Cabinet reshuffle: Key sends election year signals to partners

Prime Minister John Key moved today to shore up his chances of forming a third administration after this year’s election, reinstalling United Future’s Peter Dunne to the ministry, reaching out to Colin Craig’s Conservative Party and even extending a slightly short and withered olive branch to New Zealand First.

National has policy differences with existing support partners the Maori Party, Act, and United Future, Mr Key said in a statement this afternoon.

“We also have policy differences with the Conservative Party:  however it is likely that there would be enough common ground to work with them in Government.”

And despite emphatically ruling out working with Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party in both the 2008 and 2011 parliaments, Mr Key has a slightly more open mind for the parliament which will be elected later this year.

While any working arrangement with Mr Peters – who earlier today was slamming Mr Key for “gerrymandering a backroom deal” this election – is unlikely, Mr Key said it was not completely out of the question.

“In 2008 we ruled them out because we were unable to reconcile some of their statements on the Glenn donation matter. Six years has passed and, should New Zealand First be returned to Parliament, we would not rule out a discussion after the election.”

Meanwhile, Mr Key also promoted a few of his party’s up and comers. The most significant is the most unobtrusive change: Dunedin list MP, Michael Woodhouse, who until today was a minister outside cabinet, is brought in to replace Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain.

Mr Woodhouse has held the tricky Immigration portfolio and handled it adroitly when under fire in Parliament: something a number of predecessors have not managed to do.

Mr Tremain is retiring and his portfolios will go to Mr Dunne.

In other changes, front bencher and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett adds local government to her responsibilities and the new minister outside cabinet is Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, who takes over Pacific Island Affairs and Associate Minister of Local Government.

Todd McClay adds Associate Tourism to his existing jobs of Revenue and Associate Health.

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