Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Ministerial resignations and suspension

In the light of Benson-Pope's suspension, I thought I might take the trouble to list the ministerial sackings and suspensions over the years.

Robert Muldoon's Government

Derek Quigley: Forced to resign from Cabinet in 1982 after criticizing the style of Muldoon's government. That was practically the only thing that could get a minister ousted in those days as neither Keith Allen nor the Ministers in the Marginal Land scandal were suspended or dismissed. Keith Allen was extremely unwell from diabetes during the last years of Muldoon's government and died shortly after the 1984 elections. The Marginal Land scandal involved the reclassification of some land for the benefit of a Minister's son-in-law - although I don't recall their names, an inquiry found that one minister acted "unwisely" and another "extremely unwisely".

David Lange's Government

A serious scandal during Lange's first term was the Maori Loan Affair. This could have claimed the scalp of the then Maori Affairs Minister, Koro Wetere, except that it was found he was not responsible for any wrongdoing because he didn't know what was going on. Although being clueless in charge of a ministry would be legitimate grounds for sacking nowadays (exception: George Hawkins), blame was successfully deflected onto the Permanent Secretary but for some strange reason, he was not asked to resign.

Kerry Burke: Not recognized as a sacking by the general public at the time but Kerry accepted a demotion from Cabinet to become Speaker of the House. Although the grounds was that he publicly recognized that he didn't have the support in caucus to be re-elected into Cabinet, nobody would actually say why. The reason was that he became unpopular due to the treatment of his first wife during the breakup of their marriage - she found out the marriage was on the rocks when she went to buy air tickets using the perks of being a minister's wife only to find that the perk had been transferred to Kerry's mistress).

Richard Prebble: Actually two sackings in one day. Firstly Lange sacked Prebble as Minister for State-owned Enterprises but allowed him to retain his other portfolios and cabinet posting. Then Prebble went on Eye Witness news to accuse Lange of being deranged among other things which prompted Lange to fire him from the rest of his portfolios. Given what is known now of Lange's state of mind at the time, Richard's only crime was to be unsparing with the truth.

Roger Douglas: Douglas went out in a much less dramatic fashion. After some public sparring as a result of a breakdown in relations between him and Lange (Lange tried to take his press secretary, one Bevan Burgess, away from him), Roger Douglas issued a public leadership challenge. Lange interpreted that challenge as a request to be dismissed and had him sacked from cabinet. This also brought about the resignation of Trevor de Cleene, Minister outside Cabinet and Douglas henchman, in sympathy.

David Lange: David supposedly resigned on the grounds of ill-health. In reality, things were much different. As part of a peace-making deal, a caucus election was held to fill vacancies in cabinet. Lange decided to use his personal authority in caucus to prevent Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble being voted back in. He failed and resigned realizing that his prime ministership was now mortally wounded.

Jim Bolger's Government

Winston Peters: No surprises here for the first ministerial casualty of Jim Bolger's Government. He had not gotten along well with Bolger and had been dismissed from the Opposition Front Bench for publicly refusing to endorse Jim Bolger as Party Leader. After the elections, Jim Bolger allowed him into Cabinet as a peace gesture but Winston was sacked within the year for "not being a team player".

Ruth Richardson and Graeme Lee: These two were asked to resign after the 1993 elections as part of a cabinet reshuffle (I vaguely recall a third who refused to write out a resignation letter and so was sacked). Ruth was dismissed because Jim Bolger wanting a kinder, gentler second term felt strong enough to shift her from the Finance Portfolio and she refused to take any other job. I think the other two were dismissed because they were next-to-useless.

Dennis Marshall resigned from the Conservation portfolio at his own request several months after the Cave Creek tragedy.

Neil Kirton resigned as associate minister for health after a row with his superior, Bill English. He resigned primarily because he failed to get Winston Peters to support him.

Christine Fletcher Resigned because of "concerns" about Jim Bolger's leadership. Since she was not reappointed to Cabinet after Jenny Shipley took power indicates that she didn't have a clue.

Jim Bolger Forced to resign after failing to make sure that he had enough votes in his caucus to head off any leadership coups while he was overseas.

Jenny Shipley's Government

Paul East Dumped when Jenny took power because he was a Bolger loyalist. Lockwood Smith also suffered some portfolio demotions at the same time, which was the subject of an untrue rumour.

Winston Peters was sacked as minister for the second time. He tried to walk out of the coalition after the resignation of Jim Bolger but did not have the support in the the NZ First Caucus to do so. He then got into an argument with Jenny Shipley about the sale of an airport. After a bitter row, he agreed to the sale only to be fired by Jenny once his signature was on the paper. A furious Winston tried again to take his party out of the coalition but ended up splintering it instead.

Deborah Morris resigned from Cabinet after the sacking of Winston Peters. She could have remained in Cabinet as she had refused to join Winston's walkout but probably couldn't hack the pressure.

Brian Donnelly and Robyn McDonald were dismissed from their portfolios for remaining loyal to Winston Peters during the NZ first caucus split.

Tuariki John Delamere was dismissed as immigration minister after some blatant pork-barrelling of his portfolio shortly before the 99 election.

Helen Clark's Government

Dover Samuels was suspended as Maori Affairs Minister because of underage sex abuse allegations. When his failure to declare criminal convictions on his labour party candidature form was found, he was asked to resign his portfolios but refused. As a result, Helen sacked him. When none of the serious allegations were proven, he remained outside Cabinet but was eventually re-appointed as Minister outside Cabinet as part of a peace-making deal with the ninth floor.

Philida Bunkle and Marion Hobbs were suspended for claiming out-of-town expenses while being Wellington MPs. Marion Hobbs admitted wrongdoing and was allowed back into Cabinet after a report blamed easy abusable guidelines. Philida Bunkle was dismissed for not admitting wrongdoing and because Jim Anderton didn't like her. When the Alliance split later in the term, they expelled her for good measure.

Ruth Dyson was sacked for driving while intoxicated. She was reappointed when her period as a disqualified driver expired.

John Tamihere was asked to step down while investigations into financial shennigans at the Waipareira Trust were conducted. After the dismissal of the most serious allegation, that he evaded tax on a golden handshake, John wasn't allowed back into Cabinet because of a number of other issues which he refused to recognize. Eventually this lead to his crashing and burning during the Investigate Magazine interview.

Margaret Wilson stood down from Cabinet to become Speaker of the House. The reasons for doing are currently unknown and may not involve matters of personal incompetence or political differences. But I doubt it.

David Benson-Pope is currently standing down due to credible allegations of student abuse and the possibility that he might have lied in Parliament.

Trevor Mallard and George Hawkins both have good reasons to be dismissed from Cabinet. Trevor for the Te Wanaga Debacle which occured under his supervision and George because of general incompetence.

Undoubtedly this list is incomplete but on the general numbers, Helen's cabinet is about as scandal-ridden as the last National cabinet.