There isn’t much on during summer, so journos spend the time playing with their balls. Crystal balls, that is.

Take a look at the Sydney Morning Herald today. David Humphries is at it, with predictions of a federal reshuffle:

Speculation that the Prime Minister, John Howard, will
promote new blood to his ministry and reshuffle portfolios will
increase in the weeks ahead of the resumption of Parliament on February

Much will depend less on Mr Howard’s immediate intentions and more on those of the Defence Minister, Robert Hill.

If Senator Hill took the bait and headed to New York as Australia’s
ambassador to the United Nations, Mr Howard would have no choice but to
reshuffle and satisfy the ambition of at least one hungry backbencher.

The focus is on two first-termers: Sydney’s Malcolm Turnbull and Melbourne’s Andrew Robb.

Mr Robb honed his considerable political skills running the National Farmers Federation and the federal Liberal Party.

Mr Turnbull has made a big splash since arriving in Canberra, and his
contribution is not limited to championing tax reform. His elevation
ahead of ministerial contenders who support Peter Costello would annoy
the Treasurer and his followers…

Humphries then goes on to discuss the stocks of Amanda Vanstone,
Kay Patterson, John Cobb and De-Anne Kelly – and where Peter Costello,
Alexander Downer, Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott might end up if Hilly
goes. If…

I had an illuminating talk recently with a fellow former Hill staffer:

“What’s Robert going to do?”


“But you’re the South Australian.”

“Yeah, but you worked for him longer.”

That, dear subscriber, is punditry – and punditry and prediction has drawn the attention of the Wall Street Journal.

“As 2006 approached, pundits performed the annual rite of making predictions for the year ahead,” Carl Bialik
wrote last week. “Such predictions are good fun. But in general, the
prognostications of political pundits are about as accurate as a chimp
throwing darts. At least that’s the finding of Expert Political
a new book by University of California, Berkeley, political
psychologist Philip Tetlock. From 1987 to 2003, Prof Tetlock coaxed
284 political experts of all stripes – academics, journalists and
think-tankers from across the political spectrum – to make specific,
verifiable forecasts. He looked at more than 27,000 predictions in all.”

Tetlock, though, has something new to offer: “Prof Tetlock’s innovation
was to elicit numerical predictions. As he noted in an interview with
me, political punditry tends toward the oracular: statements vague
enough to encompass all eventualities.”

Exactly. My Delphic utterances on all of this?

South Australian Liberal president Christopher Moriarty put his foot in
his mouth with comments about the party state council in The Advertiser ten days ago that cleverly publicised the party’s internal divisions weeks out from a state election.

He made his comments specifically speaking about state council’s
preselection role. Council only selects candidates for upper houses –
like the Senate.

My bold, definitive, unambiguous prediction? Robert Hill might go – and
the Liberal Party is concerned about what might happen if he does.