Malcolm Turnbull has shuffled his cabinet, in the hope of boosting his government’s standing in Queensland and keeping the Nationals happy, according to The Australian.
Darren Chester, a Nationals MP for Gippsland in Victoria, had been the infrastructure and transport minister, but has been dumped, with Nationals leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce taking over the role.
Another Nationals member, the deputy party leader Bridget McKenzie, who replaced Fiona Nash after Nash got caught up in the citizenship scandal, will take on the sport, rural health and regional communications portfolios.
Queensland Nationals MP John McVeigh will handle the regional development portfolio.
The Australian‘s political commentator Peter Van Onselen explained that the recent Queensland election underlined the fact that the conservative had a problem winning over the sunshine state’s electorate, and that Turnbull likely hoped that having more members of parliament from Queensland in more senior positions would help improve the situation.
This was why Chester, from Victoria, was dropped, Van Onselen went on, despite the PM describing him to the ABC as having been an “outstanding minister”.
Also, Turnbull had to honour the Nationals’ ‘quota’ of five cabinet places, which he alluded to by telling the ABC that “geography had to be taken into account” when allocating a limited number of roles to answer two pressing problems.
Amid the reshuffle, Christian Porter, a Liberal member from Perth who’s been the social services minister for the past two years, will take George Brandis’ job as attorney general, as Brandis moves to London to replace Alexander Downer as high commissioner.
Dan Tehan, a Liberal MP from regional Victoria who was veterans affairs minister, will become social services minister, replacing Porter.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan moved up to become human services minister, while the Nationals’ David Littleproud from Queensland was named the new agriculture minister. Michaela Cash, the Liberal who is currently employment minister, will take on the jobs and innovation portfolio.
Arthur Sinodinos, who was industry minister, announced that he would step down from his ministry while he fought cancer. He’ll remain a senator for New South Wales, however.
The moves mean Littleproud, McKenzie, Keenan, McVeigh and Tehan all join the cabinet for the first time.
Porter, who has a marginal seat, needed time away from the tough social services job so he could concentrate on his electorate, The Australian‘s Van Onselen explained.
But Labor leader Bill Shorten accused Turnbull of having a “civil war” within his own government, in which Turnbull and Joyce had dumped Chester because “they don’t like” him, and promoted Cash because she was popular with the pair.
“The real problem with this is that yet again the needs of ordinary Australians as we approach Christmas have been forgotten,” Shorten reportedly said.