Cabinet reshuffles are the ultimate report card for senior ministers.
OPINION: They have the ability to send a message to MPs and voters that underperformers can be easily booted and star performers can rapidly rise through the ranks.
While many of the names are familiar, and the reshuffle was more of a, well, shuffle, John Key's rearrangement of his front benches yesterday showed he wasn't afraid to cast aside MPs who he - and his senior confidants - felt weren't up to the task.
With more than four years as prime minister it has become quite clear who he can count on, who he's keen to try out and who has had their chance.
In any of his reshuffles names like Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, Judith Collins and Tony Ryall are not ever mentioned, and the only reason Steven Joyce's name was raised this week was because he was handed the unenviable task of tackling the Novopay fiasco.
Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson got the chop from Cabinet, and with it a hefty pay cut, but the same fate didn't befall Hekia Parata.
Somehow she escaped, but one wonders by how much.
Her handling of major education issues and their fallout made her a prime candidate for the cull.
It must have been a close call. Handing over the Novopay issue to Mr Joyce seems on one hand like a vote of no confidence, but it also serves to separate Ms Parata from the debacle, and will allow her to focus on other matters.
That way Mr Joyce, aka Mr Fix It, comes in with a clean slate.
That said, Ms Parata simply must have a better 2013 than she did in 2012, especially in such a crucial portfolio.
The key with any reshuffle is to reward, punish and keep an eye on the future. And now we're well into Mr Key's second term as PM he looks to be shaping up his A team, even at this early stage.
Some of his choices may be debatable - such as the comeback of Nick Smith - but none of them should come as any great surprise.
ONE MORE THING
All Black and Crusaders rugby player Zac Guildford is on borrowed time.
The talented Hawke's Bay winger crossed the line one time too many when it came to problems involving alcohol.
At 23 he runs the risk of damaging his career, not to mention his life.
His time playing in New Zealand must surely be over, after an incident earlier this month. He had been warned by his bosses, multiple times, and appears to have ignored the ultimatum.
And for that, he must move on, most likely to a lucrative overseas contract.
- Manawatu Standard
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