New minister Judith Collins might have to sacrifice her mission to get the fine residents of Papakura driving French cars, but she must be hot property for baking powder companies such is her ability to rise.

Collins has put on a good impression of bread dough, which is left to rise once, then has the bejeezus pummelled out of it before being left to rise again. She was last seen leaping back into the Cabinet room, scattering sponsorship deals and media slots behind her with gleeful abandon.

Many motives have been attributed to Key's decision to reinstate her. Some believe it was an attempt to silence her. This isn't normally needed for backbenchers, who stay quiet in the interests of their personal ambitions. But Collins liked to sometimes gently remind her boss how nice it had been when she was embedded in the cone of silence that is the Cabinet before her 2014 departure.

For more than a year Collins had hankered to get her baubles of office back. Given Key's enunciation and the portfolios she has been given, it is possible she misheard and Key actually offered up the "troubles of office" rather than the "baubles of office" when he made his call.

Advertisement

Nonetheless, Collins is back with a grin declaring the Corrections and Police portfolios her version of Eutopia. She pledged on the first day to sort out the mess in Corrections with Serco and Mt Eden. And, lo, on the second day it was done.

Corrections announced Serco's contract to manage Mt Eden remand centre would be terminated. This was not due to Collins' super powers, but rather a last hoorah from the man she replaces - Sam Lotu-Iiga. Fair enough too. If the Prime Minister's apparent lack of faith in Lotu-Iiga was not enough, it would be even worse to let Collins walk in and within days take credit for cleaning the whole mess up.

That will at least leave some time for Collins to concentrate on another matter: staging a reverse transmogrification. Midway through her exile to purgatory she announced she was not as tough as everyone had been led to assume and insisted she was actually quite a softie. That "tough" image began in her last stint as Police and Corrections Minister, when she took delight in being described as "Crusher" and photographed using a taser and a gun. Collins' attempt to insist she was a softie was not overly convincing, but nobody wants someone who insists they're a softie in charge of cops and robbers.

Meanwhile, Act leader David Seymour was busy spurning the baubles of office, declining Key's invitation of a ministerial role after serving a year's apprenticeship as an Under Secretary. He put on such an act of piety over this anyone would have thought he was a nun giving up his worldly goods. He announced voters preferred MPs "with balls, not baubles" and pointed out the last person to take such a stand was former Act leader Richard Prebble in 1997. There are baubles that come from being a satellite orbiting the ministerial benches rather than on them, although they are not monetary. As a humble Under-Secretary he does not have to face Opposition questions in Parliament, is not gagged by ministerial collective responsibility and is out of the reach of the Official Information Act, which only applies to ministers.

A similar vow was made by a certain other politician in the past (mumble mumble Winston Peters). Peters instead pledged to sit on the cross benches to keep 'em honest. Alas, this was cast aside once the bauble of all baubles (the Foreign Affairs portfolio) was dangled before him. Quite how David Seymour managed to resist the no doubt equally plum offering of "minister of regulatory reform" remains unclear. He has had quite a year of it and in a one-man band there is nobody else to sing your praises, so he took the opportunity to do so himself in his last weekly newsletter, Free Press. That listed his achievements as including the law change to allow bars to open without a special licence for early morning Rugby World Cup games: "Free Press understands it created a mood that helped the ABs bring it home." There is little doubt Seymour is making headway in building his own reputation, if not that of Act. But claiming a critical role in winning the Rugby World Cup might be going a bit far.