Speculation is firming for a Malcolm Turnbull frontbench reshuffle this week as Parliament heads into the long summer recess.
Government sources have told The New Daily that the Prime Minister is keen to “make a few changes” to his ministry as Parliament rises for the year at the end of the week.
“Keep an eye on Friday,” one high-level Liberal Party source said.
“Parliament will be over and it will be the perfect time.”
Another put it more succinctly, saying a reshuffle was “definitely on the cards” for this week.
“Plans could change, and often do in these situations, but the PM wants to make a few changes and you should expect to hear all about them this week,” the source said.
While the end of a parliamentary year is always fertile ground for reshuffle speculation – especially for an embattled government – Mr Turnbull has plenty of reasons to tweak the make-up of his frontbench.
His government ends the year having scraped through one scandal after another, leaving the Prime Minister embarrassed and looking weak.
But just how far he might go is provoking even greater speculation.
“He should get rid of (Attorney-General George) Brandis, and he is definitely over him,” one source said.
“But whether he will is another matter. Brandis has influence in the party room and could try to use it against Malcolm if he feels slighted.
“And Malcolm is beholden to the hardliners right now, no doubt about that, but maybe he will show some leadership this week and remove some gaping sores.”
Offering to make his task a little easier is the man he deposed for the top job, former prime minister Tony Abbott, who took to the weekend media with a message he is up for a return to the ministry.
Abbott’s ready and willing
Speaking on Sunday morning on Sky News, Mr Abbott made it clear he was ready for a cabinet posting.
He even hinted that it would be better for Mr Turnbull to have him inside the tent rather than out, noting he would be bound by cabinet solidarity and confidentiality as a senior minister.
The former PM said he was more easily able to speak out on a broad range of topics as a backbencher – something that would have to change if he were a cabinet minister.
He suggested he could comfortably fit into the ministry of the man who toppled him because, “you don’t have to idolise someone to be able to work with them”.
But when asked if he thought Mr Turnbull was doing a good job, Mr Abbott said “there’s a sense of prime ministers and governments always needing to do more”.
Some current ministers said Mr Abbott’s remarks were very much framed in the anticipation of an imminent ministry reshuffle.
“He is putting himself out there and saying he’s ready to be part of those changes and to come back into cabinet,” one minister said.