Looming election and more precise agenda, experts read signs of reshuffle

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A minor reshuffle of the federal ministry has caused some commentators to expect an election this year, while others believe it is simply an opportunity for the government to fine-tune its agenda.

The departure of Industry, Science and Technology Minister Christian Porter from the ministry prompted his portfolios to be split between Angus Taylor and Melissa Price.

This means that parts of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources will be accountable to Price, also Minister of Defense Industry, and parts already overseen by Taylor as Minister of Defense. ‘Energy and emission reduction will grow.

The reshuffle also included the appointment of Ben Morton as civil service minister, Alex Hawke to cabinet and Tim Wilson as deputy minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction.

For University of Sydney senior politics professor Dr Stewart Jackson, the small changes are a sign of an impending election he suspects to be happening this year.

“This minor reshuffle signals ‘she’s staying stable, let’s get into the election,'” Jackson said. “The reshuffle will take place after the election if Morrison is re-elected. ”

But for Deakin University policy professor Dr Geoff Robinson, the decision was simply to replace Christian Porter and focus portfolios more on the government’s agenda.

“Associating energy and emission reduction with industry reflects very well the way the Coalition tends to think of the policy of reducing emissions, that it is more or less subordinate to the policy of industry, ”Robinson said.

“There are obviously the different scientific agencies in the defense industry, and that certainly indicates the goal.”

The Prime Minister signaled that Price’s expanded portfolio would include working with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization and CSIRO to address the nuclear capabilities of the AUKUS submarine program.

Jackson, a public sector employee in the 1990s, said any reshuffle could be a difficult time for officials as they assess a new minister’s agenda.

“The biggest challenge is to make the minister aware, and before he gets there, to find out what his program is to take over the portfolio,” he said.

But based on his belief that an election could take place in December, he believed there wouldn’t be much time for the new roles to “make an impact.”

Jackson said he believes an election will take place as the government implements Australia’s plan to reopen as COVID-19 vaccination rates rise.

“The experience abroad shows that everyone is really happy for a while, and the number of cases starts to increase,” he said. “When they get out of covid … then I think people are up, and they take a good liking to the government.”

Robinson was not convinced an election would take place this year, indicating disruptions in the NSW state government causing headwinds and time needed before improvements come following the easing blockages.

He said ministers have become more interventionist in the public sector and he believes this is a trend that is likely to continue with the new appointments.

“They are more inclined to intervene in decisions, but they may have often struggled to drive policy change and direction,” said Robinson.

“I think this is probably due to the declining global vision of governments in the Australian context.”


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