Judith Collins promoted to Cabinet again

New Corrections and Police Minister Judith Collins (Simon Wong / 3 News)
New Corrections and Police Minister Judith Collins (Simon Wong / 3 News)

Judith Collins has returned from the National Party backbenches to the top table of Cabinet after what the Prime Minister called a "minor" reshuffle.

In his final post-Cabinet news conference before the parliamentary year finishes on Thursday, John Key announced Ms Collins would take over the Corrections portfolio from beleaguered minister Sam Lotu-Iiga and will also become the Police Minister.

Mr Lotu-Iiga has been under sustained pressure and criticism over the handling of the Serco-run Mt Eden remand prison, with video emerging of fight clubs and allegations of drug use at the prison. Corrections took over running the facility in July.

While Mr Lotu-Iiga has lost his Corrections portfolio, he will still remain a minister, picking up Local Government from Paula Bennett.

Ms Collins' promotion was a switch most in Cabinet didn't even know about until their regular meeting today.

She will be sworn in on December 14.

Mr Key this morning told the Paul Henry programme the change was "quite minor".

Ms Collins resigned from her ministerial ACC, Justice and Ethnic Affairs portfolios in August last year because of her links to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

In a 2011 email sent by Slater, it was alleged Ms Collins was seeking to undermine the then-boss of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Adam Feeley; at the time, Ms Collins was the minister responsible for the SFO.

She'd also come under increasing pressure for her links to Slater and export company Oravida, run by her husband.

Ms Collins, who stayed on as MP for Papakura, asked for an inquiry into the allegations relating to Mr Feeley and was cleared of any wrongdoing in November last year.

She spent most of this year on the backbenches, but had been seeking a return to Cabinet – something Mr Key had not ruled out.

First-termer and ACT leader David Seymour turned down an offer to be the Minister of Regulatory Reform and Associate Minister of Education.

Mr Key says he was "slightly surprised" at Mr Seymour's decision, but said it was "quite clever".

Mr Seymour wants to continue with his End of Life Choice euthanasia Bill, as well as rebuilding the ACT Party.

Other changes in the Cabinet line-up include Todd McClay becoming the Trade Minister, as current minister Tim Groser is appointed the Ambassador to the United States.

However, his resignation on December 14 won't come into effect until December 19, and will be replaced by Maureen Pugh from the West Coast.

This allows him to finish his responsibilities at the climate change conference in Paris.

Mr Key said at his post-Cabinet news conference today, that with Mr Groser going to Washington "an opportunity presented itself" and was his first opportunity to reshuffle his caucus.

"After a year on the backbench she's had some time to reflect. I think she would say, like any politician, in life you do some things not as well as others."

Mr Key said while some would see Mr Lotu-Iiga's demotion as him losing faith in his performance, the Corrections and Police portfolios were a more "natural fit" for Ms Collins.

He wanted to bring the two portfolios back together.

Mr McClay will remain responsible for State-Owned Enterprises, while the Revenue portfolio will be given to Michael Woodhouse who had been Police Minister.

Ms Bennett will now become the Minister for Climate Change Issues.

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