The PR done well. One little hyped up email message and there’s supposed to be a reshuffle:

—–Original Message—–
From: National Press Club [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2006 11:57 AM
To: Club Members
Subject: Prime Minister Howard first NAB Address of 2006
Good Morning! We have just been advised that the Prime Minister will be
the first National Australia Bank Address speaker of 2006 as he has a
special announcement – no we do not know what it is! The date for the
event is WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25 – THAT IS NEXT WEEK!! We are yet to
confirm venue (Great Hall or at the Club). We just wanted to give you a
heads up that this important event is coming at short notice. I will
email again with more details as soon as we have final confirmation and
prices. Regards the National Press Club of Australia Team.

Iron Mark had a few things to say in those Diaries about Gerard Henderson and nitpicking, but it’s hard to argue with his comments in the SMH today. After all, he does have some insights into the PM’s psychology:

Again, speculation about a ministerial reshuffle is rife.
Certainly there are sufficient reasons for some alteration. After all,
there is considerable talent outside John Howard’s ministry and a few
poor performers in it.

But would an announcement of such changes provide a clear indication
that the Prime Minister has decided to stay on and contest the next
election? Not necessarily.

In politics the foolhardy make predictions. That’s why the only
long-term prophets around are false ones. However, change invariably
takes place in a predetermined environment. So it makes sense to
discuss options as the new year gets under way.

Howard tends not to make up his mind until he really has to. This can
be frustrating for his opponents and colleagues alike. Yet it is
Howard’s game plan and, so far at least, it has worked well for him. So
it’s unlikely he has determined either to step down from the top job
this year or to stay on and lead the Coalition to the next election,
needed by late next year. There are compelling reasons for either

Henderson’s political assessment is compelling, too:

It seems the Coalition vote peaked in October 2004 and that
Kim Beazley will do better against Howard than Mark Latham did. There
is a compelling case for Howard to hand over to Peter Costello with a
margin of 5 per cent rather than with, say, 2 per cent (the 2001
result) or less. Also, such a move would result in the smooth handover
of the Liberal Party leadership which Howard is on the record as saying
he advocates.

And yet, very few leaders quit when they are on top. The political and
personal pressures to stay on in office in such circumstances are
considerable. Also, many Coalition MPs would prefer to keep an
established and successful leader rather than to take a risk with a
fresh one to lead a Coalition to a fifth-term victory. Nevertheless,
Howard knows political life is finite.

Costello wants the prime minister’s job and, after about a decade as a
successful Treasurer, he deserves it. Yet Costello seems to understand
that it would be counterproductive to attempt to bring down a four-time
winner, even if not all his supporters are as constrained. Costello
would almost certainly have performed very well against Latham, but his
opportunity has passed. He has little alternative but to wait his turn
while continuing to operate at a high standard…

His critics say he is unpopular with some of the Coalition’s more
conservative supporters. Yet they are unlikely to vote Labor. In fact,
it’s possible Costello would attract votes to the Coalition from
electors who do not like Howard’s social conservatism.

A reshuffle – but more waiting for the top job to change hands. That’s a pretty risk-free forecast.