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Dr Don Brash Explains How To Fine Tune An MP

Don Brash Explains How To Fine Tune An MP

Don Brash explains why National Party fine tuning has led to Katherine Rich's demotion

National Party Leader Don Brash today explained why the fine-tuning of his party's election year line up included demoting Katherine Rich from the opposition front benches.

Ms Rich, as well as losing her front bench seat also lost her major shadow portfolio of welfare. As of this afternoon, Judith Collins, becomes the National Party's welfare spokesperson. Ms Collins will be able to keep Ms Rich company on the second row of the opposition benches whilst National's finance spokesperson, John Key, joins the now all male National front bench.

Ms Rich's demotion came after some days of media speculation that a rift had opened up between herself and Dr Brash following his hard-line speech on social welfare, delivered at Orewa, last week. On Friday the National Party had played down rumours that Ms Rich and Dr Brash had any significant differences of opinion. However today it became clear that Ms Rich and Dr Brash were certainly not singing from the same hymn-book when it came time to welfare reform. Dr Brash explained that Ms Rich's heart was not in the same place as his regarding welfare issues - particularly those centred on the DPB.

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"It is important that we have a spokesperson for that policy [welfare] that feels comfortable selling that policy and indeed selling it strongly." Dr Brash told a gaggle of media packed into his office like sardines.

Dr Brash explained that the differences between himself and Ms Rich were not as extreme, as those between himself and his former Maori Affairs spokesperson Georgina Te Heuheu after his last speech at Orewa. Then National's only Maori MP – Ms Te Hueheu – was, like Ms Rich, forced to relinquish her portfolio.

"Last year as you recall I did take a view on the Treaty of Waitangi, which the caucus was overwhelmingly supportive of. Georgina [Te Heuheu] felt she could not support that and it was appropriate she stepped down from her portfolio. Katherine Rich is in a different situation because she is broadly supportive of the speech but doesn't feel able to sell it effectively."

This, only partial, difference of opinion may explain why Ms Rich escaped the banishment to the House's darkest recesses that followed Ms Te Heuheu's inability to see eye to eye with her leader.

When questioned by the assorted media as to whether Dr Brash tolerated any difference of opinion within the party regarding policy Dr Brash forthrightly stated: "I'm the leader of the caucus. I clearly have a major influence on what policy is."

Dr Brash about to leave the podium

Dr Brash stressed that Ms Rich was not being "punished" for failing to agree wholeheartedly with him but instead preferred the term "re-assigned". When it was pointed out to Dr Brash that Simon Power had been re-assigned following a gaff concerning defence policy and had remained on the front bench Dr Brash stated.

"I thought it appropriate for her to be on the second bench."

Despite having no women whatsoever on the front bench following Ms Rich's demotion, Dr Brash was still confident the National Party was interested in women – as voters.

"It is certainly my objective to make it clear that we want the vote of women."

Dr Brash refused to go to any lengths to achieve this however.

"I'm not sure that I believe the American political rhetoric that I should wear more red ties to achieve that," he said.

ENDS

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