CANBERRA -- Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared renewed speculation about a major Cabinet reshuffle “is wrong”, as a senior Government minister tells colleagues “to get on with their jobs”.
Education Minister and Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, said stories like Friday’s Daily Telegraph report that Abbott has six Ministers in the firing line are “speculative” and "do all sorts of distracting damage.”
Long-term Howard-era ministers have reportedly been put on a “dead wood” list, including Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, Employment Minister Eric Abetz, Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.
Andrews on Thursday had to be corrected by the Prime Minister, when he suggested a two- to three-year timeline for defeating Islamic State in the Middle East. Abbott said the government does not want to put a particular timeline on the mission.
Abbott broke from a meeting discussing how Australia will resettle 12,000 Syrian refugees, to hose down the reshuffle speculation.
“They are wrong. Reports of end of year reshuffles are a dime a dozen,” he told reporters in Canberra.
This is a government which is totally focused on jobs, economic growth and community safety, not Canberra insider gossip.”
Earlier, the Education Minister did not deny the reshuffle story, but tried to talk it down on Channel Nine’s Today Show.
“Look these stories ... they are speculative,” Pyne said.
“They come and go. They take a journalist ten minutes to write and they do all sorts of distracting damage during the day.”
Among those government MPs marked for promotion are said to be Dan Tehan, Michaelia Cash, Arthur Sinodinos, Kelly O’Dwyer and former WA Treasurer Christian Porter.
Treasurer Joe Hockey, who has long been widely tipped to be moved on, is reported to be safe.
Asked, though on Friday morning on Macquarie Radio if he would “take one for the team” if he was tapped on the shoulder, Hockey quickly sidestepped.
"The only jobs that I am focused on is the jobs of every day Australians,” he said.
“I have my head down working at the job.”
The Treasurer said some of his colleagues aren't happy with him because "he's cut a few of their budgets".
That includes “quite a few billion” off the aid budget of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, although Hockey says the two ministers “get on well.”
“We were having a good chat the other day about a few things.”
Hockey’s political fortunes are believed to be inextricably tied to those of the Prime Minister.
"Joe is doing a fantastic job in difficult financial circumstances in the world at the moment. He is a great Treasurer," Pyne said.
Abbott has generally stuck by the team which won the 2013 election, but with long term poor polls and a knife edge by-election in Canning next week, he has been expected to unveil some sort of significant reshuffle.
Pyne said all of the six ministers tipped to be moved on are “good men doing a good job.”
”All of us just have to get on with our jobs, as the Education Minister and Leader of the House that is what I am doing.
“We are all getting on with the job and all of my colleagues need to just need to keep on with doing our jobs.”
Opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the reshuffle speculation has to be taken seriously.
“I think those ministers who have been mentioned will be very nervous this morning.
“But the problem of this government is at the very top and this is a response to Tony Abbott who has been stalked by Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison.”
Morrison, the Social Services Minister, has been widely touted as a possible successor to Abbott or Hockey as Treasurer. He stressed party loyalty this morning.
“I support the Prime Minister. That is what I accept,” he told Sky News.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has also tried to dampen the reshuffle speculation.
“From my perspective we have been a good government,” he told the ABC’s AM program.
“We just have to continue to work hard. We have had a mess to clean up and I think all of our Ministers have done well.”
“But ultimately, you serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister of the day and that goes for all of us.”