Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the Prime Minister’s reshuffle can’t disguise the fact there are a whole lot of “L-plate” ministers running around trying to make informed decisions just months out from the budget.
“The Turnbull government is in a bit of chaos,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday, the day after Malcolm Turnbull delivered his new-look ministerial team.
The reshuffle introduced more women and younger talent into the frontbench following the retirement announcements of Nationals leader Warren Truss and Trade Minister Andrew Robb, and the dumping of three ministers since late last year.
Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said Mr Turnbull had seized the opportunity to regenerate the team ahead of this year’s election.
The new ministers – including Queensland Liberal Steve Ciobo, 41, who takes over as trade minister from Mr Robb, and Victorian Nationals’ Darren Chester, 48, who assumes the infrastructure and transport portfolios from Mr Truss – will be sworn in by the governor general on Thursday.
Senator Birmingham said the team was on notice to follow the code of conduct to achieve the highest standards, warning that Mr Turnbull will act if required.
“The Australian people expect no less and I am quite confident the ministerial team understands that,” Senator Birmingham, who retained the education ministry, told Sky News.
Scandals caused Mal Brough, Stuart Robert and Jamie Briggs to resign.
Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek said it was a continuing melodrama.
“Who knows what sort of front bench we’ll face in the months ahead?” she told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Shorten claimed Labor had played its part in the removal of 14 ministers, including a prime minister, a treasurer and a speaker, in the past six months.
“We tick the boxes for being a strong opposition,” he told the Seven Network.
Mr Truss was replaced by Barnaby Joyce as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, a distinctly different character to the PM.
“But I think they can be incredibly complementary in the way that they work together, that both of them are very much in touch with business and the needs of business,” Senator Birmingham said.
He dismissed any suggestion of a downgrading of the cities portfolio to an assistant minister role that was previously held by Mr Briggs.
“What the prime minister has sought to do there is get a very talented, sharp mind in Angus Taylor into that role … working directly with the prime minister,” Senator Birmingham said.
Labor’s infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese was unimpressed, saying this is not the new attitude Mr Turnbull had promised towards cities.
“That was just window dressing … (he’s) appointed someone who doesn’t even live in one of the cities where 80 per cent of Australians live,” he told reporters in Sydney.
The reshuffle added more women to the ministry, with the Nationals’ new deputy Fiona Nash becoming the sixth woman in cabinet.
“I’m always pleased to see more women rising through the ranks but … we’re always doing better,” Ms Plibersek said.