2 Jul 2020

National reshuffle: Simon Bridges given foreign affairs role, Dr Shane Reti to replace Paula Bennett

11:33 am on 2 July 2020

National Party leader Todd Muller has revealed a caucus reshuffle following Paula Bennett quitting the party.

Missed the announcement? Watch it here:

Simon Bridges has been handed the foreign affairs portfolio and will be ranked at number 17.

Muller said Bridges' new role reflected his credibility as former leader and status within the party.

"It's my judgement now that this is an opportunity to provide Simon with a portfolio that he would like."

Bridges had expressed an interest in the role after he was replaced as leader but was denied it at the time.

It was "a reflection of the contribution that he has made as a former National Party leader, the status that he has in our party", Muller said

Dr Shane Reti will move up the rank to number 13 and replace Paula Bennett, taking on the associate drug reform spokesperson role. Amy Adams will be the drug reform spokesperson.

Muller has been under pressure about the lack of diversity in his caucus.

The reshuffle means there are now two Māori MPs in the party's top 20.

Muller said Reti had demonstrated a huge intellect and capacity for work, supporting Michael Woodhouse in the Covid-19 response, as well as achieving much in the Tertiary Education portfolio.

"Many had observed he was a talent that should have further opportunities...

"Of course I consulted [on the decisions]. You have conversations with your colleagues."

Muller also announced that deputy leader Nikki Kaye would pick up the portfolio of women and would make several announcements associated with the portfolio in the coming months.

Speaking about the new caucus, Muller said it was "strong and diverse".

"We are eight-nine weeks away from the election and I decided to make a minor re-shuffle."

"Our shadow Cabinet is an incredibly talented one... I look at the through the lens of talent and capability."

"I think our caucus is very united," he said.

Talking about Bridges' position as MP for Tauranga, Muller said he supported it wishes for an ongoing role.

He called his relationship with Bridges "very professional".

Bridges was rolled from the party leadership in May a day after a poll showed National Party support had slipped to its lowest level in 17 years.

And former deputy Paula Bennett announced on Monday she would not be contesting the election, and stepped down from her portfolio responsibilities.

Bennett had been cited several times by Muller as an example of a Māori MP on the party's front bench.

East Coast MP Anne Tolley also announced she would be stepping down at the election.

The party's polling has rebounded from its May lows but in a 1 News Colmar Brunton poll last week it was still trailing Labour by 12 percent.

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