20 August 2008

John Key's H2

A simple question.

Heather Simpson's role in the government is well known, she is the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, is regularly referred to by bureaucrats as the "Associate Prime Minister" and is undoubtedly the most powerful bureaucrat in the country - and more powerful than most Cabinet Ministers (perhaps only Cullen rivals her in power). She pulls Cabinet papers from the agenda, she vets Cabinet papers and amends them - that's an incredibly powerful role, albeit fully supported by Helen Clark.

However, does John Key intend to appoint a person to take this role? If he does it is a poor vote of confidence in the abilities of his colleagues and the public sector, if he doesn't it shows he can command a loyal crew, and he is willing to let himself and Cabinet manage difficulties, conflicts and handle strategic oversight.

What it would show is a very different form of government, and given nobody elected H2, given the mainstream media has been quite negligent in failing to discussing or debate her role in our Westminster style liberal democracy, as it openly challenges the autonomy of Cabinet Ministers to present papers to Cabinet, and centralising power in the hands of the PM, it would be refreshing to hear if John Key has a view on it.

If he DOES want such a person, it may be justifiable on the basis that many government departments will have spent nine years implementing Labour policies, and new naive Cabinet Ministers may not have the knowledge, confidence or awareness to know when they are being steered in directions that are not government policy.

Having said that though, given National policy announcements to date, I wonder to what extent that is a problem.


Will de Cleene said...

No-one has a monopoly on wisdom, and in many ways it has been good to have the stability (and almost Rat King-like hive mind) of the Clark/Cullen/Simpson triumvirate. It is preferable to the alternative, which is to have Clark as despot.

It is for this reason that one person should never hold both Prime Minister and Finance Minister roles ever again, as Muldoon proved.

As for the third leg, my money's on Stephen Joyce.

Anonymous said...

"It is preferable to the alternative, which is to have Clark as despot".

Sounds like Buckley's choice to me.

Besides, Clark & Cullen can, at least, defend their actions upon being duly elected.

Not so with Simpson.

Will de Cleene said...

H2's position as Chief of Staff is valid. No-one elected the Reserve Bank Governor, GG or SSC Head neither. As long as the advice is good and in the public interest, fair call.

Who is Buckley and why are they choice?