18 Dec 2016

PM's reshuffle to 'make a statement'

2:29 pm on 18 December 2016

A political commentator says he expects a few surprises when the Prime Minister announces a Cabinet reshuffle later today.

Bill English announced as the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, Paula Bennett as Deputy Prime Minister. Prime Minster Bill English speaks to media after the annoucement.

Prime Minister Bill English will announce his new Cabinet at 3pm. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Prime Minister Bill English will announce his new Cabinet at 3pm, and with at least two high-profile ministers to retire following next year's election, he will have several big decisions on his hands.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully is one of those standing down, having held his portfolio for more than eight years.

While Mr McCully has said he is open to continuing in his role until the election, Otago University politics lecturer Bryce Edwards said he expected Mr English to bring some new blood into the role.

"We can expect that [Mr McCully] will probably lose the foreign affairs portfolio - certainly he's not a close confidant of Bill English, they're not exactly friends, he's likely to go.

"In his place, [current Health Minister] Jonathan Coleman is the obvious choice."

Should Dr Coleman move into foreign affairs, the health portfolio would also be available, but Dr Edwards said there was already a natural successor in the National Party's ranks to fill that spot.

Bill English announced as the new Prime Minister of New Zealand, Paula Bennett as Deputy Prime Minister. Jonathan Coleman and Paula Bennett.

Jonathan Coleman talks to new Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"It's most likely to be filled by Michael Woodhouse. He has some background in health - he used to run a hospital in Dunedin - that would be an obvious choice for him."

Education Minister Hekia Parata has also announced she will stand down after the next election, but Dr Edwards said that portfolio was more nuanced.

"There's some argument to be made to keep Hekia Parata in the role, because the most obvious replacement is Nikki Kaye, and she might need a bit more time before she comes back.

Hekia Parata. 6 December 2016.

Hekia Parata Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"[Hekia Parata] might hold onto it in this reshuffle, with perhaps an announcement that Nikki Kaye will take over eventually."

Meanwhile, Dr Edwards said some backbenchers could also be in for a promotion.

"An obvious one, Mark Mitchell, is being talked about a lot as a new Cabinet minister. But even someone like Chris Bishop, who hasn't been in long, is impressing in National, and he's someone to watch in the Cabinet announcement."

Dr Edwards said he felt Mr English would look to make a statement with his choice of Cabinet.

"I think that Bill English will be well served by making some quite big changes to his cabinet and putting his own mark of this government to show that it's not just John Key Mark II, it is a whole new administration and that it's Bill English running the show."

He said he expected Amy Adams, Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett - the new Deputy Prime Minister - would also get hefty promotions.

Amy Adams. 6 December 2016.

Amy Adams Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

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