• John McDonnell

Scott Morrison’s reset reshuffle

Updated: Apr 1

The dogs have been barking all week that Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds are going to lose their portfolios although they may remain in cabinet. However, it now appears that the reshuffle will be more extensive than that, as the prime minister attempts to regain the trust of women who have come to the view that he is not interested in their concerns.

In question time on Wednesday, the prime minister deliberately left the question of Christian Porter’s future in doubt. He responded to the leader of the opposition Anthony Albanese by saying that the solicitor-general had provided him with a report on possible conflicts of interest in the event that Mr Porter retained his position of attorney general while running a defamation action against the ABC.

Mr Morrison said that he was reviewing the report with the secretary and deputy secretary of his department in the light of the ministerial standards.

Also, on Wednesday, the minister for defence Linda Reynolds advised that she would be unable to attend defence discussions in India on April 13, because of medical advice. In the circumstances it is considered unlikely that she will be able to continue on as minister for defence although it is not obvious what alternative cabinet position she could take.

The current word is that Michaelia Cash will take over as attorney-general in a straight swap with Christian Porter who will become minister for industrial relations and employment. Peter Dutton will replace Linda Reynolds as minister for defence. It is unlikely that Senator Reynolds will take on the challenging portfolio of home affairs, but it is not clear what job she will get.

One change that the prime minister must make, is to appoint a stand-alone minister for women. The appointee will need to be someone who is willing to engage with women and the media in a way that Marise Payne has failed to do. There appears to be no senior Liberal woman who is available and suitable, so he may have to appoint one of the younger group of Liberal women.

In a late development on Thursday afternoon, Brittany Higgins sent a formal complaint to Dr John Kunkel, the prime minister’s chief of staff about members of the prime minister’s office backgrounding against her partner. There was also a second complaint lodged by a person who worked in parliament house. In question time on Thursday the PM undertook to get back to Ms Higgins the same day.

In another development, the whistleblower who revealed the lewd acts that were videoed in female members' offices, passed video material of the acts to Senators Simon Birmingham and Kristina Keneally. Apart from this, journalists were told that the Liberal party was close to identifying the staffers involved and taking action against them.

In senate estimates on Wednesday, defence department officials revealed that the security breach that led to the sacking of the man who was the alleged perpetrator of Brittany Higgin’s rape, involved the misuse of highly classified information and that this occurred before the incident involving Ms Higgins. This laid to rest the inference in last

Monday’s Four Corners that the sacking for a security breach was part of cover-up.

In a moment of supreme irony, it also transpired that the same man was a member of a committee established to develop protocols for dealing with sexual harassment.