'Honour' to be Prime Minister: Ardern, ministers sworn in

Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 6 Nov 2020, 11:53AM

'Honour' to be Prime Minister: Ardern, ministers sworn in

Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Fri, 6 Nov 2020, 11:53AM

The ministers-elect of Jacinda Ardern's Government have made their way into Government House and are sitting around a long, wooden table, waiting to be sworn in.

The room is filled with the soon-to-be Minister's family, as well as a media contingent.
Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, who sat at the head of the table, welcomed those in attendance.

Dame Patsy, who sat at the head of the table, welcomed those in attendance.

She said the formation of a new Government is always a "momentous" moment for this country.

Ardern confirmed that she is able to lead a Government.

Dame Patsy officially signed a warrant, making Ardern the Prime Minister.

Ardern smiled at her Deputy, Grant Robertson, before turning around to her fiancé, Clarke Gayford, and smiled at him as well.

Robertson was introduced as the "right honorable " - the only other minister to be referred to as such was Ardern.

All other new ministers - who had served as ministers in the previous Labour-led Government - were sworn in as the "honorable ".

New ministers, such as Michael Wood and Kiri Allan, were not given the honorable title - but that will be bestowed upon them later.

Ardern swore an oath of allegiance: "I, Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern, solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law."

Later in the ceremony, an official corrected Robertson's title, calling him just "the honourable" - rather than the "right honourable".

The "right honourable" is a title reserved for the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice.

New ministers have the option of swearing the oath of allegiance, and the affirmation of allegiance, in English or in Māori.

The likes of Kelvin Davis and Nanaia Mahuta did it in Māori.

The Executive Council's Oath reads: "I, [minister being sworn in], being chosen and admitted of the Executive Councils of New Zealand, swear that I will to the best of my judgment, at all times, when thereto required, freely give my counsel and advice to the Governor-General for the time being, for the good management of the affairs of New Zealand.

"That I will not directly nor indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will in all things be a true and faithful Councillor. So help me God."

The new ministers have signed the documents confirming them as Ministers of the Crown.

Ministers sitting around the table share a chuckle as Robertson was affirmed as the Minister for Racing.

That is a portfolio formerly held by NZ First leader Winston Peters.

Ardern said it was her "honour" to be Prime Minister.

She said as a team, the group has been described in many different ways .

"But I would say, sitting at this table, is Aotearoa New Zealand."
Addressing the Ministers, Ardern said they would govern during one of the hardest times in New Zealand's history.

But she said her ministers have a sense of direction and purpose.

"We will be a government for all New Zealanders, because we must be."

It comes almost three full weeks after the general election – the final votes of which will be released later today.

The ceremony – which involves the new ministers swearing an oath to the Queen – takes place after every election in New Zealand.

It's where MPs officially take over the ministerial portfolios they have been assigned by the Prime Minister.

After the 2017 election, Labour, NZ First and Greens MPs were all sworn in.

But, given the landslide election victory for Labour, the vast majority of ministers swearing the oath today are from Labour.

That is apart from Greens co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw, who were offered and accepted ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

This morning's ceremony is mostly a formality – the hard work for ministers begins soon after the swearing-in when the newly minted ministers have their first Cabinet meeting.

As Shaw and Davidson are sitting outside of Cabinet, the meeting of ministers will be an all-Labour affair.

Ardern will front a post-Cabinet press conference later this afternoon, where she is expected to be asked how the meeting went without the presence of NZ First.

That party has been a self-described "handbrake" on the Government during its first term.

So far, Ardern has not gone into detail about the trials and tribulations of leading a Labour/ NZ First government.

Meanwhile, in what was widely seen as an agenda-setting speech yesterday, Ardern said her government had two overarching objectives.

They were to accelerate the economic recovery and to keep New Zealanders safe from Covid, and its priorities reflected those objectives.

"Before Christmas, we will extend the Small Business Loan Scheme out to three years and extend the interest-free period to two years.

"We will also extend the purpose of the scheme and allow business to borrow to invest in new equipment and digital infrastructure."