Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a long-awaited reshuffle of his cabinet team, naming a few virtual unknowns as ministers and surprisingly dumping a popular minister to the backbench.
The reshuffle comes after a turbulent few months which have seen deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce ruled ineligible for parliament over citizenship concerns and then returned after a by-election, the Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash also ruled ineligible and being replaced in that leadership position by Bridget McCormack, and illnesses and position shifts from other ministers.
But the dumping of popular infrastructure minister Darren Chester, the Nationals MP for Gippsland, has been the major talking point amidst controversy over quotas and claims the demotion is retribution from party leader Joyce.
As expected, Attorney-General George Brandis will leave the parliament and will be recommended to become Australia's new High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. He will be replaced as A-G by Western Australian MP Christian Porter.
.@TurnbullMalcolm: 'We've created two major new portfolios designed to fulfil two critically important roles. @PeterDutton_MP will become the Minister for Home Affairs modelled on the UK home office & @SenatorCash will become the Minister for Jobs & Innovation' pic.twitter.com/SmwhN09YnG— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) December 19, 2017
Employment minister Michaelia Cash has a new portfolio, taking on responsibility as Minister for Jobs and Innovation. Deputy PM Joyce will take responsibility for transport and infrastructure, giving up his former agriculture and water portfolios to new Nationals MP David Littleproud, who was catapulted into cabinet from the backbench. As previously announced, immigration minister Peter Dutton will now head a new super-department called Home Affairs which will include national security responsibilities.
Kelly O'Dwyer will take Cash's former role as Minister for Women. Finance minister Mathias Cormann will also add Special Minister of State to his responsibilities, taking over from senator Scott Ryan who became Senate president after Liberal senator Stephen Parry was ruled ineligible over citizenship issues.
McKenzie has jumped straight into being the Minister for Sport, Rural Health & Regional Communications, while justice minister Michael Keenan will now fill the roles of Minister for Human Services and Minister for Digital Transformation.
Former human services minister Alan Tudge, who came under fire for his handling of the Centrelink robo-debt saga, has been shifted from that role and named Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. Porter's former portfolio, social services, will be filled by Dan Tehan.
But a major talking point has been Chester's dumping. Turnbull explained away his demotion as a matter of geography and quotas, with deputy Nationals leader McKenzie needing to enter parliament and, with both of them being from Victoria, conventions between the Liberals and Nationals required one of the cabinet spots be stripped from a VIC National and instead go to a Queensland National. This is being seen as the reason for the meteoric rise of Littleproud, MP for the Queensland electorate of Maranoa.
There is also talk that intervention from Joyce saw Chester's demotion, after the Victorian MP backed McKenzie in the deputy leadership ballot, rather than senator Matt Canavan who was Joyce's preferred pick.
There are only five women in cabinet, one less from start of year because Sussan Ley was replaced by men - Julie Bishop, Michaelia Cash, Kelly O'Dwyer, Bridget McKenzie & Marise Payne.— Alice Workman (@workmanalice) December 19, 2017
Turnbull is also already under fire for only naming one extra woman, McKenzie, to his cabinet while giving promotions to more men. There are only five men in his cabinet, one fewer than at the start of 2017, after former health minister Sussan Ley was dumped from the ministry over an expenses scandal and was replaced by Greg Hunt.
More to come.