Julia Gillard has announced a ministerial reshuffle that rewards her supporters and makes some significant machinery-of-government change in Canberra.

The key changes are:

  • Former mining company executive Gary Gray replaces Martin Ferguson as Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism and takes on Small Business, as well as moving into cabinet. Mark Dreyfus takes his roles in relation to Special Minister of State and Public Service. Gray’s appointment was instantly welcomed by mining companies, reflecting his former role as a Woodside executive.
  • Jason Clare is promoted into cabinet but keeps the same role of Minister for Home Affairs and Justice.
  • Anthony Albanese has had the position of Minister for Regional Development and Local Government restored to him after it was removed after the 2010 election and given to Simon Crean as a separate portfolio. This is being described by the government as a “promotion”, but as the record shows it merely restored the pre-2010 situation; indeed, Regional Development has been part of the Transport portfolio since 1996. Catherine King will take the Regional Services and Territories functions and also Road Safety.
  • Arts, which also belonged to Crean, is moved to Environment Minister Tony Burke, with Michael Danby promoted to Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts. This is a welcome outcome as it will move Danby off the Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security, where he has offended committee members from both sides with his behaviour in recent weeks.
  • In the most peculiar and seemingly unworkable combination, Trade Minister Craig Emerson will also become Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research Minister, the role vacated by Chris Bowen. Right-wing South Australian powerbroker Don Farrell, a long-time opponent of Kevin Rudd and one of the organisers of the 2010 coup against him, has been promoted from Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Science and Research, a remarkable promotion given he has been invisible in his role on Sustainability and Water.
  • The Climate Change Department, which recently lost its secretary as part of a game of musical chairs following the movement of Broadband Secretary Peter Harris to the Productivity Commission, will be merged with Greg Combet’s Industry and Innovation department.
  • Jan McLucas, who was purged by Rudd during his government, completes her return with a promotion from parliamentary secretaryship to the Human Services ministry left vacant by Kim Carr’s departure.
  • The factionally-unaligned Canberra MP and former ANU economist Andrew Leigh will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
  • Other than Danby and Leigh, new parliamentary secretaries include Matt Thistlethwaite, Amanda Rishworth and Shayne Neumann.

This is a mixed reshuffle. There is sense in ending the indulgence of having Regional Development as a separate portfolio and returning it to the Transport portfolio, and in moving Climate Change into Combet’s portfolio now that its core work of developing and implementing a carbon pricing scheme is completed. The resources sector, too, will be delighted to have replaced one industry spruiker, Martin Ferguson, with another, and the promotion of Leigh will lift the frontbench’s average IQ.

But the Arts sub-portfolio continues its peripatetic history; the combination of Higher Education and Trade for Craig Emerson — what used to be two full-time ministerial jobs — is bizarre and the shameless promotion of pro-Gillard powerbroker Don Farrell illustrates this is ultimately about ensuring those who did the right thing by the Prime Minister last week are rewarded.

Meanwhile, in Rudd, Bowen, Carr, Ferguson, Crean and Ed Husic, Labor will take one of its most talented-ever backbenches to the coming election.