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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Patterson Pre-Empts the Axe

Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson has announced she is moving to the back bench before retiring from politics altogether prior to the next Federal Election. She was widely tipped (no, not only by me) to lose her position in cabinet in the upcoming reshuffle, having been an unspectacular performer in her portfolio, which she was given after making a similarly small splash as Minister for Health and Aging.

Patterson's portfolio is becoming increasingly important given that, as I have discussed, the family is emerging as one of the pre-eminent battlegrounds of Australian politics. Backbencher Jackie Kelly's outbursts earlier this week are a more extreme reflection of the diversity of opinions that exist within the Liberal party on this very contentious portfolio, and the fact that Kelly has now been supported not only by the Liberal NSW Women's Council but the Shadow Minister for Children, Youth and Family, Tanya Plibersek, could only have fatally undermined Patterson at such a difficult time.

It will be interesting to see whether the job is given to a junior minister or an experienced long-timer. Current Minister for Aging Julie Bishop is a possibility, though parliamentary secretary Dr Sharman Stone has also, like Jackie Kelly, spoken out strongly on childcare issues in the past.

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