Politics | Chris Hipkins

All eyes on Māori caucus as Hipkins reshuffle looms - commentator

Political commentator Lara Greaves says most interest in today's expected cabinet reshuffle will be on the influence of the Māori caucus.

A week after taking over the Prime Minister role, Chris Hipkins is due to announce the makeup of his cabinet just eight months out from the election.

Greaves (Ngāpuhi) says the pressure of an election will mean Hipkins has to find the balance between refreshing his ministerial lineup and ensuring experienced politicians remain on hand.

"And they need to make sure that they have good representation from the Māori caucus. So there's a lot to balance up there and to make sure that they do have that whole counter argument for when National says the cabinet is useless or they don't have good managers there and they've got all these issues."

Greaves is particularly interested in how Hipkins handles Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, especially her local government ministerial portfolio.

What will Hipkins' cabinet look like?

Coded criticism

"I think a lot of people have been criticising her in some ways genuinely based on her performance in different areas, but sometimes we all know it's been like really coded racially, .actually racist or sexist.

"Labour has arguably tried to move away from targeting Maori issues as much. Co-governance has been taken off the agenda or was taken off before the Prime Ministerial resignation, so I think a lot of us will be watching to see the extent to which Labour tries to move away from Māori issues in election year, versus keeping the Māori caucus there and keeping that incrementalist view and chipping away at these big issues."

She is also expecting to see other Māori ministers rise up the cabinet ranks as a result of the influence of the reshuffle.

"Peeni Henare is currently ranked at 13 and Kiritapu Allan is at 17, so the move up the list will be something else I think people will be watching."

In a positive boost for the government, two polls released overnight have shown support bounce back under Hipkins, with TVNZ/Kanter revealing a five-point boost to 38% to leap ahead of National, while Newshub/Reid Research also has Labour on 38 per cent, with National falling back to 36.6 per cent.

Third term?

After months of polls in 2022 showing support for Labour dwindling, Greaves says these ones will be encouraging for the government though a third term in power remains a tough prospect.

"Australia changed prime ministers a lot in a few years there but the Australian prime minister's got a bit of a honeymoon kind of bump. But we didn't see that so much for Bill English and National in 2016. So that's potentially a good thing for Labour.

"If Labour had gone down, then that would have been probably a pretty bad sign for it and probably would have meant that National and Act would take over at the next election. But what these polls really say and I think a lot of commentators are saying and I would say this as someone who studies elections, it shows that it's going to be a really close election. It's going to come down to things like MMP and it's going to come down to Te Pāti Māori and which Māori seats it wins."

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