“I’ve said that my existing front bench is doing a good job and can expect to be in those positions in government.” — Tony Abbott, January 31, 2013.
Today Crikey has taken a close look at Tony Abbott’s frontbench team, who will be moving into their ministries after September 15, if the Coalition is elected. The transition from opposition to government can be problematic, both for governments as a whole and for individual ministers. No longer charged simply with attacking their opponent, new ministers will be deluged with a sea of paper from the moment they are handed their incoming minister brief and advised of the urgent decisions they need to make before they even settle down to normal business. There are staff to appoint, there’s spending to be signed off on, stakeholders to meet, election commitments to implement and, most likely, savings measures to be identified — all while the public service is downsizing.
For inexperienced ministers in large portfolios — think Peter Dutton in Health, Sophie Mirabella in Industry — there’s huge potential for missteps.
That’s all the more reason for Abbott to ensure that he is taking his very best team into government. Dead wood like Kevin Andrews and Bronwyn Bishop need to be axed. Duds like Dutton and David Johnston need to make way for talent like Arthur Sinodinos, Josh Frydenberg and Jamie Briggs. The result will be improved policy and political performance.
This won’t happen before the election, of course. But if the Coalition is victorious, the pressure will start building to reshuffle the ministry to take advantage of the deep pool of talent on the backbench, especially if there are stumbles and bungles early on. Abbott should be proactive in managing this tension. The sooner he overhauls his frontbench, the better.