Four new faces in South Australia’s shadow cabinet and Isobel Redmond boasts she now leads a “formidable and energetic team”. Aside from the overblown rhetoric, will the reshuffle really be enough to give Jay Weatherill heartburn? Or ulcers to Redmond?

With more than two years until the next election, the shuffle appears to be based on internal Liberal machinations rather than a real test for the Weatherill government.

Newcomers — Steven Marshall, John Gardner, Dan Van Holst, plus Jing Lee as parliamentary secretary — are all fresh, young talent. Real potential on a frontbench notoriously lacking in firepower. On the downside, the long-awaited changes contain a couple of ticking time bombs.

Redmond has rewarded her right faction lieutenants Iain Evans and David Ridgway, but has taken the axe to the left’s Michelle Lensink and the unaligned Steven Griffiths. Expect some backroom resentment and disgruntlement.

Lensink had been the party’s deputy leader in the upper house and a spill of that position is now required. Worth watching.

Griffiths — currently on holiday — has long been regarded as a major contributor to policy and is considered to be of the highest integrity. His unexpected demotion runs the risk of him stepping out of politics altogether. The retention of Mark Goldsworthy is a stark contrast to the Griffiths’ move.

The crucial issue of water still sits with the Mitch “Switch” Williams, another under-performer. Treasury stays with Evans, whose sour investment in a failed ATM scheme will make him vulnerable to government taunts.

Ridgway — with urban development and planning, economic development and tourism — can also be the shadow minister for lunches. Vickie Chapman’s successful run as families and communities shadow has been cast aside and she has been handed the transport portfolio.

Steven Marshall’s portfolio allocation is impressive, with industry & trade; defence industries, small business, science & information economy; environment & conservation, and sustainability & climate change. A good performance with that lot will hold him in good stead for a leadership challenge in years to come.

Speaking of which, the promotion of former leader Martin Hamilton-Smith to health provides him with a portfolio that guarantees a higher level of public exposure.

As an aside, the reshuffle is a surrender of the Libs’ former commitment to contain the size of government and shadow ministries, first expanded in 2003 to accommodate independents Karlene Maywald and Rory McEwen.

In any event, Weatherill would be pleased with the new mix — not a good sign for Isobel Redmond.

*This article first appeared at InDaily

Peter Fray

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