Three cabinet ministers decide not to return

Three current Cabinet ministers -- including embattled Police Minister George Hawkins -- have announced they will not be seeking posts in a new Labour-led Government.

The three colleagues are Mr Hawkins, Paul Swain and Marian Hobbs.

Mr Hawkins, who has been in strife over his handling of police issues including 111 emergency calls, said today his caucus colleagues had indicated he would have had support to retain a place in Cabinet.

But he had had decided against putting his name forward.

He said he was looking forward to devoting more time to his Manurewa electorate.

Mr Swain, the Rimutaka MP, said he wanted to spend more time with his family and to focus on electorate issues.

Ms Hobbs, the MP for Wellington Central, said she had told caretaker Prime Minister Helen Clark 18 months ago that it was unlikely she would seek a Cabinet spot if Labour was to secure a third term in government.

"I have confirmed that intention with her," Ms Hobbs said.

Mr Hawkins, who held the police, internal affairs, civil defence and veterans' affairs portfolios, said he was proud to have been a member of a government that had achieved "so much for New Zealand" over the past six years, and that he looked forward to continuing to contribute from the back benches.

He said he was satisfied with what he had achieved with police, a portfolio that received an ``excessive'' amount of public attention.

"The police budget is $280 million greater than when we came to power and police numbers have grown from 8700 in 1999 to over 10,000 this year."

Mr Hawkins said he had advocated very strongly for proper resourcing of police and the results had confirmed the success of that strategy.

Crime was at its lowest level in 25 years, police were solving more offences and Labour's uncompromising stand on road policing had resulted in the safest roads since the 1960s.

He thanked his colleagues for their help and singled out Helen Clark in particular for the support she had offered him.

Mr Swain said it had been an enormous privilege to have been part of a Labour-led government and Cabinet over the past six years. It had achieved great things for New Zealand.

"However during that time I have had to juggle family, electorate commitments and Cabinet responsibilities."

Mr Swain and wife Toni Reeves-Swain had a baby girl Madeline last year and he has two sons from a previous marriage.

"I have decided to spend more time with her and my wife Toni, and my two sons," he said.

He said the time was right to step down as a minister.

"The Labour caucus is stacked full of talent and many people are ready to come forward."

He would help in whatever role was asked of him, he said.

Ms Hobbs also said she was keen to play whatever role was asked for her.

She said she had "enormously" enjoyed her time as a minister. Her portfolios included environment and she was previously a broadcasting minister. The Opposition nicknamed her "boo-boo" over what it claimed was mishandling of controversies in her portfolios.

However, Ms Hobbs today listed achievements she was proud of including: a code of practice for commercial radio that meant 20 percent of music played was New Zealand music; work protecting and preserving the environment; and the clean-up of the Mapua site in Nelson.

She said she would continue to advocate vigorously for the National Library and Archives New Zealand.

She would do her utmost to serve the people of Wellington, she said. She has a majority of more than 6000 in the Wellington Central electorate.

Mr Hawkins entered Parliament in 1990. He was police minister for two terms.

Mr Swain was Minister for Immigration, Labour, Corrections, State Owned Enterprises, Information Technology and Communications last parliamentary term.

He previously held associate roles in energy, justice, finance, and revenue.

He was elected to Parliament in 1990.

NZPA

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