peters knew that precise guidelines were needed if the new arrangments was to work. We therefore produced and published those guidelines."

Perhaps Clark would be wise to do something similar!

While I have previously argued that the principle of cabinet collective responsibility needs to be weakened further, the idea that Peters and Peter Dunne as Ministers outside cabinet are only bound by collective responsibility in their portfolio areas is simply bizarre.

Demarcation problems suggest themselves. Most immigration issues have foreign affairs implications, so given a choice between defending the humanitarian foreign policy of the government and bashing refugees, which way will the Italian suit sway? (I think we all know)

I fear these arrangements have been designed to accommodate the policy whims of personalities, rather than principled differences of opinion between parties. It would have been far better to use the existing arrangements allowing parties to 'differentiate' on matters of policy principles, and drop Clark's assumption these processes should only be used 'rarely'.

Peters will be in charge of overseas aid, and the thought fills me with dread. Peters the humanitarian? Tell that to the Tampa boat people. The Greens will not relish the fact Peters will oversee the increase in official development assistance, a policy the Greens negotiated out of Labour as part of their promise to abstain. Although Peters infamous "flying squad" immigration policy is absolutely ghastly, Frog may find one line useful.

"Become more creative in humanitarian efforts by increasing overseas aid budget as a more efficient means of meeting humanitarian obligations. Effectively targeted aid places less strain on our domestic infrastructure" (my emphasis).

Of course, being Peters, he wants to use aid as an excuse not to take refugees, but a promise to increase aid is there nonetheless, even if it is for entirely the wrong reasons. On Tuesday Peters said a major aim in his new role was to channel more aid to the South Pacific - "the neighborhood and theatre in which we live", which reflects NZFirst policy.

Goff and fellow right winger Clayton Cosgrove have both been appointed as associate finance ministers alongside Mallard. Apparently they are going to be a 'razor gang' looking for ways to cut government spending to pay for Peter's policies. I hope Helen uses this as a tactic to make the 'Gillette three' unpopular, they can suggest cuts, people will be upset, giving Clark the opportunity to come in and rule out the more ruthless of their proposals.

PS: Given Goff's inaction over the cricket tour to Zimbabwe, could he be our next ambassador to Harare?

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At 3:31 PM, Blogger Ghet said...

Watching Helen on Campbell live that night suggested to me that she was fully confident she had Winston's balls in a drawer. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that he may not stand next time round and that this is in part a farewell. He also strikes me as someone who is inherently lazy, and who doesn't deal well with the level of minutiae generated in the every-day business of being a minister.

That said, his potential to do damage simply by opening his mouth in the FA portfolio is terrifying.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Joe Hendren said...


Peters last term? - hope springs eternal :)

I have also heard from a number of sources he can be lazy - Rod Donald said this week Peters had a habit of falling asleep in select committee meeetings. When he was treasurer in 1996-98 it did not take long for him to become a puppet of the treasury officials - although Sir Humphrey of Yes, Minister fame would prefer to call it "training"!

I fear Peter's 2005 immigration policy will follow him around on his official travels as FA minister like a really bad smell. Not good for NZ, not good at all.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Joe Hendren said...

Peters said on Agenda this morning he will be around till 2008 and beyond.


At 9:21 PM, Blogger Comrade_Tweek said...

I predict that Peters will be around until NZFirst sink below the threshold.

I've heard that he is lazy as well, but having worked in parliament, like Joe, I know that is no barrier to getting re-elected. Peters is, generally media savy, and that, in modern politics, counts for a lot.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Comrade_Tweek said...

PS: Both Bolger and Shipley thought that they had his "balls in a drawer" as well...unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case...


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