Collins' reshuffle - Bridges is back, Muller's plum role

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Jul 2020, 10:05AM
New National leader Judith Collins. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New National leader Judith Collins. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Collins' reshuffle - Bridges is back, Muller's plum role

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Jul 2020, 10:05AM

National leader Judith Collins has unveiled her party's new list ranking, after a number of high-profile MP resignations.

Former leader Simon Bridges is the fourth highest ranked in her shadow cabinet. A former Crown prosecutor, he also gets the justice portfolio.

Collins described the man rolled by Todd Muller as leader as "a very hard-working MP and he's highly intelligent".

Bridges is ranked beneath Paul Goldsmith, who has finance, and Gerry Brownlee – who has been put in charge of Covid-19 recovery, GCSB and SIS. Amy Adams says losing this portfolio prompted her decision today to retire.

Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams have both confirmed their resignations today and will not contest the September election.

Collins said Kaye and Adams retirement shouldn't be a "big surprise", noting that Kaye was "very tied up" with the leadership role.

"I'm not so pleased that they're leaving - but I understand it."

She said it was important they made the right decisions for themselves and they had Collins' "eternal respect and gratitude".

Collins said she'd spoken to every National MP last night.

New health spokesman Shane Reti - who replaced Michael Woodhouse in the role - has been given a sizable promotion as well: he now ranks number five.

Former leader Todd Muller, who quit on Tuesday, has been placed at number eight and now holds the trade portfolio. He will be taking a couple of weeks leave, Collins said, and he was "very very happy" to have the trade responsibility.

Nicola Willis gets education – a portfolio previously held by Kaye.

In a statement, Collins said the new line-up shows the "diverse range of talent and wealth of experience among the National Party ranks".

Hutt South MP Chris Bishop has been given the shadow leader of the House responsibility and is promoted to National's front bench.

Adams quit over Covid recovery portfolio

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key has praised the pair's contribution - and says new leader Collins now needs the party's "complete support".

Adams told the Herald she decided to quit when Collins didn't let her keep the Covid-19 recovery portfolio she'd come out of retirement for.

"The thing that convinced me to come back was an offer to lead the Covid recovery policy work. That is a role I really couldn't turn down.

"With the change in leadership - and I supported Judith coming through - she's got an opportunity about how she wants to structure her team.

"And while she made me an offer of a very senior role in her team, it was a different role to the one I'd stayed on for and on that basis I think the time is right for me to revert back to my original decision."

Adams said she would have been open to staying if she was offered the Covid portfolio.

"But that's not the role they saw for me and absolutely the leader's right and I have nothing but support for her leadership and her decision."

Adams wouldn't say if she voted for Collins but said she was "very happy with the combination that walked out of the caucus room".

Adams said she had "absolutely no regrets" about anything she'd done over the last few months.

"You go into these things because you believe in them and I absolutely believed in what we were doing. I still believe in the work that the party is doing and the caucus is doing.

"It obviously ended in a way that no one would have predicted or hoped and when things change, there are a number of consequent changes that flow from them."

Adams said she'd exchanged a few texts with former leader Todd Muller since his shock resignation on Tuesday.

One of the reasons she and Kaye were able to make the decision to resign was because they were confident the team was in "very good hands".

Collins had "every chance" of winning the election and Adams believed she would make "an exceptional prime minister".

John Key: Collins needs 'complete support'

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key said both Kaye and Adams served the National Party "with great distinction, skill and dedication".

"They can both be immensely proud of what they achieved."

Key said it was "a critical time for National Party supporters to give their complete support" to Collins and Brownlee.

Kaye was expected to retain her Auckland Central electorate, where she has previously beaten Jacinda Ardern twice.

Adams had already announced she would be leaving politics but had changed her mind when Todd Muller became leader.

The loss of two experienced and high-profile female MPs presents a significant headache for Collins, who is due to announce her reshuffle at Parliament at 10am today.

Earlier today Collins thanked Kaye and Amy Adams for their "incredible contributions at very senior levels with consistent dedication to their work and to their constituencies".

"They are both highly skilled professionals who will continue to make a difference in their next careers," Collins said.

"I thank them for everything they have done for the National Party and New Zealand politics over the years, and I wish them the very best for the future."

Kaye: Step up or step out

Kaye told Newstalk ZB this morning that her breast cancer fight had taught her that life can change in a moment.

"I have always believed you step up or step out," she told Mike Yardley.

"I couldn't predict the events with Todd [Muller].

"Breast cancer has given me a lens on life that is different from other people. Life is very short," said Kaye, who added that she was "OK" health-wise.

She said she felt the "weight of responsibility" quitting so close to the September 19 election, and would fight to help National win.

"People will always find a reason to ask you to stay but I have given 12 years of my life to public service. I have given it everything. I have worked incredibly long hours and I think I'm allowed to choose a decision that's best for me."

Kaye, National's deputy leader for 53 days, described the pressure of leadership as "intense" but said she was "absolutely up for it".

"While it's been a hard period, you have the Hamish Walker situation and obviously the nature of Todd's circumstances - they're difficult but I think I'm absolutely up for that," she said.

Kaye said there were "some extraordinary events that were out of our control" but it was the right thing to step-up to the leadership.

Adams: 'Judith has my full support'

Adams said today she would not accept a ranking on the National Party list.

"Last year I made the decision that I would retire at this election and accordingly I did not seek nomination for the seat of Selwyn that I have held for 12 years. In May I was asked to stay on as a list-only candidate and take on the role of co-ordinating our Covid-19 Recovery policy framework," she said in a statement.

"As I said at that time I decided to stay because with the scale of challenges the country was facing, I saw being able to contribute in this way as an honour and a role I could not turn down.

"With Todd Muller's decision to resign the leadership the most important issue for our party was to get a strong and effective leadership team in place without delay and I am proud at the way in which the caucus managed this. I am in no doubt that in Judith Collins we have the right leader for the challenges ahead and Judith and the team have my full support.

"My time as an MP for the National Party and as the MP for Selwyn has been an honour and a privilege and I remain humbled and grateful at the opportunity I've had to serve this country."

ACT leader David Seymour said he was "astonished" to see Kaye leave politics, adding she left a "big hole".

"As under-secretary and minister, we worked closely to develop and expand charter schools. Nikki was a very good minister to work with on a cutting edge area of policy," Seymour said.

He also praised Kaye's electorate work, saying she was a model for electorate MPs.

"Nikki was a door-knocker with tremendous tenacity, winning her seat twice against Jacinda Ardern, and always on the doorstep serving her constituents."