15 February 2016. Not six months into the job, the PM has refreshed his frontbench and will hope this is the ministerial line up that he will take to the federal election later this year.
Where stability was seen as one of the Coalition’s strengths, losing five ministers in less than five months is a concern as the gloss appears to be coming off the Turnbull led Coalition.
The PM has heralded his new line up as a dynamic team combining youth, talent, experience and continuity. A team that will focus on policies to encourage innovation and enterprise, a team to secure Australia’s prosperity and ensure jobs for future generations. On the surface the PM looks to have put together a team that successfully balances youth with experience.
With the decision of two key Cabinet Ministers to stand down and the resignation of three others, any reshuffle was always going to be more extensive than not. With budget preparations well underway, changes to the expenditure review committee line-up have been minimal.
An expanded Cabinet sees more winners than losers with three new Cabinet Ministers continuing the generational change initiated by the PM in September.
In what came as no surprise, new Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce has elected to hold onto his agriculture and water resources portfolio. Behind the scenes Joyce has been a driver of the Coalition’s push to reform country of origin food labelling and in what may put him at odds with much of the Coalition Party Room and big business, Joyce favours action on section 46 of Australia’s competition laws. This could be a key issue where the Nationals might flex their muscles.
With Fiona Nash as Deputy Leader of the Nationals we will see for the first time both Coalition partners having male and female representation within its leadership team.
Nash’s career has seen a remarkable turnaround in fortunes. Only two years ago there were calls for Nash to resign from her junior ministry over a health star rating website conflict involving her then Chief of Staff. Nash refused to be moved and her tenacity has seen her beat six rivals to the deputy leader position and give her a shot at succeeding Joyce.
As Minister for Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health, Nash will bring fresh insights into Cabinet and add another female voice around the cabinet table.
Darren Chester is perhaps the biggest winner of all, with the Victorian Nationals MP leap-frogging the outer ministry going straight into Cabinet. Chester, a former newspaper and radio journalist, will fill the shoes of the former deputy PM, taking the key infrastructure and transport portfolio.
Although seen as a safe pair of hands in his former role, this Cabinet promotion to a high-profile portfolio will be more demanding and we can expect Labor’s shadow Anthony Albanese to apply the blow-torch in Question Time.
Gold Coast based MP Steven Ciobo has been rewarded with the coveted trade portfolio. Ciobo, first elected in 2001, has served his apprenticeship in various outer ministry positions now succeeds Andrew Robb in what is seen as one of the Coalition’s success stories since returning to office in 2013.
Ciobo, a long time Turnbull backer with a background in banking and finance, has the skills of negotiation and temperament to finish the tasks started by his predecessors and is seen as Andrew Robb’s logical replacement. In an acknowledgement of the intricacies of the portfolio and the importance the Coalition places on trade, Robb remains as a special trade envoy to help with the transition.
Western Australian Senator Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has been handed the added responsibility of Special Minister of State.
Three Victorians and former political staffers have emerged with promotions. Alan Tudge, in only his second term in parliament, continues to rise becoming the Minister for Human Services. Tudge is a former adviser to Education Minister Brendan Nelson and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and is seen as one of the Coalition’s quiet achievers. Tudge’s previous role as Assistant Minister for Social Services makes him a safe pair of hands in this role.
Dan Tehan, from Malcolm Fraser’s regional seat of Wannon, comes into the outer ministry with responsibility for defence material and veterans’ services. The hard working Tehan, a former diplomat and Chair of the influential Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, becomes the third veterans’ minister in five months. Tehan brings with him a wealth of experience as a political staffer from his time as an adviser to former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile and chief of staff to the Minister or Small Business Fran Bailey.
Victorian Senator Scott Ryan is the new Minister for Vocational Education and Training in a portfolio challenged by VET FEE-HELP cost blow-outs. Ryan will bring a studious and forensic approach to this area. Ryan has previously served in an education portfolio so we can expect him to hit the ground running.
LNP Queensland Senator Matt Canavan, an economist by training, joins the outer ministry as Minister for Northern Australia. Canavan, a former Chief of Staff to Barnaby Joyce has also worked with the Productivity Commission and KPMG in senior roles. When in Opposition, the Coalition placed great importance on unlocking the potential of northern Australia. In an election year, this will be fertile policy ground and is seen by the PM as central to Australia’s growth and future prosperity. Canavan, like Joyce, advocates for action on competition policy reform and will be influential in the Nationals’ party room to keep this on the agenda.
NSW Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ future in parliament looks to be assured with the promotion to Minister for International Development. Fierravanti-Wells, a former Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Senator of the NSW Right faction, faced a challenge from moderates, however this promotion should see her secure her Senate spot.
Angus Taylor, the Rhodes Scholar from Hume, is the new Assistant Minister to the PM and will focus on digital transformation and cities. This promotion for Taylor should also secure his immediate future from pre-selection challenge and see him work closely with the PM on his pet project, cities policy.
Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath, former staffer to Boris Johnson and Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party, becomes the new Assistant Minister for Immigration while retaining his role as an assistant minister to the PM.
Brisbane based MP Jane Prentice is the Assistant Minister for Disability Services, and will work with Christian Porter in an area that could be a focus in the lead up to the election campaign.
Marginal seat holder Craig Laundy, a MP based in the outer Sydney electorate of Reid, takes the reigns of multicultural affairs as an assistant minister. Laundy in the past has been a vocal critic of current Coalition immigration policy whose electorate is one of the most multicultural in the country. This promotion will greatly help Craig’s local re-election prospects.
Nationals MP Keith Pitt from Bundaberg, an electrical engineer, becomes assistant minister to the deputy PM.
Former ACCI CEO and political staffer Dr Peter Hendy in a sideways move is the new assistant minister for finance and will work closely with Arthur Sinodinos as assistant cabinet secretary.
Those returning to the backbench are Stuart Robert, Luke Hartsuyker, Mal Brough and Jamie Briggs.
Warren Truss and Andrew Robb have announced they will retire at the next election.