2 Dec 2021

Simon Bridges named as National's finance and infrastructure spokesperson

2:23 pm on 2 December 2021

National's new leader Chris Luxon has given Simon Bridges - who gave him the clear path to the leadership - the Finance and Infrastructure portfolios.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Luxon this afternoon announced the move in Tauranga, an electorate Bridges has held since 2008, although Bridges was unable to attend after his son had an accident at school.

"I'm supposed to be here with my good friend Simon Bridges, but I want to tell you what's happened in the last hour, one of his sons has had an accident at school and now he's in hospital and so Simon texted me 20 minutes ago to say that he can't be with us and I've told him, mate, please just stay with your family."

He has announced Bridges will be at number three on the list.

"He is a really prodigious talent, he's got really complementary skills, he's got a big brain and he does a great work ethic. So he's going to be taking it to Grant Robertson."

Watch the announcement here:

"We want to make sure that we put high-performance people who've been doing the work up against key tasks and against key ministers."

He said Bridges is head of the Finance and Expenditure Committee and had a track record as the transport minister which linked very closely into infrastructure.

"Fundamentally after 30 years how do we create an economy that generates more income for people, because New Zealanders are some of the hardest-working people on planet Earth, but we're not able to generate higher wages and salaries.

"Simon's the guy we need to go up against this government."

He says it was not about appeasing Bridges. "We had a different conversation, which is 'do we want to put the past behind us and leave that there', and we want to move forward as a new team and that's exactly the conversation so there's been no deals done."

He said he fully trusted Bridges.

"Absolutely, totally, total trust him. As I say, he's a friend and we've been friends for a long time ... he was an outstanding minister of transport by the way."

Asked what is left for Chris Bishop, who also wanted the Finance portfolio, Luxon said today was about announcing Bridges' position.

"We'll be making those announcements on Monday morning."

Speculation about what role Bridges will hold in Luxon's shadow cabinet had been rife after he pulled his candidacy for the leadership and threw his support behind Luxon on Tuesday, just over an hour before the meeting where the National caucus was set to decide a new leader and deputy.

Bridges had made public his intention to take another crack at the top job, having led the party from February 2018 - following Bill English's resignation - until May 2020 when he was deposed in a coup by Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.

He was also central in the most recent leadership kerfuffle, having been suddenly demoted and had his portfolios stripped by then-leader Judith Collins for off-colour comments some five years earlier. The handling of that was what led to Collins' removal by the caucus the following day.

Luxon, in his opening statements as leader, said there would be roles for the three former leaders - Bridges, Collins and Muller - in his caucus, but has so far made no announcements about what those roles will be.

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