Bill Shorten and Linda Burney

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has undertaken a major frontbench reshuffle, with an expanded line-up playing very different roles in most of the major portfolios.

Most significantly, deputy leader Tanya Plibersek moves back to domestic policy, taking Education (and Women), putting her in charge of one of the two keys aspects of Labor’s policy attack against the Coalition. Kate Ellis retains early childhood, TAFE and and vocational education and stays in shadow cabinet.

That frees up the foreign affairs portfolio, and Penny Wong moves from trade into that spot. Wong, one of Labor’s best performers, thus moves slightly further out of domestic politics, but foreign affairs is emerging as unusually important given the South China Sea and growing US isolationism. Jason Clare takes Wong’s trade portfolio (now trade and investment) as well as resources and northern Australia, while Michelle Rowland moves into his communications portfolio.

The other big shift is Tony Burke, who moves out of the finance portfolio to make way for Queensland promotee Jim Chalmers (one time chief of staff to then-Treasurer Wayne Swan). Burke takes environment, water, citizenship and multicultural Australia and the arts, a portfolio that looks cobbled together to ensure the factionally powerful (and talented) Burke has an appropriate status. It also means he’ll be freed up to take a more active aggressive role against the government than he was able to with the finance portfolio. He remains manager of opposition business. Mark Butler, who was environment shadow, keeps climate change and takes energy as well, mimicking the “minister for burning coal” portfolio of Josh Frydenberg.

A winner from the reshuffle is Victorian MP Richard Marles, presumably promoted for successfully neutralising the asylum seeker issue by clinging so closely to the Coalition. He moves from immigration to defence, with Stephen Conroy unexpectedly moved to Special Minister of State, a move that is at best sideways, although it may prove crucial given growing pressure for donations disclosure reform. Queenslander Shayne Neumann gets promoted to immigration.

Elsewhere, Pat Dodson moves virtually straight into the ministry, becoming Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, while new Perth MP Tim Hammond is promoted immediately to Shadow Assistant Minister for Digital Economy and Startups, as well as innovation, while Terri Butler keeps family violence and child safety under Shorten but also takes universities and equality. NSW MP Ed Husic takes employment services and workforce participation under Brendan O’Connor, who retains employment. NSW MP Linda Burney, reflecting her ministerial experience in NSW, goes straight into the ministry and takes the demanding human services role under Jenny Macklin, who retains her family and social services portfolio. Louise Pratt, now back in the senate, becomes a junior minister in that portfolio.

Shorten hasn’t felt the need to match Malcolm Turnbull’s creation of a separate ministry dedicated to defence industry; instead, Mike Kelly, who has returned to parliament in Eden-Monaro, slots back into the junior industry role within Defence he had as a junior minister when Labor was in office (it was quaintly called “defence materiel” back then).”

Mark Dreyfus stays as shadow Attorney-General but is now also responsible for national security (having lost arts); the successful Catherine King retains the other critical portfolio, health, from where Labor so successfully attacked Turnbull during the election. Joel Fitzgibbon keeps agriculture; Anthony Albanese retains infrastructure, transport, cities and regional development and tourism but gets as junior minister NSW colleague Stephen Jones, who will have a cross-portfolio role not just on Regional Services, Territories and Local Government but on regional communications as well. Chris Bowen remains shadow Treasurer, while the ACT’s Katy Gallagher is promoted into cabinet as shadow for Small Business and Financial Services (Labor now has small business in cabinet, while the government does not); Andrew Leigh remains assistant treasurer but on a backbencher’s salary as part of the deal to keep Kim Carr in the industry portfolio. Sam Dastyari joins that portfolio as shadow consumer affairs minister.

The full shadow ministry list is here.

Peter Fray

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