Russel Norman our next Minister of Finance? We should start getting used to the possibility, because it could be among the outcomes of the coalition building that follows the next general election.
Dr Norman, the Green Party co-leader and finance spokesman, made known his ambition this week, although it wasn't a matter of his demanding he be the Minister of Finance in a Labour-led coalition. Rather, this would be a negotiating matter along with the idea that ministerial posts should be allocated to other Green MPs in proportion to the numbers of seats they won.
His timing was good on two counts. First, the Trans Tasman newsletter had just scored him higher than Labour's finance spokesman, David Parker, in its annual assessment of all MPs' performance in Caucus, Cabinet, committee, the House and their electorates and the influence they bring, or are likely to bring, to bear in their various forums. Second, the latest polls show support for National and its support parties is slipping while support for a centre-left coalition of Labour and the Greens is rising.
On the basis of current polling, the Greens could lay claim to about 30 per cent of the ministerial posts in a new government (subject to the role that New Zealand First and/or other parties might play). But which jobs would they be? As one commentator observed, it's not just the number of positions but their importance that should be considered.
The posts being mooted by Dr Norman are social development, health, trade, the Christchurch rebuild, energy and education. These are influential posts with regard to how much money the country earns, how it is earned, how much the government spends and how and where it spends it.
Mr Shearer gave a firm "no" when asked if Dr Norman might be given the finance post. He shouldn't forget that NZ First's Winston Peters seemed an unlikely Finance Minister in the Bolger Government, but landing that job and deputy prime minister were conditions he could demand in 1996.
The compromises required in a coalition tempered NZ First's influence on policy. Anyway, if the prospect of the Greens calling the shots in economic policy-making is too scary for enough voters, Dr Norman's ministerial aspiration will never be realised.
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