Julia Gillard has shocked Canberra and the press gallery with the surprise appointment of former NSW premier Bob Carr to the Senate and as foreign minister, after days of controversy in major newspapers over claims that she was rolled by senior ministers over the appointment.

Carr’s appearance at Gillard’s press conference contradicted the dominant media narrative of the week, in which Gillard’s leadership had been undermined by a failure to get Carr to Canberra.

The appointment will fulfil Carr’s lifelong desire for the foreign ministry, allegedly first hatched when he agreed with a young Paul Keating in the 1970s that one day he would serve as foreign minister in a Keating government. That ambition was sidetracked by the NSW Labor Party, which dragooned him into what eventually become a successful, if much-criticised, stint as NSW premier.

The appointment also stunned the press pack, which since Tuesday has obsessed over the circumstances in which Gillard was said to have been rolled by senior ministers, led by Stephen Smith, who did not want the foreign minister role given to an outsider. Smith will remain Defence Minister.

The other major change is that Robert McClelland has been dumped from Cabinet and the ministry, with his role split between Brendan O’Connor and Nicola Roxon. O’Connor, a close Gillard ally and friend, is promoted into cabinet, taking the ministry for small business as well.

Kate Lundy replaces the retiring Mark Arbib as Minister for Sport, and western Sydney MP David Bradbury continues his rise, taking Arbib’s role as Assistant Treasurer, as well as the new role of Minister Assisting for Deregulation.

Rather than being sacked from the ministry altogether, Rudd backer Kim Carr has been moved to Human Services, moving out of manufacturing altogether.

There’s an array of parliamentary secretary changes:

  • Jan McLucas becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister as well as her current role
  • Richard Marles takes on an additional role of Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs
  • Bernie Ripoll becomes Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer
  • Sharon Bird becomes Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills
  • Jacinta Collins will become Manager of Government Business in the Senate.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey