Vote on the Marriage Amendment Bill at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 7 December 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and acting Minister of State Senator Mathias Cormann during a press conference on same sex marriage at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 8 August 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Andrew Meares
Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester is set to be dumped in Malcolm Turnbull’s reshuffle, with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce instrumental in the decision to axe the well-regarded cabinet minister.
Mr Joyce is now expected to take over the portfolio of his Nationals’ colleague, and there are suggestions he will keep the Water portfolio but surrender Agriculture.
Rookie Queensland Nationals MP David Littleproud is favourite to take Mr Chester’s cabinet post, in a meteoric rise from the backbench just 18 months after he entered Parliament.
The promotion of Mr Littleproud, who was one of just four MPs to vote against same-sex marriage and called for a division on the issue, would give the Queensland Nationals a second cabinet post, at the expense of Victoria.
It is not clear if Mr Littleproud or Nationals deputy leader, Bridget McKenzie, will pick up the Agriculture portfolio but both will enter cabinet.
Another of Mr Joyce’s political opponents in the Nationals’ party room, Queensland junior minister Keith Pitt, has also been dumped as assistant minister for Trade and Tourism.
The expected decisions to dump Mr Chester and Mr Pitt were a surprise to some in the Nationals party room, and interpreted by several MPs as political payback by the Deputy Prime Minister; both men backed in senator Bridget McKenzie in the recent contest for Nationals deputy leader, rather than Mr Joyce’s pick of senator Matt Canavan.
Demands for Queensland to have a second Nationals’ cabinet minister also played a part in the decision to dump Mr Chester; there are four Nationals MPs from Victoria in Parliament, and eight Nationals-aligned MPs in the Queensland LNP.
Mr Turnbull is also expected to announce Liberals Dan Tehan and Paul Fletcher will move into cabinet later on Tuesday, but it is understood that former cabinet minister Sussan Ley may now miss out on a return.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter will replace George Brandis as Attorney-General, and Senator Brandis will head to London in January to be high commissioner.
Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos – who is battling cancer – is also expected to step down when the reshuffle is announced.
NSW MPs Craig Laundy and Angus Taylor and Queenslanders John McVeigh and Stuart Robert and Karen Andrews are all considered possible promotion candidates for other junior ministry vacancies that will be created.
The other cabinet minister said to be in the running for the job of Attorney-General was Employment Minister Michaelia Cash; however, she has been damaged by the recent resignation of a staffer, who tipped off media about a raid on union offices, and accusations she initially misled Parliament over the matter.
Mr Porter’s expected promotion from Social Services to Attorney-General – he is a former treasurer and attorney-general in the Western Australian Parliament – will trigger further changes to the cabinet, and the outer ministry.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will also be sworn in to the new super portfolio of Home Affairs, which includes Immigration, the Australian Border Force the Australian Federal Police and spy agency ASIO – the last of which was previously in the Attorney-General’s portfolio.
The Prime Minister will also need to fill the outer ministry of Special Minister of State, which was recently vacated by now-Senate president Scott Ryan.
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