There’s nothing quite like the drama of a good ministerial sacking. So who in this government will be the first to be shown the door, or walk through it all on their own? Alex Braae assesses the candidates.
Ministers come and ministers go, but the first of a new government is always a major occasion. It sets the standard for what will result in dismissal in future. If it’s too lenient, then too many future screw ups might be tolerated. And if it’s too harsh, then potentially useful people could be lost over something petty.
Often, when ministers really screw up, they’re allowed to resign with a fig-leaf of dignity, rather than be outright sacked. That’s how the first departure of the last government went down. Richard Worth – Minister outside of Cabinet – resigned over allegations of sexual harassment, and PM John Key later said if he hadn’t resigned, he would have been fired.
So far in this government, no minister has felt the wrath of Jacinda Ardern so severely that they’ve been forced to go. But just as jeers follow patsy questions in the House, there will be a first. And given we recently did a very serious and not at all satirical odds guide for which National MP will be next to resign, it’s only fair we do the government too. So, who will it be? Hopefully without committing any defamation, here are The Spinoff’s Official Odds on who will be first out the door.
$1.50 – Clare Curran
Yes, this one is an easy pick, given she’s the only minister with real questions of resignation swirling around her. But notice that the odds aren’t $1.10, they’re $1.50. So far, she has resolutely refused to go over a meeting which cost Radio NZ’s Carol Hirschfeld her job. And Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly backed her as well. Because of that, there would need to be a brand new fuck-up to make the PM change her mind. Meanwhile, there’s a voicemail recording that could sink her, but as yet it hasn’t been released. Given how quickly she managed to make a meal of the job, it seems implausible that there won’t be further mistakes.
$2.00 – Shane Jones
Old mate Jonesey is one of the few ministers who seems to go out of his way to cause trouble, perhaps because he’s survived so much of it in the past. Somehow he came back from both using a ministerial credit card to watch porn, and an Auditor General investigation of his controversial approval of citizenship for William Yan, aka Bill Liu. And that was all before he lost a leadership contest, ditched Labour to take up an appointment by from the National government, joined NZ First, attacked the board of Air New Zealand, attacked the Warehouse, and even attacked KFC. His latest gaffe has been approving a feasibility study for a project his officials told him was dodgy, telling the media he never got that advice, being contradicted by his officials, and then saying he had just clean forgot being told. Classic Jonesey.
One thing that will probably keep him safe though is that there’s no sign he’s making a play for the leadership of New Zealand First. Therefore, it stands to reason he’ll in turn retain the loyalty of Winston Peters if there’s another mishap.
$2.40 – Eugenie Sage
Probably safe because the story hasn’t really had much cut-through, but Sage has recently been accused of interfering with the Environmental Protection Agency, and then changed her story over a meeting with EPA chief executive Allan Freeth. She too blamed a faulty memory. What could count against her though is the possibility of a classic Green Party ‘principled stand,’ where they politically hobble themselves in order to send a message about how they want everyone to be nicer or something.
$2.60 – Ron Mark
Already managed to get himself in strife this year over the claims he was misusing the Air Force for travel, dubbed ‘Ron Air.’ Mark could be in trouble, because he’s up against a ruthlessly ambitious opposition spokesperson. Mark Mitchell has spent the year so far trying everything to raise his profile, and picking up the first scalp of the term would vault him even further into the upper echelons of the National Party.
$3.50 – David Clark
The Health Minister has to be up there, in part because the job of health minister is hell. There’s no reason to think that Clark will screw up necessarily, but he’s inherited a system in which Middlemore Hospital has asbestos, toxic mould, and literal shit in the walls. Less likely to be sacked for a mistake than other ministers, because he caught the hospital pass when it was thrown at him. But Clark may well quit to return the priesthood for a quiet life.
$4.50 – Kris Faafoi
The minister for consumer affairs and civil defence, and so probably most vulnerable to being hit by a crisis which then gets botched. Again, there’s no reason to think he will screw up, but events being what they are, he could end up mishandling the wrong one. Recently faced difficult questions over why the recall for Takata airbags took so long to become compulsory – that sort of thing in those sort of portfolios has the potential for a lot of cut-through with the average person.
$10.00 – James Shaw
Will be sacked as Minister for Climate Change, when it’s revealed to be a globalist hoax.
$15.00 – Winston Peters
Will have to resign in disgrace when the performance enhancing doping programme he’s overseen for the Parliamentary rugby team becomes public knowledge.
$28.00 – Chris Hipkins
Rumours are swirling that the baby-faced education minister is, in fact, himself still a high-schooler. If proven, it could undermine his authority with teachers, or as Hipkins calls them, Miss.
$11 billion – Grant Robertson
Turns out that ridiculous Steven Joyce campaign claim about Labour’s fiscal hole was true after all.
THE WILD CARD
The prime minister herself could be the first to go, under the following circumstances:
- She goes on maternity leave, and Winston Peters is formally sworn in as Prime Minister
- Winston Peters decides he quite likes being Prime Minister.
- Ardern returns as scheduled, only to be pre-emptively sacked by Prime Minister Winston Peters.
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