Andrew Little has been talking about "cojones".

The ones he wants John Key's Government to show by holding SkyCity to its promise to build a first-class convention centre for $402.3 million.

But when it comes to politics - and "having cojones" - it's more important for Little that he "has the balls" (this is the urban dictionary translation from Spanish after all) to tackle challenging political issues, than whether Key, or his Government, has such qualities.

Little's biggest challenge is to build sufficient credibility in both himself as Labour leader - and his party - so that by the time the next election rolls around in 2017 they are seen as a Government in waiting and not overly hostage to the demands of a potential support player.


Getting there is another thing.

To do that Little needs to showcase his senior team and position them with the public.

So, he played a bit rough this week by putting David Shearer (and himself) into one of the two Opposition slots on the Intelligence and Security Committee rather than offering it to Greens co-leader Metiria Turei.

As an exercise in political snubbery it was first-class and drew an angry response from the outgoing Greens co-leader Russel Norman that Labour and National are running an "old boys' club".

That's because the Prime Minister - who chairs the committee - has also bypassed minor parties by putting Cabinet ministers Chris Finlayson and Amy Adams into the other two slots.

Typically the political focus has been on Little's decision to bypass protocol (and possibly the law) and not consult with any of the other parliamentary opposition parties before making his decision.

So, he's feeling a little political heat right now and is having to field claims he has been "cavalier" and "sexist" to boot by bypassing the opportunity to inject Turei into the slot on the committee which was held by Green.

Neither Little's decision, nor Key's, has been driven by the "old boys' club" syndrome.

What the pair have done is formed a "grown-ups club" to deal with the critically sensitive issue of overseeing the major review of New Zealand's intelligence services.

There are big security issues facing New Zealand and it is crucial that the two parties - who have rotated as the lead player in successive Governments over many decades - can forge bipartisan understandings that stand the test of time.

As Key noted, "Labour have made absolutely the right call, I mean in the end the Intelligence and Security Committee is a very important committee, I think it's very important that it works in a bipartisan way if at all possible."

The choice of political lieutenants is telling.

Finlayson assumed ministerial responsibility for the Government Communications Security Bureau and the NZ Security Intelligence Bureau after the election.

It was a smart move by Key who was clearly not across all the portfolio detail when he had direct ministerial responsibility for the security agencies. Finlayson is meticulous. Adams with the communications and justice portfolios is also cautious.

In truth, Little knows that the committee will have much more power if there is mutual trust around the table.

Shearer - who is Labour's shadow foreign minister - was previously enlisted by Foreign Minister Murray McCully to play a role in New Zealand's successful campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

He made two trips to New York to leverage his own background as a leading UN humanitarian aid chief in Middle East conflict zones to help build New Zealand's case.

Labour - under Little's leadership - also backed the Government when it came to enacting new anti-terror laws even though it attacked its opponent on some detail. The Greens simply opposed.

Norman is now claiming the two old parties have colluded to entrench the enormous powers of the Prime Minister and his spy agencies behind a "faade of pretend accountability" and that a "duopoly of illegal" spying will be maintained without any independent oversight.

The counter-factual to Norman's hyperbole is that his own independent oversight at the committee level clearly hadn't stopped what he complains about.