25 Jul 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she has confidence in James Shaw

10:04 am on 25 July 2022

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says ministerial portfolio allocations are always the prerogative of the prime minister of the day and James Shaw will keep his ministerial portfolios regardless of the Green Party's co-leadership decision.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the Post Cabinet press conference in the Beehive theatrette.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said linking ministerial roles to party positions would remove the discretion of the prime minister to determine who held ministerial functions. Photo: Pool image / Robert Kitchin /Stuff

The Green Party is down to one leader after nearly a third of voting members chose to reopen nominations rather than re-elect Shaw at the party's general meeting on Saturday.

Shaw announced this morning that he would contest the co-leadership again.

Ardern told Morning Report she had confidence in Shaw and had "every intention" he would retain his portfolios.

The agreement Labour has with the Green Party stipulates that it is the people named by the prime minister, not their positions within their own parties, which determines ministerial portfolio positions.

"That was something that we were very clear on during the negotiations," she said.

"It's very explicit that it's the two individuals that are named - James Shaw, Marama Davidson - as holding portfolios, rather than co-leaders."

Ardern said linking the ministerial roles to party positions would remove the discretion of the prime minister to determine who held ministerial functions.

"My view was, at the time, that I didn't want to see that another decision made by another party would then determine reshuffles. I don't think people would expect that to be the case either; we need to have some stability."

Some within the Green Party believe Shaw - who is Climate Change Minister - has focused too much on building consensus in Parliament, at the expense of pushing the party's own policies, and they want him replaced.

However, Ardern said Shaw often pushed "really hard on the government" to be as proactive on climate issues as possible.

"The fact that he also seeks, very much, to try and drive consensus around solutions, I see as being in the best interests of New Zealand. It means climate policy sticks; it means regardless of which political party may be in government in the future, we do as much as we can to create some longevity around what we're doing."

She wouldn't be drawn on whether the disunity within the Green Party was problematic for Labour, saying the Green's co-leadership process was yet to run its course.

Government 'open-minded' on mask mandates for schools

Ardern said she would be willing to bring back mask mandates for schools, but was following advice that mask use should be strongly encouraged for now.

She said some principals wanted mask mandates in schools, while others had expressed concern mandates would be reinstated.

"I have no hesitation on bringing back mandates - none whatsoever, when it comes to school masks.

"Ministers have actually repeated several times to our experts 'tell us your advice', because we are completely open-minded on this; we want to make sure we're doing what is in the best interests of kids and our health system."

The "strong advice" the government had received was that providing masks in schools and encouraging the wearing of masks was key, but schools should be allowed to manage how they implemented the recommendations, Ardern said.

Principals say there are not enough staff to cover absences so class cancellations and school closures are likely.

Electoral law reform panel grappling with 'meaty issues'

Asked whether the recent not guilty verdict delivered in a New Zealand First Foundation court case had exposed loopholes in electoral law, Ardern told RNZ there was an opportunity to do more work in the area.

Some reform had already been undertaken, but a process for more was underway, she said.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had accused two men of obtaining nearly $750,000 by deception between 2015 and 2020.

On Friday, SFO Director Karen Chang said the office would provide input into an independent review of the country's electoral law currently underway.

Ardern said the independent panel had some "quite meaty issues" to deal with in regard to finance and representation issues.

"We have an opportunity for these issues to be picked up as part of that work."

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