Last ride for Clark as Key takes wheel

01:43, Jan 31 2009
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: There were smiles and nervous giggles as John Key's ministers waited to be sworn in, like excited kids on Christmas Day.

Around the mahogany table in Parliament's Grand Hall there were smiles and nervous giggles as John Key's ministers waited to be sworn in, like excited kids on Christmas Day.

On the steps outside, two hours earlier, there was sadness tinged with pride as 200 Labour MPs and staffers gathered to farewell outgoing prime minister Helen Clark.

Some shed tears as she came down the steps on her way to resign her ministers' warrants at Islington House, the Government House offices of Governor-General Anand Satyanand.

Mr Key formally became prime minister about 11.10am yesterday, a few minutes after he returned to Parliament from advising Mr Satyanand he had the numbers to form a government.

Mr Key beamed from the head of the table - shipped in from Government House, which is being refurbished - as the 25 ministers present read their oaths. Some exchanged stolen whispers to neighbours as the ceremony progressed, watched by colleagues and guests.

New Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Trade Minister Tim Groser were also appointed to their portfolios, but were not at the ceremony, as they are in Peru for the Apec summit. They will take their oaths when they return. Mr Key heads to Peru today.


Maori Party MPs Hone Harawira and Te Ururoa Flavell gave a welcome in Maori as their co-leaders, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples, took their seats.

"Kia ora, Georgie," Mr Harawira called as National's Georgina te Heuheu became the first of four Maori sworn in.

It was a historic day, the forging of an alliance between two parties once regarded as natural enemies. More history was made as Chinese-born Pansy Wong became New Zealand's first Asian minister.

The ceremony was followed by the first Cabinet meeting of the new Government. "Thoroughly enjoyable, but busy," was how Mr Key described his first day.

Earlier, Miss Clark gave the thumbs-up as she left Parliament in CR1 on her last ride in the limousine reserved for the nation's leader. She returned in one of the Crown's pool cars. Mr Key, who went to Government House soon after her, came back in CR1.

Labour leader Phil Goff will unveil his lineup today, including five new frontbenchers, as he moves to stamp a fresh face on the Opposition.

Ruth Dyson, Maryan Street and Clayton Cosgrove are certainties for promotion. Also getting front-row seats, alongside Mr Goff, deputy leader Annette King and finance spokesman David Cunliffe, will be Darren Hughes - who is also senior whip - and former ministers Chris Carter and Parekura Horomia.

The remaining slot could go to Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta as Labour strives to take the attack to the Maori Party.


The Dominion Post