Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8: Ardern picks her ministers; Who might get what; Agriculture in emissions scheme

Jacinda Ardern announces the list of Labour Cabinet ministers (but not their portfolios) at a press conference on Friday. Photo by Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we detail the latest developments as we move toward a new Government.

1. Foreign Minister Peters?

Winston Peters is reported this morning to have accepted the roles again of Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in Jacinda Ardern's cabinet, which may not be formally announced until tomorrow.

Ardern is scheduled to sign formal policy and supply and confidence agreements this afternoon with James Shaw and Winston Peters. She is expected to hold a news conference after the signings.

It is not clear yet whether the full ministerial lineup with portfolios will be revealed today or tomorrow. Ardern said on Friday ministers would be sworn in on Thursday.

RNZ reported the cabinet lineup would be released on Wednesday, as did Audrey Young, while Tracy Watkins reported it would be released today. Watkins and Young reported Peters was understood to have accepted the role of Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

2. 21 Labour Ministers

Ardern announced after a Labour caucus meeting on Friday there would be 21 Labour ministers, but she did not specify which portfolios they would have.

With New Zealand First securing four Cabinet positions and one undersecretary role, and the Greens three ministers outside Cabinet and one undersecretary, 21 ministerial spots were available for Labour MPs.

Sixteen Labour MPs will become Cabinet ministers: Ardern herself, David Clark, Clare Curran, Kelvin Davis, Chris Hipkins, Iain Lees-Galloway, Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, Stuart Nash, Damien O’Connor, David Parker, Grant Robertson, Jenny Salesa, Carmel Sepuloni, Phil Twyford, and Megan Woods.

There are five Labour ministers outside Cabinet: Kris Faafoi, Peeni Henare, Willie Jackson, Aupito William Sio, and Meka Whaitiri.

Ardern said she had been “absolutely spoiled for choice” when choosing her ministers.

“It will be a powerful government, it will be one that brings real experience, and I look forward to bringing that team to the house.”

Ardern said she was still considering whether to split up some existing portfolios, such as primary industries, transport and economic development, to indicate the Government’s priorities.

“I don’t want to split things beyond what makes sense, in some areas I’ll look to bring things together, but I also want to make sure we put emphasis on the areas that are of great importance to this government.”

Ardern confirmed she would take a portfolio related to children’s issues - although she would not be the Children’s Minister - while she would maintain the tradition of prime ministerial responsibility for national security issues.

She said she would spend the weekend allocating portfolios across MPs, including discussions with New Zealand First over its ministerial spots. The Green Party had already signed off its ministers outside of Cabinet, but Ardern would announce all positions at the same time.

Ardern said Labour’s 100-day action plan would “broadly stay the same”, although it was possible there would be one addition and one subtraction.

3. Ministers Shaw, Genter and Sage

The Green Party announced on Sunday that James Shaw, Julie Anne Genter, Eugenie Sage and Jan Logie would have the three ministerial roles and one under-secretary role.

The Party did not specify who would be the three ministers outside cabinet and the one under-secretary, but the latter is expected to be Logie. It also did not specify the portfolios, but the following comment suggested climate change, water quality and poverty would be covered.

"The Green Party’s Ministers will work hard alongside our team and the rest of the Labour-led government to ensure we make a positive contribution to the lives of New Zealanders by addressing our priority areas of climate change, clean water, and ending poverty," Shaw said in a statement.

4. A binding cannabis referendum?

One policy detail that emerged on Friday was an agreement with a Green push for a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis.

Referring to a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis promised to the Greens by the 2020 election, Ardern said it could be binding.

She believed New Zealand needed to have a mature conversation about the issue that was vexing several countries, but said personally she was in two minds.

“During the campaign I was very open about the fact that I do not believe people should be in prison for the personal use of cannabis, on the flip side I also have concerns about young people accessing a product that can clearly do harm and damage to them," she said.

“I’m seeking a way through this debate alongside New Zealand so I’ll be looking to see where this debate takes us, the view from the public, and whether or not we can find a workable solution.”

Any referendum would cost less than the John-Key-led flag referendum that was a two-stage process, she said.

Her comments about shifting drug policy from a justice-based to a health-based approach suggest the work of former Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne in the area will continue, with a Green Minister possibly picking up the task.

5. Agriculture in an emissions scheme

Ardern also gave more detail on the new Government’s approach to climate change, including whether agricultural emissions would be included in any scheme for pricing emissions and suggesting the current emissions trading scheme may be scrapped and replaced with carbon and other emissions taxes.

She also suggested New Zealand First had secured some form of compensation for farmers and regions hit by the inclusion of agriculture in the pricing mechanisms for emissions.

Labour promised to include agriculture in the current emissions trading scheme, while both the Greens and New Zealand proposed scrapping the scheme.

The Greens proposed replacing it with a Kiwi Climate Fund created from the proceeds of taxes on emissions and other pollution on all sectors of the economy, including farming.

The Greens expected an independent commission would set a tax of $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions, $6 per tonne of nitrous oxide emissions from agriculture, $3 per tonne of methane emissions from agriculture and a $40 guaranteed payment for each tonne of carbon sequestered by eligible forests.

The fund would be able to pay a dividend of $250 per person by 2020, which equates to around $1.2 billion.

“We have absolutely stuck to our goal of a net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission."

New Zealand First proposed using the funds spent on the current emissions trading scheme to fund research and development and climate change adaptation.

Labour, Greens and New Zealand First all proposed a Carbon or Climate Change Act that set carbon budgets and created an independent Climate Commission. Labour and the Greens proposed net zero emissions by 2050.

The new Government would be “absolutely focused” on climate change, Ardern said.

“That will include a Zero Climate Act, that will include an Independent Climate Commission. That will include making sure we have all gases, all sectors emissions trading scheme,” she said.

Asked if Peters had agreed to include agriculture in any emissions pricing scheme, she said: “You will see some of the elements of Mr Peters’ advocacy on behalf of the regions reflected in our agreements, but I’d like to wait until those agreements are released early next week.”

“We have absolutely stuck to our goal of a net zero carbon emissions by 2050, a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission,” she said.

Asked if the ETS would stay in place, she said: “We all agree the need for a tool to reach our goals, and that includes a pricing on carbon.”

That left open the option for carbon taxes, rather than the current emissions trading scheme.

She was then pressed again about the extra costs on farmers of being included in any emissions pricing scheme, she said: “It would only be fair to reflect that there was advocacy from New Zealand First around making sure there is support for the regions and making sure that’s reflected strongly in the agreement with them.”

6. A water tax back-down

Earlier on Friday, Ardern hinted at a backdown on Labour’s plans for a water tax following its coalition deal with New Zealand First.

During the election campaign, Ardern announced plans to tax farmers and irrigators, with revenue going towards cleaning up waterways.

However, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters spoke out against the policy during the campaign.

Speaking to RNZ’s Morning Report on Friday morning, Ardern would not confirm whether a water tax was still alive but seemed to suggest a U-turn of sorts could be coming.

"We remain committed to cleaning up New Zealand's rivers but I absolutely reflect now that Mr Peters did take a strong view on the mechanism that we were choosing to use," Ardern told RNZ.

"So you will see what has happened in that final agreement ... but that was the firm view he took."

Ardern said she was confident the coalition with New Zealand First and the Greens would last the full term, citing the nature of the agreements and her relationships with Peters and Green leader James Shaw.

“One [with Shaw] is long-standing and the other has a very firm foundation based on these negotiations."

7. Who might get what

Here’s Newsroom’s best guess at who could get some of the major portfolios (a note, this isn't an exhaustive list of all the portfolios up for grabs).

Labour

Jacinda Ardern: Prime Minister, Arts, Children’s Issues, National Security and Intelligence

Kelvin Davis: Corrections

Grant Robertson: Finance

David Clark: Health

Clare Curran: Civil Defence

Chris Hipkins: Education

Iain Lees-Galloway: Workplace Relations and Safety, Immigration

Andrew Little: Justice, ACC

Nanaia Mahuta: Maori Development

Stuart Nash: Police

Damien O’Connor: Primary Industries, Trade

David Parker: Revenue, Attorney General

Jenny Salesa: Skills and Training

Carmel Sepuloni: Social Development

Phil Twyford: Housing, Building and Construction

Megan Woods: Canterbury

Kris Faafoi: Tourism

Peeni Henare: Ethnic Communities

Willie Jackson: Consumer Affairs

Aupito William Sio: Pacific Affairs

Meka Whaitiri: Local Government

New Zealand First

Winston Peters: Deputy Prime Minister, Economic Development (including The Regions), Racing

Ron Mark: Defence, Veterans’ Affairs

Shane Jones: Foreign Affairs

Tracey Martin: Tertiary Education, Women

Fletcher Tabuteau: Undersecretary to Finance

Greens

James Shaw: Climate Change

Julie-Anne Genter: Public Transport

Eugenie Sage: Conservation

Marama Davidson: Undersecretary to Social Developmente

8. Two fun things

Unbeknownst to me, someone called Rattleyadags had some giphy fun on Reddit over the weekend with some footage of me looking at the ceiling during a James Shaw news conference on the black and white tiles outside the Parliamentary debating chamber: "What was going on above James Shaw last night?"

It briefly got to the top of the hit parade on Reddit and generated 263 comments. What a time to be alive.

And this appealed to the goalkeeper in me.

Dirty Footballer: "Never celebrate too early in a penalty shootout."

Have a great day. We will send an urgent email to subscribers when we get policy and portfolio details.