Chris Hipkins has named his new Police Minister, and it’s not so much a whodunnit as a who-is-it?
Even the Prime Minister didn’t seem to know a lot about Ginny Andersen, who’s replacing Stuart Nash.
He said she was suitable because she’d worked with the police for 10 years, but he wasn’t sure what she did.
New Zealand, meet Ginny from the Hutt. She’s now the Honourable Ginny Andersen, your new Minister of Police.
“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,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.
The Prime Minister was forced to find a replacement for Stuart Nash who resigned his Police portfolio last week after admitting to inappropriately contacting the Police Commissioner about a court sentence.
Hipkins has reached near the bottom of the Cabinet to one of his most inexperienced ministers to train up fast.
Asked what it said about the Government’s priorities around crime that he has chosen a low-ranked minister to take the job, Hipkins replied it said nothing.
“You will know that the Minister of Justice sits on the front bench. Many of the policy issues that the police deal with are covered by the Justice portfolio and, of course, I have an interest in this as well,” he said.
“I can provide an absolute reassurance that law and order and crime will continue to be a key area of focus for the Government.”
Labour’s played pass the parcel with the Police portfolio since elected.
Nash held the role for the 2017 term and was replaced by Poto Williams when Labour won its second term in 2020. She became a victim of the ram raids spree. Her failure to handle the heat saw her turfed out for the old Mr Fixit Hipkins in June last year.
His ascension to Prime Minister saw Nash get back his dream job and 43 days in, the baton passed to Megan Woods for a week.
Hipkins has found his hopefully more permanent minister in Andersen. That means the portfolio has passed through five pairs of hands in less than a year.
“It is a big portfolio and I have confidence in Ginny and her ability to tackle it,” Hipkins said.
That confidence comes from Andersen’s time working for Police for 10 years.
While she’s familiar with a crime scene, she wasn’t a sworn officer, though her husband was.
But the Prime Minister was not so sure about the detail of what she actually did at Police.
“I haven’t got them in front of me… I haven’t got the details in front of me but I will get them for you,” he said.
Asked if he had chosen a Police Minister based on her having experience at Police, but he doesn’t know what she did there, Hipkins said: “I think having a decade working at the Police means that she will understand how the police operate.”
He knows what she’s gotta do though: tackle the retail crime crisis.
A graph contained in the briefing to the incoming minister reveals how quickly the ram raid epidemic spread, rising from an average of 10 a month five years ago to an average of 72 a month last year – a seven-fold increase.
“Retail crime is clearly an important area of priority,” Hipkins said.
The Prime Minister hoping the latest in a long line of police ministers nails it.
Jenna Lynch Analysis
While it might seem like a bolt out of the blue for the boys in blue, Andersen was a policy manager at police with a main focus on gangs, organised crime and meth.
In fact, she was seconded into the Beehive under John Key to work on his Tackling Meth Action Plan.
Speaking to those close to police, there is some optimism not just coming from her police experience but also from chairing the Justice Select Committee here at Parliament. Newshub is told she holds her own and understands the organisation well.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has ordered a crackdown of sorts on lobbyists.
Hipkins was disturbed by revelations on Monday morning that Government agencies are spending hundreds of thousands hiring external crisis comms to deal with day-to-day media queries.
He’s ordered his ministers to make it clear to their agencies that this should not be happening.
But when it comes to the more general topic of lobbyists, Hipkins defended the industry saying they’re really just regular New Zealanders.
“You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Hipkins said.
“I don’t think lobbyists necessarily get preferred access. I don’t think they necessarily get access other members of the public can’t get. In many cases, they are simply providing a flow of information.”
That is utter tosh.
On a practical level, lobbyists have swipe access to this place, something members of the public certainly don’t have.
Then there’s the information access. In Australia, there’s an 18-month period where ministers can’t lobby after leaving politics.
Our lack of that means someone could be sitting at the Cabinet table one week and out lobbying their former colleagues with all that sensitive Cabinet information the very next.