Julia Gillard stamped her prime ministerial footprint all over the government on Saturday, by shaking up her ministerial cabinet. For the full line up, check out Bernard Keane’s list on The Stump.

The PM busted out some killer moves. After much chatter pre-election, Kevin Rudd got his foreign ministry. Penny Wong moved from Climate Change to Finance Minister, while Greg Combet has been promoted to the Climate Change portfolio. Education was split into several departments, with Peter Garrett in charge of Schools, Early Childhood and Youth, while Chris Evans controls the Building the Education Revolution program. Simon Crean won the new Regional Affairs portfolio and is also Minister for Local Government and the Arts.

Several of the so-called faceless men of the Labor Party (who actually all have faces. You can see them here and here for starters) were awarded or rewarded, depending on your point of view, with various positions. Bill Shorten moved from working in the disabilities portfolio to Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Superannuation and Financial Services.

How does Gillard’s reshuffle stand up? Collectively the commentariat give a reluctant thumbs up to Gillard’s ministerial movings, with a few exceptions.

“Julia Gillard’s ministry looks sound, with a few oddities,” notes The Australian editorial.

“Gillard’s done well in the circumstances, cutting the suit to match the cloth. But she is under no illusions about the challenge she faces,” says Dennis Shanahan at The Australian.

“The new arrangement, yet to be tested, has the potential to be a slow, plodding beast, but whether it collapses rests with the players, none off whom have an interest in allowing that to happen. Abbott should bear that in mind as he mulls his frontbench options this week,” warns Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Laura Tingle in the Financial Review writes: “Designing a smart and effective ministry, at a pragmatic level, entails bringing together a group of people whose jobs reflect the government’s priorities and workload, rewarding good performers, removing the lesser lights and reflecting the internal balance of power within a government. So it is a stunning achievement by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to have done none of those things in the ministry she arranged on the weekend.”

Cutting out Education Minister and replacing it with several different cabinet positions has ruffled feathers. Peter van Onselen in The Oz calls it an “unbelievable error,” saying “for such a complex policy area to be left without one master — and by a PM who used to be an education minister herself — will stifle reforms.”

Van Onselen wasn’t alone in his condemnation. “Within a day of overhauling her frontbench, the Prime Minister drew a backlash from some of the nation’s leading university chiefs, who described the changes as disappointing, mortifying and bewildering,” reports Farrah Tomazin in The Age.

The biggest supporters of the mining tax, the two ministers in charge of the ETS and the biggest supporter of the Rudd government’s asylums seeker policy have either retained their jobs or moved on to bigger departments. “Gillard’s implicit conclusion? They are capable ministers who are blameless for the policies that she so urgently dumped,” notes Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald.

This is a ministry that has much to prove. “Various other coup-makers who have been promoted have to demonstrate they can do more than put together a putsch,” says Michelle Grattan in The Age.

Greg Combet as Climate Change minister gets the A-OK from Dennis Shanahan in The Oz: “His comments yesterday show he hasn’t changed direction — and it’s a direction where the Coalition can ultimately be drawn in so that the radical measures of the Greens can be avoided and economic sense can prevail.”

Making the PM who you unceremoniously dumped the next foreign minister is a conflicted choice.

“…Rudd didn’t even have the people-skills to keep his job as PM, so what chance does he have of wooing foreign dignitaries? He is a poor candidate,” declares van Onselen in The Oz.

But Rudd is obviously rapt with the decision. “To announce he was back, and in a big way, Kevin Rudd strolled through crisp spring weather with United States Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich on the banks of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. This was Kev rubbing it into the faces of certain ALP figures,” notes Malcolm Farr in the Daily Telegraph.

It’s going to be a tricky ride. “One of Kevin Rudd’s first tasks as Foreign Minister will be to negotiate with East Timor to establish a processing centre for asylum seekers there — a policy about which he had deep misgivings when prime minister,” says Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dennis Atkins brings up Gareth Evans old “…no crack of light between foreign minister and prime minister on international policy” line in The Courier Mail, saying:

To rebuild trust and respect in the Labor Caucus, Rudd will have to make sure that crack of light does not emerge, let alone shine through. His future in the Labor Party is in his hands being safe and strife free.

Let the sunshine in one week, no crack of light the next. Go figure.

Peter Fray

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