A cabinet reshuffle is essential for Scott Morrison to continue his winning streak, writes Renee Viellaris.
A cabinet reshuffle is essential for Scott Morrison to continue his winning streak, writes Renee Viellaris.

The MPs the PM should kick out of Cabinet: Opinion

AFTER May's Budget, but likely closer to the end of 2020, Scott Morrison will reshuffle his Cabinet.

In part, it will be a necessity to help him win the next election, and it is also likely there will be retirements.

Elements of Morrison's Cabinet are sloth-like in policy formation, bogged down in ideology instead of political practicality, simply unsuitable for the portfolio they hold or are there just because they are women, and some of those women have failed to live up to the challenge of walking on the blue carpet.

PM Scott Morrison and some of his Ministers.
PM Scott Morrison and some of his Ministers.

Waiting in the wings are the young Turks, wondering how long they will have to wait to get a ministry - all this is causing problems and simmering tension.

Unless Morrison is politically ruthless, these liabilities will become major hurdles by 2022 - which is why he will have to reshuffle his Cabinet mid term.

Morrison's focus this term, apart from the economy, is drought, veterans and aged care.

Those who hold the veterans and aged care positions now do not have the policy firepower or the implementation experience. Some are too beholden to their departments.

And while David Littleproud is Drought Minister, that whole space is a dog's breakfast split between too many ministers, meaning there's too much policy paralysis and overlap.

The key issue of water is shared between Littleproud, Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack (who has responsibility for dams) and Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

The Aged Care portfolio now rests with Richard Colbeck, but it needs to go to Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Hunt is the Government's policy wonk plus knows how to navigate Cabinet.

Hunt is doing heavy policy work now post draft report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care but he should own the portfolio proper.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

Morrison should also think outside the box and appoint Hunt Emissions Reduction Minister.

That currently sits with Energy Minister Angus Taylor, who is focused on bringing down power prices.

Rightly or wrongly, Taylor is viewed as a climate change non-believer by some in Cabinet and some key stakeholders.

Climate change will become a real threat for Morrison at the next election, especially if the drought does not break or for not long enough.

There will be further political pressure as communities across the country are slapped with water restrictions and groceries at the checkout become more expensive because of the drought.

There is nothing Australia can do to dramatically reduce global emissions.

But it needs to convince the public at home that it has a practical plan, heavily geared towards mitigation and innovation.

The former Abbott government set aside $2.5 billion in 2014 for the Emissions Reductions Fund (ERF).

Hunt, then environment minister, neutralised political attacks from Labor, which lambasted the Coalition for its plans to axe the carbon tax.

Hunt knew the key to success in the space - believing in climate change and taking meaningful action.

A big, hard sell is needed by the Government on what it is doing to address climate change.

In February, Morrison bumped up funding for ERF by another $2 billion under his Climate Solutions Package, which aims to reduce emissions by 100 million tonnes by 2030.

While Hunt still provides advice to Morrison on this issue, it is not his focus. It should be.

Some may argue a Health, Aged Care, Emissions Reductions Portfolio and assisting the PM with Cabinet is too much work for one Minister, but tell that to Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is snowed with the Government's legislative agenda and is the Leader of the House.

Darren Chester also needs to be moved out from the Veterans' portfolio. There will likely be a Royal Commission into veterans' affairs.

The Department is no longer fit for purpose and lacks basic details about the people it is meant to represent. It needs a steel-bristled broom.

Member for Brisbane Trevor Evans, who is the junior minister to Ley, should be promoted to Veterans Minister.

Darren Chester at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith
Darren Chester at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith

Evans has the temperament, intelligence and work ethic for the portfolio.

Matt Canavan has the Resources and Northern Australia portfolio.

Canavan is focused on sandbagging the country's resources industry plus developing new resources of the future.

Labor's attack dog Murray Watt is chipping away at the Government's handling of the Northern Australia Investment Facility, a fund that has been lacklustre.

Queensland Senator Susan McDonald, who lives in Townsville, should be promoted to Minister for Northern Australia.

Queensland Senator Susan McDonald visits the Bundaberg Rum Distillery.
Queensland Senator Susan McDonald visits the Bundaberg Rum Distillery.

It is a misstep not to have a Minister north of Rockhampton.

She's new but has shown she has her own brain and is not beholden to anyone.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is not the right person to hold the job.

Morrison appointed her before he won the 2019 election but she should probably stay there just for the sake of stability in a portfolio that has had too many ministers over the past decade.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is also disappointing.

Having a lit-up media presence is not always needed, but Payne should be more vocal on key issues including China to provide guidance to her colleagues and the community.

Because she has left a vacuum on the issue, MPs like Andrew Hastie speak out - and hindsight shows he was right too.

Unlike during the election when he was an admirable everyman, Morrison cannot be the Minister for everything. Change is needed.