24 Jul 2023

Watch: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announces portfolio reshuffle after Kiri Allan resignation

6:06 pm on 24 July 2023

Watch the full media conference:

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has announced who will pick up former Justice Minister Kiri Allan's portfolios following her resignation.

It comes after she was arrested and charged in relation to a car crash in Wellington on Sunday night. Allan accepted she could no longer be justice minister following the incident and resigned all of her portfolios.

Hipkins said on Monday afternoon Ginny Andersen will take over as justice minister, but keep her existing police portfolio.

"Aligning the justice and police portfolios will be important in the coming weeks as we look to progress the legislaton that we announced last week around ram raids to ensure that young offenders face more accountability for their crimes," Hipkins said.

"Ginny Andersen's focus and my focus is firmly on backing the police with the tools and resources they need in order to fight crime."

Hutt South Labour candidate Ginny Andersen.

Ginny Andersen. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone 

Kieran McAnulty will become the new minister for regional economic development, which Hipkins said would align "with his existing portfolio as minister for rural communities".

Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson takes over the lead coordination role for the cyclone response in Tai Rāwhiti.

"Grant Robertson is already leading the government's rolling maul of initiatives to support the communities that have been affected by Cyclone Gabrielle," Hipkins said. "He'll take over the lead coordination role for the Tai Rāwhiti region."

There will be further support for infrastructure announced later this week, Hipkins said.

Allan's associate health role was redistributed among existing health ministers, and Damien O'Connor picked up her associate transport role.

The Prime Minister also announced David Parker requested to reallocate his revenue portfolio to Barbara Edmonds, freeing him up to focus on transport.

"Prior to entering Parliament, Barb was a specialist tax lawyer and I've got confidence in her ability to take up a greater share of the economic work of the government, which is why I'm also making her an associate minister of finance," Hipkins said.

No new ministers will be brought into Cabinet, which currently has 18 of them.

"With five sitting weeks until the House rises for the election, I've decided not to bring any new ministers into Cabinet. Overall, there are 25 ministers in the executive and I believe all of them have a fair and manageable workload.

"Those promoted are all hard-working ministers who are performing well, have the capacity to take on more and now have the opportunity to show their strengths.

"Our focus must be on the issues that matter to New Zealanders, like the cost of living and law and order. As a government, our singular focus must be on making life better for everyday Kiwis and that is what I've sought to do, and I need everybody in the government to be doing the same."

He said no new ministers would be promoted to Cabinet this close to an election.

"We are very close to an election and... inevitably there is a reshuffle after an election regardless of what the outcome of that is, and we need to be mindful that, you know, there could be additional parties in government that have to be accommodated in those arrangements as well.

"Then there's the issue of ministers getting up to speed, you know, brand new ministers getting up to speed with the role, in a run up to a general election campaign, when they're going to be wanting to be out and about campaigning so I made the judgment over the last month or so that now's not the time to be bringing new people into the ministry."

Asked whether he was up for the job considering four ministers have left under his watch, he said they were "all different and there's different reasons for all of them".

As for whether Andersen could handle both the justice and police portfolios, Hipkins said: "It has happened before. Annette King held both roles in the Clark government... there are a few areas of conflict. They are relatively small areas and they are handled by way of delegation, so an associate minister of justice will pick up those areas where the portfolio potentially has a conflict with the police portfolio."

Allan's mental health

Asked whether Allan had come back to work too soon, after taking breaks for mental health and in the wake of bullying allegations, Hipkins said: "She was offered more time off and she indicated that she wanted to get back to work... I made sure that she had got support, that she had been seeing a counsellor. She came to meet with me, she indicated that she wanted to come back to work. I did not compel her to stay away from work."

He said her mental health issues were separate to the prior concerns about bullying in her office.

"They were, as I've indicated before, dealt with at the time and there were no new issues that were raised, in terms of further complaints for me to do anything further with. Having said all of that, mental health is a very difficult area and I think the experiences of the last few weeks clearly demonstrate that."

And on the impact her resignation would have and if he was worried, this close to October's election, Hipkins said: "Ultimately this isn't about me or about us, it's about New Zealanders and they want to see us focused on cost of living, on law and order and on the issues that matter to them, and that's where our focus will be.

"Of course, politics matters but actually what I think New Zealanders want to see the government focused on are the issues that are important to them."

Kiri Allan

Kiri Allan. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Hipkins said Labour could still win the election, and writing off the party was "premature".

"We are just getting started with the campaign and there's a lot more that we have to offer,"

He was yet to discuss her future as the MP for East Coast.

"Clearly it's something we would want to get a decision on fairly quickly."

He had not spoken again with her since Monday morning, when the news of her crash and alleged offending broke. His previous conversation with her was on Sunday via text message.

"I had a conversation with her... indicating to her that I thought she had handled the press conference very well, she'd handled Question Time in Parliament very well and had been very engaged in all of the internal conversations that we had been having around those issues.

Asked whether he had any hint that something was wrong in those conversations, he said no.

"My understanding is that there were further developments in her life, outside of work, later that day."

Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"I'd like to think that right the way through this I have handled the situation fairly with compassion and with respect. I don't believe that mental health should disqualify someone from employment and it shouldn't disqualify someone from employment in this building. t has not done in the past. I think what is important is that people are supported and I believe that Kiri has been supported here.

"Wherever she has needed time off, we have given her time off, I have given her time off. In fact, I have encouraged her to take more time."

Hipkins said others could "make politics" of the situation, "which appears to be what they are doing".

"I think they should think the message that sends to other people in New Zealand struggling with their mental health. If the message is that someone who confesses or reveals that they're struggling with their mental health should immediately be sacked, I think that's going to make the problem worse rather than better.

"Kiri was very passionate about coming back to work and actually people who are working through these issues in some cases that is actually a significant step in their recovery - to reengage with the positive things of their life. For Kiri, being at work was a very positive part of her life. She had been receiving support, she was in a much better space."

"Had I been able to foresee this, of course there would have been more things that we might have been able to do. I don't have a crystal ball any more than anybody else does.

"In any situation where you can look back in retrospect, there will always be things you could do differently. Could I foresee this a week ago? No, I couldn't."

He declined to answer questions about Allan's alleged refusal to go with a police officer following the accident.

"I can't tell you anything more about that. That's obviously now... a criminal matter, so that really is a question for the police."

He was not aware if Allan was handcuffed.

Hipkins was asked if he had been too lenient with misbehaving ministers - Allan's resignation coming after the loss of Michael Wood and Stuart Nash.

"In every one of those incidents, I've made decisions based on the information that was available at the time, obviously if more information comes to light then I'll revise my decisions. I like to think that I make decisions based on information and evidence. I make those decision fairly, I believe. In all of those incidents, further things happened."

Asked whether he would like to be tougher, Hipkins said: "I believe that I have been quite tough. Clearly, if I had all of the information related to all of those ministers in the first instance the issue would have been resolved much quicker than it was, but I didn't have that information. As prime minister, you can only make decisions based on the information that you have at the time."

Hipkins was asked if this had been his hard day as prime minister.

"I want to say, when you're dealing with issues of mental health, that's incredibly difficult... I've taken it very seriously right from the beginning. It is an absolute tragedy what happened yesterday, that it got to that point. It is very brave to be speaking publicly about it and in that regard I do want to acknowledge that she has been willing to do that.

"Clearly it is not acceptable that it got to that point yesterday and of course she could not continue in her role as a minister."

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