National Party Leader Christopher Luxon has appointed his deputy Nicola Willis as National’s new Finance spokesperson to replace the outgoing Simon Bridges.
Luxon announced it this morning after Bridges’ resignation yesterday, saying Willis was the right person to take the Government to tack over the cost of living and “wasteful spending decisions.”
It is a return to the days of the deputy also holding the finance role – as was the case when Sir John Key was leader and Bill English his deputy.
“Nicola has an incredible intellect, prodigious work ethic and proven ability to hold the Government to account as we’ve seen her do on housing. She will build on National’s track record as the best economic managers to help Kiwis get ahead.”
He pointed to Willis’ background as a member of Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee and previously held a number of senior management roles at Fonterra.
He said she also understands how finance interacts with the other portfolios across Government – and prior to politics had a good business and commercial orientation after working at Fonterra.
Willis said it was important to have good people around you, and National had a good team of advisers to develop a fiscal “and most importantly an economic growth plan”.
Willis said she would not fall into fiscal holes, adding it was “very important to have good people around you”.
It was widely expected to be either Chris Bishop or Willis as the finance spokesperson.
Bishop gets bumped up to the number three ranking and picks up Infrastructure and Housing portfolios – Housing was previously held by Willis.
“Chris has done a tremendous job in leading National’s response to Covid-19, and I look forward to him shaping our policies in these areas,” Luxon said.
He said housing, transport and local government success would all depend on how infrastructure was managed.
“Housing is one of the biggest and most intractable problems going forward.
“I feel Chris is uniquely positioned with his background in transport and infrastructure,” Luxon said.
He said Bishop would work with Simeon Brown and Simon Watts, National’s transport and local government spokesmen, to formulate policy.
Dr Shane Reti has been promoted up one slot to to number four on National’s front bench and Paul Goldsmith to number five – a big promotion from his previous 12 ranking.
Luxon said of Goldsmith’s promotion, that Goldsmith had ministerial experience that was needed in the top 10, and he brought portfolios that needed to be in the top 10.
“I feel really excited about these changes, I think you’ll acknowledge we’ve got very talented people leading finance and infrastructure,” Luxon said.
Luxon said Goldsmith had made a mistake years ago, but what counted was the way you picked yourself up.
As National’s finance spokesman in 2020, Goldsmith admitted to a $4 billion hole in its fiscal plan, calling it an “irritating mistake”.
Luxon said he also represented balance between liberal and conservative wings.
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