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Rein defends Rudd over Kokoda joke

Therese Rein defends her husband on Sunday over comments by Joe Hockey that he "should have drowned" the PM on the Kokoda track.

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  • Rudd to announce new ministry at 8.30am

Revamping the maligned carbon tax would mean a significant hit to the federal budget, the incoming Climate Change Minister, Mark Butler, has acknowledged, as Kevin Rudd prepares to unveil sweeping changes to his ministry.

The community now thinks this is a contest. 

Three women - Victorians Jacinta Collins and Catherine King, as well as Tasmanian Julie Collins - will be promoted to cabinet. That will take the number of women in the ministry from nine to 11.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Picking a new cabinet: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Simon Crean is also thought to be in line for a frontbench position, possibly education, and Kim Carr is tipped to return to the industry portfolio. Joel Fitzgibbon, who was Mr Rudd's point man in his return to the leadership, is also expected to be rewarded.

Mr Rudd is expected to push for the fixed-price carbon tax to shift to a market-priced emissions trading scheme as quickly as possible, potentially denying the government billions of dollars in revenue.

Mr Butler, who will be named on Monday morning as the new Environment and Climate Change Minister in the cabinet reshuffle, said the anticipated policy change would have ''significant budget implications'' but expressed confidence that Labor could win back public support for carbon pricing.

Carbon tax policy change will have "significant budget implications": Climate Change Minister Mark Butler.

Carbon tax policy change will have "significant budget implications": Climate Change Minister Mark Butler. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Rudd will unveil the changes on Monday morning after spending Sunday in north-east Arnhem Land for the state memorial for Yothu Yindi front man Yunupingu.

In other changes following Mr Rudd's dramatic return to the leadership last week, Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to add communications, including the all-important national broadband network, to his existing infrastructure portfolio.

Senator Collins will become Minister for Mental Health and Ms Collins will be named Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Status of Women. Ms King will retain the regional affairs portfolio, which will be upgraded to cabinet level. West Australian MP Melissa Parke will join the ministry under the International Development and Aid portfolio.

Expanding portfolio: Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Expanding portfolio: Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Photo: Andrew Meares

The promotions of Ms King, Ms Collins and Senator Collins will bring the total number of women in cabinet to six. Penny Wong, Julie Macklin and Tanya Plibersek remain in cabinet.

"This will the largest number of women in the Australian cabinet in history, and the same for the ministry at large,'' Mr Rudd told Channel Seven on Monday morning.

Asked if he made the appointments because he feared a backlash after he deposed Australia's first female prime minister last week, Mr Rudd replied: "These are women who are strong, professional, highly experienced and they are there exclusively on their merit."

The changes come as a Fairfax ReachTEL poll revealed that Labor voters overwhelmingly support the switch back to Mr Rudd, including 74 per cent in Employment Minister Bill Shorten's Victorian electorate of Maribyrnong and 80 per cent in new Treasurer Chris Bowen's western Sydney seat of McMahon.

Speaking exclusively to Fairfax Media, Mr Butler said moving more quickly to an ETS would take ''a fair bit of very quick work''. Cabinet is expected to tackle the matter at its first meeting on Monday afternoon after ministers are sworn in at 2pm.

''This is a complex framework around carbon pricing,'' Mr Butler said. ''It has significant budget

implications, it bears directly on the operation of hundreds of very large companies. So it would be a complex policy proposition for us to work through.''

Mr Butler declined to go into detail about when and how the change will happen, stressing there would be a ''proper cabinet process''. He refused to comment on whether the household assistance package designed to compensate Australians for the carbon price would be cut.

The carbon price - widely regarded as a deeply damaging policy for the government because of Julia Gillard's pre-election vow not to introduce a ''carbon tax'' - enters its second year on July 1, rising from $23 to $24.15 a tonne for major emitters.

At present the scheme does not change to a market-price trading scheme until July 2015, but Mr Rudd is aiming to bring that shift forward. Such a change could blow a hole in the budget because carbon permits on the international market are selling at about $6 - slashing billions of dollars from revenue.

It is understood that any change will become part of Labor's election platform. Changes would need legislation, meaning a recall of Parliament, which appears unlikely.

Mr Albanese said on Sunday this was an option but ''I wouldn't book tickets to question time''.

Mr Butler praised the work of his predecessor Greg Combet, who warned on Sunday that a quick shift to an ETS would be difficult and involve renegotiating carbon market links with the European Union.

Mr Butler said public opinion would bounce around on such a complex issue but he was confident Labor could win support for a revamped scheme.

More broadly, he said the dynamics for Labor had already changed noticeably in the four days since Mr Rudd's return.

''The mood has changed out in the community. The community now thinks this is a contest. Certainly within the caucus, there is a spring in people's steps,'' he said.

with AAP

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