If I were Turnbull and reshuffling my whole cabinet, the first move I’d make is remove Nick Minchin as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (token title for this relic of the Howard Era). There’s a number of people I’d consider to replace him him with: Eric Abetz, currently Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research would be the foremost contender; Ian McDonald, currently Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia is also viable too. But for a big shake-up, the best option is Marise Payne, currently Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs. If your were going to establish an electable cabinet that is moderate (and not pulling to the far right), then you would put Marise Payne up as the face of the Liberals in the Senate.
I would dump Andrew Robb and Tony Abbott. Clearly the two men are positioning to have a go at the leadership. Robb’s latest declaration to the Liberals to not support the ETS and Abbott’s weeks of re-positioning himself against climate change are clear indications that they are courting opponents of Turnbull as viable alternatives. Robb, out of the two, has the best shot at winning in a party vote and winning an election, but not just yet.
Update: Tony Abbott, it’s just broken into the coverage of the cirkcet (so it must be important!), has resigned from the front bench. Either word got to him it was resign or be pushed or he’s planning to usurp from the back benches. So much for being the loyal guy that he is.
Robb, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and COAG and Shadow Minister Assisting the Leader on Emissions Trading Design, would get replaced by David Johnson, current Shadow Minister for Defense. Defense would be given to Bob Baldwin, current backbencher.
Abbott, Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and the Voluntary Sector, would get pushed for Sharman Stone, current Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (and, as an aside, she must be fuming that she got Turnbull traction in the polls with her work on the Coalition’s position on the immigration fiasco that’s gone down for it to be all blown over in-fighting). But the portfolio would be shifted to just be Indigenous Affairs. Immigration and Citizenship would be given to Judi Moylan, current backbencher and one of the few Liberals who took part in the revolt to end mandatory detention. This would appeal to voters in building a moderate face for the Liberals. Alternatively, Russell Broadbent, also a backbencher, stood alongside Moylan and would also serve this post well.
Peter Dutton, not having really done anything wrong, would go from being the Shadow Minister of Health and Ageing to the Shadow Minister of Health. The new portfolio would be Shadow Minister for Familes, Community Services, Ageing and the Voluntary Sector and it would go to Joanna Gash, current backbencher. I, personally, feel that health needs a distinct focus from these other areas which all have a degree of overlap. Increase the communication between the two departments by all means, but I feel they need to be separated.
Nola Marino, backbencher, is someone else I’d like to see put into the shadow cabinet. I’m sure there’s some other backstabber to get rid of somewhere.
The rest I’d leave as is. You can’t disrupt the Nationals because they are a peculiar group (though if I could change their leadership I would). The rest there is a good group of moderates and strong candidates who would serve the party well. There’s only one threat left, that being Joe Hockey. But I think it would be foolish of to remove any potential future leader from the front bench (for the sake of the future of the party), as well as to get in your main competitor’s bad books.You might also notice that there’s a number of women taking the places of men. I think that’s something the Liberals need not to give ‘token’ places to women (these portfolios are hardly token), but in that having women on the front bench of the Coalition will encourage potential female candidates to try their hand with the Liberals and Nationals. And as long as Labor has a grip on this demographic, they have a headstart. The Liberals fell between 7% and 10% in their female vote at the last election. One way to get some of those votes back is to make an attempt to build a cabinet that doesn’t look like you’re ignoring women and women’s issues.
That’s what I’d do before the end of the week. Probably on Friday and try and get a lot of run for the news over the weekend with press events with the new faces. Spin it for all it’s worth before the vote of the ETS. Because when the ETS comes around, that’s going to be the news. When it does, point to the fact that the whole Liberals cabinet didn’t cross the floor (and make sure they don’t!). After that, build up a platform that your party can get behind. Or be pushed behind. Either option.