Just in time for Christmas, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his new ministry. The reshuffle has been prompted by the retirement from politics of the Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis (after 17 years in the Senate, the LNP Senator will be Australia’s next High Commissioner to London, replacing the former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who is coming to the end of his diplomatic term), but also the move by Senator Scott Ryan to the Presidency of the Senate and Senator Arthur Sinodinos’s continuing health problems, which have been impacting on his ability to serve in the ministry.
The Prime Minister would want this to be his last reshuffle before he goes to the next federal election sometime over the next year and a half (most likely in the first half of 2019). But the new ministry is unlikely to be the circuit breaker that Malcolm Turnbull needs to turn the bad polling around, and it is unlikely to mark a change in government’s policy direction. All the key Cabinet positions remain unchanged in the hands of the team that the Prime Minister has originally surrounded himself with following his successful challenge to Tony Abbott.
While the three dependable performers have seen their responsibilities enhanced (Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, now also the Special Minister of State and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Michaelia Cash in a new super portfolio of Jobs and Innovation, and Queensland’s Peter Dutton as the inaugural Home Affairs Minister), the movement has largely been at the outskirts of the Cabinet, in the junior ministry, and amongst the Assistant Ministers (formerly Parliamentary Secretaries).
Of particular interest for Queensland is the fast-tracked promotion of two LNP MPs: David Littleproud, the son of a former state National Party minister, jumping straight into the Cabinet as the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources following his election to federal parliament in 2016, and former state MP and minister, and likewise the “class of 2016” freshman, John McVeigh promoted as Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, serving as a junior minister within the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s portfolio of Infrastructure and Transport.
Other Queenslanders in the current Turnbull ministry are Steven Ciobo as the Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister, Senator Matthew Canavan as the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia (having survived his political near-death experience with a dual citizenship), and Assistant Ministers James McGrath (to the Prime Minister, where he is likely to again play a key role in shaping the Coalition’s next election campaign), Karen Andrews (for Vocational Education and Skills), and Jane Prentice (for Social Services and Disability Services).