Prime Minister John Key welcomed Nick Smith back into the Cabinet in a reshuffle in which he has also sacked the Labour and Conservation Minister, Kate Wilkinson, and Energy and Housing Minister Phil Heatley.
He also relieved Associate Education Minister Craig Foss of his responsibility for the Novopay system for paying teachers, putting that in the hands of Cabinet fix-it man and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.
Smith returns to Cabinet as Minister of Housing and Conservation, while relatively junior Minister Nathan Guy will become Minister of Primary Industries, replacing David Carter, who will become Parliament’s Speaker to replace Lockwood Smith, who is to become High Commissioner in London.
Perhaps the biggest winner is Simon Bridges. A novice Associate Minister of Climate Change since last year, Bridges will add the heavyweight Energy and Labour portfolios and becomes a minister inside Cabinet.
Chris Tremain will become Minister of Local Government, a portfolio that Smith might have expected to pick up, having been architect of major reforms now occurring.
Two other big winners are Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye and Senior Whip Michael Woodhouse. Kaye takes Food Safety, Youth Affairs and Civil Defence and Associate Education Minister. Woodhouse will be a minister outside Cabinet with responsibility for the Immigration and Veterans Affairs portfolios.
Foss picks up Consumer Affairs and keeps his commerce portfolio, while dropping Associate Education, where he was nominally in charge of the botched Novopay implementation. Hekia Parata maintains the Education portfolio.