Agitation for a cabinet reshuffle poor timing

Matthew Hooton flies a kite

For two years, the government has meandered. Ministers are housetrained. Their focus has turned to bureaucratic processes rather than policy outcomes. An unattractive arrogance has emerged. Mr Key, expected to reshuffle his team in the New Year, may opt to strike early.

The top candidate to be sacked is obviously Nick Smith. Beyond his Kermadec and Resource Management Act failures, the housing triumvirate of Dr Smith, Bill English and Paula Bennett is not working, at least politically. Mr English should be allowed to get on with it alone. Ms Bennett might try another economic role, say tourism.

Second for sacking is surely Nathan Guy who seems to think his job is reading out the Ministry for Primary Industries’ talking points rather than the elected official in charge of rooting out what looks increasingly like corruption within it.

His logical replacement is Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, a former senior executive at both Zespri and Fonterra whose experience, at least at the former, would signal the government understands agribusiness is about consumer perceptions of value rather than pumping out greater volume from the farmgate.

There is indeed a level of ineffectiveness and complacency present, but luckily this is against the backdrop of the government getting most of the boring basics right.  

The investigation into the Saudi sheep affair, now into its 13th month, cannot end well for Murray McCully. With the Security Council circus now over, Mr Key would be wise to get rid of his errant foreign minister sooner rather than later.

Gerry Brownlee’s status as the third-ranked minister gives him a clear claim to Mr McCully’s job. With him then overseas most of the time, his Christchurch recovery understudy Nicky Wagner would need to step up. Ms Wagner has famously turned Christchurch Central into a National seat and has skilfully expanded the Enabling Good Lives programme for disabled people in partnership with the private sector.

Beyond the three obvious sackings, two other ministers, Michael Woodhouse and Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, are both mere spokesmen for their officials. A sixth cabinet slot is also open temporarily due to Ms Kaye’s illness. Although Mr Key owes the talented young minister an open invitation to return as soon as she is ready, her health may remain her priority for some time.


I don’t agree with many of his selections for promotion, it seems a bit of a pipe dream. Would be better suited after Key wins his 4th term not before.


– Matthew Hooton, NBR

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.