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Katherine Rich loses welfare portfolio

Published: 1:03PM Tuesday February 01, 2005 Source: RNZ

National's leader Don Brash has cited differences of opinion as the reason for dumping Katherine Rich from her role as the party's welfare spokesperson.

Rich failed to fully endorse Brash's Orewa speech on welfare, leading to her demotion from the front bench, dropping from fourth to 10th in the caucus rankings. Her demotion means there are now no women on the National party's front bench.

Brash says the differences between them on how to address the issue of women on the DPB having further children meant Rich could not sell the policy to voters, and could not continue in her welfare role.

"Though she had substantially completed the advance work on the welfare policy, it is fair to say she did not agree with some details of the policy, as announced at Orewa," Brash says. "The differences are not big, but they preclude the possibility of Katherine continuing in the role of spokeswoman for welfare."

The portfolio will be picked up by Judith Collins, who is ranked 12th in the party's lineup.

Collins says she is 'thrilled' with her new portfolio and by the confidence Brash has shown in her.

She says she is already familiar with much of the welfare portfolio, having been the National party's spokeswoman on families and she says she is well aware of public opinion.

Collins says she believes she will be able to get on top of her new portfolio in time for the general election, expected to be held around September.

Paul Hutchison, who was the associate health spokesperson, will take over Collins' health portfolio.

Another winner from the reshuffle is National's finance spokesperson, John Key, who moves up onto the front bench.

Rich, who will be the party's new economic development spokesperson, says the party's approach to the welfare portfolio has changed and she is happy with her new roles. She says she continues to support National and Don Brash 100%.

Meanwhile, Rich's National colleague, Kaikoura MP, Lynda Scott has criticised her demotion saying she should not have lost her front bench position.

Scott accompanied Katherine Rich when the announcement of her loss of portfolio was made.

Brash has denied that he leads the party in an autocratic manner, following his dumping of Rich.

Last year Georgina Te Heuheu was forced out of Maori Affairs for not backing his one-law-for-all speech on race relations.

But Brash rejects accusations that he won't tolerate disagreement from within caucus.

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