Crikey



Biggles grounded as Weatherill gathers new cabinet

What did Leon Bignell ever do to miss out on a slot in the new Jay Weatherill Cabinet? Plenty, apparently.

Known to everyone as Biggles, the Member for Mawson in Adelaide’s far southern suburbs and a parliamentary secretary, was at one time heavily fancied for a ministry under Weatherill. He was damn sure never going to get a portfolio under Mike Rann.

As a member of Weatherill’s Left faction, Biggles did some of the early undermining of Rann’s position, remarking mid-year that Labor would be better off under Weatherill and that “another generation” was ready to take over. He also ran foul of former treasurer Kevin Foley, not a man to be crossed, who responded by describing Bignell as “an ex-ABC reporter who runs around pretending to be a political genius”.

The former ABC sports journalist got his start in politics as a media adviser and then chief of staff to senior minister Pat Conlon, with whom he has also since fallen out.

Within the tight confines of South Australian politics, Bignell was once involved in a relationship with MP Chloe Fox, who has been elevated by Weatherill to her first-time ministry today. Bignell, a divorcee, was engaged to Fox, the daughter of children’s author Mem Fox, soon after the 2006 election but it was broken off a year later. Now he lives with Sandra De Poi, a Labor supporter and member of the WorkCover SA Board.

Somehow or another along the way, Bignell has managed to lose whatever parliamentary allies he once had to the extent that his ambitions are stalled and possibly thwarted for good. Unless he has blotted his copybook in some undisclosed manner, he seems to be paying the ultimate price for forcing the leadership issue ahead of the curve. The Labor factions don’t like to be forced. Biggles has few friends left in the right places.

Bignell said this morning he had withdrawn from cabinet contention for “personal reasons”. Fox, meantime, picks up responsibility for Transport Services.

Another newcomer to the ministry is the state’s first openly gay MP Ian Hunter [Don Dunstan never outed himself], who takes the Left spot that Biggles originally earmarked for himself. Hunter gets Communities and Social Inclusion.

Another winner is Weatherill confidante Grace Portolesi despite her making a hash of the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio amid claims of mismanagement, waste and child malnutrition on the APY Lands in the far north of SA [Weatherill was her predecessor in the Aboriginal portfolio, so neither has much to boast about]. Portolesi gets education, early childhood and child protection.

Another promotion goes to Michael O’Brien, who gets the newly created Finance portfolio to oversee government’s business units and general finances. It’s said that O’Brien was instrumental in delivering the party room momentum to support Weatheril’s pitch for the premiership.

Deputy Premier John Rau, originally earmarked by Rann as his successor, retains the Attorney-General role despite pressure to hand it to Patrick Conlon, who retains Transport and Infrastructure and may be retiring anyway at the next state election in 2014.

Health Minister John Hill, who has indicated he will not be standing again, keeps his current portfolio.

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MINISTRY

PREMIER

Hon Jay Weatherill MP

Premier

Minister for State Development

Member of Executive Council

JUSTICE

Hon John Rau MP

Deputy Premier

Attorney-General

Minister for Planning

Minister for Business Services and Consumers

Member of Executive Council

REGIONS

Hon Gail Gago MLC

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

Minister for Forests

Minister for Regional Development

Minister for Tourism

Minister for the Status ofWomen

Member of Executive Council

DEVELOPMENT

Hon Patrick Conlon MP

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure

Minister for Housing and Urban Development

Member of Executive Council

TREASURY

Hon Jack Snelling MP

Treasurer

Minister forWorkers’ Rehabilitation

Minister for Defence Industries

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Member of Executive Council

HEALTH

Hon John Hill MP

Minister for Health and Ageing

Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Minister for the Arts

Member of Executive Council

COMMUNITY SAFETY

Hon Jennifer Rankine MP

Minister for Police

Minister for Correctional Services

Minister for Emergency Services

Minister for Road Safety

Minister for Multicultural Affairs

Member of Executive Council

ENVIRONMENT

Hon Paul Caica MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation

Minister for Water and the River Murray

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation

Member of Executive Council

BUSINESS

Hon Tom Koutsantonis MP

Minister for Manufacturing, Innovation and Trade

Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy

Minister for Small Business

Member of Executive Council

FINANCE

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