Today Opposition Leader Malcom Turnbull announced his shadow cabinet after being voted to the top-dog position. As has been already widely reported, he has hung the Brendan Nelson supporters out to dry (and rightly so), and swept in a new and fresh cabinet for the most part. Importantly/worryingly (depending on your political persuasion) he has now got a cabinet that sets the party up for the future, beyond just the next election:
- Christopher Pyne (elected to the House in 1993) was elevated to Education, Apprenticeships and Training;
- Peter Dutton (elected to the House in 2001, who needed the boost after holding his seat in Dickson by just 0.26% in 2008) was promoted to Health and Ageing;
- Joe Hockey (elected to the House in 1996) brought up to Finance, Competition Policy and Deregulation, retaining his Opposition Business in the House role;
- Michael Keenan (elected to the House in 2004) got Employment and Workplace Relations;
- Greg Hunt (elected to the House in 2001) gets Climate Change, Environment and Water;
- George Brandis (elected to the Senate in 2000) gets Attorney-General;
- John Cobb (elected to the House in 2001) gets Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry;
- Sharman Stone (elected to the House in 1996) was promoted to Immigration and Citizenship after her initial demotion under Nelson;
- Steven Ciobo (elected to the House in 2001) was promoted to Small Business, Independent Contractors, Tourism and the Arts
- Michael Richardson, elected to the House in 1993, is the Shadow Special Minister of State
When you have 10 out of 20 shadow ministers, and a leader who is also fresh and a ‘future’ man, you have a good base to do what Rudd and his shadow ministry did – run as an alternate and viable change government. Of course, it’s not a smart platform to run on at the next election, but keep the same sort of structure and it will pay off, perhaps, in the one after.
The rest of the mob is a bunch of old faces:
- Julie Bishop, after retaining her deputy leader role, is promoted to Treasurer;
- Tony Abbott, who last week complained that his role as Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and the Voluntary Sector, stays put;
- Ian Macfarlane, who is ‘newly’ elected to the House but was a former Howard frontbencher in the public eye, is Resources and Energy;
- Helen Coonan is given a big promotion with Foreign Affairs;
- Warren Truss, Leader of the Nationals, is given an expanded role with Trade, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government;
- David Johnston is given Defense, the role being stripped from …
- Nick Minchin is thrown down the ladder and given the Broadband Communications and Digital Economy porfolio;
- Nigel Scullion, former Nationals leader in the Senate, is now Minister for Human Services;
- Eric Abetz, prominent Liberal senator, has been handed the Innovation, Industry, Science and Research portfolio.
In all, the politically savvy onlooker can see a few ‘deals’ being handed out here, and some punishments. Minchin has been given a role that turns him into a figurehead only in the Senate – he retains the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate role, and now has a portfolio he knows nothing about. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a move by Turnbull to encourage him to ‘move on’ from politics.
More punishment came the way of Bronwyn Bishop and Pat Farmer, who were dropped completely from the cabinet, while Joanna Gash and Tony Smith were demoted from the cabinets to the outer circle. No surprise, they were all Nelson backers too.
The backers who reportedly got him over the line against Nelson – Christopher Pyne, Michael Keenan, Peter Dutton, Michael Ronaldson, Steven Ciobo, Scott Morrison, Chris Pearce – have all been given rewards for their faith. Not listed above, Senator Ronaldson is made a key player in the Opposition now, getting the role of Turnbull’s secretary to the shadow cabinet. Pearce is given the role of spokesman for financial services, superannuation and corporate law. Morrison is the spokesmen for housing.
Also not listed above, Andrew Robb gets a new portfolio, spokesman for infrastructure and federal-state relations. It’s a gamble to invent portfolios in the opposition, unless you have good reason to. With state-federal relations a key to Rudd’s election victory, it’s not an unwise move on Turnbull’s part here. Robb will have his hands full going up against Anthony Albanese, the current Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
Thankfully, the likes of Kevin Andrews, and other previous Howard cronies were overlooked for positions. Turnbull has shown basic political thought and already distanced himself from the Howard legacy enough, both in terms of leadership (Nelson took the brunt of it) and policy (his outspoken nature during the election saw him avoid a lot of the mud, and I expect the future will see him get further away).
All-in-all, I think it’s a good cabinet for the Liberals. It certainly could have been worse, much worse. Then again, it could be better. I had previously written that I thought Turnbull could have included more women among his cabinet – he has (thanks to information presented below) actually matched the Rudd administration in terms of portfolios given to women. I’m not sure if it’s a token move – there are, naturally, less women in the Liberal and National parties, so handing as many as possible a portfolio to match numbers may not be too honest. However, they may have, in fact, won them on merit. But with less women to choose from to match the more women that the ALP has, I can’t help but think it might be a bit of a political move. It’s a smart move, don’t get me wrong there: Howard was hurt because of the difference in 2007.
It will be fun to watch Question Time tomorrow with all the ministers and senators getting used to their new roles. Interesting times ahead indeed!