South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill appears almost certain to give up the Treasury portfolio, with the shape of the new cabinet likely to be confirmed tomorrow. And the new ministry could include at least one surprise.
The Labor caucus will meet at 8am on Wednesday, with a swearing-in ceremony at Government House possible later in the day. Labor’s factions are meeting today to decide on their candidates for the cabinet vacancies.
Labor insiders believe there are only two options in the likely event that Weatherill gives up the Treasury: a return to former treasurer Jack Snelling, or a bolder move to Tom Koutsantonis. The question is whether either man would want the job, given the tough budget tasks ahead and the potential damage to the longer-term leadership ambitions of both.
There is also speculation today that the number of women in the cabinet could increase. Two female ministers lost their seats at the March 15 election — the Right’s Chloe Fox and the Left’s Grace Portolesi.
Two other Right positions in the ministry are also vacant following Michael O’Brien’s retirement and Tom Kenyon’s decision to step down from his cabinet post. However, independent Geoff Brock has been promised a cabinet position by Weatherill. He’ll take the regional development and local government relations portfolios.
With Weatherill making it clear he wants to maintain or increase female representation in his cabinet, the frontrunners for elevation have been seen to be the Left’s Susan Close and the Right’s Leesa Vlahos and/or Zoe Bettison.
However, today an unlikely new candidate has started to gain traction — the Right’s Dana Wortley. Wortley, who is married to former Labor minister and current upper house member Russell Wortley, is new to state politics in the seat of Torrens, but has six years as a senator under her belt (2004-2010).
If Weatherill decides to keep the cabinet the same size, it could mean that three women would be elevated and Right faction men such as Lee Odenwalder and highly rated newcomer Stephen Mullighan would need to cool their heels.
Veteran Labor MP Michael Atkinson is expected to retain the Speaker’s position. John Rau is expected to keep the Deputy Leadership.
Kenyon, the current minister for trade and manufacturing, announced today he was standing down from the ministry and putting his family first.
“I’d been thinking about the family situation for quite some time,” he told InDaily. “I was waiting to see how the election played out before making any announcement. Mostly, I had been missing key moments in my kids’ lives — their first sports match or their end-of-year concert. They are important times for children that age.”
Kenyon’s son, Matthew, is 14, and daughter Rachel turned 13 on election day. “They are very important years in a boy or girl’s life, and I want to be there,” he said. “I need to be around a lot.”
Kenyon entered Parliament in 2006 in the marginal north-eastern suburbs seat, unseating the Liberal’s Dorothy Kotz by a comfortable 6.8% two-party preferred margin. He held the seat in 2010 with a 2.6% margin and retained it this time by just 631 votes (1.4%).