Sanctus – Sanctaria’s first female Prime Minister was quick to make even more history yesterday when, shortly after her election by the House of Deputies, Prime Minister Charlene Hendry announced a complete overhaul of government departments, with many being split up, abolished, and some new ones created too. 18 DLP deputies were announced to be new Cabinet Secretaries, along with 18 Government Departments to lead. Hendry also announced she was abolishing Assistant Secretaries, or Junior Ministers, as her new, enlarged cabinet, should suffice for executing the decisions of the government.
This is the first time since the creation of the Divine Republic that brand new Government Departments have been created, and Hendry’s new additions are obviously rooted in DLP principles, with new departments dedicated to minorities, to families, and to climate change.
Hendry’s nominations to Cabinet were approved today by the Senate – since there is a DLP majority there, albeit a slim one, confirmation of the new Cabinet Secretaries was essentially guaranteed. Some Senate committees, such as the Land Affairs Committee, interviewed more than one nominee simultaneously as there are no extant committees that reflect the new government departments. This was for efficiency and expediency purposes, with the Senate expected to change their Senate committees over the next few months.
The Prime Minister and her new Cabinet were applauded by the House of Deputies as they took their seats after their confirmation before the Prime Minister announced they would be travelling to Eagleston Manor to receive their ceremonial seals of office from President Marian Woodstrom.
The new Cabinet, and the new Departments, are as follows:
Prime Minister – Charlene Hendry
Hendry takes office after spending over 10 years as Leader of the Opposition. She is Sanctaria’s first female Prime Minister, and the first DLP Prime Minister since Glen Cox left office at the 2000 election. The new PM was previously Secretary for Social Welfare and Family Affairs in the Cox government, and held that post for 7 years. She is considered to be a very steely and determined politician who, despite personal unpopularity within the DLP parliamentary party, has managed to stay as party leader because of being very well liked by grassroots members. Indeed, in the recent election, her personal vote numbers went up by almost 15%. She was more of a chieftain than a chairman when it came Shadow Cabinet meetings – it is well known in House circles that she hates waffle and will bluntly cut across even close allies when they begin to stray from their point – and it’s more than likely she will continue this trend in Cabinet proper.
Deputy Prime Minister/Secretary of State for the Treasury – Niamh Winters
Hendry’s closest ally, and Deputy Leader of the DLP, was always a shoe-in for the DPM role. Winters spent the better part of the past decade as the DLP’s finance spokesperson too, so being appointed Treasury Secretary was no big surprise also – though there were some rumours in Government Buildings that she might possibly have wanted to try her hand at a different portfolio.
Nevertheless, her nomination as Treasury Secretary was expected so much so that DLP Senators didn’t bother holding an interview panel for her with the Senate Finance Committee – they approved her nomination in a voice vote on the Senate floor. Winters’ background as an accountant has, over the past few years, been a real asset to her as the DLP Finance Spokesperson, but now she is Treasury Secretary she will have to implement DLP policies, some of which can be costly, and try to balance the books at worst, at the same time. Hendry is a tough master, though, and it’s believed that despite the rake of promises made during the election campaign, she will be seeking to ensure there’s a surplus every year post budget.
Secretary of State for Agriculture & Rural Affairs – Gerald Rivera
Hendry has reverted the Department of Land Affairs back to the Department of Agriculture, and split out areas such as Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources to “better focus” the Department now that Assistant Secretaries have been abolished. She has, however, taken Rural Affairs away from the old Department of Communities and added it back to this Department, where it used to sit, because “rural affairs and agricultural affairs go hand-in-hand”.
She has appointed DLP veteran Gerald Rivera to this position. Rivera is one of the few DLP Deputies who hails from a rural district – he comes from the Isles and has a background in fish-farming – and he served as the DLP’s Food and Aquaculture Spokesperson for the past 5 years. He has been a Deputy since 1993. His appointed wasn’t expected because it wasn’t believed Hendry would split up Land Affairs again. The previous DLP spokesperson on Land Affairs has been assigned a different position.
Secretary of State for Business, Industry, & Trade – Julia Griffin
Another victim of Hendry’s root-and-branch review was the old Department of Commerce, now rebranded as the Department of Business, Industry, & Trade (or D-BIT as the mandarins in the Department have already started calling it). It has lost responsibility for Labour/Employment in this new regime, but most other functions remain intact.
DLP Commerce Spokesperson Julia Griffin – who notably stood in for Niamh Winters as Finance Spokesperson during her pregnancy a number of years back – was named to this position without much surprise. Griffin is known to be a very quiet individual – she doesn’t speak up in meetings, but rather absorbs a lot of information – so how she will fare in international trade negotiations will remain to be seen, but as a businesswoman in her own right, with a range of her own healthfood stores across Sanctaria, she certainly knows her stuff when it comes to commerce and business.
Secretary of State for Climate Change & the Environment – Debbie Howard
The first of Hendry’s brand new Departments, Climate Change & the Environment, was created because “Sanctaria needs to show she is serious about the problems facing today’s worlds”, according to the new Prime Minister. The new Department’s functions have been split from the Department of Agriculture (previously Land Affairs) but it is understood that the new Department will share the same building so as to save unnecessary costs.
The woman tapped to head this new Department focused on Sanctaria’s international committments to pollution standards, and care of the environment, is the DLP Land Affairs spokeswoman Debbie Howard. Howard was a decent enough spokesperson for Land Affairs, but it was always clear her heart lay in attacking the SCP on their performance on curbing vehicle emissions, their lacklustre attempts at banning certain plastics, and their reticence in providing more natural parks. All these issues can now be her sole focus as Environment Secretary, and it’s one that she told the Senate Land Affairs Committee that she is “relishing”.
Secretary of State for Culture, the Arts, & Heritage – Amanda Thomas
The Department of Culture has reverted to its original name after undergoing a brief turn as the Department of Communities. Hendry felt Communities was too broad and that, although Culture was always seen as a hands-off department, it was vitally important to Sanctaria’s image at home, as well as abroad, that we been seen to value our culture. A former Empire, as Sanctaria was until the 70s, remnants of our culture and heritage “can be seen across the world” according to the Prime Minister, so it was important that Sanctaria dedicated time to preserving it.
DLP Communities spokesperson Amanda Thomas was tapped for this position. Thomas was a recent addition to the DLP’s front bench, and has only been an MP for a number of years (originally having been elected in a by-election in 2014), so this is a rapid promotion for someone touted as a future leader. Sources tell us that Thomas is “honoured” to be appointed to Cabinet, but is a little miffed she wasn’t given a more hard-hitting portfolio.
Secretary of State for Devolution and Governmental Affairs – Ben Jackson
Another brand new Department, and one that has long been called for, the portfolio of Local Government has finally been given it’s time to shine. Hendry’s rationale was that this new Department would not only look after local government, and all the responsibilities that entails, but would oversee the devolved matters to city councils, would look at further devolution, and would also be responsible for elections, for government reform etc.
Ben Jackson (or Bennie as he’s affectionally known in Parliament circles) is a popular, veteran member of the DLP, but one who struggled to hold on to his semi-rural seat, despite the DLP wave that occurred. A long-time backbencher, Jackson never served in Hendry’s frontbench before, so despite his 18 years in Parliament, this is his first responsibility. The reason for his appointment is likely two-fold; firstly, Jackson is a very popular member, so will be good for getting rebellious MPs on board. It also helps with Hendry’s own popularity within the party too. Secondly, it boosts his profile and, it being local government and government reform, should hopefully make him a little more popular in his district through likely pork-barrel spending or other favourable measures. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs after his entire parliamentary career on the backbenches.
Secretary of State for Education – Peter Miller
No changes made to this Department since former PM Kindle’s reforms in 2015. Hendry did not say much about the Department of Education, other than that she will be directing her Secretary for Education to have a particular focus on changes to higher education and to adjust the curricula so it is in-line with international standards.
The man she has tasked this to is Peter Miller. A Hendry loyalist, Miller has been DLP Education Spokesperson since 2015, and before that served in a range of other portfolios in the Shadow Cabinet. Often seen as Hendry’s strongman, Miller is one of those few politicians whose bite is just as bad as his bark. Like the PM, he isn’t the most popular in the DLP, and unusually he is one of the parliamentary party’s most conservative members. Miller is one of 3 DLP PP members on the record as being pro-life, likely stemming from the fact that Miller represents what was, until his election in 2000, a Christian Union Party stronghold.
Secretary of State for Energy, Renewables, & Natural Resources – Mark Adams
Another brand new Department, and another born from the Department of Land Affairs (now Agriculture), Hendry has said that preservation of Sanctaria’s natural resources “is vital, but so is ensuring our energy provision matches and exceeds Sanctaria’s needs” – Hendry has put a particular focus on renewable energy, saying “this can be sold to international energy grids, gaining important revenue for Sanctaria”. The new Department will focus on continued reduction in use of fossil fuels, oversight of Sanctaria’s oil, gas, and coalfields, and reviewing Sanctaria’s current energy levels. This Department is also responsible for Sanctaria’s nuclear program.
Appointed to oversee this new Department is DLP Deputy Mark Adams. Adams has served as frontbench spokesperson for Health until the most recent election, but is considered one of Hendry’s critics. Although not the most popular member, he is regularly considered one of the House’s fiercest hard-workers. This is a quiet, hands-on department where Hendry can dispose of one of her political foes.
Secretary of State for Equality & Minority Affairs – Ann Ramirez
This other brand new Department was born out of the Department of Justice. Hendry has said that she has noticed government after government appoint Junior Ministers for Equality but nothing ever seems to be done about ensuring there is equality for all in Sanctaria. Hendry has created this department to represent and look after those in Sanctaria who are a census-recognised minority, those who are disabled, and also to ensure discrimination in laws with regards to gender, sexuality, religion etc are struck out. The new Secretary will be responsible for thorough examination of previous laws, proposed legislation, quango standards, the internal rules of city councils and corporations, as well as the day-to-day lives of minorities and women to ensure their lives are not hindered.
DLP Spokesperson for Women, Ann Ramirez, has been appointed to this role after a much lauded – by DLP members anyway – performance in her role in the previous House. Ramirez’s nickname is the Spanish Pitbull because of her fiery speeches and her ability to keep dogging at something, or some one, until she gets what she wants. It is said that she and Hendry have a cordial relationship, with each respectful and friendly of the other, but they are not particularly close. It’s possible Hendry keeps her in her frontbench because she would be a massive pain as a backbencher.
Secretary of State for Families & Youth – David Hughes
Yet another brand new Department, this one born out of duties torn from both the Department of Communities (now Culture) and Department of Social Welfare and Family Affairs. Hendry has said it’s important for her that the Sanctarian government keeps the plight of less well off families, as well as the voices of children, in mind when making decisions, and she hopes this Department will be an advocate for this. Adoption Services, orphanages, youth centres, social workers, and community grants and schemes such as Tidy Towns and Villages are just some examples of the duties this department will be responsible for.
Deputy David Hughes is the person tapped to lead this new Department. Hughes is a former DLP Spokesperson on Social Welfare, and has been a strong defender of one-parent families, the working class, and minority communities in urban centres. This is a role he should do well in, but time will tell if he’s all talk and no action.
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs – Brian Young
One of the few Departments that remains untouched, the DFA remains one of the most prestigious Departments that a party member can be appointed to. Hendry has said in her opening speech to the House of Deputies, she wants to expand the reach of Sanctaria in third world countries, including the amount of aid that will be spent.
Brian Young, long-time supporter of Hendry, and recent spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, was handed this role as expected. He was grilled in the Senate Committee, especially by some Independent Senators, but was confirmed easily enough. He is seen as a compassionate but firm man, very polite, so it is hoped that diplomacy will come second nature to him. He is, by his nature, very liberal and will most likely direct the World Assembly representation to ensure liberal legislation is passed. In WA parlance, he is an IntFed (International Federalist), which is likely to put him in to conflict with recently appointed WA Ambassador Dr. Katherine Saunders who is seen as quite conservative and a National Sovereigntist (NatSov).
Secretary of State for Health – Linda Kelly
Another Department that hasn’t been changed, Hendry was quite vocal in her campaigning that Sanctaria’s abortion laws would be re-liberalised, and that her appointee to this Department would be focusing on that first and foremost. Hendry has also promised quite a bit of funding for primary care centres, and it is understood the doctors’ unions are biting for more money for the many emergency departments across Sanctaria.
Health is known for eating up a lot of the budget, and so Hendry has astutely put in Deputy Linda Kelly, who was finance spokesperson prior to Niamh Winters, but has served on the backbenches since. Kelly is a DLP stalwart, and, approaching her 70s, the oldest person in the Cabinet. However Kelly is also one of the most liberal members of the DLP, and one of the veterans who campaigned for legalisation of abortion after the Papal States became the Divine Republic. Kelly is “a bit of a legend” according to many Young Democratic Left members, so this is not just a popular move, but also a move to signal seriousness about the abortion question.
Secretary of State for Homeland Security – Kathryn Stewart
Again no changes here, Hendry is keeping Kindle’s beefed-up department, now considered one of the most important ones in government. The DLP was slammed for not promising to tone down on the “Big Brother-like” changes that the SCP had made to the old Department of Defence, but Hendry said during the campaign, and again in the House yesterday, that it is necessary for Sanctaria’s continued protection from terrorism.
Stewart is a hard-working DLP Deputy. A supporter of Hendry, she was previously spokesperson for Home Affairs (now Justice), followed by Human Services. She is a deeply private individual, rarely goes to party functions, and is said to loathe public speaking. That said, though, she was a tireless campaigner for those on social benefits, as well as any problems her own constituents may have. Her appointment here was a surprise, but as this is now considered the third most important department in government, after the Treasury and DFA, it’s a sign that Hendry trusts her competency completely.
Secretary of State for Infrastructure – Xander Morgan
Changes to this department include it being stripped of the science and technology briefs, but Infrastructure remains “a vital ministry” according to Hendry. Responsible for communications infrastructure, roads, ports, rail, and post, just to name a few, this is another government department that is a big spender – but also a big employer, crucially, as Hendry seeks to expand government employment after the SCP “cut it down drastically”.
Tapped to this Department is Xander Morgan, who was appointed its Shadow Secretary by Hendry in 2015. He has shown in debates to be on top of his brief, so his confirmation through the Senate was swift, but his reputation as someone with a loose tongue and a over-familiarity with the media was touted as possible reasons for not including him in the Cabinet proper after the election. Hendry, though, is said to be fond of him, and prior to serving as Infrastructure Spokesperson, he was the Opposition Chief Whip, so he’s a familiar face and voice to the DLP PP members.
Secretary of State for Justice – Eric Hill
This is the third change in a row for this Department, with it now losing the equality part of its brief. It’s now almost solely responsible for prisons, police, the probation and rehabilitation services, the court services, and criminal justice. Some ceremonial and administrative functions remain with the Department, but it’s now seen as the “new Department of Defence”, according to one DLP member, which was famous for being a dumping ground for out of favour or retiring senior party members.
And Eric Hill could be considered one of those party members. Hill and Hendry famously do not get on, but Hill’s connections in the business world are vital for donations to the party, and he is famously capricious. Keeping the DLP on his good side by putting him in Cabinet is obviously important to Hendry. Hill was police and prisons spokesperson for the DLP back when that was a junior ministry, so he does have some experience here, but this isn’t the power house of a department that it used to be when it was Home Affairs, and provided he does even an adequate enough job at oversight, Hendry can put up with him.
Secretary of State for Labour & Employment – Jessica Scott
Yet another brand new department, this time born out of duties previously allocated to the then-Department of Communities. Hendry said that initiative to encourage and create employment, and keep people employed, were “vital to Sanctaria’s continued growth and success” and so she decided to create an entire Government Department for it. This was one of the least popular decisions with the new opposition, the Sanctarian Conservative Party, as they felt if the duties didn’t suit the Business Department, then it would suit the Social Welfare Department.
Nonetheless, Hendry’s appointed Jessica Scott to spearhead this department and Government employment initiatives. Scott was DLP Spokesperson for Children, and prior to that Mental Health, so the choice was a little left-field, but Scott’s very popular with the DLP grassroots members, and gave a rousing speech during the campaign. She is exceedingly popular in her home district and, aged only in her mid-30s, considered a future leader of the DLP. She is also, however, seen to be from the more socialist side of the DLP, and it remains to be seen whether or not these views will be visible in plans by her Department.
Secretary of State for Science, Innovation, & Technology – Laura Parker
The last of the new Departments, D-SIT, as it is being called already, is responsible for “turning Sanctaria into a Smart Country, not just a place full of Smart Cities”. The DLP want a renewed focus on the roll-out of better broadband, amongst other technologies, to rural parts of Sanctaria, as well as increased funding for the Sanctarian Space Programme. Hendry wants her new Cabinet Secretary to appointed a Chief Science Officer for the country, responsible for encouraging science education and being the go-to-person for the government when matters of scientific awareness is needed.
And Hendry’s go-to-person to lead the department was a no-brainer, Laura Parker. Parker, who has a PhD in biochemistry, has been a DLP Deputy since 2007, and the DLP’s Science Spokesperson since then too. An advocate for more women in STEM, sources in the new PM’s office tell us Parker was instrumental in pushing the PM to create a department focusing solely on Science, given “how pervasive it is now in day-to-day lives”. Secretary Parker and the PM are good friends, and it is believed that Parker is Hendry’s preferred replacement as leader when her own time comes to step-down – it is not believed, however Parker has such lofty ambitions.
Secretary of State for Social Welfare – Harry Bell
Hendry has reverted the Department of Human Services back to the Department of Social Welfare because “Human Services makes people sound like a commodity, these are people to be cared for”. Other than that, no changes here since those made back in 2015 by the Kindle government. This Department is a big spender, and the DLP were heavily criticised after their last spell in government for spending way to much on “giveaway budgets”. It was popular with the people, but not with the coffers.
In a surprise move, Hendry has tapped Deputy Harry Bell for the job here. Elected in 2013 for the first time, Bell has served as Transport Spokesperson for the DLP since 2015. Grilled by the Senate on how he will run his Department, Bell was confirmed by the tightest of margins, with some SCP Senators voting against him – this didn’t happen with any other nominee. With such little experience, and running a department with a big budget, many SCP Senators laughed privately that he “must have some dirt on Hendry”. But Hendry sees him as a rising star, according to DLP sources, and she’s seen how hard he works. She wants to give him a big break. He’ll either do really well, or fail miserable in this department. And he knows it.
SARAH PLEDYS, Political Editor