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Labour reshuffle gives Little 'new economy', promotes Nash as his innovation side-kick

Friday 16th December 2016

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Labour Party leader Andrew Little has announced a minor shadow Cabinet reshuffle, giving himself a new portfolio - 'New Economy' - and putting his sometime critic Stuart Nash into a supporting role as spokesman on innovation, science, research and technology.

David Parker, the architect of much of the party's innovation and R&D policy, moves to foreign affairs to replace departing MP David Shearer, who will take up a United Nations leadership role in South Sudan next month, triggering a by-election in the Auckland electorate of Mt Albert.

Another winner in the rejigged line-up is Clare Curran, who moves into the shadow Cabinet, taking on the information communications technology portfolio, which includes telecommunications regulation, from David Cunliffe, who has announced his retirement from politics at the next election, expected in September next year.

The current senior parliamentary whip, Chris Hipkins, adds tertiary education to his existing education porfolio responsibilities and will remain shadow leader of the House, although Kris Faafoi is being lined up to become senior whip, with Little nominating him for the role in a caucus vote to be taken next February.

Climate change spokeswoman Megan Woods adds the state services portfolio to her load.

Of the 'new economy' portfolio, Little said it reflected Labour's commitment to "growing wealth in the economy through greater innovation and productivity”.

The party's finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, led a two-year Future of Work Commission process that was unveiled at the party's annual conference last month, touting a goal to make ICT New Zealand's second largest export earner after tourism and ahead of the dairy and wine industries.

Michael Wood, who entered Parliament after winning the Mt Roskill by-election earlier this month to replace Phil Goff after his election as mayor of Auckland, will be the spokesperson for consumer affairs, ethnic communities and revenue.

Nash's promotion is notable because it places the Napier MP at Little's right hand on new economy issues, despite being fingered for his involvement on the right of the Labour caucus, including supporting the ultimately unsuccessful candidacy of Nick Leggett for the Mt Roskill selection. Leggett, who failed to win the Wellington mayoralty over favoured Labour candidate Justin Lester, was described as a "right wing" candidate by Little and has recently declared a desire to stand for Parliament for the National Party.

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