Labor Premier of Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk has an unwelcome distraction on her mind leading into the new parliament sitting year: a cabinet reshuffle.
Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, Palaszczuk’s right-wing Labor Forum faction cabinet colleague, began the year inauspiciously by resigning following the release of the Queensland Rail train crewing practices commission of inquiry.
The Queensland Rail scandal that precipitated the inquiry was caused by a sudden, severe understaffing after the Redcliffe Peninsula Line opened.
It led to the cancellation of hundreds of rail services and created chaos for thousands of Christmas holiday commuters up to and including Christmas Day itself.
Hinchcliffe resisted the repeated calls for his resignation.
He’s a senior member of Labor Forum and considered a leading light of the right-wing of Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party. No doubt it’s a blow to his aspirations and those of his backers, as he’d been excluded from the Palaszczuk government’s first cabinet.
The then-opposition leader’s commitment to allocate all eight Labor MPs before the 2015 state election a position in a Queensland Labor government cabinet, combined with a policy of drastically reducing the size of the cabinet, ensured that after factional balance was accounted for, Stirling Hinchcliffe just missed out.
He’d waited patiently for this short-lived and frankly expected position but took one for the team.
The opposition was clearly going to use his continued presence after the Queensland Rail debacle as a distraction from their own ineptitude and internal battles in the wake of One Nation.
It was a brutal hospital pass of sorts, given his department inadequately reported the impending issues to him as transport minister.
He’ll remain on as Manager of Government Business. Queensland Labor has a strict hierarchy. One steps back, and all those in the corresponding faction take one step closer to the senior echelons of their party.
The next cabs off the rank for Labor Forum are Jennifer Howard and Linus Power.
I give it to the member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard by a nose. She’s a heavy hitter as a former member of Labor’s National Executive and a staffer of Labor Forum’s strong man in Ipswich Shayne Neumann.
Another woman for the most women-friendly cabinet in the nation.
Member for Logan and AWU stalwart Linus Power too has strong backing and currently sits on Queensland Labor’s Administrative Committee. The production line will roll over one more time, and he should take one step closer to cabinet by being anointed as a cabinet minister in waiting, as assistant minister assisting the Premier.
I don’t expect there to be a wide-ranging reshuffle in what is expected to be an election year.
All ministers are settled into their roles.
State delegate elections and preselections are just around the corner and the factional machines are whirring into life to engage in inter and intra-factional blood sports.
Let the games begin.