New PM delivers cautious Cabinet reshuffle
By Pattrick Smellie
Dec. 18 (BusinessDesk) - Newly appointed Prime Minister Bill English unveiled a cautious Cabinet reshuffle, leaving in place several Ministers who are either retiring at the 2017 election or whose questionable performance had led to speculation they would leave the Cabinet.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Education Minister Hekia Parata, who are both retiring from politics next year, will remain in their portfolios until May, when a further minor reshuffle will occur, while embattled English ally Nick Smith slips from 12th to 15th in the Cabinet rankings, but retains the environment portfolio and a renamed 'building and construction' brief, replacing the 'building and housing' portfolio.
Also untouched is Gerry Brownlee, who drops one place to make way for Steven Joyce's previously announced elevation to Minister of Finance, while retaining the defence, Christchurch regeneration and Earthquake Commission portfolios, as well as taking up the reinstated portfolio of civil defence.
Biggest winners in the reshuffle are Simon Bridges, who moves from ninth to fifth ranking, taking the economic development ministry from Steven Joyce, who becomes Minister of Finance and takes the revived 'infrastructure' portfolio, as well as inheriting the communications ministry from Amy Adams, while retaining the transport portfolio.
Adams rises one notch in the rankings to sixth, taking on the social housing, Housing New Zealand and a new social investment portfolio, all three of which have been key policies developed by English and his new deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett, who is confirmed as tourism minister but has also picked up the police portfolio and elevated the position of the Minister for Women from a ministry outside Cabinet to second place. She keeps the climate change portfolio.
Michael Woodhouse, who keeps immigration and workplace relations and safety and gains responsibility for the Accident Compensation Corp, moves from 17th to ninth position in a clear indication that he may be headed for bigger things after the May transition. High-performing Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, who is undergoing cancer treatment, is effectively given a place-holder standing at 14th, with the Youth Affairs portfolio.
English indicated she may gain more in a subsequent reshuffle but did not want to put pressure on her while she dealt with health issues.
Also on the up are Alfred Ngaro, one of National's few Pasifika MPs, who vaults straight into Cabinet in 21st place, taking the Pacific Peoples and community and voluntary sector portfolios, while three backbenchers - Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean, and David Bennett - become Ministers outside Cabinet.
Mitchell becomes Minister of Land Information, with responsibility for the Overseas Investment Office among other responsibilities, and will be Minister of Statistics; Dean replaces Paul Goldsmith as Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and David Bennett takes on veterans affairs' and food safety.
Their elevations open up opportunities for aspiring backbenchers, including Chris Bishop, who is likely to replace Bennett as chair of Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee; and Todd Muller, who could replace Mark Mitchell chairing the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee, although that would require overleaping the current deputy chair.
The former Minister for Women, Louise Upston, moves into Cabinet at 20th ranking, becoming Minister for Corrections, defying widespread speculation that she would be left out of the English ministry.
Instead, the big loser in the reshuffle is Jo Goodhew, formerly a Minister outside Cabinet with responsibility for the voluntary sector and food safety, who is not in the new ministry, but may be in line for selection as one of the National Party's whips or as a deputy Speaker. English indicated she was likely in line for parliamentary duties.
Pretenders to the National Party leadership following John Key's surprise resignation earlier this month, Jonathan Coleman and Judith Collins, have done relatively poorly. Coleman slips from sixth to seventh ranking and has no portfolio change, retaining the health and sports and recreation portfolios, while Collins loses Corrections and Police, falls to 16th from 14th and picks up the revenue, energy, and ethnic communities portfolios, the last of which she has held previously.
Moving into the Cabinet for the first time is Paul Goldsmith, who picks up the tertiary education and science and innovation portfolios previously held by Joyce.
Unchanged are Todd McClay, as Minister of Trade and state-owned enterprises, Maggie Barry in the Arts, Conservation and Seniors portfolios, Chris Finlayson as Attorney-General and Treaty Negotiations minister, Nathan Guy in the primary industries portfolio, and Nicky Wagner as Minister of Customers and Disability Issues, outside Cabinet.