McCormack puts Chester back on frontbench in cautious changes


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester, controversially dropped from cabinet by Barnaby Joyce, has been restored to the ministry in a minimalist reshuffle by new party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Chester takes McCormack’s old posts of veterans’ affairs and defence personnel. He also replaces McCormack as deputy leader of the house. He will be in the outer ministry rather than in cabinet, as he was previously, but is believed to be happy with the outcome.

The dropping of Chester in the December reshuffle – on the stated grounds that the election of Bridget McKenzie as deputy meant Victoria would be over-represented in the Nationals’ cabinet line-up – sparked much criticism. It added to the pressure on Joyce when the news of his affair with a former staffer broke.

In other changes, Queenslander Keith Pitt, also dropped by Joyce, becomes assistant minister to the deputy prime minister.

Mark Coulton, from New South Wales, is elevated to assistant minister for trade, tourism and investment.

Two assistant minister have been relegated to the backbench – Damian Drum from Victoria and Luke Hartsuyker from NSW.

McCormack has rewarded supporters but has been cautious in making changes. Rumours were flying among some in the jittery Nationals of much wider changes though these never seemed likely, given the new leader needs to settle the party down. McCormack said in a statement that “ultimately my focus was on maintaining stability so the government can get on with the job of delivering for the nation”.

The ConversationOn Monday, McCormack was sworn into the infrastructure and transport portfolio that Joyce took from Chester in December.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

MALCOLM TURNBULL WINS LIBERAL LEADERSHIP


Malcolm Turnbull has won the Liberal leadership from Brendan Nelson in a leadership spill this morning. The vote went to Malcolm Turnbull 45 to 41 and Nelson then declined a frontbench job and went to the backbench alongside another Liberal leadership post-aspirant, Peter Costello.

It will now be interesting to see if the former leader of the Australian Republic push will have what it takes to pull the disjointed Liberal Party together and seriously challenge Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party at the next Federal election due in 2010.

Now we just need a serious Labor government to challenge the very ordinary alternative New South Wales government under Barry O’Farrell. Sadly, it doesn’t look very likely – they have become an extremely pathetic excuse for a government (and I’m a life long Labor Party supporter and voter).