National’s underwhelming reshuffle

COMMENT: As far as reshuffles go, it was a little underwhelming.

Granted, National leader Bill English may feel he has reason to retain confidence in his front-benchers; after all, as he keeps reminding us, National was and is the largest party in Parliament following the election.

Yet what was a chance for rejuvenation has resulted in most former ministers holding onto their main areas of expertise, with all other MPs except the first-termers picking up largely minor portfolios.

It feels like an attempt to mix continuity with change, similar to the needle English tried to thread when taking over from John Key as Prime Minister and placating restless backbenchers.

One beneficiary of the reshuffle is Judith Collins, who has jumped from 16th to ninth in National’s rankings and picked up the transport portfolio - a particular focus for the new Government.

Collins’ resurgence may reflect a desire to keep her from fomenting mischief internally while in opposition, but it’s also an acknowledgement that her attack-dog approach may come in handy on the cross-benches (a fact English noted when saying: “I think Phil Twyford will find her way of business suits Opposition”).

Taking on Collins’ police portfolio is Chris Bishop, who may have considered himself unfortunate to miss out on a ministerial role last term.

Bishop turned Hutt South blue at the election, and has been elevated to a high-profile role taking on Police Minister Stuart Nash.

Similarly, Todd Muller has picked up climate change and Crown/Maori relations rules, having been on the cusp of a ministerial position last term.

One of the notable losers is Nick Smith, who has lost his housing-related roles and instead taken on the relatively lesser forestry and aquaculture portfolios.

English insisted Smith had performed well in government, but the change suggests National is aware it needs someone more convincing to take on Twyford (a job which has fallen to Michael Woodhouse).

"You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament, and particularly through the select committee process. Because we are the dominant select committee party.”

There are some other interesting decisions: English has created a separate mental health role, held by Matt Doocey, perhaps a recognition of the pressure his government came under regarding strains on the mental health system.

Amy Adams has picked up workplace relations and safety from Woodhouse, with English praising her “crystal-clear legal mind” and saying she could keep a check on the Government’s planned reforms.

This reshuffle may reflect a holding pattern. While English claimed to be unaware of any pending departures, it seems likely a handful of senior MPs will choose to stand down before the election, creating space for other rising stars. He confirmed giving portfolios to more junior MPs was in essence a test of their ability to make the step up.

As to National’s approach in opposition, it seems sensible to not expect any goodwill, with English making multiple attacks on the Government and warning it could not expect an easy rise.

"You should expect more tension and more pressure in the Parliament, and particularly through the select committee process. Because we are the dominant select committee party.”

"And that is going to make a difference to how everything runs - it's not our job to make this place run for an incoming Government that is a minority.”

With experienced ministers among his ranks, English and company may enjoy making life difficult. However, a more constructive approach will be needed if National is to somehow seize power back at the next election.

National shadow portfolios:

Bill English - National Security
Paula Bennett - Children; Women; Social Investment
Steven Joyce - Finance; Infrastructure
Gerry Brownlee - Foreign Affairs; Fisheries; Land Information
Simon Bridges - Shadow Leader of the House; Economic and Regional Development; Immigration
Amy Adams - Justice; Workplace Relations and Safety (including Pike River)
Jonathan Coleman - Health; Sport and Recreation
Chris Finlayson - Shadow Attorney General; Commerce; GCSB; NZSIS
Judith Collins - Transport; Revenue
Michael Woodhouse - Housing; Social Housing
Nathan Guy - Primary Industries
Nikki Kaye - Education
Todd McClay - Trade; State Services
Paul Goldsmith - Tertiary Education; Arts, Culture and Heritage
Louise Upston - Social Development
Anne Tolley - Nominated for Deputy Speaker
David Carter - State Owned Enterprises
Nick Smith - Forestry; Aquaculture
Maggie Barry - Conservation
Alfred Ngaro - Courts; Community and Voluntary Sector; Pacific Peoples
Mark Mitchell - Defence
Nicky Wagner - Disability Issues
Jacqui Dean - Tourism; Small Business
David Bennett - Food Safety; Racing; Associate Immigration
Tim Macindoe - ACC
Scott Simpson - Environment; Planning
Jami-Lee Ross - Senior Whip; Local Government; Associate Transport
Barbara Kuriger - Biosecurity; Rural Communities; Junior Whip
Matt Doocey - Greater Christchurch Regeneration; Mental Health; Third Whip
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi - Internal Affairs; Associate Police
Melissa Lee - Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media; Ethnic Affairs
Jonathan Young - Energy and Resources
Joanne Hayes - Whanau Ora; Associate Children
Ian McKelvie - Seniors, Veterans
Simon O'Connor - Corrections
Jian Yang - Statistics; Associate Ethnic Affairs
Andrew Bayly - Building Regulation; Associate Commerce
Chris Bishop - Police; Youth
Sarah Dowie - Early Childhood Education
Brett Hudson - ICT; Government Digital Services
Nuk Korako - Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations; Maori Development
Todd Muller - Climate Change; Crown/Maori Relations
Parmjeet Parmar - Science and Innovation
Shane Reti - Data; Associate Health
Alastair Scott - Customs; Associate Regional Development
Stuart Smith - Civil Defence; Earthquake Commission

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