12 Nov 2020

Judith Collins says reshuffle balanced and based on merit

10:22 am on 12 November 2020

National Party leader Judith Collins says her shadow cabinet reshuffle was balanced and based on merit, and not on race or gender considerations.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

A a new slimmed-down shadow Cabinet was announced yesterday, with notable demotions of well-known faces and promotion of relative unknowns.

Collins told Morning Report an internal review of what went wrong during the General Election campaign, which saw the party's MPs reduced to 33, had not been factored into her decision-making.

"I obviously was involved in every day of the campaign and I was in Parliament for the three years before that," she said.

"I have my own views on that and I will be submitting to the review process as well. The shadow cabinet is based on what I think we need for the next three years."

Collins said a lack of Māori MPs in her list reflected a reduced diversity brought about by the collapse of the National Party vote, but that her new deputy leader Dr Shane Reti represented the face of Māori in her party.

There are six women MPs in the party's top 20, but the party leader said it was her policy to promote on merit.

"I can't change people's ethnicity and I can't change people's gender, they just are who they are and they're all going to do their best.

"We have three women in our top nine, I would have thought anywhere people would think that was actually a reasonable response, given the numbers that we had...

"I think we did very well with this. It is a very balanced reshuffle and I will not just promote people based on gender or race."

Collins has taken up the Pacific Peoples portfolio, a decision she said reflecting she was better placed than anyone in caucus to deal with those matters, particularly regarding Samoa. There is no one in the caucus of Pasifika heritage.

Finance was split between Andrew Bayly, who has the portfolio of shadow treasurer (revenue), and Michael Woodhouse, who was given the portfolio of finance.

Collins said the move aligned closer to the Australian political model and denied National believed it needed two people to take on Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

The decision was based on a strategic evaluation of how best finance issues should be assessed and that the two politicians had complimentary skills that would be used to form policy, she added.

"It was very important to me that we have the focus both on the fiscal side and monetary side of the finance area, but also because I want those two finance people both in the Treasury and Finance spokesperson to run a team in terms of infrastructure, energy resources, competition.

"Actually to manage a team of MPs each, so that they have people reporting to them and that actually the finance area is emersed in all of our areas in how we get money in and also how we spend it."

Andrew Bayly is on record as saying he didn't want tax cuts. Collins said he had a balanced plan in mind, with an eye on growing the economy.

"Andrew Bayly is looking to the future, which is three years plus and beyond. He is someone when he looking at the whole situation for New Zealand. It is important that we have a balanced economic plan. I'd say too, looking at where we were going to the next three years, we have a mountain of debt that just getting piled up every day, with no plan to grow the economy."

She wouldn't be drawn on media reports that Simon Bridges rejected a role in finance and that Bayly had been a second choice for the role, suggesting that wasn't true.

"I'm not discussing any of the discussions I had with my caucus colleagues through this process. The have each spoken to me and had interviews with me and I'm not going around talking about those."

Former finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith was removed from finance following embarrassing fiscal holes that appeared in National's budget in the lead-up to the general election.

Collins denied his replacement by Michael Woodhouse was reward for Woodhouse's entanglement in the leaking of Covid health information and misinformation about a homeless man being able to get access to isolation accommodation pre-election.

"I'm not going down rabbit holes today," she said. "I'm very focused on what's important for our economy and the health of New Zealanders. That's what my reshuffle is about and I would have thought that's what New Zealanders want to hear about, not dragging over things. Those matters have been dealt with."

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