Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s front bench is set to have four vacancies – possibly soon to be five depending on the outcome of the departmental inquiry into Stuart Robert – with news of the retirements of Andrew Robb and Warren Truss.
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The resignations of Warren Truss and Andrew Robb complicate an already messy job of ministerial shuffling explains Mark Kenny.
The timing of Warren Truss’ announcement, which has been pending for some time, has been holding back the Prime Minister’s reshuffle which has been on the cards since Jamie Briggs announced his resignation just after Christmas and Mal Brough stepped aside.
The consequence of all this movement is that the first Turnbull Cabinet - not even five months old - is undergoing more of a regeneration than a reshuffle.
Given the ongoing lethargy around tax reform, the regeneration is welcome and let’s hope it acts as a reboot to the national discussion we were promised that never seemed to get off the ground.
The Prime Minister is losing one of his most successful ministers in Andrew Robb. As Trade and Investment Minister he has delivered free trade agreements with China, Korea and Japan and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.
By no means was he the first Minister to try to get it done – but he was the Minister who got it done and that is a major achievement. We now have in place a global footprint of trade pacts that will enable Australian business to trade with the world. Minister Robb is respected by both sides of politics and the broad business community.
Beyond his portfolio achievements, he leaves a great legacy in the way he openly talked about his battles with depression. He has raised the profile of mental health issues and, in so doing, made it easier for all of us to have those conversations in our homes and workplaces.
Warren Truss has become something of an institution in the National Party and is also well respected.
The front runner to replace Mr Truss as party leader is his deputy and Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce. The prospect of Deputy Prime Minister Joyce and acting Prime Minister Joyce when Malcolm Turnbull is out of the country or on holiday, will provoke the usual round of sniggering commentaries.
Minister Joyce can certainly be surprising but, at a time where we’re desperate for some authenticity in our political leaders, rather than stage-managed sound bites, it seems strange that it is his “realness” that is a cause of concern.
There has been a level of disquiet about Joyce’s potential ascension, not least from within his own party but you can’t deny his passion and commitment to the people of rural Australia and his success in bringing agriculture into mainstream policy debates.
So, we’re about to have some new faces on the team. The question is will they have time to settle into their new offices in Canberra or will it be straight to the hustings following the announcement of an early election?
Back in September when Malcolm Turnbull took over the Prime Ministership he talked about the need to take people with you by “respecting their intelligence in the manner you explain things”.
The Australian people are intelligent and capable of thinking about the changes we need as a society. Let’s hope our new-look Government can step up and get the debate started.
Alex Malley is chief executive of CPA Australia.