Embattled Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga has scored lowest in the latest Herald report card on the Cabinet's performance - four out of 10.

He still has the confidence of the Prime Minister. The trouble with this minister is that he appears to have lost confidence in himself.

The leaking of video showing fights in the privately run Serco prison caught him on the back foot. That in itself was not enough to horrify the public. But it led to an array of allegations about Serco's safety record and reporting practices from the snap debate in Parliament on Tuesday - and more last night.

Mr Lotu-Iiga cast himself as the defender of Serco and castigated Labour MP Kelvin Davis for daring to raise the issue of a dead prisoner.


Mr Lotu-Iiga has been hesitant with reporters and tentative when questioned in the House.

Ironically, Labour's tactics helped him. It now calls for a minister's resignation almost as often as the Greens call for an inquiry. It called for Mr Lotu-Iiga's resignation when the facts had not been established. They have still not been established.

Yesterday he issued a statement after his meeting with Serco headed: "Minister demands assurances from Serco". Really? Or is that just one of those things you say in headlines?

Everybody knows Sam is a nice guy. But nobody wants "nice guy" at a time like this. What the public expects is someone who can work out fast whether this is Labour exaggerating because of its loathing for privately run prisons, or whether Serco has been undertaking suspect practices to prevent the reporting of events that could incur financial penalties in its Government contract.

It is what John Key expects, too.

John Key: 8

Prime Minister

The Teflon is peeling, but only at the margins. After winning a third term, his Government raised social welfare benefits in real terms for the first time in 43 years. His rating would be higher if it weren't for the you-know-what pulling.

Bill English: 6

Finance, Housing Corporation

Takes a dive from consistently high ratings after being forced to withdraw his promise to deliver a surplus (yet is poised to deliver one when he hasn't promised it) and lack of steerage over social housing reforms.

Gerry Brownlee: 7

Defence, Earthquake Recovery

Forming an equitable relationship with the Defence Force is a challenge for any new Defence Minister, let alone one having to handle a dangerous deployment to Iraq and having a low threshold for frustration.

Steven Joyce: 6

Economic Development

May have ridden high after general election victory as campaign chairman but yet to recover from the indignity of the Northland by-election defeat. Excessive spending at

his MBIE empire blots his clean record too.

Paula Bennett: 8

Local Govt, Social Housing, State Services

Considerably lower profile this term since relinquishing Social Development but has much more power as part of John Key's kitchen cabinet. Still one of the Government's MVPs.

Jonathan Coleman: 8


Slow but sure. Spent the first phase of his appointment visiting every hospital and health board. Moved to sack dysfunctional board in Southland.

Amy Adams: 8


Performing well.Hasn't faced any great pressure in portfolio but hasn't yet created any controversies for herself as predecessor Judith Collins often did- with relish. Quietly reversing some of Collins' moves.

Chris Finlayson: 8

Attorney General, Treaty Negotiations, Security agencies

Missed by the arts sector. Continues to sail through his roles but the big tests will come next year when the review of security agencies will be completed and negotiations with Ngapuhi get down to nitty gritty.

Simon Bridges: 6

Transport, Energy and Resources

Handles most things capably, including the big challenge of Transport. Marked down forgetting his portfolio tangled in the Northland byelection promises.

Hekia Parata: 8


A vast difference from where she was years ago. Now inspiring confidence from the public and tolerance from the unions.

Anne Tolley: 8

Social Development

Getting better every year. Inherited well run ministry from Paula Bennett. Biggest test is yet to come - how to implement what will almost certainly be radical ideas from review of Child, Youth and Family.

Nick Smith: 5

Environment, Building and Housing

Environment back in his capable hands. Marked down for housing, where exuberance is his best and worst quality. Came a cropper over hasty plans to free up Government land in Auckland.

Murray McCully: 7

Foreign Affairs

Exceptional performer on international stage,not so hot at home. Could have avoided Saudi sheep deal fiasco by being more transparent sooner. But getting on the Security Council counts for a lot.

Nathan Guy: 7

Primary Industries

The disastrous dairy prices can't be blamed on him. Will never set the world on fire but performing solidly.

Nikki Kaye: 7

ACC, Civil Defence

Appointment to both portfolios raised eyebrows at the time but she has done nothing yet to suggest they are beyond her.

Tim Groser: 8

Trade, Climate Change

A deserved reputation for excellence in most pursuits - except modesty. Currently employed in trying to extract enough gains from end game TPP negotiations worth the pain.

Michael Woodhouse: 9

Immigration, Police

Since promotion from outside Cabinet, has become one of the safest pair of hands. Across portfolio detail, responsive to criticism, the antithesis of arrogant. Biggest challenge will be managing the competing interests of health and safety legislation through the house.

Todd McClay: 8

Revenue, SOEs

Benefited from Peter Dunne's prior demise by picking up Revenue and is due for another big promotion to Trade when Tim Groser finally becomes New Zealand's ambassador to WashingtonDC.

Peseta Sam Lotu Iiga: 4


Could be forgiven, soon after gaining Corrections portfolio last year, for struggling in aftermath of Phillip John Smith's escape, but appears out of his depth with the Serco debacle.

Maggie Barry 7

Arts, Culture and Heritage, Conservation

These portfolios don't make the most of her combative skills.