6 Dec 2021

National Party leader Christopher Luxon reveals new caucus lineup

5:52 pm on 6 December 2021

Former leader Judith Collins has taken a tumble down to 19th in National Party rankings, in a reshuffle announced by new leader Christopher Luxon.

Watch the National Party announcement here:

The party reshuffle comes after a fraught dispute between Collins and another former leader in the party, Simon Bridges, saw Collins ousted and replaced by Luxon, who has been in Parliament for just a year.

Bridges, who stepped out of the running for the leadership and backed Luxon with just over an hour before the caucus vote, was handed Finance and Infrastructure and the number three ranking by Luxon on Friday last week, the only roles to be confirmed before today.

Luxon says the line-up was based on merit, and matched MPs' strengths and skillsets.

"I'm confident that when you put any of our team up against their Labour counterparts, person-on-person, you'll see that the National MPs have the deep experience, they have the political skills and the work ethic and intellectual grunt to come out on top," he said.

"We will be a government-in-waiting that will relentlessly hold this spin-heavy and PR-driven government to account, and focus on proposing detailed, constructive and intellectually rigorous solutions."

Luxon told Checkpoint his decisions were not about repaying any favours from the leadership race, it was about presenting the strongest team.

"I'm sure there will be disappointment at some level, but I can tell you there's 33 people and we will use all of their skills."

Collins drops from number one as leader to number 19, with just the Research and Innovation, and Technology portfolios.

Luxon says Collins has a real passion for the research, science, innovation and technology portfolio.

"She cares very deeply about it and she's gonna be absolutely brilliant doing it."

The third former leader in the party, Todd Muller, was unranked - below the top 20 - and given Oceans and Fisheries and Internal Affairs.

Luxon says Muller, who had left the caucus, had decided to return to the caucus, "which is fantastic".

"Todd is a guy that has huge abilities and experiences, he has been assigned responsibilities, I know he wants to come back and be part of our team and we're gonna move forward on that basis."

Deputy leader Nicola Willis' holds onto housing and picks up the social investment portfolio which had been held by Louise Upston. Luxon said Willis would move the theory previously built up by Bill English in that area, into action.

Luxon said the portfolio would acknowledge there are people in New Zealand who have "challenged, messy and complicated lives".

"We want to be able to make targeted investments with them and their families to lift them up ... and we want everyone in New Zealand to realise their potential.

"We believe in people backing themselves, giving it a go, being the best they can be ... in this case what we're talking about is people who are in extreme places of need and need a hand.

"We want them to make sure people don't become dependent on the state, we want them to become independent."

However, he said the party had no target yet on cutting the number of people on benefits.

Chris Bishop, who has performed well as Covid-19 Response spokesperson, retains that portfolio and has been put at number 4, and regains the Shadow Leader of the House that was given to Michael Woodhouse in Collins' latest reshuffle in August.

Dr Shane Reti, who was deputy under Collins, will retain the health portfolio and will also take on the Māori-Crown Relations and Pacific Peoples.

Luxon acknowledged the diversity of the party's MPs had suffered after the "terrible election result" in 2020.

"We don't have the connection into the Pasifika community that I want to have. Shane Reti when having spoken with people in the community, they feel that he is a great representative of the National Party and will be able to be accepted in that community.

"Having said all of that, what I've got to tell you is there is a hang of a lot of work to make sure that we actually are building a national National Party that gets to all communities, and that means we have more work to do on diversity."

Luxon says National will also have "deep engagement with Māori".

Erica Stanford, considered an up-and-comer who was floated as a possible deputy leader, is at number seven and picks up the high-profile education portfolio alongside immigration.

"Erica Stanford's done an outstanding job on immigration ... it doesn't matter how she was ranked previously - she managed to put Kris Faafoi under immense pressure and I think the public would say 'I want Erica Stanford as the minister not Kris Faafoi'," Luxon said.

Simeon Brown, who had been leading a campaign against gangs with the police portfolio, was given a bump up the rankings and will switch to transport spokesperson.

"I think Simeon Brown did an outstanding job prosecuting the case on gangs and law and order, and I think the other one who's done an outstanding job is Matt Doocey, around mental health. I want mental health to be a big play for the National Party going forward," Luxon said.

The climate change portfolio previously held by Stuart Smith has been handed to Scott Simpson, who also retains environment.

Luxon says his assessment of climate change is there's a Labour government that makes declarations but does not actually follow that through, and the Green Party is less focused on the environment in recent years than what it was historically.

"A lot of the answers for climate change solutions here in New Zealand lie in te ao Māori, no doubt about it ... in the political sense, [the Conservative party shows] a way that a centre-right party can legitimately talk about the environment."

Luxon says he wants the party to lift its game on tourism and he believes Todd McClay will be strong in the portfolio: "He's a total professional."

Luxon says everyone outside the shadow Cabinet top-20 - to match Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Cabinet - is not ranked, "because performance in the portfolio matters much much more than any ranking and we frankly expect any portfolio leader in our lineup to take it to the relevant minister and make the case to the New Zealand public".

He had "very productive and constructive" phone conversations with each and every individual, he says.

"We basically said 'I've made the assessment', discussed their portfolio with them, told them why I wanted them to do it, and also explained where I wanted to see improvement or performance."

"What I say is that I'm shaping up to 2023, making that we focus on the things that really, genuinely matter most. Sometimes we've been a little bit, um, all over the place - not all over the place in a policy sense, but we've been focused on many things. I want to focus on fewer things and really get solutions there."

Luxon told Checkpoint his top 10 were "fresh, rejuvenated and talented".

"If I just take agriculture [portfolio] as an example, if you look at someone like Barbara Kuriger who has done an outstanding job building relationships in the agriculture sector, and then [she is] supported and working with Nicola Grigg, who is a new MP coming in, who has deep connection to the rural communities that's the kind of logic we've used in terms of making sure we've got teams within teams."

The party will review in 12 months time to see who has been performing and who has not, he says.

National's new lineup:

  • 1. Christopher Luxon: Leader, National Security and Intelligence
  • 2. Nicola Willis: Deputy leader, Housing, Social Investment
  • 3. Simon Bridges: Finance, Infrastructure
  • 4. Chris Bishop: Covid-19 Response, Shadow leader of the House
  • 5. Shane Reti: Health, Māori-Crown Relations, Pacific Peoples
  • 6. Louise Upston: Social Development, Child Poverty Reduction
  • 7. Erica Stanford: Education, Immigration, Associate Ethnic Affairs
  • 8. Matt Doocey: Mental Health, Youth, Associate Health, Associate Transport
  • 9. Simeon Brown: Transport, Public Service
  • 10. Barbara Kuriger: Agriculture, Biosecurity, Food Safety
  • 11. Scott Simpson: Climate Change, Environment, Associate Transport
  • 12. Paul Goldsmith: Justice, Workplace Relations and Safety
  • 13. Melissa Lee: Broadcasting and Media, Digital Economy and Communications, Ethnic Communities
  • 14. Mark Mitchell: Police, Serious Fraud Office, Counter-terrorism
  • 15. Andrew Bayly: Small Business, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Manufacturing, Building and Construction, Revenue
  • 16. Gerry Brownlee: Foreign Affairs, GCSB and NZSIS, Emergency Management
  • 17. Stuart Smith: Energy and Resources, EQC, Viticulture
  • 18. Michael Woodhouse: State-owned Enterprises, ACC, Statistics, Sport and Recreation, Deputy Shadow Leader of the House
  • 19. Judith Collins: Research, Science and Innovation, Technology
  • 20. David Bennett: Economic and Regional Development
  • Jacqui Dean: Assistant Speaker, Conservation
  • Todd McClay: Trade and Export Growth, Tourism
  • Simon O'Connor: Corrections, Customs, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Associate Foreign Affairs
  • Ian McKelvie: Seniors, Forestry, Racing
  • Todd Muller: Oceans and Fisheries, Internal Affairs
  • Maureen Pugh: Community and Voluntary Sector
  • Harete Hipango: Māori Development, Whānau Ora, Children/Oranga Tamariki
  • Chris Penk: Shadow Attorney-General, Courts, Associate Justice
  • Tim van de Molen: Defence, Veterans, Horticulture, Associate Agriculture
  • Nicola Grigg: Rural Communities, Land Information, Animal Welfare, Women, Associate Agriculture
  • Joseph Mooney: Treaty negotiations, Water, Space, Associate Tourism, Associate Agriculture
  • Penny Simmonds: Tertiary Education, Early Childhood Education, Disability Issues, Associate Education, Associate Social Development and Employment
  • Simon Watts: Local Govenment, Associate Finance, Associate Infrastructure

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