Bridges reveals new-look National

Judith Collins is now National's fourth-ranked MP. Photo: NZ Herald
Judith Collins is now National's fourth-ranked MP. Photo: NZ Herald

National leader Simon Bridges' reshuffle will feature five new faces on the party's front bench of its top 10 MPs.

The big winners in the reshuffle include Judith Collins, who moves up to be fourth-ranked MP and will take on Labour's Phil Twyford in Housing and Urban Development - one of the areas Bridges has identified as fertile ground for attacks on the Labour - NZ First Government.

Other new faces on the front bench are Todd McClay, who takes Foreign Affairs, Trade and Tourism; Mark Mitchell, who gets Justice and Defence; and Jami-Lee Ross, who gets Infrastructure and Transport.

The relatively low-profile Paul Goldsmith will get a chance to change that - he is ranked at 9 and will take on the massive Economic Development and Regional Development areas, going head to head against NZ First's Shane Jones and Economic Development Minister David Parker.

Nikki Kaye is at 10 and will keep the education beat. The top 10 is completed by current front benchers Jonathan Coleman, who keeps health, Bridges, his deputy Paula Bennett and finance spokeswoman Amy Adams. Bennett has Social Investment, Tertiary Education and Women.

Despite Bridges' talk about introducing new talent, the highest ranked MP from the 2014 intake is Sarah Dowie, who squeaked in at 20 and will get Conservation. Dowie was one of those Bridges had mentioned as impressive.

The reshuffle results in demotions for Gerry Brownlee, who drops from four to 11 but takes over as Shadow Leader of the House and gets the intelligence agencies and the America's Cup. Michael Woodhouse drops from 10 to 13, losing Housing and picking up Immigration and Workplace Relations - another area of focus for National.

There are three women in the top five and eight in the top 20.

Bridges said it was experience mixed with new talent. The front bench included "decades of experience." He said the new talent was those he believed had proven what it took and had worked hard. He cited McClay's experience in the TPP negotiations after the United States withdrew.

He said Goldsmith had shown his mettle in Opposition, holding ministers to account with a "forensic" approach.

Gerry Brownlee becomes shadow leader of the House. Photo: ODT files
Gerry Brownlee becomes shadow leader of the House. Photo: ODT files

Bridges indicated Ross was the replacement for Steven Joyce in a strategic sense. He said Jami-Lee Ross had been an effective whip, with the strategic mind and skills needed for caucus. He said it was time for him to step up.

Bridges said he backed Dowie because he wanted to see fresh talent come through. He said she was not well known to New Zealand, but was well known to him and had strong experience prior to entering Parliament.

"This reshuffle is designed for 2020. It is designed with 2020 firmly in our sight."

Bridges said Collins had asked for Housing: "Phil Twyford is on notice, Judith is coming."

Bridges said it was a mix of those who could go on the attack to hold the Government to account and those who could develop fresh policy work, such as Scott Simpson in the Environment portfolio.

He said he wanted to learn from Labour, which he said had not done enough work on solid policy when it was in Opposition. He described National as a "56 MP policy factory."

Bridges said it had been tough to demote some MPs down the ranks, but that was inevitable when bringing new people forward. He said it meant some risks "but they are calculated risks" based on what he knew of those he had promoted.

Bridges said he expected "Phil Twyford will find it hard tonight to sleep."

Asked why he felt he needed a Housing spokesperson when National had split that up in Government, he said there had been "big rhetoric" from Labour on the issue.

He said it was "a top issue for New Zealanders." Collins would also take on Resource Management Act reform, which Bridges said needed reforming.

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