John Key's post-election Cabinet reshuffle probably hits the right note.

For a party about to start its third term in succession, today's reassignment of portfolios and rankings along with the introduction of new faces is arguably less radical than it should have been in terms of rejuvenation. But equally neither is the reshuffle as cautious as it could easily have been.

It is too soon to break up a winning team. With the four top-ranked ministers - Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Steven Joyce - retaining the same rankings and most of the portfolios in the new Cabinet which they held in the old one, most people will discern little has changed at the top.

And given National won the election on a no-change agenda, continuity makes sense - at least for the time being.


Key is conscious voters can quickly tire of third-term governments. however. That makes some form of noticeable renewal essential. Key has given himself the flexibility to do so as the term progresses.

The reshuffle thus promotes a number of more junior ministers as National's "new wave" for the future.

They are ranked just below the top four and include Paula Bennett, increasingly being tipped for some kind of leadership role down the track, jumping from No 9 in the 20-strong Cabinet to No 5 in the rankings.

As expected, she drops her previous portfolio of Social Development portfolio to become State Services minister, while also taking on a major role in expanding private sector provision of "social housing" for the poor.

Jonathan Coleman is also a big winner, jumping four slots to No 6 and being handed the health portfolio, a tough assignment in terms of following in the footsteps of Tony Ryall, who managed to keep this exceptionally difficult portfolio out of the headlines during his six-year tenure.

Other winners in the reshuffle are Amy Adams, who is now on National's front bench in Parliament, having jumped from No 15 to No 7 and securing Judith Collins' Justice portfolio. Simon Bridges, the Tauranga MP, also squeezes onto the front-bench likewise soaring meteor-like in the rankings from No 18 to No 9.

Crucially, Key has managed to bring these ministers forward without having to demote long-serving ministers too far down the rankings and thereby causing resentment, while still flagging this is likely to be their final stint in the Cabinet.

Bringing forward the "new wave" also enables the Prime Minister to promote one or two into the top four should English or Brownlee opt to step down prior to the 2017 election.


The big surprise of the reshuffle is the elevation of former broadcaster and North Shore MP Maggie Barry to the full Cabinet after just one term in Parliament.

It had been thought Paul Goldsmith, who has twice had the task of ensuring he did not win the Epsom seat, would be so rewarded. He does become a minister outside the Cabinet, however.

In terms of casualties, the major loser is Craig Foss, who has been dumped from the Cabinet and relinquishes the Broadcasting and Commerce portfolios. However, he remains one of five National MPs who are ministers outside the Cabinet.

Of more consequence, however, Hekia Parata keeps the Education portfolio but has been handed a pretty clear message about needing to lift her performance through her having lost her place on the front bench.