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Opinion: Hekia Parata gives John Key a 'white guy' problem

Wednesday 19 Oct 2016 1:25 p.m.

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Hekia Parata quitting might give John Key a space in Cabinet - but the problem is a massive queue of white guys lining up to join a line-up of white guys.

Parata's resignation and Nikki Kaye's health issues means there are now just five women in Key's 20-person Cabinet. In contrast, there are 12 white guys - hardly representative of New Zealand in 2016.

As both a woman and a Māori, Parata gave the ministry a real point of difference. More importantly, she was there on merit too.

The inconvenient truth for Key is there is a dearth of females and ethnicities in his Caucus.

There are only 17 women out of the 59 MPs (by contrast, 12 out of 31 Labour MPs are female). And only six of the male National MPs aren't Pakeha.

The reality is National is flooded with white guys.

The most competent MPs likely to replace Parata are the likes of Todd Muller, Chris Bishop or Jami-Lee Ross (who is Māori). So if Key chooses one of them, he will up the white guy, or at least the guy quota even more.

If he decides to stay proportionate, he will have to reach over them and not appoint on merit.

It would have been much easier for him if an old white guy like Nick Smith or Murray McCully retired.

Key will wait a while before doing his Cabinet reshuffle, hopeful that a white guy will retire too to give him a bit more space.

Or maybe Key already knows that some of the white male Cabinet contingent is going to quit too.

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