Audrey Young: Jacinda Ardern takes job of assembling cabinet in her stride

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Forming a ministry is a delicate job but Jacinda Ardern made it look easy.

Navigating her way through hierarchies, talent, egos, expectations and political considerations is a minefield.

But she has done a remarkable job in balancing those in her ministerial appointments and has come up with a very credible ministry.

Andrew Little, David Parker and Chris Hipkins have huge workloads, along with Grant Robertson in Finance.

Little has been handed a demanding set of portfolios – including responsibility for the spy agencies, the GCSB and the SIS, with which he has some familiarity from his time on the oversight committee as Opposition Leader.

It would be simplistic to think Little was being rewarded for having stepped aside in the interests of the party.

His other appointments point to him being one of the safest pairs of hands in cabinet, having been given Justice, Treaty Negotiations, and Minister in charge of the Pike River Re-Entry.

Chris Hipkins has not just a heavy workload but a powerful position.

He will be Education Minister, including tertiary education, and Leader of the House as well, which oversees the Government’s legislative agenda.

Hipkins will also be in a uniquely pivotal position to keep an eye on potential problems in ministries and ministerial offices as State Services Minister and Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services.

It means that any ministerial staffing or travel or expenditure issues will come to his attention, rather than the Prime Minister who has traditionally held the Ministerial Services oversight role.

One of the few appointments worthy questioning was why she would give two of the three significant foreign-related portfolios to New Zealand First. Out of Trade, Foreign Affairs and Defence, the latter two have gone to a small coalition partner known more for its nationalism than internationalism.

Ardern made the point that the party was sitting at the cabinet table, implying that New Zealand’s foreign relations were not going to be driven by New Zealand First but always in concert with Labour.

One welcome innovation was her decision to appoint Kelvin Davis in charge of Crown-Maori Relations, a portfolio that concentrates on the Government’s relationship with iwi after their Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

Her decision to make herself Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage was one appointment she could have done without given its lack of originality – although there is no one else in cabinet who is remotely more qualified than her in that area.

The most commendable appointment was to make herself Minister for Child Poverty Reduction.

It is more than just symbolism.

It is a bold move which directly links her leadership to a commitment to reduce child poverty as a primary goal.

Failure on that front won’t be an option for her government.

 

Source  :  New Zealand Herald

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