September 10, 2018
Europe

Why a Cabinet reshuffle is a headache for Turnbull

Related Story: High Court stops short of endorsing Fiona Nash's Senate replacement

There is more pain than gain in a reshuffle for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with jostling for promotions well and truly underway.

A reshuffle is pending because of the dual citizenship saga.

It has already claimed two senior political scalps — former deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash and Tasmanian former senate president Stephen Parry.

With former special minister of state, Scott Ryan, now in Mr Parry's old chair, there are two ministry spots to fill as a result.

But finding the right replacements is tricky for Mr Turnbull.

"I'm glad it's him and not me," Liberal MP Warren Entsch told AM.

"There are lots of aspirational individuals there that believe that they've only come in to serve in ministries and, you know, in many ways, they're very much undercooked. But often got a very inflated view of the world."

Mr Turnbull is under pressure to boost the number of women in Cabinet. Among those likely for promotion are Karen Andrews and Jane Prentice.

And with Mr Parry's resignation, Tasmanian Liberals lack representation and are unhappy about it.

But the complications do not end there. Regional Liberals have been pushing for a Cabinet spot too.

"We've made it clear to the leadership team that we want to ensure that the most senior decision-making table in the country, Cabinet, includes representatives with a connection to rural, regional and remote Australia," South Australian Liberal Tony Pasin said.

He is one of more than 30 Liberals who represent rural electorates and said that country-based Liberals were non-existent at the top. But he is hopeful that could change soon.

"I'm confident that the concerns we've expressed have been heard loud and clear. There's been an increasing connectivity between the leadership team and the rural Liberal caucus in recent months," Mr Pasin said.

Entsch warns Turnbull against just ticking boxes

There is also resentment amongst regional Liberals about the sweet deal given to the Nationals courtesy of the Coalition Agreement. The Nationals control cash-rich portfolios like infrastructure and regional development.

"Personally, I'd like to see a balance which saw roughly a similar number of rural Liberals in Cabinet as members of the National party," Mr Pasin said.

"But much more likely is one or two members of the rural Liberal caucus in Cabinet and in the outer ministries."

He said he would like to see Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan and Assistant Cities Minister Angus Taylor promoted.

But the ultimate decision lies with Mr Turnbull, who has already flagged his enthusiasm for young, fresh talent.

Mr Entsch agreed there is more room for women and regional Liberals in Cabinet. But he cautioned Mr Turnbull against ticking boxes.

"While you consider these issues, you've also got to make sure that those [people] that you choose are merit based," he said.

There has long been discussion about the future of Attorney-General George Brandis, with the possibility of an international posting in the offing.

And Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is believed to be eyeing off the infrastructure portfolio — currently held by Victorian National Darren Chester.

The extent of the reshuffle could be decided by this weekend's Bennelong by-election.

Original Article

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