Coalition Cabinet MIA, Shane Jones goes rogue

Cabinet MIA.png

Something is amiss with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet, or maybe it's just completely missing in action? Because in the past two weeks we've seen both Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Regional Development and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones announce significant changes initiatives that hadn't gone through Cabinet.

First, Labour's Chris Hipkins announced changes to the age which children could start primary school. Instead of allowing children to start up to eight weeks before their fifth birthday, children will now have to wait until after their fifth birthday to start school. The change was announced without going through Cabinet, which seems extremely odd for a controversial change that's going to impact thousands of families ever year.

The next incident was over the weekend, as New Zealand First's Shane Jones did the media rounds talking up his "not work for the dole" work for the dole scheme. This morning it emerged that not only has the work for the dole scheme not gone through Cabinet but that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern didn't even know that Shane Jones was going on TV at the weekend to talk up the work for the dole scheme.

Taking significant decisions to Cabinet before you announce them is basic good governance. It not only gives your ministerial colleagues and the Prime Minister a heads up about what's going on, but it also allows them to snuff out politically dumb ideas before they see the light of day.

Likewise, it's Coalition Government 101 to keep your coalition partners informed of any announcements and major media appearances you're making, as to avoid creating the scenes that unfolded this morning. Basic, competent coalition government would have seen Shane Jones' office let the Prime Minister's office know he was going on both the major political TV shows at the weekend, but that he was going to announce the work for the dole scheme.

That Shane Jones' office didn't do this suggest either general incompetence on their part, or that Jones has decided to go rogue because he knows that both Labour and the Greens have long been opposed to any work for the dole scheme. Either way, it adds to the growing narrative that the Labour-led government don't have their back office operations in any sort of coherent shape.

As Labour's Grant Robertson was fond of describing things: this is an omnishambles.