Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

  asks: Why is Winston Peters Foreign Minister?

I’m wondering this today because one of the books I read over the break talks about proportional representation in Germany, and how the system gave disproportional power to the third party (the FDP).

And the FDP exercised this by making their leader the Foreign Minister when they went into governing coalitions. And when the FDP declined and the German Greens became the kingmakers, their leader Joschka Fischer became the foreign Minister.

And this is Peters’ second round in the same position and he’s chosen the same portfolio. So that seems to be a thing. But Foreign Minister seems like a bad portfolio to have when you’re leader of a minority party in government!

You’re out of the country almost all of the time. It’s hard to stay in the loop, either with your own party or broader political developments. It’s the job Prime Ministers traditionally give to valuable but ambitious rivals or caucus trouble-makers to keep them out of mischief.

And its hard to deliver on retail politics or distribute pork from that position. Peters, like McCully before him will doubtless find a way, but certainly nothing as lavish as Shane Jones will deliver with his infrastructure fund.

It is a VERY prestigious post, though. You get to meet kings and queens and drive through Beijing in a motorcade! Do (some) third parties favour the Foreign Ministry because it’s the most prestigious position in government that a major party will concede?

Or is there some other political advantage to the position I don’t know about?

One possibility is that it is part of Winston’s succession plan.

He gets to hold the top position that NZ First has gets to hob nob with governments and royalty around the world, and gives the rest of the NZ First MPs some space to work out how to work together without him hovering over them all the time.

When he is out of the country media are forced to go to a different NZ First MP for comment on party related issues.

Shane Jones being given five ministerial positions including the regional pork distributor suggests he is Winston’s favoured successor. His portfolios:

  • Minister of Forestry
  • Minister for Infrastructure
  • Minister for Regional Economic Development
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Transport

That covers key NZ First policies and gives him an influence in Finance. And is too much work for Peters, especially if he is considering retirement by the end of this term.

Deputy Ron Mark has been given relatively lightweight and inconsequential (for NZ First) portfolios:

  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister for Veterans

That doesn’t look like leader-in-waiting level responsibilities – but it gives Mark more opportunity to campaign and lobby to take over the party should Peters step down.

Another reason for Foreign Affairs for Peters could be Labour’s doing. He is (on paper at least) our #2 politician and deputy Prime Minister, so he will probably get to act as the big cheese occasionally and briefly, but most of the time he is out of the country and out of sight, so gives him little chance to grandstand over Jacinda Ardern.

Foreign Affairs is also a job Peters has done before so knows the ropes, so it will be easier for him than taking on a major domestic workload that he would first need to familiarise himself with.

And it could be that Peters just likes Foreign Affairs, and wanted a job he would enjoy.

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13 Comments

  1. David

     /  December 29, 2017

    Its a job where you dont really have to do any work if you dont want to, you get to socialise and have a few drinks as part of your work, you get to take your girlfriend around the world without it costing anything and you dont need to queue to check in etc everywhere.
    Generally when something goes wrong in your portfolio its in someone elses country so you dont have to face an irate constituent.
    And NZ is so small few know where we are, we certainly dont matter all that much and the bollocks of an independent foreign policy crap might have washed during the cold war but now every country has one.

    • PDB

       /  December 29, 2017

      Well summed up. He couldn’t wait to get back on the overseas social circuit – ordinary New Zealanders he couldn’t give a shit about, nor keeping most of his election promises.

      • Yes a perfect summation David. I was told that he was considered by legal colleagues as “the laziest person they’d ever worked with” and along with his:

        Desire for the high life
        Free everything including booze
        First Class travel
        Meeting royalty and people of influence
        Jacinda’s keenness to get shot of him

        ..it was a no brainer.

  2. Dawson

     /  December 29, 2017

    Wow what a way to miss the point. McLaughlan was asking about the commonality between the NZ and German experiences and your “answer” consists of highly NZF specific considerations.

    • Ah, I bought up alternative points that I thought could answer his primary question, it wasn’t intended as an ‘agree with Danyl’ post, rather to explore different discussion points.

      You could try adding your own rather than just miss the point of posts here.

  3. Blazer

     /  December 29, 2017

    Peters experience makes him eminently suited to the job.He never put a foot wrong as FA min ister before and compared with Mc Cully is a..star.

    • Conspiratoor

       /  December 29, 2017

      Correct, apart from some ahem …funny business with a wannabe ambassador to monaco

      • David

         /  December 29, 2017

        To be fair he never did anything as foreign affairs minister but there isnt really a lot to do, he showed some flair in combining the role with leader of NZ First as Conspiratoor noted. He may find there is a bit more to do this time in clearing up after Ardern has finished annoying foreign leaders who come from different political persuasions to her.
        One of the fascinating things about Key was he spent more time with Obama and China,s president than any other world leader…probably clearing up after McCully

    • Doesn’t matter how much you uptick yourself it doesn’t make your point more valid Blazer. Mr Peters is a jerk of the first order. You must have a very short memory if you cannot remember his filthy pack of lies about donations and in particular the OWEN GLENN debacle. Also his failure to pay the NZ taxpayer back the $158,000 dollars and instead giving it to a foundation his lawyer is a Director of, marks him as just plain greedy and arrogant.

      I cannot think of a more dishonourable, graft and corruption tainted man in NZ politics ( apart from maybe Taito P Field and Donna Awatere Huata). That he represents us is a travesty and he should have been dealt with far more severely over his lies and cheating.

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/639753/Peters-found-guilty-of-deceit

  4. Gezza

     /  December 29, 2017

    The amusing thing about Winston is that even when he’s out there advocating for our government’s independent foreign policy, when it comes to near election times he always seems to have his own independent foreign policy.

  5. PDB

     /  December 29, 2017

    Winston wants to be out of the country as much of possible with the new govt we have – who can blame him?

  6. David

     /  December 29, 2017

    “He gets to hold the top position that NZ First has gets to hob nob with governments and royalty around the world, and gives the rest of the NZ First MPs some space to work out how to work together without him hovering over them all the time.”

    Winston cares a great deal about the first part of this, I very doubtful he gives the slightest monkey about the second part.