Gerry Brownlee is a lawmaker with New Zealand’s National Party, representing the Christchurch suburb of Ilam. He is the third-ranking member of Prime Minister John Key’s cabinet and his portfolio includes managing the government’s legislative agenda and the recovery from the devastating 2011 earthquake that struck Christchurch.
Brownlee previously served as junior whip and deputy leader of the National Party, minister for economic development, minister of energy and resources, associate minister for the Rugby World Cup, and Minister of Transport.
Why is he in the news?
Prime Minister Key appointed Brownlee minister of defense in addition to his other duties as part of an October 5 cabinet reshuffle following National’s resounding victory in the September general elections. It is unusual for such a senior minister to be given the defense portfolio—Brownlee’s predecessors Jonathan Coleman and Wayne Mapp were 10th and 13th in the National Party.
What should we expect from him?
Assigning the defense portfolio to a minister of Brownlee’s stature indicates its growing importance to the Key government. The Ministry of Defence earlier this year released two new guiding documents: a Defence Capability Plan and a 2014 Strategic Intentions document, which refines ongoing plans to modernize New Zealand’s military to allow it to play a credible combat role, project and sustain power farther afield, and maintain a deployable ground force.
Recent defense ministers have been forced to tease out budget savings to fund the ministry’s plans, but Brownlee will benefit from a $535 million dollar cash injection for defense announced in the 2014 government budget.
Brownlee could have a personal influence on the direction of New Zealand’s defense planning as soon as next year, when a new Defense White Paper could be completed. He could also play an important part in the ministry’s plan to take a “more visible role” in the management of international defense relationships, as indicated in the 2014 Strategic Intentions document.