Kim Beazley has managed with his minimalist reshuffle the rare feat of stirring up latent factional anger while maintaining the weak front bench links that hold Labor back. Any reshuffle risks upsetting the delicate factional balance, but Beazley has managed to attract Left anger by elevating right wingers like Tony Burke at the expense of their faction, while proven performers remain exiled on the backbench.
Under-performing immigration spokesman Laurie Ferguson is moved on, but remains in. Other time-servers including Bob Sercombe, Arch Bevis and Simon Crean. This is a front bench that needed major surgery – for goodness sake, there was a spokesman for Pacific Islands (Sercombe), while the transport portfolio remained vacant.
If Beazley really meant this reshuffle to be seen as a joke he should’ve gone the whole hog and split up the Pacific Islands portfolio among time-servers: Ferguson would take Kiribati, Bevis, Micronesia, and Crean the Cocos Islands. To improve productivity and impact, all could be based on location.
Instead, Beazley honours a factional deal to include Annette Hurley, an underwhelming former Rann government minister, who gets rewarded for having a go and failing to get up in 2002: she left the safe seat of Napier (19% margin) to contest the seat of Light – and couldn’t manage the 1.4% needed to win against a less than inspiring opponent.
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Meanwhile, talents like Bob McMullan and Craig Emerson continue to languish on the backbench, hostage respectively to Mark Latham’s thin skin and Bill Ludwig’s iron rule in Queensland. The reshuffle is typical Beazley: cautious and lacking a larger vision. The Roosters – Swan, Smith and Conroy – will keep on scratching. While the fox in the hen house, Julia Gillard, is being extremely friendly to everyone. The Labor barnyard is promising to become a noisier place over winter.