'Sheep-farm' minister maybe not so baaad!

When I first heard who had been appointed as New Zealand's new ICT minister this week, my initial response was "Amy who?"
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

When I first heard who had been appointed as New Zealand's new ICT minister this week, my initial response was "Amy who?"

I remembered Amy Adams as a relatively new MP, who had served just three years before making the government front bench.

Others are expressing similar thoughts. With Adams reportedly also managing a sheep station with her husband, some are even dismissing her as a mere "sheep farmer" from Canterbury!

The problem is that the ICT portfolio was previously held by a political heavyweight, Steven Joyce, who was close to Prime Minister John Key, and who had a solid business background before taking up politics.

Now Joyce is headed for higher things, something he has earned, having delivered much in his three years as minister in a first-term Key government.

Are we in ICT arrogant in expecting the ICT portfolio to be undertaken by a government heavyweight, as it also was when David Cunliffe held the job during the Helen Clark Labour government during the last decade?

By contrast, look at Australia, where I note your communications minister has no "real-world" experience whatsoever; Stephen Conroy seems to have spent all of his working life on union and political/government activities.

So, I ask the question: what qualifications should your ICT or communications minister have? Is a background in ICT essential?

After all, do we expect our education ministers to be former teachers or school principals? Do we expect our health ministers to be former doctors or nurses? Especially when such monolith ministries might be best served by a hard-headed businessman or woman?

When I spoke to David Farrar of Internet New Zealand and Kiwiblog, the National Party supporter commented on Adams's sharp intellect, and praised her work on other issues, talents also noted by other media reports on her appointment.

Indeed, with the hard yards done by Steven Joyce, it may be that more of a legal mind will be better for refining the finer points of recent government legislation.

And, as a mere "sheep farmer", Amy Adams may also be more familiar with the problems of "end users", something that is particularly important, as farming still remains the economic backbone of New Zealand. Adams could well turn out to be a consumers or business users champion, seeing things more from their perspective.

Her newness may also be an advantage, with her not being unduly influenced yet by any particular lobby groups or special-interests groups, although they will always be able to offer any "advice" that she might need.

One can only hope that Adams continues to perform well, as it appears that there remain some mighty issues to resolve, such as the digital spectrum auction and a potential single regulator of media and broadband. There will be patents, mobile roaming and skills issues, amongst others.

It will be interesting to see if the opposition Labour Party lands some blows on the relative newbie, something that they failed to achieve against Steven Joyce.

Yet the New Zealand Labour Party might find it hard to criticise Adams on grounds of inexperience. It has just elected a new party leader who has been an MP for a mere 30 months, less than one parliamentary term, and less than Adams has served herself!

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