Paula Bennett, National Party Minister announcement

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Friday, 9 December 2016

An emotional Paula Bennett says she is excited and a bit overwhelmed by the knowledge she will be deputy Prime Minister on Monday.

Bennett is now almost certain to become deputy Prime Minister after National's caucus meeting on Monday after her rival for the role, Simon Bridges, withdrew.

Bennett will work under Bill English, with whom she said she had a very strong relationship.

"I know what it's going to be like to work under him, I've been doing it for a number of years. And this, of course, is the next level and one I'm looking forward to come Monday, hopefully."

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She said it had been a whirlwind six days since John Key announced he was going. Key had rung her this morning. "He just said he was really proud of me. And as I said to him 'I wouldn't be here if he hadn't given me the opportunities he did. I'm incredibly grateful to him."

She said it was a bit overwhelming to know she was about to become deputy Prime Minister. "I am having that moment, and I know it sounds cliched, but the 17-year-old solo mum and now I'm standing on the cusp of hopefully a positive Monday vote.

"That's a bit overwhelming at the moment."

"It's exciting and I just hope there are some solo mothers out there and think 'actually your future is not pre-determined. Hard work, energy and self-belief can get you a long way in New Zealand."

She expected to catch up with English in person tomorrow. She said the relationship between them was one of respect and "a bit of fun."

She and English had very different upbringings and perspectives on things but it was a strong "fit."

"It has fitted well in how we challenge each other, the different perspectives we bring when making decisions and it's an easy kind of relationship.

He's always been in charge, and I'm conscious of that, but I've never been shy in putting my opinion forward or presenting a case of change to him."

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We are different, but we both have an interest in New Zealand's vulnerable and how we make decisions that benefit them."

"Bill and I have worked together really closely on housing when I was in the welfare portfolio. There wouldn't be a day in Parliament where I haven't been in his office at least twice for a meeting."

"So we know each other's working style, we challenge each other in our thought processes and in particular policy design which we work really well together on."

When it is suggested too much of her company might be a bit overwhelming, Bennett says "no, he has thoroughly enjoyed it. Let's be clear," and laughs.

Prime Minister in waiting Bill English says he welcomes Bennett as his deputy, saying she would be the second female deputy PM in New Zealand's history after Helen Clark.

"She is an outstanding politician whose work on welfare reform is world leading. I am proud to have a smart energetic woman as New Zealand's second only female Deputy Prime Minister."

English also thanked Simon Bridges, who withdrew from the contest today, saying he was a "constructive and energetic" candidate.

"He too is an outstanding politician and I look forward to working with him in the leadership team."

Bennett paid tribute to Bridges, saying it had been a good contest. "He's got a major contribution to make. I'm looking forward to working alongside him."