If people have the skills to be a minister, shouldn’t they have the skills to manage staff?
Perhaps the most concerning facet of the Government’s latest ministerial embarrassment was a comment yesterday from a former Labour Party president, Mike Williams. He told Newstalk ZB the incident reflected a lack of training for those appointed ministers. “I think it’s probably lack of supports,” he said. “Ministerial Services don’t seem to think it’s their job to give these new ministers basic instructions on staffing.”
It certainly should not be the service’s job. It shouldn’t be anyone’s job to give a minister basic instructions in how to manage a small staff. Voters and taxpayers have a right to expect that all of the people a political party offers for election — let alone those chosen to be ministers in a government — possess the personal qualities needed at any level of leadership. . .
It isn’t hard to find examples across the political spectrum where parties have got the selection process wrong and people without the requisite personal qualities, and political skills, get into parliament.
But party selection panels can’t know candidates as well as party leaders know members of their caucuses, especially those they entrust with ministerial warrants.
Even if a focus on ethnicity, gender and other distractions complicates the ministerial selection process, it shouldn’t trump the requirement for competence.
There is always some learning on the job with any new position but that learning for a minister should not have to cover such basic personal qualities as good manners and restraint.
The ability to manage down and up, which includes handling staff, should be a prerequisite for a minister.
If ministers can’t do that and do it well, it reflects poorly on the leader who promoted them beyond their competence and it is not ministerial services’ responsibility to sort out any shortcomings.