Labour leader David Shearer has moved to boost the party's grunt in social policy areas, promoting former deputy leader Annette King to number 6 and restoring her to the health portfolio while confirming a front bench seat for Chris Hipkins in the education role.
But in a reshuffled frontline with a mix of "new talent and experienced hands", there was no room for Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel, who has been dumped outside the top 20.
Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard, who hangs on to the shadow leader of the House role, has also been demoted to the "unranked" MPs who cannot assume a slot in a future Shearer cabinet.
He had the backing of the Opposition this year in a failed bid to become Speaker, and has been lined up as Speaker in a Labour-led administration.
But there is no similar olive branch for Ms Dalziel. She will continue to front for the party on Canterbury earthquake issues, but Mr Shearer is also promising a stronger presence from his senior spokespeople in the region, where Labour is hoping to win back support it lost in 2011 that was key to National's victory.
In recognition the party has not made the political impacts it needs in education and health, Mr Shearer shifted Nanaia Mahuta out of the education role, leaving her with the low-profile youth affairs portfolio. Maryan Street has been moved sideways out of health but has picked up environment.
Deputy leader Grant Robertson has been given employment, training and skills where he will mark "minister for everything" Steven Joyce on jobs. He will be joined by first term Dunedin North MP David Clark, who moves up to number 12 and takes on economic development.
Mr Shearer said the former Treasury analyst and presbyterian minister was "a rising star with intellectual grunt".
Others to win promotion include Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford (housing, number 8), list MP Andrew Little (justice) and Wigram MP Megan Woods (tertiary education).
Mr Twyford said housing would be a battleground issue at the next election.
"We think we can build 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years at an average price of $300,000."
Mr Shearer said the new line-up would be more hands-on, innovative and positive. "This Government is out of touch with the concerns of New Zealanders and is mired in scandal, cronyism and frankly mismanagement."
Mrs King, who he said was "passionate and formidable", said her strength was telling the "stories" of people. "It might be retro, but it's a positive move."
She said Health Minister Tony Ryall had intimidated the health sector.
"There is a climate of fear in health about people speaking out."
She called on them to come forward and speak up about cuts in the sector.
But Prime Minister John Key said the lack of health scandals was testament to Mr Ryall's handling of the portfolio. "Health is one of the success stories for National."
List MP Shane Jones will remain on the front bench at number seven, pending the auditor-general's report into the Bill Liu immigration case.
David Cunliffe, who was demoted after he refused to back Mr Shearer as leader, has been partially reinstated with the revenue portfolio, but is still unranked.
If you had a choice, which would you prefer on Christmas day?Related story: Sun takes a Christmas holiday