Read the caveat on this page. This post won’t endear me to colleagues on either side of the House.
New Zealand has a ridiculous number of Ministers for a country our size.
It had got slightly worse under MMP but this government has taken it beyond absurd with 80% of the non National confidence and supply partner members bought off with a Ministerial post, and the final one on a promise of getting one during the term.
I spent three years as a whip which included cabinet committee experience in the 1980s and the nine years as a Minister in the Clark government.
I saw lots of weak, and some frankly useless Ministers. Most, but not all, were in the second half of the rankings. They often caused more work than they added value. There was an enormous amount of time wasted explaining what was either obvious or buried in papers that if they had been read hadn’t been understood.
Quiet discussion has confirmed it is no different in the Key government and was also the case under Bolger.
Consultation time seems to be multiplicative based on the number of Ministers with a stake in an issue. Minor points brought up by a department and easily dealt with or to by a Minister with a broad view become cause célèbre for someone run by their department or with nothing better to do.
I think we don’t need more than ten or a dozen Ministers. They should all be in Cabinet. And to trial talent we should use three or four Under Secretaries who report directly to the relevant Minister.
Having a smaller number of Ministers ensures decisions are well enough thought through to get caucus agreement on merit not on obligation because of position.
Saves bauble money but more importantly is much more efficient.