Ministers expect to hear from people in their electorate, from their departmental chief executives, policy advisers, Ministers in Cabinet and its Cabinet committees, backbenchers in their caucus, lobby groups, media, coalition partners, Ministers in other governments and sections of the public of interest to them.
New Zealand Cabinet Ministers are all Members of Parliament. In the US, cabinet members do not have that additional responsibility. Ministers normally have very full workloads. They are under pressure to make many decisions, and to represent interests both as Ministers and as Members of Parliament. Working days from 7am to 10pm are not uncommon. The Ministerial Services agency provides the infrastructure (from finance to staff) to help make these workloads possible.
Ministers are also Cabinet’s eyes and ears about trends in the community. The impressions they get from voters might stimulate questions about advice given by official advisors. Some Ministers place weight on gaining access to independent sources of advice, and may even set up arrangements for contesting traditional channels of advice.
Many Ministers are responsible for more than one portfolio. Some are associate Ministers, working with other Ministers on portfolio responsibilities. Ministers also work together over a range of portfolios to achieve a broad approach on issues. They may be addressing a new issue that requires a different approach by government.
There are portfolios that naturally cut across others. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister need to take a whole-of-government view. Ministers such as those responsible for foreign affairs and trade, government shareholding, regional development, transport and particular population groups, need to be familiar with the portfolios of other Ministers and address special interests across the whole of government.
Increasingly, Ministers are directly employing policy advisors to give them an independent whole-of-government perspective, rather than relying on departmental advisors, whose perspective may be limited by historical perspectives or departmental brief.
Examples - ministers and strategies
Revitalising Japan New Zealand relations
The call to “Visit Japan”, launched a few years ago by then newly re-elected Prime Minister Koizumi, and given a local push over the last few years by Japan’s representative in Wellington, Ambassador Saito, is a stimulant to closer educational contact.
As Foreign Minister Winston Peters says, the relationship is important, should be be underrated, and should be worked on - a post-election comment that eviences ministers will work to follow up the June 2005 joint statement from Prime Ministers Clark and Koizumi for the two governments to “take a forward looking and fresh look at the present bilateral economic relationship and consider ways to strengthen it”.
Ambassador Saito has made it clear he wants “revitalization”, and Prime Ministers Clark and Koizumi said they wanted more to happen in six areas when they met in 2005, and in 2002. The “new level of engagement” they sought include tourism, education, people to people relations and trade and investment facilitation. These all stand to gain from the parallel initiatives of the airline, the Japanese Ambassador and others to encourage Kiwis to visit Japan.
Education is an action area for revitalising the Japan New Zealand relationship said Maarten Wevers, head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, after his visit to Japan with Helen Clark. She picked out education for emphasis because, as Japanese speaking Wevers, former NZ Ambassador to Japan says, Japan has a strong base for building education and people to people relationships. “NZ has a good brand name” he says.
The foundation for the education ties have been laid over the last three or four decades, and open the way for individual educational institutions to build their own ties says Wevers.
There are pockets of interest in visits to and from Japan – and the relationships that then grow further. Cooperation between research and development specialists, supporting New Zealand’s growth and innovation strategy, was boosted by the 2005 agreement between NZ’s Ministry of Research, Science and Technology and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. The PMs plan also to promote dialogue between academics and researchers on appropriate issues, as well as to strengthen high-level exchanges.
But it is the people interested in school and other special interest connections who might step up visits to Japan – and build on connections that lead to deeper educational contact, and to sustainable two way tourism.
Air New Zealand targets key schools that include Japanese studies in their curriculum, offering special fares and support material designed to foster the concept of cultural exchanges.
The airline has also helped show people in and out of education that
visits to Japan can be affordable - by announcing single person return
airfares with twin share accommodation for four nights in Tokyo for under
$2000. The Embassy of Japan is also able to show enquirers ways they can
visit Japan affordably – and old Japan hands and the internet can
help people find out more about cost busting.
As a Minister in Cabinet, she is able to check whether all policies have taken account of disability issues and also to advocate for specific issues with her colleagues.
The planning and implementation process ensures that departments incorporate
the NZDS into their budgets and broader work plans. Government agencies
often start to prepare these budgets and work plans six to eight months
before the financial year, which begins on 1st July.
Prime Minister Helen Clark strongly encourages organisations and individuals outside central government to be involved with the implementation of the NZDS. Disability sector organisations can take the opportunity presented by the NZDS to proactively engage with relevant government agencies to make them aware of important issues.
Of course, participating in formal consultation processes continues to be an important way for organisations and individuals to be involved in the implementation of the NZDS.
Government departments are increasingly drawing on the expertise of people with disabilities and disability organisations in their work.
By Anthony Haas, a former New Zealand foreign correspondent in Japan,
who would down his work there to manage his visual disability.
Find out more!
See the Cabinet Manual for more information on the roles and responsibilities of Ministers of the Crown.
Updated 10 February 2006