Audrey Young 's Opinion

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Finlayson the minister for results

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Attorney-General who is also responsible for Treaty Negotiations wins top marks for getting jobs on his watch done.

Attorney-General Chris Finlayson. Photo / APN
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson. Photo / APN

Chris Finlayson has emerged as one of John Key's most valuable ministers in National's second term. He has scored the highest rating of all ministers in my report card on the Executive prepared with colleagues in the Herald press gallery team.

We scored him higher than the Prime Minister, who has found himself in a lot more strife this term on issues from the Waitangi Tribunal hearings into water to swearing about English soccer player David Beckham to Dunedin schoolgirls.

Mr Finlayson is Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations Minister. He is also Labour Minister since Kate Wilkinson resigned after the royal commission's damning report into the Pike River disaster.

On the face of it, that may not seem a natural fit - and it may be just a temporary appointment until the next reshuffle. But Mr Finlayson's skill set may be the right one to keep the job for the rest of the term. He gets results. He has a big intellect and has a good head for detail. But he is also emotionally intelligent, and was a good choice to send to the West Coast to discuss the report with the Pike River families.

His achievements in Treaty Negotiations are the most notable. Who would have imagined two years ago the Government concluding a deal with Tuhoe?

Health Minister Tony Ryall and Justice Minister Judith Collins scored highly as well. The Opposition has been able to inflict few dents on the Government in health, such is Mr Ryall's control after four years in the portfolio. Labour has had three spokespeople over four years.

As Minister for State-owned Enterprises, Mr Ryall is also overseeing the partial asset sales. But Finance Minister Bill English and the Treasury are running that show. And the delays due to court action are not down to Mr Ryall.

Ms Collins, after four years as a minister, has put herself into contention as a potential leader - or at least Leader of the Opposition.

She got operational portfolios in her first term, Corrections and Police, and got Corrections back on track.

She is said by former critics to be doing a great job running the Justice cluster.

She also handled the ACC crisis superbly, giving confidence changes would be made to the culture and slack systems that came to a head under her watch. Suing two Labour MPs may yet prove to be an error.

Education Minister Hekia Parata is the lowest-scoring minister. The political disaster over class sizes was history in a matter of weeks but the damage to her credibility has been lasting. She is now associated more with problems than problem-solving.

Fairly or not, all mistakes in the portfolio will be sheeted home to her. That includes the ministry's mishandling of the schools merger-closure plan in Canterbury and the new teacher pay system.


KEY TEAM'S REPORT CARD:

John Key - 7
Prime Minister, Tourism, SIS, GCSB
Still way and above National's best asset but too many lapses this year. In his own words, explaining is losing and he has had to do lot of explaining this term.

Bill English - 8
Finance
Driving force behind the Government's results-driven agenda across the public sector but black mark for class sizes debacle in this year's Budget which was really his baby. The Government's best communicator after Key.

Gerry Brownlee - 7.5
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Transport
The further away the earthquake becomes, the harder his job has become but still doing well. Joyce did the hard stuff in Transport before him. Good Leader of the House.

Steven Joyce - 7
Economic Development
Has aggressively elevated economic development as a defining issue of the Government. But it feels like he has produced more vision documents than jobs. A firm hand on tertiary education.

Judith Collins - 8.5
Justice, ACC
Knows exactly what she wants and goes for it. Handled ACC fiasco decisively. Curious mix of highly combative yet able to work collaboratively with other parties. Running Justice cluster on ministers exceptionally well.

Tony Ryall - 8.5
Health, State-owned Enterprises
Has complete control over health and has made measurable improvements in some areas. Shows the value of knowing a difficult portfolio backwards before getting it. Delays in SOE sales not his fault.

Hekia Parata - 3
Education
Has proved too inexperienced for such a monster portfolio. In short, she has failed to reach the national standard required. Cannot afford any more blunders.

Chris Finlayson - 9
Attorney General, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Labour
Increasingly impressive member of Govt. Exceptional job in Treaty Negotiations. Brings intellect and compassion to the job. National's Michael Cullen.

Paula Bennett - 7
Social Development
A valuable face for National's welfare reforms, even if the ideas are the other Paula's (Rebstock). Ran a good process on white paper for vulnerable children, but this term marred by massive privacy breach by her ministry.

David Carter - 8
Primary Industries, Local Government
A quiet achiever with two complex sectors. Biggest challenge to come, as Speaker, when Lockwood Smith is shunted off to London.

Murray McCully - 7
Foreign Affairs
Doing an excellent job offshore but there's no getting away from the onshore debacle at the ministry, mishandled by his hand-picked chief executive, John Allen.

Anne Tolley - 7
Police, Corrections
Inherited ship-shape portfolios from Judith Collins and is now perceived as a better Education Minister than she was at the time. A safe pair of hands.

Jonathan Coleman - 8
Defence, State Services
After making no impact in the first term, has taken to Defence like a ship to water. Nowhere to be seen in State Services portfolio. Bill English is the de facto state services minister.

Tim Groser - 8
Trade, Climate Change issues
First rate negotiator makes him a first rate minister. One the Government's best communicators.

Phil Heatley - 5
Housing, Energy and Resources
Has let the Opposition and activists set the agenda on state housing. If there is a good story to tell, he is not telling it well enough. Time to hand it on.

Kate Wilkinson - 4
Conservation, Food Safety
Would have scored even lower had she not resigned from Labour portfolio last week in the wake of the Pike River inquiry report. Where's the passion for Conservation?

Nathan Guy - 6
Immigration, Veteran's Affairs, Associate Primary Industries
Had to delay major Immigration Bill, overseen unpopular changes to forestry under ETS, doing OK in veteran's affairs, but that's not enough.

Craig Foss - 6
Commerce, Broadcasting
Has competently shepherded through finance sector reforms, but not strong in broadcasting. As Associate Education Minister has been responsible for the problems plaguing the teachers' new pay system.

Amy Adams - 7
Environment, Communication and Information Technology
Settling in to Nick Smith's challenging Environment portfolio. Has a huge future but needs to smooth out her rougher edges sound less dogmatic.

Chris Tremain - 6
Internal Affairs
Competent but is it possible to shine at all in Internal Affairs? Untested.

Maurice Williamson - 7
Building, Customs, Land Information
Solid work on the enormous job of building regulation reform in the wake of leaky building and Christchurch earthquake. Handled the Crafar farms decision well, owning it rather than apologising for it.

Jo Goodhew - 6
Senior Citizens, Women's Affairs
Good grip of minnow portfolios. Deserves more of a challenge.

Chester Borrows - 6
Courts, Associate Justice, Associate Social Development
Likeable, dependable but yet to shine.

Simon Bridges - 7
Consumer Affairs, Associate Climate Change, Associate Transport
Associate responsibilities are as important as his main one. Does a lot with a little. Needs much bigger portfolio.

- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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