So confident is the Prime Minister of her authority within the Labour Party that she is likely today to break with convention and present her Caucus not just with a list of Ministers for Cabinet but with their positions already nominated.
Labour’s rules, unlike National, require that Caucus elect the Cabinet.
In 2017 Jacinda Ardern presented her Caucus with a list of who she wanted to see within the Cabinet, and that was approved. She then went ahead and allocated the portfolios.
But POLITIK understands that list today will have portfolios attached and will include Ministers outside Cabinet.
In essence, Labour has moved to the same position as National, where the leader appoints the Cabinet.
That was the way the first Labour Government did it until a caucus revolt in 1938 from the party’s left led by John A Lee protesting his exclusion, forced the party to move to an elected Cabinet.
Ardern has really turned the Cabinet vote into a confidence vote in her leadership. That will guarantee its passage.
Other Labour leaders have made it clear who they wanted in Cabinet, but they did so through private conversations.
No recent Labour leader — including Helen Clark — has had the personal authority within the Caucus that Ardern now does.
Armed with what she has described as “a very strong mandate” Ardern has spent the weekend stamping herself and her brand of “sustainable” politics firmly across her Government.
Immediately after the election, she talked about wanting “straightforward arrangements” for her Government this term.
As the Greens have found out over the past week that has meant that what she wanted was a Labour-alone Government.
Thus the Co-operation Agreement with the Greens has been painted in very broad brush strokes and keeps them outside Cabinet and away from the power portfolios..
It does not specifically give the Greens any real power beyond the power that their two Ministers will have.
James Shaw continues as Climate Change Minister and becomes an Associate Environment Minister and Marama Davidson becomes Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence and Associate Minister of Housing (Homelessness).
In 2005, when the Greens signed a similar agreement with the Clark Labour Government, then called a “consultation” agreement, it included a commitment for Labour to consult with the Greens over “major policy issues” and “broad budget parameters.
This weekend’s agreement instead said: “The Labour Government, in turn, commits to working constructively with the Green Party to advance the policy goals set out in this agreement, alongside Labour’s policy programme.”
Not only has James Shaw lost his post as an associate finance minister but the failure to make a commitment to consult on budget policy means the Greens are cut out of the single most important part of government policymaking.
Instead, they are left with “achieving the purpose and goals of the Zero Carbon Act”; “Protecting our environment and biodiversity through working to achieve the outcomes of Te Mana o Te Taiao – Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020”; and “Improving child wellbeing and marginalised communities.”
Shaw believes that experience in the last Government showed that holding a Ministerial position (even outside Cabinet) ended up with 90 per cent of what the Greens achieved not coming from the confidence and supply agreement but came about “because we had Ministers in government who were in a position to do those things and once they were done to move on to new things.”
Whilst Shaw as Associate Environment Minister (Biodiversity) retains vestiges of Eugenie Sage’s role in Conservation; the party has lost all of Julie Anne Genter’s associate transport role.
That doesn’t mean a wholesale return to a roads-first transport policy. There is an existing Government Policy Standard on transport which contains a heavy Greens imprint.
And Ardern has said that another Green favourite, light rail, is back on the table.
What may be relevant though here is whether Phil Twyford retains his Transport portfolio.
This may be an issue because there are certainly senior voices within Labour who would like to see him out of Cabinet altogether after the Kiwibuild fiasco.
A replacement Minister might not be so Green-friendly as Twyford has been.
There are already six vacancies in the Cabinet and the Prime Minister yesterday hinted that Maori MPs would be getting their share.
Ardern yesterday said she wanted to make sure that “the diversity that was elected into this parliament is reflected in the cabinet table and beyond.”
“So it is a key factor for me,” she said.
“Also, the fact that we have been given a strong message of support from the Maori community, not least in our party vote.
“And I want to see that reflected in the makeup of our team.”
That points to Peeni Henare and possibly Willie Jackson, Meka Whaitiri and Kiritapu Allan making the step up to the Cabinet table.
Other possibles include Kieran McNulty who might find himself drafted in as an Associate Environment Minister to draw some of the flak from farmers away from David Parker on the freshwater reforms.
Parker himself looks likely to retain Environment where his main priority will be to steer the two Resource Management reform bills through Parliament.
Yesterday’s agreement with the Greens would seem to lock in their support for that legislation.
They will probably supply the chair of the Environment Select Committee which will hear what will undoubtedly be hundreds of submission on the bills.
That Labour dominance will be the story of this Parliament.
National is already feeling it as it has to drastically reduce its staff because its Parliamentary Services Commission funding grant has been substantially reduced. The grant is allocated according to how many MPs a party has. National’s Caucus has been reduced by 38 per cent, and its Parliamentary budget will now be proportionately down.
The party, used in the last Parliament to dominating Question Time, will find itself with less questions than Labour and having to share the Opposition questions with ACT.
As the Greens have been reminded this weekend, this election has handed Jacinda Ardern of the strongest and clearest mandate any Government has had since MMP was introduced in 1996.
“There is no doubt that MMP arrangements can cause complications,” she said on Saturday.
“It can cause policy to be slowed.
“I will use the mandate we have been given.”
Jacinda rules — ok!
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