Give Mallard break: Peters

By NZPA, Julie Jacobson

Beleaguered Sports Minister Trevor Mallard had at least one supporter as potentially the worst week in his political career drew to a close.

Mallard was in Taupo yesterday, keeping a low profile after punching National backbencher Tau Henare in the parliamentary lobby last Wednesday.

Also in the lakeside town was New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, attending his party's annual conference.

Peters, no fan of Henare after the former NZ First MP cosied up to National's Jenny Shipley, told delegates that Mallard's critics needed to get a life.

"Could we have just a little less of all the hectoring, lecturing, prissy, do-gooder, PC, finger-pointing at Trevor Mallard because he made one mistake?" Peters said.

Mallard also confirmed last week that following the break-up of his long marriage he had started a relationship with former top rower Brenda Lawson.

Lawson's former partner, Tauranga policeman Cliff Jones, was awarded a QSM for public services three years ago, the same year he received burns over 20 per cent of his body when a mower he was repairing exploded. The couple have a combined family of four boys, ranging in age from five to 16.

Meanwhile, political commentators agree that the Sports Minister will get a bollocking and be relegated down the ranks in this week's Cabinet reshuffle.

"When you consider this was someone who at one time had aspirations to be Prime Minister, this is a significant punishment," said Jon Johansson, a lecturer in comparative politics at Victoria University.

"His career, to all intents and purposes, is shot to pieces and all through his own actions.

"It's going to turn out, both through planning and through circumstance - and that's the Mallard incident - that there will be more significant movement than many people thought."

Others tipped to get the thumbs down in the cabinet reshuffle include rugby-playing Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor, the less than heavyweight Parekura Horomia, and possibly veteran House-sitter Jim Anderton.

Johansson expects the reshuffle to throw up several surprises.

"Now that Mallard's gone and Steve Maharey has resigned, it gives [Helen] Clark real scope in a way that most of us thought she probably wouldn't have."

Like other commentators, Johansson name-checked Clayton Cosgrove, Shane Jones, David Cunliffe, Maryann Street, Charles Chauvel and David Parker as MPs on their way up. "These are the comers in the caucus."

"Clark will still have a core of incredibly experienced, highly competent ministers, plus some new blood.

"I suspect that what Labour will try and do, come the election next year, is contrast its front bench and its replenishment against National's front bench - and that's made up of 90s retreads and untried politicians who will either rise to the challenge or not," Johansson said.

Commentator Matt McCarten picked the dark horses as list MP and former journalist Sue Moroney and Defence Minister Phil Goff.

"Moroney's quite a hard worker and Clark likes loyalty," he said. "And if she moves Anderton down, Goff will go up. He will be the new star."

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