Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Monday, 17 November 2008

New Zealand leader forms cabinet

Prime Minister-elect and National Party leader John Key, 9th Nov
Mr Key's National Party won 45% of the vote, against 34% for Labour

New Zealand's prime minister-elect John Key has formed a cabinet, promising to focus on the economy amid recession.

The top four men - Mr Key, Bill English, Gerry Brownlee and Simon Power - will cover tourism, finance, economic development, energy and justice.

Veteran MP Murray McCully is named foreign affairs minister and ex-diplomat Tim Groser will cover trade.

Of the 20-member cabinet, six are women, one is a first-time MP and six have less than three years' experience.

Eight other ministers will work outside cabinet.

The first-time member of parliament, Steven Joyce, was made minister of transport, in an apparent reward for successfully managing Mr Key's campaign.

A second surprise was the award of the big-budget social development portfolio to Paula Bennett, who only became an MP in 2005.

The eight extra ministers outside cabinet include five from three allied minor parties.

Because the ministers from the Act party, United Future and Maori Party will not sit in cabinet, they will be allowed to oppose government policy outside their own portfolios.

Mr Key, a multi-millionaire former investment banker, has worked fast to form a government ahead of being signed in on Wednesday so he can leave for a summit in Peru the next day.

Economic challenge

"The National-led government takes office at a challenging time for the country," Mr Key said after announcing his line-up.

"The growth outlook is weak, and international and domestic difficulties abound.

"This government will concentrate on boosting economic growth because that is what will lead us out of these challenging times," he said.

New Zealand media quoted business leaders expressing approval of the new conservative administration.

New Zealand entered recession in the first half of the year, and last week the outgoing government warned that prospects for a recovery had worsened due to the global turmoil.

During the campaign Mr Key promised that his government would accelerate tax cuts, increase help for people who lose their jobs and expand infrastructure investment.

Mr Key ended Helen Clark's nine years as leader of New Zealand in elections on 8 November.

Ms Clark has resigned as leader of the Labour Party and is widely expected to embark on a new international career.

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