Cabinet Shakeup Expected

Cabinet shakeup expected

Paul Osborne
September 8, 2010

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is expected to anoint Kevin Rudd as foreign minister and elevate new Labor talent amid a frontbench overhaul aimed at shoring up her minority government.

The cabinet could make history if independent Rob Oakeshott decides to take up the Labor leader's offer to make him minister for regional Australia – part of the deal to gain the support of the Lyne MP and fellow independent Tony Windsor to stay in government.

Ms Gillard is expected to consult more broadly than her predecessor Mr Rudd on her new ministry but has pledged to use powers caucus gave him after his 2007 election victory to name the frontbench free of factional influence.

Mr Rudd is tipped to get his preferred role, with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith switching to defence, vacated by John Faulkner.

A senior Labor source said Mr Rudd was likely to get “the portfolio he asks for”.

Greg Combet also has been mentioned as a possible defence minister, having proven himself in the junior defence portfolio, but a possible change in duties for Simon Crean could see his role limited to workplace relations or education.

Mr Oakeshott said he would decide on Ms Gillard's offer of a ministry after consulting his family.

But it may not fit in with his commitment to remain independent from government.

Chris Bowen has been mentioned in Labor circles as an “easy choice” to become finance minister in the wake of Lindsay Tanner's retirement.

With Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin revealing he would go to the backbench on Wednesday, the prime minister was given an added opportunity to put a fresh face on the frontbench.

There is uncertainty over whether former union leader Bill Shorten will be promoted to the outer ministry, having been blemished by his plotting role in deposing Mr Rudd, and what will happen to fellow powerbroker Mark Arbib.

Labor MPs in line for possible promotion include Jason Clare, Mike Kelly, Gary Gray and Mark Dreyfus, the only QC in parliament.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans and Environment Minister Peter Garrett may get reduced duties in the wake of problems with dealing with asylum seekers and the failed insulation scheme.

Anthony Albanese's massive portfolio of infrastructure, transport and regional development is tipped to be split up to allow for the new regional ministry and ensure he can devote plenty of time to his essential role of Leader of the House.

The new ministry will be sworn in next week.