Gillard hands Rudd foreign affairs post
KEVIN RUDD will be named foreign affairs minister when Julia Gillard announces her new ministry today, a day after the independent MP, Robert Oakeshott, spurned the offer of a cabinet position.
Stephen Smith will make room for Mr Rudd by shifting from Foreign Affairs to Defence, a notoriously difficult portfolio requested by the West Australian MP.
As defence minister, Mr Smith will oversee the completion of Australia's military mission in Afghanistan, which the government expects to take two to four years.
Thanks, but no thanks ... Mr Oakeshott rejects a post as regional minister. He would have had to leave the cabinet room when non-regional issues were discussed. Photo: Frank Redward
''Stephen has done an outstanding job as foreign affairs minister and but for these special circumstances where a former leader will take a place on the frontbench I would have had no hesitation asking him to stay on,'' Ms Gillard said in a statement last night.
''Kevin's status as a former party leader and his undoubted capacity meant he is deserving of a senior portfolio where the government can best use his skills. His experience and intense interest in Foreign Affairs makes this the obvious choice,'' she said.
Ms Gillard was handed an extra spot in drawing up her ministry by Mr Oakeshott's rejection of a post as minister for regional Australia.
Mr Oakeshott, the former Nationals politician who helped hand Labor another shot at government this week, suggested accepting the offer would have been too politically fractious.
It would also have been an administrative and legal nightmare. Mr Oakeshott would have been required to leave the cabinet room when non-regional issues were discussed.
''I have declined the offer,'' Mr Oakeshott said in a statement after talking with Ms Gillard yesterday afternoon. He later told reporters: ''I'm hoping it can be bought home by someone with potentially less thorns on them, at the moment, than me. If I was to take this portfolio, I think there are some organisations still in Parliament that may want to bring the package down.''
Mr Oakeshott's decision denies him a significant pay rise. He earns just over $136,000 a year as a backbencher. As a cabinet minister, he would have earned about $100,000 more.
Ms Gillard has three vacancies in the ministry to fill, after the departures of the former finance minister Lindsay Tanner and the return of John Faulkner and Alan Griffin to the backbench. All three former ministers are from the ALP Left.
Greg Combet is all but assured of elevation to cabinet and will take over Penny Wong's climate change portfolio. The former secretary of the ACTU has won a solid reputation as a ministerial performer, first as a junior defence minister and then after taking responsibility for the troubled home insulation scheme.
The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, is expected to shift and the Sydney MP Chris Bowen could take on Mr Tanner's old job of finance.
There is a clutch of backbenchers and parliamentary secretaries who have worked hard for promotion.
The Victorian MP Mark Dreyfus is in the mix for a position as parliamentary secretary as is the Queenslander Yvette D'Ath.
Mark Butler, the former head of South Australia's Left faction and the parliamentary secretary for health, is another in for a shot at a ministry.
❏ The Australian Electoral Commission revealed yesterday it has excluded another 854 votes from being counted in the Queensland seat of Flynn due to undisclosed errors in the handling of ballot papers by electoral staff.
The AEC said the excluded votes would not affect the result in Flynn, where the Liberal candidate Ken O'Dowd is more than 5000 votes ahead of Labor's Chris Trevor. But they come on top of 452 votes already excluded in Flynn. That brings the number of Flynn voters disenfranchised by AEC errors to 1306 or 1.4 per cent of all voters.
with Mark Davis