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Sep 15, 2010

Abbott line-up follows Gillard -- with a twist

Tony Abbott's reshuffle is a lot like Julia Gillard's. However, there are two shadow ministers with questions to answer over conflict of interest issues.


For what was already a fairly right-wing shadow ministry, Tony Abbott shifted it a couple of paces further to the right yesterday, and entrenched two remarkable conflicts of interest that have gone under the radar in the past nine months.

The clearest winners are a clutch of hard Right up-and-comers such as Mathias Cormann, who comes into the ministry, and Michaelia Cash, elevated to a Parliamentary Secretaryship. The vapid burqa-banner Cory Bernardi continues as Abbott’s own Parliamentary Secretary. And far from euthanasing the career of Bronwyn Bishop, Abbott has promoted her by giving her Special Minister of State.

Moderates have had mixed success. Sussan Ley has been given two junior ministries. But the gifted Simon Birmingham has been confined to the ranks of Parliamentary Secretary. The sensible, moderate Steve Ciobo, in a particularly shabby act by Abbott, has been punished a second time for being a Turnbull supporter — he was initially demoted to Tourism by Abbott and has now been sacked from the ministry altogether. Sharman Stone, too, has been sent packing. Key Turnbull backer Michael Ronaldson has also been punished a second time — demoted out of shadow cabinet initially by Abbott, he’s now been dumped in Veteran’s Affairs.

There’s merit, though, in Mitch Fifield finally getting a gig, and while Jamie Briggs should have got something much better than Guy Barnett’s old “waste watch” job (courtesy of the rout of the Liberals in Tasmania on 21 August, Barnett won’t be joining us for the rest of his career), it’s a start. On the other hand, Kelly O’Dwyer and Paul Fletcher might be wondering how deep the Liberals’ commitment to generational change really is, particularly when Teresa Gambaro comes straight back onto the frontbench.

So a step to the right, backers of the former leader punished, a hint of merit — throw in the return of an ex-leader and it’s rather a lot like Julia Gillard’s new ministry.

Barnaby Joyce will continue in the role of Regional Development, Local Government and Water (Birmingham, for his sins, will continue as Parliamentary Secretary for the MDB under Joyce). Joyce is deeply conflicted in relation to water and should not under any circumstances have ministerial responsibility for the issue. He is virtually the senator for Cubbie Station, a long-term advocate of Cubbie, its rapacious approach to water management and its backers. So strongly committed to Cubbie is Joyce that in October last year he called a press conference in Parliament House to launch an attack on Bill Heffernan and Nick Xenophon, emotionally accusing them of being responsible for the Station’s financial problems (Heffernan was so angered by the attack he went down to a Nationals’ function looking for Joyce to confront him).

Joyce has also agreed to being flown by Murray Irrigation, revealing in June this year via the Pecuniary Interests Register that he had accepted flights from Australia’s largest private irrigation company in May. He did this while Murray was being pursued by the ACCC over its imposition of termination fees on customers who wanted to sell their water rights, which shortly afterward led to Murray agreeing to an enforceable undertaking to stop the practice.

Another shadow minister with a significant conflict of interest is Kevin Andrews, a man whose record as both minister and shadow minister is unblighted by evidence of talent. Shortly after the reshuffle, Andrews rushed out a press release boasting of his expanded portfolio of Families, Housing and Human Services. Andrews and his wife are hardline Catholic marriage counsellors (his wife has long edited the Catholic marriage journal Threshold) and Andrews maintains his membership of Catholic bodies such as Marriage Education and the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council, putting him in a hopelessly conflicted position in the event the Coalition should attain government and Andrews has responsibility for the Family portfolio and funding for family services.

Neither Andrews nor Joyce, whose nine-month career as a shadow minister has been serially maladroit, should be on the Liberal frontbench when backbenchers of quality are twiddling their thumbs. But under no interpretation of the basic notion of conflict should they hold their current roles, given the Coalition is only two seats away from government.


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32 thoughts on “Abbott line-up follows Gillard — with a twist

  1. sickofitall

    Are we really surprised at this? Of course Kevin Andrews and Barnaby Joyce have ethical issues: they wouldn’t know any better.

    Just because you did better than expected, you can’t expect that people thought you were doing what they approved of.

    I think this is the first time in the Federation that both the Opposition and the Government are giving each other free kicks.

  2. shepherdmarilyn

    Bringing back the stupid old woman of kero baths fame is deluded. But more interesting I just heard that there has been a complaint finally about Abetz’s dual citizenship.

  3. 1gmd

    And the losers on both the Government benches and the Opposition are – women – not one additional place given in the Ministry or shadow ministry, fantastic leadership Julia and Tony

  4. tumbrelpusher

    Bernard, the tone of this piece leaves me really wondering if Abbott was elected PM after all. You make it seem as though the ghosts of economic rationalism that you name above, will actually have some influence over the operations of their allocated naysaying portfolios. They don’t. They won’t.

    I can’t wait to see the footage of Heffernan, Joyce, Crook and others, too many to mention, chesting each other at Fibs functions saying”you wanna step outside, c–t? (and I’m sure that Ironbar will be in there somewhere) with Bronnie and Jools Bitchedup screaming from the side “Smash ‘im, break ‘is effing nose”.

    That’s how I filter the fixed(manic)-smile footage of the coalition partyroom when it appears on my tv anyway.

    Enough of my rant against the minions of Mammon. They have as much power now, as they have ethics or substance….

  5. zut alors

    Reading the lineup of the new Abbott shadow cabinet was akin to watching a creepy black and white film classic. That’s a scary cast list.

  6. Tomboy

    If only the “Left” of the Liberal party would have the guts to leave the current arrangement: or is is just a joke that there is such a thing? Are Turnbull and his cohort (the Liberal “moderates”) really ones representing integrity, or just a bunch of opportunists hoping to get a consolation prize if the LNP forms government? Sorry Malcolm T. : you’re starting to look more and more like Neville Chamberlain…supporting Moseley.

  7. David Allen

    Graham Bradley: President, Business Council of Australia, in his National Press Club address of today seems to be signalling to Abbott that he’ll have to drop his ‘Demolition Man’ persona if he expects support from the BCA.

    One wonders just what the coalition believes its constituency is?

  8. klewso

    Why aren’t we reading about these obvious conflicts of interest (though “Cousin Jethro” has been reported as saying he thought his “Cubby House” was a present from Santa) in “The Oz” or hearing of them from their echo chamber “Satellateline” – imagine Labor doing ditto?

  9. David Allen

    Ah, so that’s the constituency! Final item in Tips & Rumours today:

    “And from the grassy knoll… Climate change is a hoax, you Zionist facists … ”

    Wonder what this ‘contributor’ to the national debate thinks of Malcolm?

  10. Michael R James

    Hey, this is great. Almost perfect! I want more and more Barnaby, and Truss and Abetz, and the two Bishops. And Joe H. If this lot and their shrieking of No does not backfire and quickly, even with News Ltd help, I would be surprised. After all it did not work in the election and it didn’t work for any of the independents (including Katter and Crook). Abbott’s position as preferred PM remains as dismal as ever (34% v 50% for the actual PM, but look for her % to improve a lot in the coming weeks/months–notwithstanding the rather inept naming of ministries).

    Abbott has attempted to snooker Turnbull by giving him an issue on which the Coalition comprehensively lost (except to the innumerate, the illiterate and those asleep, ie. the rusted on core of the LNP) and which, as painfully slow as it is, the government will begin to show real progress (even if most of us have given up on Conroy managing to clearly define it or sell it). It might work as one can see Malcolm straining to be convincing on the weak Coalition stance and continue criticizing what he would probably support if, say, an independent.

    If this Coalition strategy of deliberate induction of chaos works, then frankly Julia Gillard and co. do not deserve government. But Gillard has shown during the election fracas that she is made of cold blue steel, acier inox to Abbott’s rusty pig iron. In a sword fight it is clear who will win, and didn’t Abbott come in second last on that triathalon? Despite myths to the contrary he is not made for the long haul, only the quick frantic jab and thrust. And, to take metaphors too far, remember that one of the strategies of a red fox when chasing a rabbit is not necessarily to outrun it but to outlast it. Mr Rabbit and his team already look past their sellby date.

  11. Acidic Muse

    What’s even more incredulous than anything Bernard writes about here is the fact that former merchant banker and managing director of Goldman Sachs Australia, Malcolm Turnball was over looked for both Shadow Finance and Shadow Treasurer

    How is it that Toxic Tony’s CoDependency -high priests of laissez-faire capitalism and proponents of the profound meritocracy of free markets -can overlook their parties most highly qualified candidate for either of these positions in favour of Tweedledum and Tweedledumber – and not be roasted for it in either the media or amongst the business lobby.

    This is yet another expression of corporate fascism at play in our society.

    Circle the wagons, no enemies on the right, anyone who mentions the elephant in the room does so at pain of death.

    Conservative stick together like wet turds in a bucket but upon closer inspection, don’t smell nearly as fragrant

  12. tumbrelpusher

    hi – at what time will my comment of 2.01pm actually be moderated?

  13. Damien

    From the NBN thread: Tony Abbott said on AM this morning that if Malcolm can demolish the NBN no-one would be more delighted than he. I think that tells us where this debate is going. The quality of data services will have nothing to do with it. Abbott’s a wrecker, nothing more and in accepting this appointment, Turnbull has become Abbott’s tool

  14. shepherdmarilyn

    Tumbrel that was a great laugh.

    Acidic, agreed. Trouble is that after being Greched Turnbull showed no actual capacity for economics. Working once for Goldman Sachs is not much of a good look on one’s CV these days.

    How on earth Marise Payne, Judi Moylan, Russell Broadbent and some others will continue to cope I don’t know.

    Good to see Stone reduced but what did Ciobo do wrong?

    Abbott talks a lot about faceless men but how did he get his job? The faceless man called Minchin, Bernardi and co.

  15. Chris1979

    Joyce should not be flown around by Murray Irrigation and his advocacy of Cubby Station should be pro bono and borne of belief. That much is fair enough.

    But your line on Kevin Andrews is weak and hypocritical. Andrews religious beliefs are no more relevant than Tony’s or Julia’s.

    I wouldn’t object to you opposing his position on talent, but these weak grounds cheapen the argument.

    The only criteria for a ministry or parliamentary secretaryship is the ability to do the job.

  16. David

    [ Andrews rushed out a press release boasting of his expanded portfolio of Families, Housing and Human Services. Andrews and his wife are hardline Catholic marriage counsellors (his wife has long edited the Catholic marriage journal Threshold) and Andrews maintains his membership of Catholic bodies such as Marriage Education and the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council, putting him in a hopelessly conflicted position in the event the Coalition should attain government and Andrews has responsibility for the Family portfolio and funding for family services.]

    As you correctly say Bernard a conflict of interest indeed Except in the eyes of Andrews and Abbott. They would both see it as gaining a pat on the back from pal Pell and probably the odd plenary indulgence thrown in as a bonus, if there are still such superstitions existing in the RC Church.
    I do not believe Turnbull will spend too much time trying to discredit the Govts BB rollout, he is intelligent enough to appreciate Abbotts no brainer of a scheme will never get off the ground. If Abbott thinks he has put the lid on Turnbulls ambitions, then he is a bigger fool, if that is possible, than I thought. As long as Malcolm is shadowing the unhinged one, the more distant ( Abbotts) dream of being PM will get.

    Incidentally wonder why so many of the Libs have such strange surnames?

  17. John james

    What a motley group, the Left and the Godless ( almost synonomous, aren’t they? ).

    Kevin Andrews and his wife are “hardline” Catholics, translated as, “they actually believe in marriage”. Oh, heavens!
    Given what we have seen with appalling same sex legislation recently, with kids being denied access to either mother or father, Andrews is the best guy to advocate for real families, based on a solid understanding of what real marriages are.
    Kids actually want to know who their BIOLOGICAL parents are. Wonder why?
    Then this classic about Gillard showing she is made of “cold blue steel”
    Cold blue confusion would be a better description. Announcing ministers and portfolios, then unannouncing them. Left out ‘Indigenous Health’ and’ Universities’, and then lumped universities under the title ” Minister for Skills…”
    As Abbott said, shambolic before the election, shambolic after.
    Or as ‘The Who’ song goes, ” meet the new boss, same as the old boss”
    Finally David Murray, CEO for the Future Fund, stating there is absolutely “NO transparency” about Telstras deal with the previous government in regard to the NBN.
    “Meet the new boss ,same as the old boss.”

  18. David

    I do declare I just heard the rattling bones of Pius XII its a time warp…NOOOO its only John James.

  19. Scott Grant

    How anyone can pretend to have Christian beliefs and at the same time persecute Mohammed Haneef the way Kevin Andrews did is completely beyond me. I am staggered that the Liberal party allow this man to appear so frequently on programs like ABC Breakfast, a frightening reminder of just how bad the Howard government was. As the architect of Workchoices, perhaps we should be grateful for his role in ending the Howard government. I suggest he find another career as a Herman Munster look-alike, scaring small children, not voters.

  20. shepherdmarilyn

    Most senate results are in. All Greens actually elected. No Family First. Liberal/Nats down to a rump of 34 votes on the floor with Xenophon to be the only indie in the senate.

    What was amazing was how quickly Crook dumped the co-alition.

  21. shepherdmarilyn

    Forgot the DLP bloke who will be an indie.

  22. 2b


    According to the bible we all were refugees from Noah’s ark. That phoney Tony is only pretending to be a Christian. FAIR DINKUM!!

  23. Robert Bruce

    Bernard, you have mentioned backers of the former leader punished, but what of the former leader himself? It should be starting to sink in with Malcolm Turnbull just about now that he has made a huge mistake accepting the shadow communications portfolio. Abbott would have created a media focus by not bringing Turbull back to shadow cabinet, but Turnbull has little to gain and everything to lose in communications. If he does manage to “destroy the NBN” the best that will do is strengthen Abbott’s position. If he fails it will be his failure.

  24. Ceteris Paribus

    The Shadow Ministry’s biggest failure is the economic team. While Abbott was ferocious in opposition, the economic axis of Abbott/Hockey/Robb never showed the slightest potential of an alternative Government. Twice- at the May Budget Reply and the election- this trio were woefully unable to put a budget around their program. I suspect Jo isn’t up to the economic thing and Tony is still uninterested in the economic thing. If they staywith the portfolios theyhave, they will really need to go back to night school in a big way.

  25. Mark Duffett

    Dead right, Chris1979. I find the characterisation of Kevin Andrews having strongly held views on families as a ‘conflict of interest’ deeply problematic. If Andrews was a well known for being an advocate of full adoption rights for gay couples, would you still say he had a conflict of interest, Bernard?

    His views are what they are. Why should his arrival at them within a Catholic framework come into anything, let alone be a ‘conflict of interest’?

    It should also be noted that this isn’t the first time Bernard Keane has arguably sailed close to the religious vilification wind.

  26. Michael R James

    Chris1979 and John James and Mark D.

    You want a different Australia to me. I don’t want any of these nasty god-botherers running my country. I voted Green but if Julia Gillard was on my ballot paper I would have given her my vote if for only one reason: she has made the critical and long overdue breakthrough, of facing down the sanctimonious pseudo-religious hypocrites, to be openly athiest. Wow.
    Kevin Andrews, FFS! This bloke needs a dose of vilification so big, it cannot be described here. As for the failed Jesuit, Abbott……..

  27. Chris1979

    Michael R James.

    Really? God-botherers! Really?

    I want the best Australia possible. I want an Australia where religion is no basis for a vote, but rather talent, policy and job performance are.

    You, and to a lesser extent Bernard, are persecuting a guy based on his religious views. That is poisonous! The difference is I think Bernard is struggling to flesh out an article (and kudos to you Bernard for managing over an article a day on a new topic – sincerely that is a big effort).

    With regard to Andrews, but more broadly applicable to any politican

    If his or her views inform his or her policy and it turns out his or her policy is rubbish, punish them for having poor policy.

    If it turns out he or she is talent free and makes a hash of his or her shadow portfolio, punish them on the basis of poor job performance.

    If his or her previous job performance was poor, and you don’t belive he or she is up to the task, punish them for that.

    All three approaches above are fair and reasonable. Don’t conflate them with religion. That is dangerous and it cuts ways. Poisonous people on the left and right will use it to their advantage. Take the high ground, set an example and don’t let the argument degenerate.

    If you are not voting for him or Abbott on the basis of their religious beliefs than you are just analogous to the poisonous people who tried to make out that Gillard can’t govern because she is atheist. Both views are scaremongering and invalid.

    I know that is the way some people vote, but it shouldn’t be. And if you genuinely despise those who derided Gillard for being atheist, then take the high ground, set an example and don’t let the argument degenerate rather than bashing the other side in kind.

  28. David

    Chris1979…are you ready to declare your catholicism and loyalty to the pope?

  29. Holden Back

    Chris 1979 makes many valid points, if we allow an easy separation between belief and action, and that a past sectarian divide (Protestant/Catholic) still underlies power structures in Australian society.

    Do we want (or can we really have) politicians whose beliefs – religious or otherwise – are irrelevant to their political lives? I would prefer Andrews was criticised on his incompetence and policies, but some of his policies and actions have their basis in his belief systems and his certainty of being right. Because his beliefs are religious should they be beyond criticism? I know of many practising Catholics who would distance themselves from Andrews on his interpretations of doctrine which have caused him to act in particular ways. Perhaps a more nuanced criticism of those interpretations would be preferable.

  30. David

    @Holden Back…fair points…as one who was educated in the catholic system, dragged off to Mass every sunday, had fire and eternal damnation shoved down my throat from an age when I couldn’t understandwhy a male dressed up in coloured dresses, I decided at late teens it was time to seperate the reality from the fairy tales. Andrews has decided to go with the fairy tales 100% , thats his choice however he is unable to seperate his duties as a politician acting on behalf of ALL rather than a section of the community and that is where I am critical of his inability to seperate his catholic beliefs from his responsibilities as a member of parliament and formerly as a Minister of the Crown. He is not the only one of course, but he presents a glaring example.

  31. Chris1979


    Irrelevant comment at 11:22. I am not a Catholic. Catholicism isn’t the point at all.

    Kevin Andrews has a history as a minister and a politician. Most people would agree that his job performance was ordinary, to put it kindly. The mistake is to try to find causation. The mistake is then saying he is a poor minister or politician because he holds his Catholic views so dearly.

    The next mistake is for people then to link Catholic beliefs and an inability to be effective politicians. There are plenty of Catholics of varying talent in both parties.

    Simply put, Andrews was a poor minister because the job was beyond him. Because of his talent, judgement or lack thereof. Catholicism is irrelevant.

    I worry we will reach a point where people with no history will be judged because of a perception of others. That, in the future, Catholic or atheist politicians may be judged because of the achievements or failures of others. That, irrespective of quality, they may not be allowed to present their qualities

    And this goes for all religions plus atheists and agnosts. We want people who can run our country effectively running our country, and a small step towards achieving that involves discouraging the use of religion as a discretionary tool in voting.

  32. harrybelbarry

    Put all the religious twats back on the ark and “turn the boat around ” with water and bread and all bibles.

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