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First-Term MP Bolts Into Key's Cabinet

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Stephen Joyce
Stephen Joyce

By Grant Fleming of NZPA

Wellington, Nov 17 NZPA - A self-described "mechanic of organisations", Steven Joyce's appointment to Cabinet will allow him to get intimate with the nuts and bolts of government.

Mr Joyce was one of the bolters in Prime Minister-elect John Key's Cabinet, announced today.

He will take on the transport and communications portfolios and an associate infrastructure role.

But the first-term MP's rapid elevation into the ministerial ranks comes as little surprise.

A self-made millionaire in the cut-throat but hip world of commercial radio, the affable 45-year-old is a dream candidate for National.

He also has a seven-year pedigree of major behind the scenes party roles, firstly as one of the principal architects of National's restructuring following its record 2002 election loss and then as the mastermind behind its 2005 and 2008 campaigns.

But Mr Joyce started his climb up the business ladder at Massey University in Palmerston North in the early 1980s.

A failed veterinary sciences student he embarked on a zoology degree, but also found a hobby -- student radio -- that quickly grew into a full-time preoccupation.

After completing his degree, at just 21 he started his first radio station, Energy FM, on a part-time basis, in his home town of New Plymouth.

His roles included fronting the breakfast show as well as co-running the station.

After years of wrangling the station was granted a full-time licence and within six months it was Taranaki's top-rating station.

RadioWorks was formed and a clutch of acquisitions, start-ups and a merger with Radio Pacific saw it owning 22 local radio stations and four national networks -- including The Edge, Solid Gold FM and The Rock -- by the late 1990s.

When the company was "raided" by Canada's Canwest in 2001, he was left a multi-millionaire at the age of 38.

After getting some balance back -- in the form of a gym membership and a personal life -- he joined the National Party, chairing its strategic review, then becoming its general and campaign manager.

After its narrow election defeat in 2005, Mr Joyce married his partner Suzanne and moved to a lifestyle block near Hamilton.

Fifteen months ago the couple added a baby girl to their menagerie of animals.

In the period between the elections Mr Joyce became a director, then chief executive of Jasons Travel Media.

He said his return to politics was part of a realisation that he was not yet ready to step back from major roles.

"My intention after 2005 was to just kick back a little bit, invest in a couple of companies and just take a back seat," he said.

"But I've come to the conclusion that perhaps I'm not quite ready to take a complete back seat."

He said he thought about a tilt at politics in 2002, but flagged it away. However his respect for John Key and his desire to help him implement his agenda rekindled his desire to become an MP.

Mr Joyce dismisses suggestions from some quarters he is a "shadowy" figure and says his role as one of the "Hollow Men" in investigative researcher Nicky Hager's book has been over-egged.

Although he was approached by Exclusive Brethren members who wanted to wage a campaign in support of National he said he pointed them in the direction of the Electoral Commission.

He said his skills are financial and organisational and he has a strong understanding of the pressures facing New Zealand businesses -- from his own ventures and the experience of having parents who were grocers.

"Right from when I was a kid and Mum and Dad had their own small business ... I've sort of probably been brought up in those small Kiwi companies where everyone does their bit and works hard.

" At the end of the day they do drive the economy and maybe I can help be a bit of a representative for that group."

Mr Joyce describes himself as "a bit of a mechanic of organisations" -- tweaking them to make them work better.

But he says he does not usually involve a radical approach.

"I'm not one of these people that comes in and says `lets just turn the whole thing upside down and see what happens'," he said.

"In a lot of ways it's just seeing what is the elephant sitting in the middle of the room -- what things you can do that will actually make the whole thing run a lot better."

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