The departure of Hekia Parata from the Government announced yesterday has come as a surprise.
The timing of her decision not to stand at the next election raises the question of whether the promised Cabinet reshuffle might now come before Christmas rather than after.
It also throws the focus on to the future of the Foreign Minister, Murray McCully.
Parata had let it be known that if he went, she would be keen to replace him.
McCully’s has said the decision as to whether he returned next election on the list was up to the Prime Minister and that he expected it would be made by the end of this year.
He will be 64 next February, the oldest Cabinet Minister.
So Parata’s resignation suggests that the Prime Minister has told her one of two things:
- That McCully will remain
- That if he went, she would not get his job.
There is one other main contender. Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has let it be known he would like to be Foreign Minister.
But if, as some suggest, the Prime Minister is intent on generational change in his Cabinet then the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mark Mitchell might also be in consideration.
Mitchell will accompany Key on his visit to India next month.
The other gap that Parata’s departure will open is that it will leave the National Ministry without a Te Reo speaker.
The logical way to deal with that would be to promote first-term list MP and Chair of the Maori Affairs Committee, Nuk Korako, to a Ministerial position outside Cabinet.
But Parata is not expected to be the last resignation from the Cabinet.
Sam Lotu Iiga is widely expected to go though he has been recently reconfirmed as the party’s candidate for the Maungakiekie electorate.
Nikki Kaye is still on sick leave getting treatment for her cancer, and there is no date for her return.
That would leave Key with room for up to three new Ministers inside the Cabinet and then possibly some re-arranging of the Ministers outside the Cabinet.
If Lotu Iiga goes then, the lively Alfred Ngaro would be expected to replace him.
The departure of Kaye alongside that of Parata would leave the Cabinet short of two women.
Logically two of the women Ministers outside Cabinet, Nicky Wagener and Jo Goodhew might then expect promotion.
But Kaye is also only 36. Key will be looking to get some generational change into the Ministry which means that he might be looking to put younger new MPs like Todd Muller and Chris Bishop into the Cabinet outside the Ministry.
It is entirely possible, for one reason or another, that Craig Foss and Louise Upston might relinquish their posts and that might make room for a completes et of new Ministers outside Cabinet.
Meanwhile, with the announcement yesterday of National’s Mt Roskill by-election candidate, Parmjeet Parmar, the campaign for Mt Roskill can get into full swing.
Though the Greens have said they won’t contest the seat, New Zealand First says it has yet to make a decision on whether to stand.
It’s hardly a suitable electorate for them with its 44% Asian population.
For Labour the stakes are high. It has to not only retain the seat but ensure its messaging reaches a national audience.
Because of the low profile, it adopted during the Northland by-election this will be Leader Andrew Little’s first real campaign as leader.
That will be a test.
For National, the stakes are high too.
It’s already clear that its organisation within the electorate is virtually non-existent with few members which in itself is hardly an endorsement of Ms Parmar who was the party’s candidate at the last election.
They will also be campaigning in the wake of the Auckland Future debacle during the local body elections.
But the party appears to be looking at the election as a chance to test market some of the strategies and messages that it will use during the next election campaign.
Both parties are already planning a fundamental change in the way they campaign next year.
Though neither is giving much away (for obvious reasons) at a series of off the record briefings and meetings and interviews with both parties, POLITIK has learned that next year’s campaigns will be partly “invisible”.
That’s because they will take place using targeted social media and email.
National Party President Peter Goodfellow told his party’s regional conference that he expected National to at least match the 30% of the total campaign budget that the British Conservative party spent on its last campaign.
A senior Labour official says that he expects they will be apportioning their campaign funds in much the same way.
For both parties, the risks in Mt Roskill are all downside. If Labour stumbles, if National suffers another Auckland Future-type organisational meltdown then that would not bode well for next year.