20 Oct 2017

Portfolio allocation 'like a game of jenga' - Jacinda Ardern

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 20 October 2017

Ministerial portfolios will be announced on Wednesday, Labour leader and incoming prime minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Jacinda Ardern Press Conf 20/10/17

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Labour caucus met earlier on Friday to elect members to Cabinet, but details of ministerial portfolios will not be announced until next week.

Labour has agreed to give New Zealand First four Cabinet positions and an under-secretary, while the Greens will get three ministers outside Cabinet and an under-secretary.

The Labour caucus elected 21 minister to serve in the executive.

Speaking to Checkpoint, Ms Ardern said there was experience in the new line-up.

"We've got both the advantage of having a fresh new line-up although keeping in mind of course a number of those MPs have upwards of nine years of parliamentary experience ... but we do have equally those who have had cabinet experience before, the likes of Damien O'Connor, the likes of David Parker, Nanaia Mahuta.

"We also have the experience of people like Trevor Mallard and Ruth Dyson supporting Labour in other roles."

She said it was about making use of experience and would not be drawn on who might be getting which portfolios.

"It's quite a job, the portfolio allocation, it's a bit like a game of Jenga.

"A good example, we've already announced, for instance that we want a separate forestry service. A huge amount of emphasis from this government [will be] on using forestry as a tool for employment, regional economic development but also our climate change goals.

"And you'll see other areas where we want to do that we'll make sure that we have separate portfolios, but not an unreasonable level. There are some break ups that I think just don't make sense."

Asked about her prime ministerial role, she said she would be focused on child well-being alongside traditional expectations of taking a role in security and intelligence.

She also said more needed to be done to increase the number of women in Parliament.

"It's all about the work that you do to lay the foundation for women to be coming into those opportunities in the first place, making sure that the support is there and we're identifying that talent early.

"We set ourselves the goal as the Labour party because it's, after all, 2017, that Parliament should reflect our population and you can't tell me that we shouldn't be able to find 60 women to enter into Parliament of the 120 we have.

Ms Ardern said she did not know whether New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Green Party leader James Shaw had met, and she said they had said they have a good working relationship.

"There are no issues there.

"I'm absolutely confident having conducted negotiations ... over a range of issues I can tell you I am confident we'll have an excellent working relationship collectively."

She said she spoke to National party leader Bill English on Thursday evening.

"He gave me a call yesterday evening ... he wished me well in my future endeavours.

"Certainly you'll see a robust relationship between our parties in the future.

"He certainly has an incredible amount of experience. We, of course, take very different views."

Ms Ardern said she spoke to Mr Peters on Friday, but there was no decision yet on whether he accepted the offer of deputy prime minister. They would be speaking at the weekend, she said.

"It's not something an immediate decision was required of him.

"After such a lengthy period of negotiations, predominantly having been spent on policy discussions, he may just want to take a bit of time to think about portfolios and roles for individuals."