Heather du Plessis-Allan: PM once again shows she can't make tough calls

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 27 June 2019, 4:31PM
Cabinet will feel very relaxed now that Ardern has lowered the bar, writes Heather. (Photo / NZ Herald)

I’m still not convinced our Prime Minister has what it takes to make tough calls.

Jacinda Ardern has finally unveiled her much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle, and once again, she just couldn’t make the tough call to demote someone.

She’s taken the Housing Minister job off Phil Twyford and she’s given it to Megan Woods, which means she’s obviously unhappy with his handling of the Kiwibuild shambles.

But, hey, Phil Twyford’s going nowhere. There’s now a team of housing ministers. Megan Woods is in charge because she actually is capable, but there in the team is still Phil Twyford, taking the lead on urban development apparently because he’ll share his ‘extensive knowledge’. He also keeps Transport, which is a portfolio he really does deserve to be fired from, and he keeps his cabinet ranking of five.

Now explain this to me. He’s lost housing to Megan Woods, so she is now his housing boss, but she’s below him in the cabinet rankings at six.

And how is Iain Lees-Galloway still holding onto immigration and his ranking of 14? He stuffed up with Sroubek massively last year.

Come on, Jacinda. Make a tough decision, ruffle some feathers.

Today wasn’t actually a test of Phil Twyford at all. It was a test of the prime minister. Does she, yet, after nearly two years, have the mettle to make tough decisions? The answer is clearly no.

She didn’t fire Clare Curran when she stuffed up. Curran had to resign. She did fire Meka Whaitiri for allegedly manhandling a staff member but even today left the door open for Whaitiri to come back into cabinet.

She didn’t demand any heads when Labour HQ kept the summer sex scandal a secret from her, and now she’s demoted but not demoted Twyford.

Come on, a Prime Minster needs to make tough calls. That’s the job. If only to set a standard in cabinet, if only to say to other ministers ‘If you aren’t completely honest about meeting people in your active wear, if I’m not completely happy with the way you’re handling your portfolio, you’re out’.

The rest of cabinet can clearly breathe easily: the bar is obviously set very low.

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