Patrick Gower: Gerry Brownlee barges into Foreign Affairs

Gerry Brownlee knows how to barge, and now he has, arguing his way onto the international stage as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Prime Minister Bill English described him as "blunt but effective", and for many, the words Brownlee and diplomacy don't really go together.

He can be brusque, once telling a Kaikoura farmer he was "pissed off" at his criticism of the Government's response to the earthquake.

And he's prepared to barge, even through an airport as Minister of Transport. He can be a bit loose, like when he sparked a diplomatic row with Finland.

But now Brownlee is New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs and here's why - he's respected on the international stage, even getting a bear hug from the chief of China's Army.

"He's shown the ability to be blunt when he needs to be, but also diplomatic when he needs to be and very effective," English says.

The reshuffle's winners see the retiring Murray McCully replaced by Brownlee, while Education Minister Hekia Parata steps down for Nikki Kaye to step up.

For Kaye, it's a really big way to celebrate beating breast cancer.

"I think it's one of the greatest portfolios in terms of making a difference to young people and it's something I've dreamed of for a long time," she says.

Other winners are Mark Mitchell, who comes into Cabinet picking up Minister of Defence; Nathan Guy becomes Minister of Civil Defence; and Nicky Wagner, Minister for Christchurch Regeneration, sitting outside Cabinet.

English had a surprise loser too, making "minor" changes in housing.

Nick Smith was stripped of Minister of Housing in the last reshuffle and on Monday he was stripped of even more, losing responsibility for major building projects on empty Crown land. It instead went to the uber-competent Amy Adams.

English was shuffling only as much as he had to, and ever-so subtly slipping the knife too.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.