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Cabinet Varnish?

Wed 21 Dec 2016 In: Politics and Religion View at Wayback View at NDHA

New Prime Minister Bill English has announced his new Cabinet. Are there any surprises and should we be concerned about the promotions or demotions? PM Bill English According to the Otago Daily Times (18.12.2016), Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have made considerable gains. Bridges is now Economic Development Minister, which is Steven Joyce's prior role, given that Joyce now adds Finance Minister to his already impressive list of ministerial experience. He also picks up the Assistant Finance and Communications and Information portfolios. Amy Adams keeps her Justice portfolio, already a senior Cabinet position, and takes up the Housing and Social Housing portfolios vacated by English and Bennett. She also acquires the newly created Social Investment portfolio. Louise Upston has taken over the Corrections portfolio. Judith Collins has lost Police and Corrections and has been demoted down the Cabinet rankings. She now administers Revenue, Energy, Resources and Ethnic Communities. As for Nick Smith, widely expected to be purged from Cabinet altogether, he is now Building and Construction Minister, in charge of regulation and planning still. This is unexpected, and given Smith's lack of impressiveness in the housing portfolio to date, he may still be a liability for the English administration and a target for the Opposition parties (even if it has been renamed "Building and Construction" and he supposedly has responsibilities primarily for building and construction regulation now).  For that matter, so might the visible fragmentation of the housing portfolio at a time when there is a severe accomodation and homelessness crisis- Amy Adams, Paula Bennett and Nick Smith now share various elements of the formerly unified portfolio amongst them. Again, English argues that the scale of the housing portfolio neccessitates this, but it has the potential to go seriously wrong for the government headed into an election year.  With no concrete data available on LGBT homelessness, I am forced to rely on surmise, speculation and inference. Nevertheless, without a concrete visible application of the Crown Law Office opinion on transgender rights to accomodation rights questions, and taking into account institutional racism and associated economic inequality, I suspect that whakawahine and fa'afafine with parental responsibilities due to the incapacity of other whanau/aiga members will be particularly disadvantaged, as will tamariki and rangatahi under their care. So, probably, will younger whakawahine and fa'afafine who have been kicked out of their home, or who do not have a safe whanau or aiga of origin to return to due to alcohol and drug abuse.  Collins' demotion will rankle and she may not appreciate her diminished ranking and loss of senior portfolios, despite English's attempt to spin her demotion otherwise. There's no love lost between English and Collins and this has the potential for further adverse relationships. Amy Adams is fairly liberal, but Bridges is reckoned a social conservative, although Collins has been demoted despite her own outspoken social conservatism, and Nick Smith is still in Cabinet. Clearly, Adams and Bridges are both regarded as rising stars within this Cabinet lineup. Meanwhile, Stefan Browning and Catherine Delahunty will be leaving the Green caucus at the next election, and Labour's David Shearer has already left for a UN administrative position in the troubled South Sudan.  Elsewhere in the Labour Opposition, Andrew Little has promoted Iain Lees-Galloway to Defence, while David Parker gets the Foreign Affairs shadow portfolio. As for National, Maurice Williamson, Hekia Parata, Murray McCully, Sam Lotu-Iliga and Craig Foss have all announced that the current parliamentary term will be their last. Williamson and Parata are liberals, whose loss will be felt. However, Parata won't be leaving properly until a further Cabinet reshuffle in May 2017, and much the same will happen in the context of Murray McCully and his Foreign Affairs portfolio.  This is merely deferring the inevitable and English may have cause to regret this, particularly given that Labour has allocated the shadow Foreign Affairs portfolio to an experienced performer like Parker. This is a cautious reshuffle and what one would expect. Apart from Collins, most senior Cabinet Ministers have kept their portfolios. The backbenchers won't be happy and it has left gaping holes for Labour and the Greens to steer their way through, particularly the housing portfolios, during an election year. We will have to wait and see. Members of our community at risk of transient housing and homelessness have no reason to welcome these developments.    Recommended:  "English announces Cabinet reshuffle" Otago Daily Times: 18.12.2016: Emile Donovan: "Axeing Housing Minister job a way of denying crisis" Radio New Zealand: 19.12.2016:'denying-crisis'-labour Sam Sachdeva and Jo Moir: "Labour reshuffles the deck" 16.12.2016: Simon Wong: "Green MPs Stefan Browning and Catherine Delahunty join list of leaving politicians" Newshub: 14.12.2016: Craig Young - 21st December 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Wednesday, 21st December 2016 - 8:19am

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