David Shearer appears to be weighing up his options for deputy prime minister between Green co-leader Russel Norman and NZ First leader Winston Peters as he looks for ways to reward support partners without letting go of the key finance portfolio.
Dr Norman has signalled his interest in the finance role, if Labour and the Greens can form a government after the 2014 election.
In an end of year interview with The Dominion Post, Mr Shearer ruled that out with an emphatic "No".
"Finance is obviously the most important role in a government and that would go to the party with the greatest proportion of votes, and that's what people in New Zealand would expect," Mr Shearer said.
He said Mr Peters' appointment as treasurer in the 1996 Bolger-Peters government was "an unusual situation".
"It was also the first MMP government. No, I think . . . [Labour finance spokesman] David Parker is the person I'm seeing as the finance minister."
However, he left the door ajar for Dr Norman to be deputy prime minister - a job that could also go to Mr Peters depending on how the numbers fell.
"We've done this before. We did it under the Clark government. The Alliance came in, Jim Anderton became deputy PM, there's a model out there for how it works."
He would like Labour to be above 40 per cent, but whatever the Greens scored "we'll work it out from there".
"But let's be a little bit clear as well. It might actually be NZ First . . . we've only had one year out of the last election, we could be facing a completely different scenario," he said.
In terms of offering the deputy prime minister's role to another party he said he was "not saying yes or no to absolutely anything".
"I'm just giving it as an example of what happened in the past. My feeling is voters decide what the proportions are and we pick it up from there. We work loosely to the formula we're given."
Meanwhile, Mr Shearer indicated he would reshuffle his front bench for the start of 2013.
He was still holding talks with his team, flagged after the demotion of his former leadership rival David Cunliffe, before announcing his new lineup.
Prime Minister John Key is also planning a revamp of his ministers.
"There may or may not be an incident which would cause that, but if there was I would describe it as minor," he said. "There are minor things we need to deal with, but it wouldn't be what I'd describe as wholesale."
A permanent home for the labour portfolio is still pending, following Kate Wilkinson's resignation from the role, and Speaker Lockwood Smith is due soon to be confirmed as the next high commissioner to London. Mr Key also indicated former ACC minister Nick Smith had "done his time" on the back benches after standing down for intervening in Bronwyn Pullar's ACC case.
- Fairfax Media