“Several
‘restless'” Federal Government ministers are eager for a job change,
fuelling speculation that Prime Minister John Howard may reshuffle his front bench
before Christmas,” Phillip Hudson wrote in The Sunday Ageyesterday.

“There is
also pressure from the back bench for under-performing ministers to be axed,
but no shuffle will happen before Parliament rises for the year on December 8.”


He ain’t
kidding. Next time you’re watching Question Time on the teev, have a look at
who’s on the benches to the right of Joe Hockey – ministers
like Mal Brough, Gary Hardgrave, Julie Bishop, Fran Bailey, Jim Lloyd, De-Anne
Kelly, Peter Dutton and John Cobb.

There’d
be dancing in the Government Party room if the last five went. Senator Mitch Fifield set things up pretty well to push
that defender of RARA rorts De-Anne Kelly out the door when he went her in
the party room last week. The others are regarded as buffoons. Julie Bishop, the most competent, is too glib
by half – and has to learn that while flirting can play an important role in
the policy process, more’s needed.

As we
reported last week, the Libs hate the Nats. Full stop. They’re sick of the Nats
constantly rocking the boat – and then claiming credit for every positive
decision. At the
same time, there’s a feeling that too many ministers are slack – too many have
spent too long in government.

They
don’t have many policy ideas – and when they have something popular, they,
their staff and the bureaucrats over package it competently, in ways that
overlook local members or let Labor state members steal their announcements.

Hudson tips Malcolm Turnbull as a possibility for promotion.
There’s a bloke named Robb, too, who although he’s had a horrible task trying
to sell IR reforms, has avoided any disasters.

But the
mood from the backbench is clear. It’s not all plain sailing at the moment for
the government. The IR bills, in particular, have lead them into choppy seas.
If they want to be able to make full steam ahead and reach safer waters, the
Government needs navigators who can tell their Madras from their Elba.