As Ministers and Government insiders began to digest the unexpected news last night that Judith Collins was coming back to Cabinet the focus shifted to one other aspect of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle.
That was the appointment of Paula Bennett as Climate Change Minister to replace Tim Groser who is going to the Washington Embassy as Ambassador.
The Prime Minister told his post Cabinet press conference that simply promoting the current associate Climate Change Minister, Simon Bridges, to the post raised a conflict of interest question because Mr Bridges was also Minister of Energy.
“It is a portfolio that needs someone with good political nous and some dexterity and I thought Paula would bring that to the job,” he said.
That was being read in Wellington last night as an endorsement of Ms Bennett which would certainly d place her as National’s most senior female Minister if not as the likely successor to Mr Key.
It is an appointment which will give her international experience and move her out from the detailed reform work she has been doing in housing, local Government and social welfare and place her in the middle of the public political debate about climate change which is a big challenge for the National Party.
The party embraces a wide range of views — from climate change deniers to urban liberals who believe it has dragged its feet on the issue.
Ms Bennett is considered to be a good “explainer” and if she can manage the forthcoming review of the Emissions Trading Scheme without alienating any of the party, her progress towards the top job will be hard to stop.
The other aspect to the reshuffle was the lack of visibility of the widely suspected antipathy of some senior Cabinet ministers to having Ms Collins back.
POLITIK understands that she may only have learnt of her appointment on Sunday which suggests that Mr key played the whole change close to his chest.
His answer to a question about whether he could describe the reaction of his senior Ministers to her return as “enthusiastic” was ambiguous.
“I have a group of senior Ministers with whom I have a high trust relationship with,” he said.
“I have discussions with them and I let them know what I think and I won’t detail all the discussions I have with them because it wouldn’t be appropriate to do that.
“I don’t live in a vacuum and I don’t tend to make decisions solely on my own.”
The changes to Cabinet are:
- Judith Collins becomes Minister of Police and Corrections
- Paula Bennett sheds Local Government and picks up Climate Change
- Sam Lotu Iiga sheds Corrections and picks up Local Government
- Todd McClay sheds Revenue but becomes Minister of Trade and retains State Owned Enterprises.
- Michael Woodhouse sheds Police and takes Revenue
The new Cabinet order is:
1: RT HON JOHN KEY, Prime Minister, Minister for National Security and
Intelligence, Minister Responsible for Ministerial Services, Minister of Tourism
2: HON BILL ENGLISH, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Responsible for HNZC, Minister of Finance
3: HON GERRY BROWNLEE, Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Minister of Defence, Leader of the House, Minister Responsible for the Earthquake Commission
4: HON STEVEN JOYCE, Minister for Economic Development, Minister Responsible for Novopay, Minister for Regulatory Reform, Associate Minister of Finance, Minister of Science and Innovation, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment
5: HON PAULA BENNETT, Minister for Climate Change Issues, Associate Minister of Finance, Minister for Social Housing, Associate Minister of Tourism, Minister of State Services
6: HON DR JONATHAN COLEMAN, Minister of Health, Minister for Sport and Recreation
7: HON AMY ADAMS, Minister of Justice, Minister for Courts, Minister of Broadcasting, Minister for Communications
8: HON CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON QC, Attorney-General, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Minister in Charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service, Minister Responsible for the GCSB, Associate Minister for Māori Development
9: HON SIMON BRIDGES, Minister of Energy and Resources, Deputy Leader of the House, Minister of Transport, Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues, Associate Minister of Justice
10: HON HEKIA PARATA, Minister of Education
11: HON ANNE TOLLEY, Minister for Social Development
12: HON DR NICK SMITH, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Building and Housing
13: HON MURRAY MCCULLY, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Associate Minister for Sport and Recreation
14: HON JUDITH COLLINS, Minister of Corrections, Minister of Police
15: HON NATHAN GUY, Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Racing
16: HON NIKKI KAYE, Minister for ACC, Associate Minister of Education,
Minister of Civil Defence, Minister for Youth
17: HON MICHAEL WOODHOUSE, Minister of Immigration, Minister of Revenue, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety
18: HON TODD MCCLAY, Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Trade
19: HON PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA, Minister for Ethnic Communities, Associate Minister of Health, Minister of Local Government, Minister for Pacific Peoples
20: HON MAGGIE BARRY, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Minister of Conservation, Minister for Seniors