Labour MPs have applauded moves by party leader David Shearer to boost power in social policy areas, which are sure to "expose the Government's flaws", West Coast Tasman Labour MP Damien O'Connor said today.
The reshuffled frontline designed to bring a mix of "new talent and experienced hands" has meant Nelson-based Labour list MP Maryan Street has lost the health portfolio, which former dental nurse Annette King has regained.
Street takes on the environment portfolio, and said today she was "delighted to pick up a new challenge".
In December last year she dropped from 4 to 3 in political newsletter Trans-Tasman's annual performance ratings of MPs, and was considered to have "put up the white flag in the health portfolio".
She said today it was fair to say she was sad to lose health, having worked hard in the field and after building up a good network of contacts in the sector. She said King would be "superb" in the role.
"There's no question about that and I have no qualms about health not being in good hands," Street said.
King said Health Minister Tony Ryall had intimidated the health sector.
"There is a climate of fear in health about people speaking out."
But Prime Minister John Key said the lack of health scandals was testament to Ryall's handling of the portfolio.
"Health is one of the success stories for National."
Street was looking forward to building on knowledge gained from working with Nelson's environmental groups to boost her performance in the environment portfolio.
"Working with these groups has been very good grounding. It's an area I've always had an interest in," Street said.
O'Connor, who scored a 5 in last December's poll and was labelled as a "strong Shearer supporter who could be rewarded for that", said it was a leader's prerogative to shift people around.
"It's a very good lineup and I'm sure they [frontline members] will take up the challenge of exposing the Government's flaws," he said.
In other changes Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel has been dumped outside the top 20.
Hutt South's 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.
Shearer has shifted Nanaia Mahuta out of the education role, leaving her with the low-profile youth affairs portfolio.
Deputy leader Grant Robertson has been given employment, training and skills. He will be joined by first-term Dunedin North MP David Clark, who moves up to No 12 and takes on economic development.
Others to win promotion include Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford (housing, No 8) and list MPs Andrew Little (justice) and Wigram MP Megan Woods (tertiary education) round out the top 20.
List MP Shane Jones will remain on the front bench at No 7, pending the auditor-general's report into the Bill Liu immigration case. He will be the senior-ranked Maori MP.
David Cunliffe, who was demoted after he refused to back Shearer as leader last year, has been partially reinstated with the revenue portfolio, but is still unranked.
Shearer said the new lineup 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."
Key said the reshuffle reflected the fact Mr Shearer was managing the sensibilities of a divided caucus.
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