Little appoints shadow Cabinet: Robertson finance, King deputy
Newly elected Labour Party leader Andrew Little has appointed his closest rival for the job, Grant Robertson, to the crucial finance role previously held by David Parker and put caucus steady hand Annette King into the deputy leadership role for a year, while promising a full review and a new deputy in a year's time.
Elected last Tuesday in a four-way contest, Little has promoted another of his rivals, Nanaia Mahuta to fourth place in the shadow Cabinet, from ninth position under the previous leader, David Cunliffe, who is placed 14th in the new line-up and will hold the tertiary education, science and innovation, research and development, and regionial development roles.
Little said the new line-up was a mixture of experience and bringing through "many new and highly capable MP's who will have the opportunity to prove their ability."
Parker, Labour's former finance spokesman, and architect of several economic policies held partially responsible for Labour's defeat at the Sept. 20 general election, comes in at 15th, with trade and export growth responsibilities, along with Treaty of Waitangi negotiations. Parker had ruled himself out for the finance role after placing third in the leadership contest.
Three of the 10 Labour front-bench are Maori or Pasifika MP's, with junior whip Carmel Sepuloni at seventh spot with the social development portfolio and first-time MP Kelvin Davis, who snatched the Te Tai Tokerau seat from the leader of the Mana Party, Hone Harawira. Davis takes the police and corrections portfolios, with responsibilities in the justice arena for sexual and domestic violence issues.
The other big winner today is David Clark, who rockets from 20th to 10th and a front bench position in the caucus, the former Treasury analyst taking the economic development portfolio and understudying Robertson in the associate finance role.
Little said King's appointment signalled his need for experienced leadership in parliamentary debates, since he intended to spend much of his first year as leader "out and about" around New Zealand while the party refreshed its policy platform.
While he is opposed to continuing with Labour's policy of implementing a capital gains tax, which many believe was a key reason for Labour's defeat, he declined to speculate further on his comments over the weekend about a "wealth tax" as an alternative.
"When we look at our tax system and the fairness of it, clearly there's an issue about broadening the tax base," Little said. "I have no further developed views than that."
He had deliberately given himself only one portfolio, the security and portfolio brief normally held by party leaders.
Other recent Labour leaders, David Shearer and Phil Goff, are ranked 16th and 17th respectively, with foreign affairs and defence their respective main portfolios, but MP's below them are left "unranked" because rankings at the lower end of a caucus tended to create "an artificial sense of competition."
However, there appear to be messages for some of the MP's among the unranked. Among those to fall out of favour are Clayton Cosgrove, previously ranked seventh in the caucus, although he retains the state-owned enterprises portfolio and picks up the demanding revenue role.
Other long-serving MP's to be unranked are Trevor Mallard, Ruth Dyson and Damien O'Connor, although they retain significant responsibilities. Mallard is assistant speaker, Dyson has conservation and Canterbury earthquake recovery duties, while O'Connor retains primary industries.
Clare Curran returns to the broadcasting portfolio and keeps ICT, while the environment and climate change portfolios go to Megan Woods, ranked 13th in the caucus, up from 24th under Cunliffe, while a high-flier under Cunliffe, Louisa Wall, is unranked and gains only the youth affairs portfolio in her own right. Newly returned MP Stuart Nash gains the energy, forestry and statistics portfolios.