Cabinet reshuffle surprise

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 13:34 22/01/2013

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OPINION: Phil, Kate you are the weakest links, goodbye!

John Key today delivered a much more far-reaching Cabinet reshuffle than anyone was expecting - including dumped ministers Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson.

Having spent political capital reinstating Heatley last term and holding on to Wilkinson after the Pike River report both have been unceremoniously jettisoned in the interests of refreshing the face of his ministry.

Some of the changes are obvious reactions to political issues.

Putting Steven Joyce in charge of fixing the Novopay problem puts provider Talent2 on notice that it will have to deliver and the Government will no longer accept the fall-out.

Shifting housing to rehabilitated Nick Smith is not just a judgement on Heatley's energy levels but also a recognition that affordable housing, combined with Labour's popular policy announced last year, has put the Government on the back foot. Key made it clear he wants new ideas from Smith and fast.

David Carter's reluctant elevation to the Speaker's role has made way for Smith, but without the other changes Key would have been left with precious little renewal to showcase.

By elevating Nikki Kaye, Simon Bridges and Michael Woodhouse - the latter a quiet achiever destined for an even higher ranking - he has made changes that will not look tepid compared with the reshuffle David Shearer will unveil soon.

First trick of the political year to Key.

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