Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Shuffling the Deck

Cross posted on Larvatus Prodeo

It used to be customary to wait until after an election before starting to speculate on the makeup of the new cabinet, but like every other aspect of this year's campaign, traditional notions of what happens, how it happens and why just seem inapplicable this time around, and I'm still not quite sure why.

Before speculating on the next NSW cabinet, I should note that, for a government that everyone expects to cruise comfortably to victory on Saturday, an extraordinary number of local candidates - in seats both marginal and safe - are expressing a genuine, non-agenda based pessimism about their individual chances. Usually, candidates have a rough idea of their prospects this close to an election. Many that I know of are so unsure as to their position that they would be no more surprised if they suffered a whopping defeat than if they won a crushing victory.

Thus, both possibilities should always be kept in the back - and perhaps the front - of the mind.

Assuming the government is returned, there will certainly be a significant reshuffle. Morris Iemma will want to make his mark on what was previously a mostly inherited cabinet, and one that is overdue a spring cleaning. He has reportedly been given full sway by factions for this job. Given various mooted demotions, as many as nine positions could be up for grabs (and ostensibly, an absolute minimum of four, given the departure of Sandra Nori, Milton Orkopoulos, Carl Scully and Bob Debus).

However, I suspect the Cabinet itself may be slimmed down through a spot of consolidation. A combined Environment, Water and Climate Change portfolio has already been mooted; it's quite possible that similar consolidation will occur in other areas - for example, between Justice and Juvenile Justice (or even a super portfolio combining both with Attorney General, as is already the case in some other states). Morris Iemma has already announced a reconsolidation of the Transport portfolio - split uncomfortably between John Watkins and Eric Roozendaal last year. I can't see Watkins being given the lot, on top of Police - but I certainly can't see Roozendaal doing so either. The furore over the poor running times of Sydney trains occurred during a fairly insulated period of the electoral cycle, but the government will be unwilling to see that particular spot fire flare up again. Could Tony Kelly take transport in place of Emergency Services?

The all-important new Environment super-portfolio will undoubtedly be assigned to a senior Minister - David Campbell sounds like a good prospect, given that he is already Minister for Water. (Will Energy also come under this portfolio? If it doesn't, it's hard to see Joe Tripodi holding on to it).

As to the latter, the current Minister for Health, John Hatzistergos is widely regarded to have a lock on the role of Attorney General. Meanwhile, the controversial Frank Sartor is rumoured to be replacing him in the Health portfolio. This would certainly represent a shift - the hallmark of both Morris Iemma and Hatzistergos' approach to the portfolio was distinctly low key. Sartor is not, by nature, a low key person. Perhaps such an appointment would be designed to ensure he became one.

Sartor is also said to have expressed interest in the Arts portfolio. He could plausibly handle both, but it's also possible that, in line with the creation of the Department of Arts, Sport and Recreation last year, a single portfolio combining all three policy areas (`recreation' being the current Gaming and Racing).

Sartor's portfolio of Planning will be one of the most contentious, and it's a wide open field - John Della Bosca? Reba Meagher? Cherie Burton, perhaps, moving up a step from Housing? Whoever is chosen may indicate how the government intends to approach an issue which, in many seats, is the most divisive of them all. It's hard to see Della Bosca being shifted from the crucial Industrial Relations portfolio, in which he has done some solid, often underpublicised work. Who else, though?

Well, that's a few of the old faces - then, who will be elevated to cabinet? Early reports that I read seemed way off - it took several days before acknowledged rising figures such as Graham West and Matt Brown were mentioned (perhaps taking Fair Trading and Local Government respectively - current Ministers Diane Beamer and Kerry Hickey are expected to be shown the door). Paul McLeay sounds a very plausible choice for Housing, but rumours placing Linda Burney in the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio are way off - she has loudly made clear that she is not interested, despite being a former Director General of the relevant department. Nevertheless, she's certainly a shoe-in for the cabinet, quite possibly in the traditionally Left-held portfolios of Women and Tourism.

We'll all know, of course, in a blessed 48 hours, one way or the other. In the meantime, the above was based on speculation, rumour and educated guess - I welcome everyone to make their own suggestions based on same.


At 6:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that Carmel Tebbutt is going to stand down from the Cabinet?

If so, she will be sorely missed. She's a quality minister and a great asset to the government.

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