Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones ponders Tony Abbott's new team and wonders: where is Mal Brough?
You put your right foot in
You take your right foot out
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about
This merry ditty provided the leitmotif to the great Abbott Cabinet Reshuffle.
Why a reshuffle and not just a plain, garden-variety shuffle is
anyone’s guess. The LNP has been in power just 15 months and the only
previous shuffle I can recall was a bit of tinkering at the edges to try
and fill the yawning intellectual gap left by Arthur Sinodinos
when he decided hiding was the better part of valour and stepped aside
as assistant treasurer. The gap, sadly, remains unfilled.
You will recall Arthur as the chap in the ICAC witness box
running his finger round the inside of his blue-tied collar when
pressed on his memory, or lack of it, of sending money to himself, from
AWH, of which he was a director, to the NSW Liberals, of which he was
Arthur’s career finished at that point. He didn’t resign though. He
kept the job title but just kind of hung around in the background,
mooching. That left the overworked Joe Hockey to carry the nation’s
financial burdens without an able assistant, and we all know how well
that’s worked out.
No one wanted to mention Arthur’s name, because the next name anyone thought of was Obeid and no one wanted that. Sleeping dogs.
But apparently, someone in the Liberal
Party finally decided enough was enough and that memories had dimmed
enough for Arthur to have one last moment in the sun. Reluctantly, and
with deep regret, Abbott, his strings being visibly jerked, announced
Arthur was to hop in his Jag and bugger off. Arthur had a little flurry
of press about pulling the pin then dropped off the radar
And that cleared the way for a shuffle and a jolly good bottom scouring.
I have only one question: where is Mal Brough when you need him?
And I know the answer — Coventry
Brough is an experienced Liberal minister. In 2001, he was made
Howard’s Mminister for employment services. In July 2004, he was made
assistant treasurer and minister for revenue. In January 2006, he was
made minister for families and community services and Indigenous affairs
Brough has been there and done that. He was Howard’s pet. Abbott is
on several records singing his praises and saying what a great
contribution he’d make to the Government. He is also brutally ambitious.
But no shuffle guernsey for Mal.
Someone has serious doubts about Brough and wants his head kept below the parapets.
Believe it or not, aspects of the Ashby/Doane/Slipper matter are
still playing their way through the courts. Brough, despite his
disingenuous protestations, waded knee deep through this mire. Now, he’s
smiling tropical like a island with storm clouds hanging over its head.