Two of National’s “Four Amigos” who played a key role in the leadership change last December have been given plum Select Committee chairs.
Though the appointments are made by the Leader of the House, Gerry Brownlee, he will have consulted Prime Minister Bill English about them.
The moves honour the pledge English made to the backbench to renew the face of the Government.
Bay of Plenty MP, Todd Muller, will leap over Shane Reti the current deputy chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee and take over the chairmanship from Mark Mitchell — also one of the “four amigos” who has become a Minister.
Under Mitchell, the chair was one of the most prestigious Select Committee appointments and saw him travel to Iraq with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and to India with the Prime Minister.
Muller says that he expects the Committee to be particularly interested in trade negotiations this year in the wake of Brexit and the failure of the TPP.
“Because the TPP is no longer front and centre, it makes the question even sharper about where we are heading with our trade strategy globally and how we are positioned on that,” he told POLITIK.
The Prime Minister offered some hints on the Government’s trade agenda in his annual statement to Parliament yesterday.
“The Government will continue to show leadership and make a case for open markets, and closer trade and economic ties
” This year, the Government intends to progress a range of trade negotiations, including with the European Union, the Gulf States, India and China, and complete the PACER-Plus (Pacific) Agreement.
“The Government will work with Trans Pacific Partnership countries to explore options for advancing closer trade ties in the Asia-Pacific, including through the TPP.
“The Government will continue to look for opportunities to build closer economic ties with the United States, and discussions with the United Kingdom about a post-Brexit trading relationship will also be progressed.”
Fellow first term MP, Chris Bishop, another ”amigo’ was already deputy chair of the Finance and Expenditure Committee and now becomes chair.
He will face his first test today when he confronts his old boss, the new Finance Minister Steven Joyce, for a review of the 2017 Budget Policy Statement. (Which was actually prepared by Bill English before he became PM).
Bishop worked in Joyce’s Beehive office before he became an MP.
But that may be overshadowed by Wheeler’s announcement that he will not seek a second term as Governor.
Two other committees are to get new chairs; List MP Jo Hayes will take over the Social Services Committee replacing Alfred Ngaro and Invercargill MP, Sarah Dowie will become chair of the Justice and Law Reform Committee replacing Jacqui Dean. Dean and Ngaro have both become Ministers.
And in another move, King Country MP, Barbara Kuriger, becomes the third whip.
What distinguishes all of these appointments is that the MPs are in their first term
This is clearly part of the renewal process that the “four amigos” campaigned on when they refused to agree to what they called the “coronation” of English last December.
Muller, Bishop and Kuriger have all been identified by senior National Party figures as having big futures.
Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger picks Muller as a future leader.
The appointments of the chairs and whip are much more the “new” face of the English Government than the Ministerial appointments announced last year because this is the first time we have had an indication of who are the rising stars on the backbench.
There may be an impatience within this group to get ahead because they will realise that even if National forms the next Government, history is stacked against it repeating that in 2020.
The next three years may be their last chance to “make it” before what could be a long spell in Opposition.