20 Mar 2023

Ginny Andersen named new Minister of Police

4:00 pm on 20 March 2023
Labour MP Ginny Anderson chairing the Justice select committee at Parliament

Ginny Andersen Photo: VNP / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Ginny Andersen will be the new minister of police, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Andersen was only sworn in as a Cabinet Minister last month, but Hipkins says she is a safe pair of hands.

Speaking after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Hipkins said Andersen had been appointed today and would get started on it immediately.

"She has worked for the police in the past for over a decade and more recently has been the chair of Parliament's Justice Select Committee," he said.

"I think having a decade working at the police means that she will understand how the police operate and understand the police systems well.

"She will have had quite a lot of exposure to the police and to the issues that police are dealing with at the moment."

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister's Office clarified that Andersen had been non-sworn staff, and worked her way up from being a senior advisor to policy manager at Police National Headquarters.

During that time she was a strategic advisor on Maori, Pacific and Ethnic services with a focus on reducing Māori offending.

While a policy manager her two main areas of work were methamphetamine and organised crime.

She was later seconded into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet during the Key administration to work on the Tackling Methamphetamine Action Plan.

The police portfolio was vacated by Stuart Nash last week, after he spoke on the radio about speaking to the Police Commissioner about appealing a case he disagreed with the judge on.

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He had not been police minister at the time of that conversation, but ministers are expected to avoid any perception of trying to influence police prosecution decisions, and avoid criticising judges.

Stuart Nash

Stuart Nash Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Further errors of judgement from Nash subsequently came to light, and he was demoted to 20th in the Cabinet rankings but avoided further punishment, with Hipkins saying it was proportional and the errors were "in the past".

Asked on Monday if it was embarrassing for him - in the wake of Nash's indiscretions - to have to ask his ministers to re-read the Cabinet Manual which sets out rules for Cabinet ministers, Hipkins said it "never hurts for everybody to have a reminder".

Andersen joined Labour in 2004, and served as Labour's vice president from 2015 to 2017, when she entered Parliament as a list MP. She won the Hutt South electorate in the 2020 election.

Hipkins named her in his Cabinet after he took over as prime minister, giving her the Digital Economy and Communications, Seniors, Small Business, Associate Immigration and Associate Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations roles.

The National Party's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell said it sent a signal that Labour had "clearly given up on law and order".

"They've appointed a minister with less than two months experience at the bottom of the Cabinet rankings at a time when the country is experiencing the worst crime levels it has ever seen."

But despite her short history as a Cabinet minister, Hipkins said he had confidence in her to take on the responsibilities of the police portfolio, which has changed hands several times in recent years.

He said he considered her a safe pair of hands.

"I think Ginny Andersen will hold her own ... it is a big portfolio and I have confidence in Ginny and her ability to tackle it," he said.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to the media

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"When I've looked at what I want to see from the minister of police, I think she's very well suited to take up that role."

He said he had some ideas of the priorities he wanted her to focus on.

"Certainly I'd like to see her see through some of the work that's already under way, so the work around retail crime is clearly an important area of priority, an area where I know the public want to see the government making good progress," he said.

"The focus around youth offending - making sure we're targeting those prolific youth offenders and getting them back and engaged in something more positive so the pattern of offending is broken.

"The work that the police have been doing around organised crime and gangs needs to continue to have ministerial focus. I mean, these are operational matters for the police but I'd expect the minister of police to be taking an interest and make sure that they're being kept up to date.

"And then working with the minister of justice - again, seeing through the current legislation that we've got before the house around current organised crime."

Hipkins said Barbara Edmonds would pick up Andersen's Associate Immigration portfolio.

Andersen is the fourth police minister since Labour took office in 2017, but it's the fifth time the role has changed hands.

Stuart Nash held the role from 2017 until 2020. He was succeeded by Poto Williams, but Hipkins himself was brought in after Williams - who is now exiting politics after this year's election - came under pressure over increased ram raids and retail offending.

Nash was named again in the role in Hipkins' administration, and Megan Woods took over the role in an interim capacity after Nash resigned last week.

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