JULIA Gillard has elevated two key supporters to the cabinet, expanded the jobs of three frontbenchers and made four new ministers in the wake of a “self-indulgent” leadership dispute.
The prime minister apologised for the debacle – in which Kevin Rudd was urged on Thursday by senior ministers to challenge her, but declined at the last minute – describing it as “appalling”.
“My political party, the Labor party that I love dearly, was self-indulgent. Our eyes were on ourselves rather than … being focused on the nation,” she told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“It was an unseemly display, but out of that has come clarity.”
Labor has been marked down over its disunity, with the government’s primary vote dropping two points to 33 per cent in the latest Essential poll published on Monday.
The two biggest winners of the reshuffle were new cabinet ministers Gary Gray, who takes on the mining and energy portfolio, and Jason Clare, who becomes a full member of cabinet and remains justice and home affairs minister.
Despite criticism of his previous support for Mr Rudd to return as prime minister, Anthony Albanese’s transport portfolio was expanded to take on regional development and local government – vacated by Simon Crean who was sacked over his aborted campaign for Mr Rudd’s return.
Ms Gillard consulted key independent MPs over Mr Albanese’s extra jobs and said she was “comfortable” with him remaining in cabinet.
“He has been very central to the life of this government, and I believe he will serve very well and with a very strong sense of loyalty into the future,” she said.
Craig Emerson, a staunch supporter of Ms Gillard, adds tertiary education, skills, science and research to his job as trade minister.
And Climate Change, Industry and Innovation Minister Greg Combet’s department will expand, merging with the climate change department, a move which the Greens have criticised as a step backwards.
Four new ministers have been appointed: Catherine King (Regional Services), Don Farrell (Science), Sharon Bird (Higher Education) and Jan McLucas (Human Services).
The reshuffle also made Andrew Leigh, Matt Thistlethwaite, Michael Danby, Bernie Ripoll, Amanda Rishworth and Shayne Neumann parliamentary secretaries.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says Ms Gillard will be working with an “L-plate cabinet” in the lead-up to the federal budget in 50 days’ time.
“This is quite a challenge for the government, given that the budget will be prepared with some of Labor’s most respected and most competent members on the back bench rather than on the front bench,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Abbott noted the new ministry would include the sixth small business minister in less than three years, after Chris Bowen stood down on Friday.
More than half of Labor’s 102-member caucus are or have been parliamentary secretaries or ministers since Labor was elected in 2007.
Universities and business groups welcomed the creation of Mr Combet’s mega-department, saying it highlighted links between industry competitiveness and climate policy and put higher education at the heart of boosting jobs and investment.
However, Greens leader Christine Milne said having no stand-alone climate change department meant the government was moving closer to the coalition’s environmental policies.
Senator Milne was also concerned about Mr Gray, a former executive of the Woodside oil and gas company, taking over resources from Martin Ferguson.
Mr Ferguson stood down on Friday after calling on Labor to reclaim the reform legacy of the Hawke and Keating governments.
Ms Gillard disagreed with his diagnosis, saying, “We do govern in the Hawke/Keating tradition.” – AAP