Her CV includes a stint at Harvard after her master’s degree at Waikato.
Since the 1990s she has moved in and out of the public service and consultancy and with her marriage to Local Government Commission chair Sir Wira Gardiner, whose CV is even more heavyweight, she is the ultimate capital city insider.
Yet ask her whether she would one day like to be Foreign Minister and she demurs.
She says that when she decided to run for Parliament after she re-joined the National Party after her very public split with them over Don Brash’s Orewa comments about the Treaty of Waitangi she did so because she wanted to be Education Minister.
“I would be quite keen in being an associate finance Minister because that’s what effects change,” she says.
“But I’m very happy in my role.”
This answer says two things about Parata.
First it displays her caution when she is on the record or in public. In private she is an exuberant and engaging politician with a personality as big as her brain.
But perhaps because of the controversies she found herself in once she made it to Parliament and the Ministry — problems with cars, her sister’s senior position in the Minister of Education, problems at the Ministry with novopay and other matters and rumours of tensions in her office — these days she seems very careful with the face that she presents to the public.
But the other part of her desire to remain education minister reflects what her genuine passion for the job is quite clearly.
There aren’t many Ministers who can be convincing when they say they have got their ideal job.
What she is doing in education now reflects what is slowly becoming a radical overhaul of the sector; perhaps the most radical since the Picot Report and Tomorrow’s Schools in 1989.
Later this year she will pilot through Parliament a revised Education Act which will encapsulate a lot of her thinking about education.
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