Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Great Shadow Frontbench Sweep

Tomorrow, Kevin Rudd will unveil his new Shadow Front Bench and, not surprisingly, speculation is rife on the winners and losers. Here's my hastily assembled field guide:

On the Way Up
Lindsay Tanner
Here's my bold prediction: Lindsay Tanner is Labor's next treasury spokesperson. Despite their factional and, I would imagine, occasional philosophical distances, Tanner and Rudd have formed a strong alliance, and, what's more, Tanner is exactly the man for the job. He's got economic credibility and well-earned respect, and it's time he was given the sort of senior ministry that reflects this.

Simon Crean
There's murmurings that Crean will be given Rudd's old portfolio of Foreign Affairs, but I'm not sure that's the right fit. Reportedly, he is interested in an industry portfolio, which would seem to be a better choice. There's no doubt that Crean was not a born leader - however, as Beazley before him, I think he could be a great and reform-minded senior Minister. Gavan O'Connor's Agriculture and Fisheries portfolio will now be searching for a Shadow Minister - it would make a certain amount of sense to combine this into a wider industry-based portfolio, much as occurred with the creation of the Primary Industries and Natural Resources portfolios in NSW.

Tony Burke
Burke has been on the ascendancy for some time - more or less, since he joined Federal Parliament - and this, combined with his part in delivering the leadership to Rudd is likely see him elevated. He's done very well in Immigration, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him given a more senior role. Health, perhaps? Or is that a bridge too far?

Julia Gillard
The fact that Gillard has indicated she will not choose her portfolio can be seen as a veto of the traditional assignment of the Treasury portfolio to the deputy. One intriguing idea I've heard mentioned is that she will take on Industrial Relations. Having the deputy in charge of such a crucial issue would give a strong message, but would she be the right choice?

My tip is that, as a former president of the Australian Union of Students and once an aspiring teacher, she might take the portfolio of her predecessor: Education.

Staying Put

Joel Fitzgibbon
Though the consensus initially suggested that Fitzgibbon will be richly rewarded for his pivotal role in winning the leadership for Rudd, I just can't see him being given a senior role. At most, he may inherit Finance if Tanner moves on, but if Tanner does get Treasury, I think Bob McMullan would be ore likely for that portfolio. Perhaps Resources? As you can tell, I'm not expecting the big leap forward some were predicting.

Tanya Plibersek
There's been some talk of the Beazley-supporting NSW Left being `punished' for their support of the opponent. Personally, I don't think this will be the case, and Rudd won't want to risk the criticism for moving people who are performing well in their roles. I'd count Plibersek amongst the ones who are doing too well for anyone to want to shift them.

On the Way Down

Anthony Albanese
This is unfortunate, as Albanese has been a passionate advocate for environmental issues, but I think the momentum behind Peter Garrett is too large. What may well happen is that a new side portfolio may be split off from the main one - Shadow Minister for Climate Change, for example - and given to either Albanese or Garrett.

Jenny Macklin
As I said before, I've never been particularly impressed by Macklin's performance in Education and, given the various circumstances that surround her, I can't see her taking on a major portfolio. I'm at a loss to say what she might be given instead. I'll pick Indigenous Affairs out of the ether.

Stephen Smith
Smith is another Shadow Minister in a crucial portfolio whose performance has left me cold. Given Rudd's strong early statements on industry, I think it's certain that Smith's industry and IR portfolios will be split. He may retain one, but he may well be shifted downwards, especially given his Rooster status.

Wayne Swan
Will Swan be retained in the Treasury role? I just can't see it. Though Swan has done terrific groundwork in rebuilding Labor's economic credibility, someone with a bit more fire in their belly is likely to take his portfolio. He would be a bad choice to take Rudd's old portfolio, but given an animosity that goes back to their school days, I can't see it happening.

On The Way In
Three vacancies now exist on the front bench, left by the departures of Bob Sercombe, Gavan O'Connor, and Kim Beazley. I would put money on these three filling their place, despite speculation that Chris Bowen may be elevated:

Peter Garrett
Garrett is the only MP Rudd has confirmed as joining the frontbench (which is odd, given there was supposed to vote on it. A move towards the Liberal tradition of the leader hand-choosing the front bench could put some noses out of joint, but that's an issue for another time). As I said earlier, it's reasonably likely that Garrett will be given the job of spearheading climate change and winning the argument over from the Greens. However, I'd also say an Arts ministry is more than likely too.

Bob McMullan
Reports have confirmed my suspicion that McMullan, now the most senior Minister on the front bench, would be interested in making a comeback, having fallen out of favour during the Latham era. I expect he would be given a senior portfolio - again, Treasury, if it's not given to Tanner - or perhaps Foreign Affairs.

Craig Emerson
Emerson's a funny bloke - full of ideas, some of them interesting and some a bit weird. Nevertheless, he's a former frontbencher who, again, fell out with Latham and retreated to the back bench. I can see him as an enthusiastic but controversial Shadow Minister in any one of a range of portfolios. I think he's too erratic to be given anything too hands on ... I'd love to see him oust Stephen Conroy as Shadow Communications Minister, but I can't see King Dalek shifting.

Feel free to make your bets, this is a very cursory list.


At 4:05 pm, Anonymous Lynn white said...

Good analysis Modia. I have been tipping Burke for Health since yesterday, although it will be less fun to watch if Abbott gets moved somewhere else. I just think Burke is fantastic, and he's amazing on the stump.

Macklin for indigenous affairs seems a good idea. It will be really said if Albanese does get demoted, but then maybe he could combine climate change with being minister for small islands?

As I said at Ozpolitics, I think Emerson's demotion from teh front bench was less the result of a fallout with Latho than of his twin crimes of going out with Julia Gillard and voting for Latham in the first place. Anyways, his return is WAY overdue. As is McMullan's.

At 10:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really do not rate McMullan and see him as a whine bag who is quite disruptive. I tend to agree with Latham I guess on this point.

Emerson is not a huge talent either in my view.

I would bring back McClelland into IR if possible and would not promote Fitzgibbon at all. Given that Garrett is arriving onto the Front Bench, there is no real obvious senior portfolio for Albanese to take. Is there? It would be hard on him but I guess he was so closely aligned to Beazley it is to be expected?

I think Chris Bowen from the NSW Right will get a jumper. He really is the only young NSW Right Winger coming through (apart from Burke) and I think some in the right place alot of faith and hope in him.

At 11:02 pm, Blogger Minotaur said...

It seems ridiculous that Emerson and McMullan have been off the front bench for so long, and it does lend weight to the idea of wheeling-and-dealing subordinating the pursuit of real talent.

I hadn't even considered the very important issue of who will be opposing who! It's been very entertaining to see Abbott cringe every time Gillard takes the stand, but if she can cream him, she'd make absolute mincemeat of Andrews. Then again, surely Howard will finally move someone more effective into the IR portfolio in the long-rumoured Christmas reshuffle. The irony is the obvious candidate would, again, be Abbott, who's never felt like a totally convincing Health Minister.

Another thing to watch for will be the creation or consolidation of existing portfolios (I've adjusted my original post to make one such suggestion), something that may itself be a political statement. Perhaps this may also be an option for Wayne Swan. He's always been good at discussing economics in terms of social justice - I'm not quite sure what sort of new portfolio could reflect this (Shadow Minister for Families would be too cringeworthy ... but in a sense, that's what it might be).

It'll also be interesting to see to what extent Rudd balances experience (in order to defeat the argument that he and his frontbench are too inexperienced) with new talent (to defeat the `same old Labor' line the Liberals are now pushing)

I've just this moment heard that Chris Bowen will be a fourth addition to the frontbench, at the expense of Annette Hurley.

At 9:50 am, Anonymous Milltown Pete said...

Stephen Smith a rooster? More like a turkey. Give him Foreign Affairs and keep him out of the country.

At 11:41 pm, Blogger Armagnac Esq. said...

As usual insightful analysis- I dunno, just dunno.

If I was Rudd I'd definitely move Gillard into IR. Her workplace lawyer background would get her over the technicals, it's labor's most left wing issue (sadly) so a lefty would be good for it as they aren't constantly having to moderate, and her boganish accent that she keeps getting paid out for will give her gravitas in the role.

You've made me realise how little foreign affairs talent we have. Shame Beazley couldn't stick around and run it.

And Garrett- I'd be unpredictable and give him arts and indigenous affairs myself.

At 9:34 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

aixI think Arts and Indigenous Affairs is a pretty good call for Garrett. I'm still not entirely convinced he will be handed Environment on a silver platter - that's why the side-portfolio idea seems so convincing. It'd be a mouthful, but how does Shadow Minister Assisting the Shadow Minister for the Environment (Climate Change) sound? I know some are suggesting it would be too easy to wedge Garrett and paint him as an astroturf Green, but on the other hand, having a former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation in an environment role is a pretty strong statement that the ALP is serious about the issue. Perhaps it would stop the annoying assertion, made every time the ALP bring out a good environment policy, that it's just being done `to win Green votes'. No, it's being done because it's a good thing to do !!!

I'm still a bit here-and-there over Gillard for IR - I'd completely forgotten she was a workplace lawyer, that's a good point to keep in mind. As you say, someone more down-to-earth is definitely needed - Smith gives off the air of one of the bosses, not one of the workers! And, as I said, putting the deputy in charge of IR would give a strong message about how much the party value the issue. Here's a radical thought - would Rudd take the portfolio himself, as Peter Beattie took water? Just putting that idea out there!

I think your call on Stephen Smith for Foreign Affairs is a brilliant one, Milltown Pete - it's the one (aside from Defence - I think Robert McClelland will retain it) that really had me puzzled. Given the news that Rudd will retain Swan as Shadow Treasurer, it appears that he won't be `punishing' the roosters, so it's entirely possible.

Today's news is reporting the announcement will come through today. Hope I'm near a computer!

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