As Parliament shuts down for nearly two months and John Howard prepares his trade push to China, Coalition types are talking up the possibility of a mid-year reshuffle to refresh his team. With the government struggling with poor economic news, mid-year would be a good time for the introduction of fresh faces to the Howard frontbench: July 1 ushers in his new domination of the Senate.
Kim Beazley, too, would welcome this as a chance to reshuffle his front bench — a desperately needed measure to remove some of the dead wood he inherited from the Latham shadow ministry. Glaring imbalances in the Coalition front bench were only highlighted by Howard’s minimalist reshuffle after last October’s election win.
Joe Hockey’s appointment to the new outer ministry portfolio of Human Services was the biggest change back in October — and he’s been having trouble asserting his authority, as The Australian‘s Elizabeth Colman reported this week: Hockey fights for super-portfolio
Hockey’s problems highlight Howard’s troubled attempt to revamp the bureaucracy, constipating moves to change to child support laws, disability support pensions and Medicare rebates. The parliamentary break will give Howard a chance to re-assess these problems, and decide whether fresh faces are needed in key service delivery portfolios.
Waiting on the sidelines are Malcolm Turnbull and Andrew Robb, both eager to sample the ministerial blue carpet. But Turnbull, in particular, is likely to have to wait, having annoyed the PM with his ‘Robin Hood’ tax act. Robb, however, is in with a chance of gaining a junior portfolio in any mid-year reshuffle.
And there’s talk Tony Abbott may be looking for a new challenge — maybe swapping Health for Industrial Relations as the government moves to ramp up its IR reforms after July.
Tasmanians are peeved about their low representation — Special Minister of State Eric Abetz is their only representative and he still can’t make it into cabinet. Maybe his dream will be realised on 1 July.