Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett says she will be drawing on her former experience in HR for her new job to work more closely with backbenchers - as well as continuing to work with new ministers.

In both National and Labour it has traditionally been the job of deputy to liaise with the backbench.

But Bennett says: "I am turbo-charging it. I am making the role my own."

A former recruitment consultant, she rejects a suggestion that National's leadership and deputy leadership contest of last week had lifted the lid on seething discontent in the backbench.


"I have certainly always known there is a lot of ambition in the backbench. Why wouldn't there be? I had it when I was on the backbench."

It was an "incredibly talented" group and they wanted to play a major role in Government, she said.

"I do see the role very much as getting the best out of our backbench and perhaps even a bit more of the professional development I did in HR background, so making sure we are using their strengths, of which there are many.

"What we haven't had strong enough is that liaison between caucus ministers.

"I think we can get a little more structured in how we do that."

Bennett herself was mentored by former Prime Minister John Key and Bill English and groomed for the bigger role she now has.

Key brought her into his kitchen cabinet - an informal group of senior ministers who advise the Prime Minister - after the 2014 election, and gave her new portfolios after she had had Social Development for six years.

It was as part of the kitchen cabinet that she also mentored newer ministers.


"I was brought in to be a bit of an agitator," she said.

"I was different... He didn't bring me in because I thought the same and I was going to play nicely and not say much. He brought me in because I come from a different perspective, I had a different view and I'm not scared to put my opinion forward.

"He wanted that."

She was given a role as State Services Minister and also Associate Finance Minister to English.

"Bill was so wonderful that he didn't just let me sit in and be involved in everything, he pushed me.

"I do have a step and step in sort of attitude."

As Associate Finance Minister she set up the social investment unit, she was responsible for the Overseas Investment Office, and was responsible for the Budget process for most of the social portfolios.

She says she changed the way the Budget process ran. It was not just a matter of a bidder saying "we want more money."

"It is 'what have we tried, what are we attempting, where are you targeting, what are your other ideas, where is the evidence-base behind it, where is your data?"

Then she might have got to the need for more money.

"I came from the biggest portfolio spender. I knew the tricks."

She was then able to combine that experience to change processes needed for reform.

"It is a big role stepping into a new minister's role and I have formed a really good working relationship with most of those new ministers in helping them just work out this place and how you get the best out of your officials, the best decision-making processes."