Four targets for revamped Labour front bench

Labour leader David Shearer has identified four main themes for the party to develop in preparation for next year's election and the reshuffle of his front bench yesterday reflected those themes.

The four themes are jobs, health, education and housing.

Former health minister and deputy leader Annette King returns to the front bench as the party's health spokesman, replacing Maryan Street, who becomes environment spokeswoman and remains on the front bench.

Ms Street made no headway against Health Minister Tony Ryall and Mrs King will now be expected to put some dents in the Government's health policy.

Deputy leader Grant Robertson has been giving the lead role in making jobs a big issue for Labour as unemployment remains high and job losses are announced each week. Phil Twyford takes on the role of housing spokesman. Coming from Auckland, Mr Twyford can be expected to make housing affordability a big issue this year.

Chris Hipkins is rewarded for his grilling of Education Minister Hekia Parata by taking over the education role from Nanaia Mahuta, who takes over the responsibility for Maori development. For Ms Mahuta, the change will be seen as a demotion, for failing to come to grips with her education duties.

Shane Jones will return to the front bench as regional development and forestry spokesman, with an associate finance role, if he is cleared in the Auditor-general's inquiry into his 2008 decision to grant citizenship to Chinese businessman William Yan, against the advice of officials.

Mr Shearer said his shadow cabinet included a mix of new talent and experienced hands.

''They are raring to go and keen to get stuck into the issues that matter most to Kiwis. My decisions today have been driven by the need to appoint the best people to deliver Labour's solutions for the critical challenges facing New Zealand.''

Dunedin North MP David Clark rises to No 12 in seniority, taking over economic development and small business. He will work with finance spokesman David Parker.

Other newcomers to the top 20 include Andrew Little, who takes on justice, and Megan Woods who picks up tertiary education and has roles in science and innovation and Christchurch transport issues.

Sue Moroney returns to the top 20 with ACC and early childhood issues.

Labour hit man Trevor Mallard leaves the top 20, along with Lianne Dalziel. Mr Mallard, the man who ran Labour's unsuccessful 2011 election campaign, may now contemplate his future.

Ms Dalziel earlier ruled out standing for the Christchurch mayoralty because she wanted a role in the next Labour-led government on Christchurch issues - similar to the role Canterbury Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee now has. She may reconsider her options after yesterday's announcement.

Also remaining out of the top 20 is David Cunliffe who was demoted for failing to rule out a leadership challenge against Mr Shearer. Mr Cunliffe has one of the sharpest minds in Labour and speculation will continue into what his role will be before the election.

A comment on Twitter by Revenue Minister Peter Dunne was soon retweeted. He wrote: ''Labour caucus reshuffle looks like the Black Caps squad. No matter how the batting order is changed, still unclear where the runs will come from.''


Labour's top 20

(1) David Shearer: leader, Security Intelligence Service.
(2) Grant Robertson: deputy leader, employment, skills and training, arts, culture and heritage.
(3) David Parker: finance, attorney-general.
(4) Jacinda Ardern: social development, children.
(5) Clayton Cosgrove: SOEs, commerce, trade negotiations.
(6) Annette King: health.
(7) Shane Jones: regional development, forestry (pending Auditor-general's report).
(8) Phil Twyford: housing, Auckland issues.
(9) Maryan Street: environment.
(10) Chris Hipkins: education.
(11) Nanaia Mahuta: youth affairs, Maori development.
(12) David Clark: economic development, small business.
(13) Sue Moroney: ACC, early childhood education.
(14) Su'a William Sio: local government, Pacific Island affairs.
(15) Phil Goff: foreign affairs and trade.
(16) Darien Fenton: labour, immigration.
(17) Damien O'Connor: primary industries.
(18) Clare Curran: communications and information technology, broadcasting.
(19) Andrew Little: justice, tourism.
(20) Megan Woods: tertiary education.

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