David Clark accused of cronyism after appointing another ex-Labour MP

Minister of Health David Clark has been accused of cronyism after he appointed former Labour MP Steve Maharey as new chair of Pharmac, against the advice of officials, and without following State Services Guidelines in considering a pool of applicants.

Clark’s history shows he has been appointed to a number of positions as he has worked his way into politics and up the ladder, and once he became a Minister (in Cabinet) he has made more than one appointment that involves political connections.

Clark is an ordained Presbyterian minister and practiced as one from 1997 to 2000 (he is still a celebrant and performed a civil union for Grant Robertson and his partner in January 2009).

He started his political involvement while working as an analyst for Treasury from 2003 to 2006, and was also appointed to a number of community positions:

  • Campaign hoardings assistance, Wellington 2005
  • Advisor to Hon David Parker 2006 – 2007
  • Dunedin North Campaign Committee member and activist 2008
  • Head of College, Selwyn College, University of Otago 2008 – 2011
  • Member, Finance and Audit Committee Otago Community Trust 2008 – 2012
  • Trustee, Otago Community Trust 2008 – 2012
  • Leith Branch Membership Secretary 2009 – 2011
  • Member, Otago Forward economic development forum 2009 – 2011
  • Dunedin North LEC Deputy Chair 2009 – 2010
  • Dunedin North LEC Chair 2010
  • Member, University of Otago Vice-Chancellor’s Alcohol Advisory Task Force 2010 – 2011
  • Deputy Chair, Otago Community Trust 2011 – 2012
  • Member of Parliament for Dunedin North 2011 – current

After working his way up the Dunedin North Labour Party administration he was selected to replace the retiring Pete Hodgson and won the safe-ish electorate in 2011.

He was appointed Minister of Health when Labour took over Government in October 2017. he made a controversial appointment soon after:

ODT (8 December 2017): Hospital rebuild chairman sacked; Hodgson given job

Health Minister David Clark has sacked the Dunedin Hospital rebuild chairman and appointed former Labour cabinet minister Pete Hodgson to lead the project.

When contacted, Hawke’s Bay consultant Andrew Blair said his role as Southern Partnership Group chairman was “terminated” this week. Dr Clark told the Otago Daily Times the rebuild needed to be led by a local person.

Mr Hodgson, Dr Clark’s predecessor in Dunedin North, served as MP from 1990 to 2011, and held numerous ministerial portfolios in the fifth Labour government.

“As a former minister of health, he understands the complexity of the issues involved,” Dr Clark said.

“He is indisputably a local champion, and  . . . is well connected into health.

Dr Clark’s other move is appointing University of Otago chief operating officer Stephen Willis to the group now led by Mr Hodgson.

So Clark’s university and political connections coming into play there. This left Clark open to criticism, which he got – War of words over Dunedin Hospital rebuild

Former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says the Government has made the “wrong move for progressing the rebuild” of Dunedin Hospital.

“The announcement of the ultimate Dunedin Labour Party political insider and former Health Minister Pete Hodgson as chair of the Southern Partnership Group is exactly the wrong move for progressing the rebuild.”

Hodgson is probably a good person for the job, but there is a risk of it being seen as cronyism.

Now this week (Newsroom) Clark accused of cronyism over Pharmac appointment:

Steve Maharey, former Labour MP and ex-Education Minister was appointed Pharmac chair on August 1 to little fanfare.

But questions are now being raised about his appointment after it emerged Health Minister David Clark went against the advice of officials in appointing Maharey.

Documents released under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Health advised reappointing existing chair Stuart McLauchlan for a fourth term.

A report from 3 May 2018 advised Clark, “the Ministry considers sound reasons exist that support the reappointment of Mr McLauchlan”.

“Pharmac is taking on new roles that will have a significant impact on the health sector… They will require Pharmac to develop new capabilities to carry out these new roles,” the briefing said.

It went on to say: “Mr McLauchlan has performed well as the chair and it is advisable to provide for continuity during this period of expansion of Pharmac’s role. This is particularly so, given that a new chief executive has recently been appointed”.

It went on to recommend McLauchlan be reappointed for a further term of three years or, if Clark wished to change the chair, to reappoint him for just one year, while a replacement chair was sourced.

But Clark overrode that advice.

Instead, he informed McLauchlan that he would not be reappointed, and elevated Maharey to the board.

Opposition health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the move was “appalling,” and raised questions about the process involved.

While Clark had the right to appoint Maharey, he went against guidelines from the State Services Commission, which advises a position description be filled out and a wide-pool of applicants be sought before appointing board members.

A workflow for appointment processes from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet shows that the general procedure is to identify required skills and “call for nominations”.

Instead, a statement from Clark said the position “was not publicly advertised, which is within the Board Appointments and Induction Guidelines from the State Services Commission”.

Clark told Newsroom the appointment “followed the standard process for Board chairs and was signed off by the Cabinet”.

But Woodhouse said the process raised issues of cronyism.

“David Clark’s appalling move to remove the previous chair and appoint a former Labour MP to the role, all with no position description, no application process, interview, or any other input into the decision is cronyism at its worst,” Woodhouse said.

Making uncontested appointments, especially when close political affiliations are involved, are risky.

Maharey may chair Pharmac competently and without controversy, but questions could be asked about his credentials. He has been Vice-Chancellor of Massey University since he left Parliament.

He doesn’t seem to have done health as an MP. His responsibilities:

  • 1990-1994 spokesperson of broadcasting and education
  • 1994-1997 spokesperson for labour
  • 1996-1999 spokesperson on social welfare, employment, and tertiary education
  • 1999-2007 he ha\d various portfolios:
    Minister of Social Services and Employment
    Associate Minister of Education holding special responsibility for tertiary education
    Minister of Broadcasting
    Minister for Education
    Minister for Research, Science and Technology
    Minister for Crown Research Institutes
    Minister for Youth Affairs

Nothing health related – but Clark didn’t have much of a background in health either.

If there are no controversies over Pharmac (or the Dunedin Hospital rebuild) this may not be an issue for Clark, but he should take care avoiding too many accusations of cronyism.


UPDATE: more appointments with political connections from Clark – More DHB chair turnover but Health Minister says it’s not political

On Sunday David Clark announced three new board chairs for Auckland DHBs – Pat Snedden will lead Auckland DHB from June 1, Judy McGregor at Waitemata DHB from June 10 and Vui Mark Gosche at Counties-Manukau DHB from Thursday.

At least two of the appointments appear to be politically motivated with Gosche coming into the role having previously been a Minister under the former Labour-led Government.

Gosche was a Labour MP from 1996-2008.

McGregor served as the first Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner for the New Zealand Human Rights Commission between 2003 and 2013 (two terms), appointed by Minister Margaret Wilson and replaced in the role by politician Jackie Blue (a National political appointment).

Pat Snedden was previously also a Labour appointee who says he was politically pushed by National’s Health Minister in 2010 – see Minister pushes health chief out

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44 Comments

  1. artcroft

     /  September 2, 2018

    Hodgeson and Maharey might be good appointments but the precedent is appalling.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 2, 2018

      So was Miss Ardern overriding the SSC over MPs’ pay. This was a very dangerous precedent and played to the prejudice of the uninformed who still think that MPs set their own salary. It was a stupid, playing to the gallery move that could backfire. I am amazed that she even thought about doing it and that she got away with it.

      Reply
  2. artcroft

     /  September 2, 2018

    Labour: Taking the low road.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  September 2, 2018

      There was also that awkward business with Rabindren, where Clark tried to gag him by hinting he might consider him for further appointments in a voicemail.

      Clark is another Minister who seems to be a dork.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  September 2, 2018

      taking the same road both major parties have taken since…forever.

      Reply
  3. robertguyton

     /  September 2, 2018

    Clark has been accused of cronyism by … Woodhouse . Woodhouse has been in the news lately, fettering free speech. Woodhouse; rhymes with woodlouse and that’s a Slater.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  September 2, 2018

      Is there no end to his perfidy? >:D

      Reply
    • artcroft

       /  September 2, 2018

      Flinging mud again Robert? You’ve become Mr Dirty Politics it seems. It didn’t take long to ditch your principles now Greens (oops sorry) Winston’s in power

      Reply
  4. robertguyton

     /  September 2, 2018

    You went up against Clark when you stood for election to Parliament, Pete. Woodhouse too. Who do you rate? I like Pete Hodgeson, btw; shared a campaign platform with him and had some enjoyable dialogue with him. Met him at a Michael Leunig event also.

    Reply
    • I found Woodhouse to be fine. I campaigned against him to an extent, but had some good discussions and debates. I think he was ok as a minister, mostly, but made some minor stuff ups. He actually has a health background (CEO of Mercy Hospital). I cringed at his recent attack on Chelsea Manning.

      Clark was disappointing. He followed a campaign formula and rarely seemed to express his own views. He mostly came across as a party parrot. When you look at his history I think you can see signs of a party climbing plan.

      I think he is a decent guy personally, he means well, but in politics he works more as a mates assisted team player, and little sign oof leadership.

      He may turn out ok now he is in a position of responsibility, but health is well known as a very difficult portfolio to shine in. He rates a dim at the moment.

      Reply
      • robertguyton

         /  September 2, 2018

        Thanks for sharing your experiences and views, Pete: I appreciate that.

        Reply
    • I haven’t met Hodgson. He ignored me in a lift once going to some political event in Dunedin.

      He was ok as an MP for Dunedin, and generally as a minister. I diidn’t like his dirtier political dealings.

      The Smiling Assassin: Pete Hodgson’s mastery of the dark arts of politics goes back a long way…

      http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2010/11/perfect-sting.html

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  September 2, 2018

        Reply
      • robertguyton

         /  September 2, 2018

        I read Trotter’s article. Hodgson’s activities weren’t ‘dirty’, they were smart; collecting and sharing Michael Laws’ columns wasn’t ‘dirty’ at all, neither was the exposure of Patsy Wong’s behaviour. Pete was a smart operator. Did he “misspeak” and “misremember” like Key and English? Did Pete Hodgson have a “Slater” to burner-call late at night? “Dirty” politics is a Key/National Party thing.

        Reply
        • “Dirty” politics is a Key/National Party thing.

          Do you really believe that?

          Reply
          • robertguyton

             /  September 2, 2018

            They excelled at it, employed it liberally and benefitted from it extensively. Hagar revealed the depth of their dirtiness, with The Hollow Men and with Dirty Politics. Those books are about…The National Party. Slater was their grimy-poster boy, Pete and that must tell you something.

            Reply
            • Gerrit

               /  September 2, 2018

              The question remains…is cronyism acceptable?

              No amount of pointing at a squirrel called “Dirty Politics” addresses the cronyism issue.

              Hodgson and Maharey might be the best sparks for those two jobs, but for a minister to shortcut the appointment process (and ignore his ministry staff) shortsighted and indicates to my mind…cronyism.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  September 2, 2018

              Hagar is the prime exponent of dirty politics and snide innuendo.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 2, 2018

              “Cronyism” is what it is, but is this cronyism? That’s the question, Gerrit.
              Alan: Hagar is the prime exposer of dirty politics and snide innuendo (from you is…boring).

            • Gerrit

               /  September 2, 2018

              Yes it is. Just like another David Clark health appointment that slipped under the radar.

              Former Labour Minister(?) Mark Goeshe to head Manukau District Health Board.

              This is after he tried to gag the former head.

              “Jami-Lee Ross has provided the Herald with a voicemail of Clark that appears to show the Health Minister offered to consider former Counties Manukau District Health Board chairman Rabin Rabindran for further appointments if he stopped commenting on issues at Middlemore Hospital.”

              https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12070966

              Next squirrel please.

            • Thanks. For future reference I have added that to the post, showing that both Labour and National have made political appointments.

        • Gezza

           /  September 2, 2018

          @ Al

          Just saying

          Reply
      • Ray

         /  September 2, 2018

        Hodgson isn’t above using physical force when things are not going his way.
        https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10360753
        He was running interference for Ms Clark at the time
        And yes, Gerry did threaten to throw someone down some stairs but this was the real thing

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  September 2, 2018

          they are technically both the ‘real thing’…Ray…

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 2, 2018

            Pete; ignoring someone in a lift seems a small thing, but it’s a stupid thing to do. How hard is it to greet the person and make some commonplace remark ?

            I was once on my way to a political conference and was in a lift with an MP (long gone, a one term wonder) and her friend. I was given an unfriendly down-up-down look and then ignored and given the impression that I was an unwelcome intruder as she turned her back and spoke to her friend. NOT a good look; had I not been a party member and married to one of the founders, I would have stayed in the lift and gone back down. None of the other MPs would have behaved in that way.

            Reply
        • robertguyton

           /  September 2, 2018

          Good one, Ray:
          “Police have found that Health Minister Pete Hodgson committed a technical assault when he grabbed Madeleine Flannagan’s arm during a political protest at the University of Otago in September, but will not be charging him. ”
          Did police find John Key guilty of a technical assault when he repeatedly tugged on a woman’s pony-tail, despite her objections? If not, why not, Ray (question for you Ray, I await your response with great interest).

          Reply
          • Ray

             /  September 2, 2018

            That is an easy one Robert.
            Despite your claim that the woman objected to some simple horse play and the hullabaloo kicked up by your fellow travelers she wasn’t prepared to claim she was attacked.
            No case to answer.

            Reply
            • robertguyton

               /  September 2, 2018

              Really, Ray??
              A waitress in a cafe wasn’t willing to lay charges against the Prime Minister?
              Case closed, eh!
              Your naivety astounds me! Given the reporting, the comments about Key’s security men and their reservations, Key’s wife’s reported actions and the comments from the waitress to the media, you still say, “nothing to see here” – I’m astonished! And disappointed.

  5. Blazer

     /  September 2, 2018

    depends how you interpret the conversation…your theory is reliant on…assumption.

    Reply
  6. David

     /  September 2, 2018

    I hope its not a sign that the minister is so far out of his depth that instead of appointing knowledgeable specialists to critical roles he feels he needs political cover. He seems like a well meaning fella but a little bit dim and inexperienced for the role.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  September 2, 2018

      climate change minister Paula Bennett….

      ‘what do you know about climate change’
      Bennett…..’nothing’!

      Very good ,continue on.

      Reply
      • Gerrit

         /  September 2, 2018

        squirrel alert…diversionary tactics in operation

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  September 2, 2018

          don’t worry Gerrit …even a blind squirrel finds a…nut…now and again.

          Reply
      • robertguyton

         /  September 2, 2018

        Says it all: National – taking climate change … seriously!

        Reply
        • artcroft

           /  September 2, 2018

          What’s National got to do with it, They’re in opposition. Winston’s in charge now. Maybe he’ll let you set up another working group to discuss it but he won’t let James put on his big boy pants and make any decisions.

          Reply
          • robertguyton

             /  September 2, 2018

            True: National are of no consequence. It’s a blessing, really.

            Reply
            • artcroft

               /  September 2, 2018

              Neither are the Greens.

            • robertguyton

               /  September 2, 2018

              Ha! Stupid comment, arty! They’re in Government! Suck on that, Opposition-guy!

  1. David Clark accused of cronyism after appointing another ex-Labour MP — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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