There are of course always winners and losers in Ministry reshuffles
however in a collective sense the Coalition Senators have every reason
to feel miffed. As Crikey observed some days ago, Howard’s enthusiasm
for getting rid of Hill and Patterson was all about allowing him to
move new people from the House of Representatives into the Ministry
without causing by-elections.
Santo Santoro was always going to replace Ian MacDonald. It was of all
the changes the most transparent factional appointment. MacDonald is,
as the Left like to be called, a moderate with whom Howard never felt
comfortable. When immediately following the 1996 election Howard
scuttled the Liberal Senators right to elect their own Leader and
Deputy Leader, MacDonald was the only one amongst them who had the
courage to oppose Howard.
Howard was wise enough to abolish Senate Party room ballots before
announcing the Ministry. The effect was naturally to freeze the arms
and courage of all other Ministerial aspirants. MacDonald, a long
serving Queensland Party Vice President, was at the time the obvious
Queensland Senate candidate for the ministry and hence his subsequent
appointment. He has at least had the honesty to publicly declare that
he had been asked to resign unlike Patterson who played out the
nonsense of pretending to resign voluntarily.
Liberal Senators jealously guard their share of portfolios however on
this occasion they have been dudded by their House of Representatives
colleagues who are able to hold the threat of a by-election over the
Leader’s head. Their numbers in the Ministry have been reduced from ten
to eight and from six to four in Cabinet.
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