Cabinet line-up shows move to Right

Prime Minister-elect John Key showed a clear intention yesterday to move the National-led government more to the Right of the political spectrum than had previously been signalled.

His new Cabinet, which will be sworn in tomorrow, shows a bias to the Right despite moves during the election campaign to position National as a centrist party.

As expected, Clutha-Southland MP Bill English becomes Finance Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister - crucial roles for the new Government as it tackles the financial crisis.

Mr English has held finance and revenue roles before in a previous National government.

The appointment of Gerry Brownlee as Energy and Resources Minister and Economic Development Minister, Judith Collins as Police and Corrections Minister, Anne Tolley as Education Minister, David Carter as Agriculture Minister, Tim Groser as Conservation Minister (as well as the expected Trade Minister), Steven Joyce as Transport Minister along with Associate Finance and Associate Infrastructure Minister, and Paula Bennett as Social Development and Employment Minister, will see the direction of some of New Zealand's major institutions come in for close attention.

Areas like energy and resources, conservation, police and corrections and social development were targeted by National all last year and before the election.

If the Cabinet stays true to its earlier comments, some pruning and rearranging will happen quickly.

National has also been critical of educational standards and Mrs Tolley is one of the new no-nonsense ministers.

Mr Joyce's intentions were well signalled when he ran National's campaigns in 2005 and 2008.

He comes into Parliament and straight into the Cabinet.

The multimillionaire made his money in private radio and is also Minister for Communications and Information Technology.

He and Mr English will be responsible for National's $1.5 billion broadband plan.

Ms Bennett has been rewarded for winning Waitakere for National from Labour with her quick promotion to the inner circle.

She has gone from receiving the domestic purposes benefit to overseeing the department responsible for paying it.

She says she is proud of her Maori and Pakeha ancestry, her background as a single teenage mother and working in menial jobs until the turning point - studying and graduating with a degree in social policy at Massey University and then a business career.

It explains her interest in welfare and education: "Having been a single mum myself, I have strong opinions on welfare dependency and what it does to one's spirit and one's potential. So I went into Parliament with high ideals of turning people's lives around and then went 'Whoa! This is tough. I might start with children'."

Mr Key also showed toughness, naming Maurice Williamson, Richard Worth and John Carter as ministers outside Cabinet.

Mr Williamson made gaffes about toll roads during the campaign, Dr Worth was hardly visible during the campaign and lost in spectacular fashion in Epsom to Act New Zealand leader Rodney Hide, and Mr Carter was involved in an angry exchange with a traffic officer which he hid from the party for several days.

There is an expectation these three MPs will stand down before the next election, although Mr Worth, a list MP, could be pressed to go earlier.

Lockwood Smith, the other MP who embarrassed Mr Key during the campaign, will probably be elected Speaker, keeping him out of harm's way and giving him an indication that it is time to go.

Mr Key said his Government would concentrate on boosting economic growth because that was what would lead the country out of challenging times.

The cluster of ministers around the top of the list involved in finance, infrastructure, commerce, energy and economic development demonstrated that getting the economy going would be front and centre of the government's priorities in office, Mr Key said.

"I am acutely aware that the economic challenges we face include forecasts which show rising unemployment. National wants to provide New Zealanders with some financial security in hard times.

"That is why we announced the transitional relief package during the election campaign to help those worst hit by redundancy and why it will be implemented in government."

Ms Bennett would oversee implementation of the package.

 

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