Turnbull sweeps aside the past to ‘embrace the future’
Malcolm Turnbull is nothing if not crazy brave.
Never afraid of being bold, he has risked creating even bigger enemies of old Abbott-era allies. Having seized the top job he is now determined not to have spilled blood in vain.
It was not only his critics but even some of his longtime friends who were dumped to make way for new faces. So it was dramatically out with the old and in with the new.
Prime Minister Turnbull announces his new Cabinet. Photo: AAP
Gone are Senate leader Eric Abetz, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, Minister of State Michael Ronaldson, Treasurer Joe Hockey and, surprisingly, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.
Small Business is shocked it has lost a popular minister. The fear is Turnbull has been listening more to the big end of town. How that plays out could be critical for one of the Liberals’ core constituencies.
Hockey will quit parliament but the betting is he will soon replace Kim Beazley as our ambassador in Washington.
Not complaining, reigning: Scott Morrison is one of the big winners in Turnbull’s reshuffle. Photo: Getty
As expected Scott Morrison gets treasury and he is already looking to hire some of Peter Costello’s former brains trust.
Sure, the Prime Minister has rewarded the key plotters in his coup, but few could argue that he has ignored talent. This is a fresh-looking government. It accepts that women exist and have talent.
Five women are now in cabinet. Marise Payne becomes the first woman defence minister in our history. Often overlooked in her parliamentary career because she is a leading moderate, she now has the huge task of shaping crucial policy for the nation’s security.
Moving on. Parliamentary life will soon be a thing of the past for Joe Hockey.
The crazy brave aspect is the dumping of Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews. Both members of the Abbott praetorian guard and both still active organisers of the conservative right forces in the Liberal party.
As soon as he found out that his public pleadings to stay in Defence had been ignored Andrews called a news conference. He expressed his disappointment – some described it as a tantrum – and reminded everybody there have been more defence ministers than prime ministers in the past three years.
But maybe Turnbull realises his best defence against internal critics, if not enemies, is to produce the promised but undelivered “adult government.”
He has quickly moved to wrest the future from Labor Leader Bill Shorten. He exudes optimism and says the nation should not be afraid of change but grasp it with agility.
Policies he says will and must change to meet challenges. He is foreshadowing greater flexibility in dealing with transport, infrastructure and climate change.
The Abbott narrative of fear and siege has been abandoned. All well and good. Now for the delivery.
A key player in the performance of the new-look administration will be John Howard’s much respected long-time chief-of-staff Arthur Sinodinos.
He will have the key position of Cabinet Secretary. It puts him right at the heart of the government. Turnbull says he will ensure a return to the “gold standard” of consultative, cabinet rule practised by Howard.
The big test will be how many of his ministers take their cue from Turnbull. Are they prepared to bury the divisive politics of the past six years?
Successful government in Australia invariably occupies the middle ground.
Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics. He is Contributing Editor for Network Ten, appears on Radio National Breakfast and writes a weekly column on national affairs for The New Daily. He tweets at @PaulBongiorno