View from The Hill: aged care to cabinet, Tehan to trade in Morrison’s modest reshuffle



Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The most important changes in Scott Morrison’s limited reshuffle are centred on two vital and controversial issues – aged care and trade – that will severely test the government in coming months.

Aged care has been elevated to cabinet and put in the safe hands of Health Minister Greg Hunt, who has performed strongly during the pandemic.

The current Aged Care Minister, Richard Colbeck, retains responsibility for aged care services, including delivery of residential and home care packages and the regulation of the sector.




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With the royal commission due to deliver its final report in February, Hunt will spearhead the policy response. Importantly, he will carry the government’s public case as it works through one of the most difficult policy challenges of early 2021.

The choice of Dan Tehan for trade is logical. He comes with an extensive background in the area before his parliamentary career, including serving in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, and as an adviser to a former trade minister, Mark Vaile.

Tehan arrives in the portfolio – shed by Simon Birmingham who is now Finance Minister – when trade tensions with China are an all-time high, and Australia is looking to negotiate trade agreements with Europe and the United Kingdom.

Tehan’s education portfolio goes to Alan Tudge, who will also have responsibility for youth (previously under Colbeck). The recent Four Corners expose about Tudge’s private life hasn’t affected his ministerial career. Questioned at his news conference on Friday, Morrison said those matter related to years ago.

Morrison has also elevated some spear carriers of the right.




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Queensland senator Amanda Stoker is promoted from the backbench to become Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General. ACT senator Zed Seselja moves from being an Assistant Minister to become Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

Rewarding the Liberal party right might be politically useful next year, if Morrison needs the conservatives’ forbearance for a shift on climate policy.

Andrew Hastie is also from the Liberals’ conservative wing, but his move up from the backbench will be seen through a foreign policy prism.

He has been an outspoken hawk on China and the Chinese will be particularly noting his appointment as Assistant Minister for Defence.

Hastie has been well respected on both sides of politics as chair of parliament’s influential intelligence and security committee.

A former soldier in the SAS who served in Afghanistan, he will potentially be able to help manage the fallout from the Brereton report on alleged Australian war crimes, which is proving difficult for the government.

The new Immigration Minister will be Alex Hawke, Morrison’s strong factional ally. This position has been in limbo for a year, in the hands of an acting minister, while David Coleman has been on personal leave.

Coleman is to become Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, an area Morrison has given high priority in the pandemic.

It is notable Ben Morton, who is very close to Morrison, has not been moved up to the junior ministry. He stays as Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, where he can have a bird’s eye view on many matters, as distinct from the narrower focus demanded by a ministerial portfolio.

Morton formally takes over from Hunt to become Assistant Minister for the Public Service — a role he has had anyway while Hunt has been preoccupied with the health crisis. A former Liberal party director in Western Australia, Morton will also have the politically-sensitive position of Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters.




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Jane Hume moves up from assistant minister, with expanded responsibilities as Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher adds urban infrastructure and cities to his responsibilities, but loses cyber safety.

Morrison emphasised key portfolios relating to the economy and security remained unchanged, as did the positions held by the Nationals, and the number of women in cabinet.

He said the changes reflected a “very strong focus on stability in key portfolios, together with a commitment to bring forward some new talent”.

The new Morrison ministry list can be found here.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison likely to elevate aged care to cabinet, as government boosts its funding by $1 billion


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government will inject a further $1 billion into aged care, most of it for home care packages, in Thursday’s budget update.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also likely to elevate the troubled policy area to cabinet, in his imminent ministerial reshuffle.

Some 10,000 home care packages will be provided, costing $850 million, in the latest funding – 2500 packages will be released across each of the four levels of care.

The funds – announced Wednesday and included in Thursday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook – come ahead of the final report of the royal commission into aged care due in February. An interim report more than a year ago was scathing about conditions in the sector.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck is in the outer ministry and struggled during the pandemic. COVID’s largest death toll was in the residential aged care sector – approaching 700 deaths out of the total Australian deaths of just over 900.

Colbeck, a Tasmanian senator, was with Morrison in Tasmania on Tuesday and it is understood the Prime Minister went to Colbeck’s Devonport office after a function.

The reshuffle is expected to be modest, with most interest in who gets the trade portfolio, presently held by Simon Birmingham who took over finance when Mathias Cormann left parliament.

Trade is high profile with the attacks by China on a range of Australian exports. Education Minister Dan Tehan has been widely speculated for the post.

Tehan has experience in the area. He served in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Department; in 2002 he was seconded to the office of trade minister Mark Vaile as trade adviser. Later he worked for the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as director of trade policy and international affairs.

If Tehan moved to trade, that would leave the education portfolio open – with the new incumbent facing the problems of a higher education sector that has taken a beating from the pandemic, which has blocked overseas students’ entry to Australia.

David Coleman, who has been on leave from the ministry for personal reasons for a year, is expected to step down from it in the reshuffle.

There is some room for backbench promotions to the frontbench.

The government said the new aged care money would bring to nearly 50,000 the number of home care packages funded since the commission’s interim report, at a cost of $3.3 billion.

In September more than 100,000 people were waiting for packages. The government says 99% of people on the home care waiting list are already receiving some level of support package.

The latest funding also includes $63.3 million for increased access to allied health services and improved mental health support for people in residential aged care.

An extra $57.8 million will be provided for aged care under the National Partnership on COVID-19 Response. This will strengthen protection, including training and and support in infection prevention and control.

There will be $8.2 million to extend the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre until June 30.

The budget update will show the projected deficit not to be as large as forecast in the budget only two months ago.

The update is expected to adopt conservative assumptions about the iron ore price which has skyrocketed recently.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Biden’s cabinet picks are globally respected, but one obstacle remains for the US to ‘lead the world’ again



Carolyn Kaster/AP

John Hawkins, University of Canberra

The “team of rivals” was the term historian Doris Kearns Goodwin used to describe US President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet. It included three men who had run against Lincoln for the Republican nomination for president in 1860: William Seward (secretary of state), Salmon Chase (treasury secretary) and Edward Bates (attorney general).

Appointing these strong-willed figures could have been disastrous were it not for Lincoln’s personal qualities.

Goodwin describes how Lincoln was willing to acknowledge when policies failed and change direction. He gathered facts on which to base decisions. He sought compromise but took full responsibility for his decisions, respected his colleagues and set an example of dignity. (In all these, he sounds like the antithesis of Donald Trump.)

President-elect Joe Biden has taken a different approach to filling out his cabinet so far. Aside from choosing Kamala Harris as his vice president, he’s looked past his main Democratic rivals for the nomination — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders — and appointed mainly technical experts with relevant experience and an international outlook.

Biden may have seen these more technocratic appointments as fitting with his less partisan style. It also sends a signal to the world that the US wants to reengage.

In Biden’s words, the US is “ready to lead the world, not retreat from it”. And as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new UN ambassador put it, “multilateralism is back”.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a career diplomat and former ambassador to Liberia.
AHMED JALLANZO/EPA

Team of talent

Biden may not have filled his cabinet with rivals, but he has also not surrounded himself with clones or an “echo chamber”. He made clear he wanted his cabinet to

tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.

As secretary of state, he has appointed Antony Blinken. A francophone internationalist, Blinken served as former President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state.




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He once made a charming appearance on Sesame Street, telling Grover about the United Nations and refugees. He commented

we all have something to learn and gain from one another even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have much in common.

The message is a long way from “America first” and the disdain for the rest of the world shown by the Trump administration.

Advocates of free trade and climate change action

As treasury secretary, Biden has appointed Janet Yellen. She was chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014–18 and currently heads the American Economic Association. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recalled her as one of his brightest students.

It is quite an achievement to be the most famous economist in a family that includes a Nobel Prize winner (her husband George Akerlof).

Janet Yellen is a strong supporter of open trade.
Craig Ruttle/AP

An advocate of free trade and expert in labour markets, she understands the damage that Trump’s trade wars, especially with China, have done to working Americans.

Being chair of the Federal Reserve also gave Yellen an important role in international organisations, such as the Bank for International Settlements.




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John Kerry has been appointed to the new post of climate envoy. He is globally respected as a former secretary of state, and ran unsuccessfully for president himself in 2004.

His appointment signals that the Biden administration recognises the importance of recommitting the US to climate action. Most significantly, Kerry was highly influential in the final week of negotiations of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and signed it for the US the following year with his granddaughter on his lap.

Kerry was personally involved in pushing the Paris Climate Agreement over the line.
Mark Lennihan/AP

And following four years of Trump’s anti-immigration policies, Biden has selected a Cuban-born immigrant, Alejandro Mayorkas, to lead the Department of Homeland Security. After his nomination, Mayorkas spoke of his desire

to advance our proud history as a country of welcome.

Potential roadblocks in the Senate

Biden has assembled a team with an international outlook that will re-commit the US to supporting international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, and treaties like the Paris Agreement. He will seek to reform rather than just impede the World Trade Organisation.




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But there’s one significant hurdle still looming. If the Democrats can’t gain control of the Senate by winning the two run-off elections in Georgia in early January, the Republican-led chamber will likely aim to block Biden’s aims of resuming a constructive global role.

For example, Biden will be able to issue an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day as president. But major reforms to cut greenhouse gas emissions or his proposed $2 trillion clean energy plan would face opposition in a Republican-controlled Senate.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell once described Biden as a ‘trusted partner’, but it remains to be seen how well the Republicans will work with the new administration.
Susan Walsh/AP

Optimists have compared Biden to former President Lyndon Johnson (also known as LBJ), who may be able to use his decades of legislative experience to achieve more change than was possible for John F. Kennedy or Obama.

Ron Klain, recently announced as Biden’s chief of staff, once put it well:

LBJ might not have been the wokest, coolest, hippest Democrat, but he’s the person who got the most actual progressive social justice legislation done since FDR […] he knew how to make the Senate work.

The rest of the world will hope Klain is right and that the Senate does not block the program of this promising new cabinet.




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The Conversation


John Hawkins, Senior Lecturer, Canberra School of Politics, Economics and Society, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Linda Reynolds appointed to defence industry and cabinet



File 20190301 110130 97lgfx.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Linda Reynolds replaces Steve Ciobo as defence industry minister.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

With the resignations of the two ministers now formally confirmed, Scott Morrison has announced that Western Australian senator Linda Reynolds will become Minister for Defence Industry, with Ciobo stepping down at once from that position.

If the government is re-elected Reynolds, who has a background in the Army Reserve, will be the new defence minister. Pyne will remain in the defence job until the election.

Reynolds will be immediately elevated to cabinet, bringing the number of women in cabinet to seven.

Her pre-election promotion has an eye to the government’s so-called
“women problem” – much negative attention has been focussed on the low
level of female representation in its parliamentary ranks.

Currently an assistant minister, Reynolds will retain her responsibility for emergency management. In this role, she has been at Morrison’s side on his visits to the flood areas.

Morrison said in a statement: “When you can call up a brigadier, in the form of Linda Reynolds, to take on the role of defence minister, it shows we have a lot of talent on our bench to draw from”.

He said it was Pyne’s responsibility to continue to manage strategic issues through the election period. “This will ensure a consistency in our approach and the opportunity for a seamless handover to minister Reynolds, should we be successful at the election.

“As a cabinet minister in the defence portfolio minster Reynolds will also have a unique opportunity to transfer into the role in the event the government is re-elected”.

He said the appointment of Reynolds would bring the number of women in cabinet to the highest of any cabinet since federation.

In a 29-year Army Reserve career, Reynolds served in many part and full-time positions. Attaining the rank of brigadier in 2012, she became the first woman in the Australian Army reserves to be promoted to a star rank.

Reynolds said: “My background has prepared me well for this new role”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cabinet ministers Pyne and Ciobo set to head out door



File 20190301 22844 3xeu2f.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Christopher Pyne (left) and Steve Ciobo are set to announce they will not contest their seats at the May election.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Defence Minister, Christopher Pyne and the Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo, both cabinet members, are set to announce they are quitting parliament at the election, in the latest of multiple high profile exits from the Morrison government.

These foreshadowed departures – in this case within the same portfolio area – open the government further to Labor’s criticism of being a lame duck administration.

Cabinet ministers Kelly O’Dwyer and Nigel Scullion, junior minister Michael Keenan, and former deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop have earlier announced they are leaving at the May election.

Pyne, 51, Leader of the House and a moderate within the Liberal Party, has been in parliament since 1993 and is an active factional player. He holds the South Australian seat of Sturt which is on a margin of 5.4% Pyne only reached his long held ambition of becoming defence minister in the reshuffle after the removal of Malcolm Turnbull.

Ciobo, 44, holds the Queensland seat of Moncrieff and has been in parliament since 2001. His seat is on a safe margin of 14.6%.

Ciobo was demoted in the Morrison reshuffle last year, losing the trade job although remaining in cabinet.

Scott Morrison, in North Queensland to announce a relief package for farmers and graziers after the devastating floods, batted away questions about the expected announcements. The government had hoped to push the story into the dead Saturday news time but it leaked out.

Both ministers have been fending off questions about their futures. On the show they share on Sky on Friday, Labor’s Richard Marles asked Pyne about whether he was resigning.

Pyne told Marles: “Once I decide to announce my retirement you will be the first to know”.

Marles said Pyne had had a stellar career and if it were true that he was going, “I for one will miss you”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Cabinet Files show that we need to change the nature of record-keeping



File 20180202 123846 d2hqbm.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
We need to redesign our records so that they are more accessible.
shutterstock

Paula Dootson, Queensland University of Technology; Marek Kowalkiewicz, Queensland University of Technology, and Peter Townson, Queensland University of Technology

Punishing the person or persons responsible for this week’s Cabinet Files leak does not address the underlying issue. The real problem is that the way governments and businesses keep records is broken.

Recently, we collaborated with Queensland State Archives to design a bot to automatically identify, appraise, store, and secure their records. No human intervention, or compliance, is required.

This kind of system is called “compliant-by-default”, and it is just one way we can re-imagine record-keeping to address low levels of compliance in our organisations.




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A compliant-by-default system manages issues of security and restricted access by ensuring that only people with appropriate permission can see the contents of a record, while others are still allowed to see that the record exists, alongside high-level attributes of what the record contains.

This is essentially the difference between seeing the outside of an envelope versus its contents. The information written on the envelope is public, to aid in searching data, while the contents of the envelope are private.

Bot: Security and permissions logic.

The federal government’s current record-keeping system relies on employees fully understanding all the rules and standards associated with creating, storing, managing, preserving, and destroying records. Getting this right 100% of the time is not only improbable, but is unnecessary when it could be automated.

But it’s not just in government that record-keeping needs updating. A recent report found that in Western Europe, 57% of office workers spend an hour or more a day looking for missing documents.

This is the most basic example of a broken record-keeping system.

From record-keeping to record-using

The cabinet files were published by the ABC because there is an appetite for transparency around political decision-making.

But how many of us actually go and search the records that are already available? There is an opportunity here to re-imagine the way government agencies keep records, so that they not only become more usable, but more accessible for the public as well.

For instance, if someone inside an organisation starts a project with blockchains, a system like ours would make it easier to search and connect with other teams working on similar projects. This would not only allow for more collaboration, but give better transparency through the organisation and avoid duplicate spending (taxpayer money or private funds).

Record-using: gaining context surrounding a record.

This also has the potential to unlock new revenue streams, by using the records to provide services that were not previously possible. This is similar to how the advent of MP3 technology and high-speed internet made it possible to buy and store music libraries online.

The process of record-keeping could be monetised by mining the archival data, to look for efficiency gains in business processes, for example, or sell business insights to the public and private sector.

The digital vs physical debate

While the general perception may be that physical records are easier to secure and manage, the reality shows that this is not the case. There are finite possibilities of what can go wrong with digital – copy, hack, share – but there is always a trace.

With physical records, there are infinite possibilities of things that can go wrong, and no way to trace it. There is no way to know what is being photocopied, if a record leaves a building, or who has the key to the cabinet.

While the sheer scale of potential attacks on a digital storage system may be much higher, a well-designed digital system can be protected.

It would be absolutely fine to print the records that need to be printed for the time they are needed. Systems should be designed to allow individuals to work in the way they prefer to work. Such a “digital first” approach is now being championed by the Queensland Government in its recent strategy.

Bot: a compliant-by-default recordkeeping concept.

The Cabinet Files story is not about who lost the key, or who sold the cabinet. It is about why these papers existed, were in a filing cabinet, and how such a range of documents ended up together.

The need for fundamental record keeping reform is imminent.

If we must continue keeping records, then digital records offer new value to both government and business. Archival agencies have an opportunity to redefine what record keeping means to people and why it’s important, and to turn it from a chore to a superpower, from a back-end operation to front-facing business intelligence.

The ConversationA digital record isn’t something to be locked away in an archive, it is the currency of knowledge transfer. What is unique about this solution is that we are not looking to make humans more compliant, rather, to making the system compliant-by-default.

Paula Dootson, Research Fellow in the Chair in Digital Economy, Queensland University of Technology; Marek Kowalkiewicz, Professor and Chair in Digital Economy, Queensland University of Technology, and Peter Townson, Senior Designer, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Cabinet files story shows Australia still needs to be more open about the debates that shape the nation



File 20180201 123843 u3f7vj.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Cabinet confidentiality is important to ensure ministers are able to debate ideas before a decision is made public.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Patrick Weller, Griffith University

Cabinet government requires confidentiality. Ministers have to be able to discuss alternative options to solve the problems they must manage. They have to able to express opinions and probe proposals. If they do not, then cabinet government becomes a rubber stamp for solutions devised elsewhere. Whether they always do argue matters less than the fact that the opportunity, and the expectation, is there.

When confidentiality is breached, when leaks provide the public with the range of views expressed and identify those who lost the argument, then ministers will tend to keep quiet, and prime ministers will take the debate somewhere else – into cabinet committees or into their own offices.

The principle of collective responsibility, which holds that all minsters are bound in public to support the decisions of the government, whether or not they were involved making it, can work only if the minsters (usually) had an opportunity to influence that decision.

That is just practical politics. Decisions are normally a matter of degree, not a case of right or wrong: how much or how little, this or that wording. The core may be easy, the difficulty is in the detail. The air of certainty, of governments arguing there is only one proper response – theirs – and all else is inadequate, is an artifice, a pretence that no-one should believe.




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When decisions are actually made, information is often incomplete, time pressures acute, political consequences uncertain. In a neat phrase, governments “puzzle on the community’s behalf”. If the options were public, all would have advocates to whom no decision is right except the one they support; they would be even more outraged in that they knew government could have chosen their preferred option.

Given the ferocious misrepresentation that passes for political debate in this country, an opposition would pick one of the options not chosen, identify the losers and lampoon the decision. It is better for any form of competent government that the debates and calculations be kept confidential. For a time.

Governments are usually careful. There is a separate network for the lodging and management of cabinet documents. These days, it allows careful tracing of what happened in each case. Each submission has an identifier. (Lesson: if a cabinet paper is leaked, it is better to retype than photocopy.)

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet should be able to trace the history of these papers. As the process becomes more digitised, the possibility of filing cabinets of cabinet documents turning up will be reduced.

Does it matter if cabinet files, given to the ABC, become public? In terms of content, for most of the time for most of the papers, probably not. They will have long been overtaken by events. The problems of political sensitivity are different. If treasurers, for instance, lose an argument in cabinet and then properly adopt the agreed line in public, and the divisions in cabinet become known, they will be accused of failing to manage the economy, of not fighting enough. If governments were to make a habit of releasing the papers of their predecessors, in order to show how divided they were, governments would simply stop keeping records. There are good reasons for confidentiality.

So in this case there are two issues. First, how did this set of papers get locked in a cabinet that was then sold without checking the contents? The papers should have been returned to the cabinet office. They are the rules and for good reasons. They were not followed. The filing cabinet should have been checked. That is carelessness, slack, silly, lazy, incompetent, bad practice: all those pejoratives can legitimately be applied. But not malice, or they would not have been sitting there for years.




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The second issue is what should have been done about it. When a cabinet document is leaked it makes a story – a rare insight into how cabinet government works. The release of a mass of papers is wrong, but potentially can be fascinating, a voyeuristic peephole into government. Think of the Pentagon Papers or WikiLeaks.

But they were designed to damage and undermine the government. This was happenstance. The use of the papers by the ABC seems to have been random: what made a headline or shocked, rather than asking what it tells us about the way we are governed. That requires more work, and they probably were a bit uneasy and aware that time would be limited once knowledge of the filing cabinets was public. The story was more about the filing cabinets than the cabinet papers, about the carelessness rather than the content.

In practice, most cabinet papers soon reach a use-by date. They are dull, time-specific, advising in long-forgotten particular circumstances about what may seem, in retrospect, minor incidents. In terms of content, rather than political sensitivity, most cabinet papers could be released within five years. Only a few would still matter.

In the 1980s, I wrote a study of Malcolm Fraser as prime minister. I started in 1984, a year after he lost office. Following the British practice of allowing prime ministers and minsters access to the papers they saw in government when they wanted to write their memoirs, he gave me access to all the cabinet papers of his administration.

In this case, he chose to delegate rather than refresh his memory. The papers were fascinating, detailed, voluminous and mostly unlikely to cause a stir. By the time the book was finished, most of his ministers had left office – the one big exception being John Howard. So while cabinet documents may contain the occasional nugget, most are routine, just as most government is routine.

We could still be a little more open. The New Zealand prime minster has a press briefing after each cabinet to tell the press the main conclusions of the meeting: selective but informative.

Even the Standing Committee of the State Council in China, known as China’s cabinet, releases a list of the items discussed in their weekly meeting; not everything, but more that the Australian public gets. We still need to balance a legitimate desire for transparency with the need for free and thoughtful debate (or rather, the possibility of thoughtful debate).

The ConversationWe should be able to find a balance in managing a system that does not threaten the ability of journalists and academics to write about the procedures and debates in cabinet, but also prevents random acts of stupidity that fill a cabinet with cabinet papers, forget they are there, fail to return them and then sell the filing cabinets.

Patrick Weller, Professor Emeritus, School of Government and International Relations; Adjunct Professor, Centre for Governance and Public Policy, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Turnbull’s reshuffle undermined by Barnaby Joyce’s ousting of Darren Chester



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Malcolm Turnbull said he regretted having to drop Darren Chester from his frontbench line-up.
AAP/Daniel Munoz

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Prime Minister’s Malcolm Turnbull’s reshuffled cabinet has five new faces, but one of the Nationals’ best performers, Darren Chester, has been unceremoniously dumped by his party leader Barnaby Joyce.

Christian Porter replaces George Brandis – who quits parliament to become high commissioner to London – as attorney-general, in an extensive frontbench overhaul that Turnbull said focused on the dual themes of economic growth and jobs and national security. Porter is a former Western Australian attorney-general.

The new faces in cabinet are the Nationals’ freshly elected deputy Bridget McKenzie, Michael Keenan, Dan Tehan, John McVeigh, and David Littleproud.

McVeigh and Littleproud entered federal parliament only last year, and have leapt straight from the backbench, although McVeigh served as a minister in the Queensland parliament.

Joyce, who takes Chester’s infrastructure portfolio, told him he had to go from cabinet on geographic grounds. Both Chester and McKenzie – whom Chester strongly backed to become deputy over Joyce’s preferred candidate Matt Canavan – are from Victoria, a state in which the Nationals only have four federal MPs.

When quizzed at his news conference about Chester being dropped, Turnbull indicated it was Joyce’s call – the Nationals’ leader gets to choose the party’s ministers – saying pointedly: “Barnaby Joyce will no doubt be able to explain this directly”.

“Plainly the Nationals have a very large component of their partyroom that comes from Queensland and Barnaby was keen to see that reflected in their representatives in the cabinet,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull said Chester had been an “outstanding minister” and he regretted he was no longer on the frontbench.

Chester told a news conference he had been offered a position of assistant minister but he had declined it.

He made it clear he felt he had been treated badly. “I don’t think my loyalty to the leadership team has ever been questioned. I’ve gone above and beyond on many occasion to support the prime minister and the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce,” he said.

Joyce has also sacked Keith Pitt, who is from Queensland, as an assistant minister.

The catapulting into cabinet of the inexperienced Littleproud, who is from the Queensland seat of Mananoa, to replace Chester, is likely to stir resentment among Nationals who have waited much longer for promotion.

McKenzie, who as deputy Nationals leader goes automatically into cabinet, will become minister for sport, rural health and regional communications.

Keenan, previously justice minister, moves to human services; Tehan goes from veterans’ affairs to social services, held before by Porter; McVeigh takes regional development; while Littleproud gets agriculture and water resources.

As earlier announced, Peter Dutton has a new mega portfolio of home affairs. Two junior ministers and an assistant minister will sit under him. Angus Taylor becomes minister for law enforcement and cyber security, and Alan Tudge will be minister for citizenship and multicultural affairs. Alex Hawke is assistant minister for home affairs.

Michaelia Cash, who has been employment and workplace relations minister, becomes minister for jobs and innovation, which includes the industry area.

Arthur Sinodinos, who has been industry minister, is being treated for cancer and asked not to be considered for the new ministry, while making it clear he hoped to return to a senior ministerial or other government role later.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann adds permanently to his responsibilities the post of special minister of state, which he has recently overseen in a temporary capacity.

Cormann, seen as very competent in negotiating with the Senate crossbenchers, also steps up into the Brandis’ role of Senate leader.

In changes in the outer ministry, Craig Laundy has been promoted to minister for small and family business, workplace and deregulation. This will include direct responsibility for workplace relations, recently a controversial area for Cash who, however, retains overall responsibility as the senior portfolio minister.

Turnbull said Cash, Laundy and Zed Seselja, who becomes assistant minister for science, jobs and innovation, “will work together to make sure we harness the jobs of the future through new industries and small business”.

Paul Fletcher stays as minister for urban infrastructure, with some expanded responsibilities.

Michael McCormack, a National, moves from small business to veterans’ affairs and defence personnel.

Backbencher Melissa Price is elevated to become assistant minister for the environment.

The Nationals’ David Gillespie moves to a newly created role of assistant minister for children and families.

Victorian National Damien Drum will be assistant minister to the deputy prime minister.

David Coleman becomes assistant minister for finance, while Luke Hartsuyker moves to become assistant minister for trade, tourism and investment.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: “All that we can deduce from this reshuffle is that the civil war which is a fact of life in the Liberal Party has now infected the National Party. How else can you explain a competent minister like Darren Chester being demoted?

“What we have here is we have a prime minister and a deputy prime minister who are engaging in such hubris and arrogance that they are now just punishing the people they don’t like in their own party.”

The Conversation

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Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Brandis off to London, as Turnbull prepares his reshuffle



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George Brandis has served as attorney-general since 2013.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Attorney-General George Brandis will become Australia’s high commissioner to London in a ministerial reshuffle set to be announced on Tuesday.

Brandis’ appointment opens the way for Malcolm Turnbull to elevate deputy Senate leader Mathias Cormann to Senate leader, and gives the Turnbull government a cabinet vacancy.

But it leaves Turnbull with the problem of being seen to have adequate representation from Queensland in the cabinet. A Queenslander will have to be elevated, but the choice is limited and there is no standout candidate.

Queensland is a vital state for the Coalition at the next election.

While Brandis is a Liberal, the Nationals have been agitated for months about the need to boost Queensland’s representation in the ministry – and Brandis’ departure complicates the issue further.

Favourite to get Brandis’ portfolio of attorney-general is Social Services Minister Christian Porter, who was attorney-general in the Western Australian government before he moved to federal politics.

The Nationals, who appear confident of holding their five cabinet spots despite losing a parliamentary seat to the Liberals, now find themselves with an excess of Victorians in cabinet.

Their new deputy, Bridget McKenzie, is from Victoria, as is existing cabinet member Darren Chester. The party has only four federal MPs from that state.

It is speculated that Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who is agriculture minister, will move to Chester’s infrastructure portfolio in the changes.

The reshuffle also is likely to see the return of former health minister Sussan Ley, who resigned after allegations of the misuse of travel entitlements, which she denied. Turnbull wants to promote women and personally likes Ley.

The reshuffle comes as the government is behind Labor in the 25th consecutive Newspoll. The ALP leads 53-47% on a two-party basis, unchanged from the previous poll.

Turnbull said recently he regretted referring to Tony Abbott losing 30 consecutive Newspolls when he launched his 2015 challenge against the former prime minister.

The ConversationAbbott replied that he will respond to this Turnbull statement of regret, but he wanted to leave it until after Saturday’s Bennelong byelection.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Discovery of the cabinet leaker would present bigger problem than the leak


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

What on earth was Julie Bishop thinking when she declared she’d support a “formal investigation” into this week’s damaging cabinet leak?

Bishop was defending herself as the questions swirled about who might be the leaker, saying it wasn’t her. But to have one of the most senior ministers – she’s deputy Liberal leader too – talking about a probe into cabinet members just underlines the serious breakdown not just in the government’s discipline but in its common sense as well.

The leaked story was by the Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson, reporting that a “despondent”: cabinet had discussed, in the context of the backbench revolt on banking, whether the government should capitulate and hold a royal commission.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said no; Peter Dutton, one of the conservatives who has had Malcolm Turnbull’s back, was reported to be “opposed in principle” but open to the idea on pragmatic grounds. But Turnbull remains against changing policy and has said this publicly.

For Bishop the affair is a rerun of an old movie. After a leak from the Abbott cabinet, Bishop denied being the source, saying that if the prime minister found the culprit he would “take some action”.

In retrospect, if not always at the time, it seems obvious the 2015 leaks were mostly inspired by those wanting a coup.

This time, the “who” and the “why” aren’t clear. There is no evidence of any organised push against Turnbull, like there was against Abbott, although leadership speculation has become media grist.

The leaks, of which there have been several, may be driven by the general angst around or reflect jostling by various players in uncertain times.

We’ve seen publicly the respective positioning by Morrison and Dutton on the marriage legislation, with Morrison putting himself at the forefront of the “safeguards” brigade and Dutton – on this issues as on others – looking for a compromise way through.

Anyway, there won’t be an investigation. The Australian Federal Police almost never finds the source of leaks to the media, but imagine if it had an unexpected success! That indeed would present a problem.

Bill Shorten described the situation as the government eating itself. Alternatively, think of an army in untidy retreat, sloshing through heavy mud, when it becomes every soldier for himself.

We’re back to the Gillard days or, for those with a sense of history, to the Liberal party of the late 1960s, as it lost its way in the post-Menzies years.

Despite cabinet’s now well-canvassed discussion, the government is still faced with the push from the Nationals’ rebels for parliament to set up a commission of inquiry (only marginally different from a royal commission) into the banks.

Turnbull has tried to minimise the scope for the rebels and Labor to make trouble by cancelling next week’s House of Representatives sitting, but the action just exposed his weakness.

The rebels are unbowed with Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan on Thursday circulating his private senator’s bill for “a commission of inquiry into banking, insurance, superannuation, financial and related services”.

O’Sullivan confirms he is determined. “I’m not someone who blinks”, he said. He dismissed suggestions his absent leader, Barnaby Joyce, was trying to dissuade him. He’d spoken to Joyce early on – Joyce just “asked me to keep him posted”.

It should be remembered the Nationals generally have no problem in cracking down on the banks. In fact, if a proposal for a royal commission were put to the Nationals’ party room, it would likely get up. Nationals assistant minister Keith Pitt was blunt on Thursday: “Clearly the government’s position is not for a royal commission, however we do have a number of members in the Nats who think it’s something that they want”.

Amid the tumult, former prime minister John Howard has used the occasion of Friday’s tenth anniversary of being turfed out of office to buy into the contemporary debates on banking and taxation.

The latter debate was reignited after Turnbull held out the prospect of personal income tax relief in a major address on Monday, albeit devoid of detail. On Thursday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was dealing with scepticism about its affordability, arguing “we have effectively already assumed future further tax cuts in our budget projections”.

Howard claimed a banking commission would be “rank socialism” – to which O’Sullivan says, “I don’t understand what he means”.

As for tax, Howard, who nearly lost office in his (successful) pursuit of a GST, told Sky it would benefit the government “if it were to embrace very significant further tax reform”. This should include the GST, which couldn’t be left “where it is indefinitely”.

The best of luck with that. Turnbull is tossing tax into the mix to try to show voters he has some sugar in his back pocket to put on their tables. But sweeping reform would see losers as well as winners. For a government perennially behind in the polls, with the slenderest majority before it fell into its current minority position, a major tax overhaul including the GST would take more bravery than presently in sight.

The tenth anniversary of the Howard government’s defeat is also the anniversary of the loss of his own seat of Bennelong. Now the Liberals are again fighting to hold Bennelong, after John Alexander became a victim of the citizenship crisis.

It is too early to get a real sense of how that December 16 byelection will go. On a 9.7 % margin, Alexander has a big buffer, as he faces Labor’s Kristina Keneally.

But this week the Liberal campaign, already looking lack lustre, was snagged by an embarrassing 1990s video of Alexander telling a crude Irish joke and another about “a black guy in Chicago” describing a rape.

Alexander wasn’t the only government byelection candidate who became an embarrassment. There was Joyce’s jaunt from his New England campaign to Canberra for “AgDay”, described as the “brainchild” of his good friend Gina Rinehart, who presented him with a $40,000 cheque, reward for being a “champion of our industry”. He only belatedly declined the money.

The ConversationIt was another example of the poor judgement that infects this government.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/k3zus-7afe23?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.