Labour leader David Cunliffe used his pre-election reshuffle to promote Phil Twyford, who was right-hand man to Cunliffe's rival, Grant Robertson, in last year's leadership contest. But other Robertson supporters felt the sting of demotion.

Mr Twyford openly campaigned for Grant Robertson in the leadership contest and after Mr Cunliffe won he was demoted from the front bench to 11th ranking and lost the transport portfolio. However, yesterday Mr Cunliffe returned him to the front bench ranked at six in the caucus, as well as returning the transport portfolio to add to his housing portfolio.

Trevor Mallard has also been rehabilitated after he was shunted to the back bench following Mr Cunliffe's election as leader last year. He has moved back to the second bench in 15th slot from being unranked. He also picks up the immigration and associate economic development roles as well as the new specific portfolio of animal rights following his campaign to halt testing on dogs and other animals for legal highs. Mr Cunliffe said the promotion reflected the confidence he had in Mr Mallard.

"He is returning to a role where his considerable skills and firepower will be brought to bear on a Government that is looking increasingly shaky."


Mr Mallard almost immediately had an effect - he was thrown out of Parliament for the day by the Speaker for refusing to retract a comment he made about Judith Collins. Those worse off included education spokesman Chris Hipkins who was nudged off the front bench of eight MPs by new Maori Affairs spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta.

Robertson supporters Maryan Street and Kris Faafoi were demoted by four and three places respectively. Mr Cunliffe said some people had to drop to allow others to be promoted, but Ms Street was also given the tertiary education portfolio to help compensate for it. He said Mr Hipkins was moved down because it was important to have the Maori Affairs spokesperson on the front bench. Labour only has eight allocated front seats in Parliament, but Mr Cunliffe said Mr Hipkins remained on his technical front bench of 10.

Mr Twyford said he believed the promotion was because housing was one of the battlegrounds in the election, especially in the Auckland area where he was an MP.

Other MPs spoken to about the changes said they had been told not to comment on the reshuffle, which was prompted by the resignation of Shane Jones.

Mr Robertson picked up Mr Jones' most significant other portfolio of economic development. Andrew Little moved to 11th in the rankings, up from 17, and keeps his justice and labour portfolios.

Kelvin Davis will replace Mr Jones after he leaves on May 21 and has been ranked at 22, getting associate roles in regional development, education, police and corrections.


• Phil Twyford: picks up transport again and up five places to six on the front bench.
• Nanaia Mahuta: gets Maori Affairs and up one onto the front bench.
• Andrew Little: up six to 11th ranked.
• Trevor Mallard: up at least nine, from unranked to 15th.
• Grant Robertson: picks up Shane Jones' economic development portfolio.