Ministers rated, too soon to judge Government performance

While it’s possible to make an early assessment of early assessments of the performance of Ministers – Andrew Little and David Parker have stood out as competent achievers – it’s too soon to judge the overall performance of the Government, as I suggested in this post yesterday: The Government graded.

More media and journalists followed Newsroom and gave the Government a 6 month report card, but have focussed on the out the performance of Ministers.

Newshub – Six months in: The new Government’s report card

Jacinda Ardern 

On the global stage, Ardern shines.

But back at home, her Government has faced a series of scandals. There were the poorly handled Young Labour sexual assault claims, a Deputy Prime Minister who keeps making Kremlin-adjacent comments and there was the weird case of Carol Hirschfeld’s resignation from RNZ after meeting with Cabinet Minister Clare Curran.

But has her team been cracking on and transforming New Zealand?

…For almost everything else, it’s hard to say how transformative this Government will be, because most issues have been relegated to reviews and working groups.

Parker and Little rated well, while Clare Curran and Kelvin Davis were put at the bottom of the class.

Stuff: How has Cabinet scored?

  • Andrew Little – 9
    Little has a lot of portfolios, which is indicative of how competent he is, and he has really hit the ground running.
  • Jacinda Ardern – 8 (generous if substance and Cabinet management are taken into account)
    The Prime Minister has had a big start to the toughest gig in town.
  • David Parker – 8
    Parker had an early win getting the CPTPP signed and also pulled off a ban on foreign buyers purchasing existing homes.
  • Shane Jones – 8 (very generous)
    If he was being measured on headlines and sound bites Jones would be well in the lead.
  • Winston Peters – 7 (generous)
    The deputy prime minister has a mixed score card.
  • Grant Robertson – 7 (premature)
    It’s been a good six months for the Finance Minister (but the May budget is his big test).
  • James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter – 7
    Shaw and Genter have had a solid start and have clocked up some big wins for the Greens in the first six months.
  • Megan Woods, Iain Lees-Galloway, Damien O’Connor, Stuart Nash – 6
    All four ministers have their heads down and are getting the work done without causing too much of a stir.
  • Phil Twyford – 5
    Twyford has made some bold moves with transport – not all have been well received – but on housing it’s a bit of a slow grind.
  • David Clark – 5
    He’s got a lot of work on his hands and has some serious questions to answer over issues at Middlemore Hospital.
  • Ron Mark, Tracey Martin – 5
    The NZ First ministers have had a pretty low profile.
  • Nanaia Mahuta, Jenny Salesa, Carmel Sepuloni – 3
    The invisible trio.
  • Kelvin Davis – 2
    His stints as acting prime minister haven’t gone too well and he hasn’t really stamped his mark on the Corrections portfolio at this point.
  • Clare Curran – 1
    The Broadcasting Minister has had a terrible run of late and looks to be struggling to bounce back from it.

Stuff have an online poll: How do you rate the Government’s first six months?

  • Fantastic – 10%
  • Good – 25%
  • Average – 25%
  • Poor 24%
  • Horrible 16%

That’s a fairly balanced result, not surprising given that it is early in the term with a lot of policies deferred to committees. I’d give them an ‘Average’ at this stage.

Barry Soper gives an overall assessment: The successes and failures of Labour’s first six months

The fails:

  • the drunken Youth Labour camp revelations where Ardern was kept in the dark,
  • the embarrassing blunders of their Broadcasting Minister Claire Curran,
  • allowing themselves to be the blind eye of the Five Eyes countries when it came to condemning the misdeeds of Russia
  • the cancellation, without consultation, of all future offshore oil and gas exploration even though it’ll cost billions and do nothing for climate change other than sending production offshore.

The successes:

  • paid parental leave extension,
  • the families package instead of tax cuts,
  • lower winter power bills for the elderly,
  • the inquiry into historic child abuse
  • multiple handouts to students.

The fors and againsts tend to balance each other out, but the real tests are to come, starting with the Budget next month.

An RNZ also says Budget the real test of new government

Six months into the new government and the real test will be May 17th – the Budget.

Labour and its governing partners have been laying the groundwork for a Budget that will signal new priorities for spending, after building the case for significant increases to public sector funding.

Under the self imposed deadline of its own 100 day plan the government launched into an ambitious programme to implement, or start the ball rolling, on key policies and initiatives.

The first was the fees free tertiary policy, in the first year for those who had not studied before.

The jury is still out on whether that will actually achieve better access to tertiary study as intended; what is clear is that at $2.8 billion over four years it does not come cheap and is a commitment that will limit what the government can do in its first term.

Other big ticket items like the Provincial Growth Fund and the Kiwibuild Programme will also take up a fair amount of room in Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s first Budget.

Political management is another test of the government and most of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Domestically, it has been a rough couple of months – on the whole it has been up to Ms Ardern to defend the failings of some of her ministers, and balance the interests of Labour against those of its coalition partner New Zealand First, and of the Greens.

Labour also had to deal with the damaging headlines of sexual assault claims at a party camp, a story only halted by the announcement of the inevitable review.

Inquiries into mental health, abuse in state care, Hit and Run allegations and effectively into a possible Pike River re-entry have put off the need for any immediate action on complex and sensitive issues Labour made a lot of noise about in opposition.

Ms Ardern is a ‘girly swot’ in her own words and easily handles questions about policy detail. But is she exhibiting the steel voters look for in a Prime Minister?

Ms Ardern will be judged on how she handles ministerial misdemeanours and while a new Cabinet will initially be given a bit of latitude as they settle into their roles, that time is past.

All in all she has weathered a stormy few months and has come out relatively unscathed. Rounding off the six months with a high profile overseas trip making progress on crucial trade deals for New Zealand has not been unhelpful.

The next big challenge will be to demonstrate the Government has the economic chops to deliver on the promises made to voters, while sticking to the budget principles it insists it will not abandon.

It’s the economy that makes the most difference, and how the Government wants to influence that will become known in three weeks when their first budget is announced.

Unfavourable view of US candidates

The most likely candidates to run off for the US presidency are getting seriously unfavourable ratings from voters:


That’s an awful look for Clinton, Cruz and Trump, and a terrible look for the quality of candidates for one of the most important and powerful positions in the world.

Fairfax rates Key generously

Fairfax has rated twenty seven MPs in Front bench report 2014’s winners and losers.

I think John Key’s rating is generous.

John Key: 8.5/10 Secured a sweeping third victory in the teeth of the Dirty Politics allegations and still the party’s most important asset. But has been in danger of breaching his own directive against arrogance, by ducking questions and defending his conversations with WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater. Feels perverse to ask after such a big win, but is the gloss starting to wear off?

The “sweeping third victory” probably had more to do with a backlash against Kim Dotcom than Key’s performance, which has been patchy and at times poor.

National have been steady under English’s financial management (at least as much as an asset as Key) rather than outstanding.

While I agree with Key’s flagship policy – we should have a chance to decide if we want to retain or change our flag – it’s hardly a major legacy type policy.

Key has to lift his performance and lift his ambitions if he’s to rate more than “was popular and did ok apart from some crap”.

I’d rate him 6/12 for this year’s lumpy effort, with definite room for improvement.

Trans Tasman on Dunne

Transtasman has published its annual ratings on all MPs.

Peter Dunne is down from 6.5 to 4.0 – he would have dropped lower mid year but is trying to get back on track, with mixed results. The Transtasman comment:

Lost his ministerial portfolio and, for a while, his party as well after some serious brain fades. Bounced back though and at year end was claiming to be a born again politician. He’ll stand again in Ohariu and despite all the trauma he could hold it – with a bit of help from National. Loses points for appalling judgement calls but we think he’ll be back.

Again, I think that’s fair enough. It won’t be easy for Dunne to get back. I think he needs to do less grumpy and more positive and constructiveness. Having learnt some hard lessons he would be National’s most reliable partner but has shown he will vote independently, and on his own may not be enough. Despite what some claim there’s no way he will work within a Labour led Government with current personnel and policies.

He badly needs a party that will do more than help him win Ohariu if he wants UF to survive beyond the next term without him but the prospects there are currently not good.