On the upcoming Cabinet re-shuffle

Prime Minister John Key has indicated that a Cabinet re-shuffle is on the cards. In all likelihood that re-shuffle won’t be moving Bill English, Tim Groser, Murray McCully, Paula Bennett, Chris Finlayson, Nick Smith, Peter Dunne or Tony Ryall from their current posts, but will contemplate making space for Hekia Parata, Chris Tremain and Simon Bridges to move up. Which means that chronic under-performers such as Anne Tolley, Kate Wilkinson and (maybe) David Carter should be feeling nervous.

This is pure guesswork, right? I have no inside knowledge of how the current National Party leadership goes about its fell business but… the eventual resting places of Amy Adams, Steven Joyce and Judith Collins seem far more interesting than anything that happens to John Banks.

More and more, Joyce is playing the role Bill Birch played in the Bolger government – not adorable, but gets things done, although with variable levels of efficiency. Unlike Birch, he also regularly crops up as potential leadership material if John Key ever went under a bus, or got really, really bored. In which case, Joyce probably needs to get some hands on experience with an economy portfolio, in associate status. Or more likely for now, he could take over Tolley’s role as Education Minister and attempt some serious damage to the teacher unions. Lord knows the government is going to need a major stoush with the unions this term, as a distraction from the asset sales programme.

As others have noted, the big gap around the Cabinet table has been caused by the departure of Justice Minister Simon Power. Luckily, Power steered enough reforms through in one term in the job to satisfy three normal terms in office, so arguably, only a figurehead may be needed.

So the big question becomes – do you shift Judith Collins over from Police to Justice where she can make her usual law ‘n’order noises without much follow through, and thereby make room for John Banks as Police Minister? Or will Key go the whole hog, and catapult Amy Adams (LLB with first class honours, Canterbury University, class of ‘92 ) straight into the Justice portfolio? That would make a bit of a media splash.

Unfortunately for her, the arrival of lawyer/farmer Adams at the Cabinet table has been signalled for so long that her actual, final ascent is going to be a hard act for her to follow. Lets be clear about this. She is NOT this person but she is this person.

She is also the member from Selwyn, a seat formerly held by Ruth Richardson – and also briefly held by David Carter, who won it narrowly in 1994 in one of those classically bizarre New Zealand by-elections by a mere 2 percentage points from the Alliance’s John Wright, with Labour’s Marian Hobbs in a distant place, not very far ahead of Tim Shadbolt, who was standing that year for New Zealand First.

Adams’ specialty area while a legal practitioner was in commercial and property law. The assets register indicates several property assets held in trusts.

Farm property, Aylesbury (in trust)
Farm land, Darfield (in trust)
Farm land, Te Kauwhata (in trust)
Commercial property, Templeton (in trust)
Commercial property, Temuka (in trust)
Residential property, Fendalton, Christchurch (in trust)
Residential property, Riccarton, Christchurch (in trust)

No surprise really, why the investment property owners in the National caucus aren’t all that keen on a meaningful capital gains tax. The question of how much tax is [not] paid by farmers also briefly flared into prominence earlier this year, with an attempted rebuttal here.

If Adams does get moved into a major portfolio – especially Justice – she can expect some pretty close scrutiny on such issues.


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