Scott Morrison will be weighing up what to do with his front bench. (ABC News: Scott Morrison)
Scott Morrison is preparing a new-look frontbench as Labor grapples with who will lead the party after its shock election loss.
- Politicians from Queensland and Tasmania are hoping to gain a boost in Cabinet as a reward for the electoral gains in their states
- West Australian MP Ken Wyatt says he is keen to take on the Indigenous Affairs portfolio
- Questions remain around the future role of Environment Minister Melissa Price
The final outcome of the election remains unclear but the ABC election computer is currently projecting the Coalition winning 75 seats, Labor winning 65, six shared among Independents and five to be decided (as at 4:00am).
The Prime Minister faces a difficult balancing act, thanks in part to the exodus of senior ministers from his Cabinet who retired at the election.
Those that stuck with the Coalition are already jostling for promotions, with Queensland and Tasmania hoping to gain a boost in Cabinet as a reward for the electoral gains in their states.
Labor, meanwhile, has started looking for a new leader after Bill Shorten announced he would step down from the position.
As the Labor leadership discussion begins, there’s another discussion taking place about why the party lost what has been dubbed the unlosable election.
Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has urged a change in direction, saying the party has tracked “a bit to the left”.
He suffered a 10 per cent swing against him in the New South Wales seat of Hunter, which has a large mining community.
“The Labor Party must reconnect with its blue-collar base and get back to the centre and be less ambitious in its pace of change,” he said.
“People are inherently conservative in Australia and any change has to be orderly and steady and needs to be explained to people.”
He said Labor was punished because Australians did not understand their policies and instead took what they considered the safe option and voted for other parties.
His view is similar to that of outgoing Victorian MP Michael Danby, who said the party’s policy to end tax refunds on franking credits for retirees cost it dearly at the ballot box.
“Before this election I had many many rusted-on older Labor people come to me and beg me to do something about this,” he said.
“Because they said they wanted to vote for a change of government but they couldn’t because they couldn’t afford the change, it really effected them.”
He criticised Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen for telling voters not to back Labor if they did not approve of the policy.
“Well that was arrogant, and he shouldn’t have said it. He’s a much better person than that normally, I don’t understand that comment at all,” he said.
Scott Morrison is expected to reward the states that kept the Coalition in power — Queensland and Tasmania. (AAP: Joel Carrett)
The call for action on climate change was loud and strong during the election campaign but Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said that was not reflected at all of the polling booths.
“This was allegedly the climate change election and people did not warm to that from Bill Shorten,” he said.
He believes the reason the Liberal Party performed so well, not just in Queensland but in his home state, was partly due to the debate around Adani.
“Adani was seen … as an indication that the Labor party was deserting its grass roots and the workers in favour of the suburban city elite,” he said.
In light of the election result, Michael Danby has called on the Labor party to put a greater focus on mining industry jobs.
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“Climate change is real, but it’s not the only issue,” he said.
You have to see in balance with issues of employment, and certainly the people of Queensland and the people of the Hunter have given us that answer.”
As the member for Hunter, Mr Fitzgibbon has blamed scare campaigns for making voters think Labor was anti-mining.
“We took what I think you could fairly describe as a light touch climate policy into this election, but in many parts of the country it was rejected, and you see that in my vote in the Hunter Valley,” he said.
“Climate change remains a challenge for the political parties.”
Minority or majority?
Mr Morrison will have to address climate change policy when he returns to Canberra, but for now his focus is on forming government.
The Coalition needs 76 seats but has to appoint a Speaker.
Falling below 76 would mean he would need crossbench support to pass Coalition legislation.
Mr Morrison also needs to prepare his frontbench, and West Australian Ken Wyatt has made clear he would be keen to take on the Indigenous Affairs portfolio.
“If he offered it to me I would take it, but that’s a choice for the Prime Minister,” he said.
“He will look at the skills mix and then ask us to take on responsibilities that are critical to optimising what the Government wants to achieve over the next three years.”
There are questions about the future of Environment Minister Melissa Price, who was absent from the national election campaign and declined requests to talk to media outlets.
Mr Morrison has previously said she would keep her role, but when asked if she would stay on, Ms Price gave a generic response.
“That’s not my call, that’s a matter for the Prime Minister,” she said.
In putting together his team, Mr Morrison also needs to reward the states that kept the Coalition in power, namely Queensland and Tasmania.
Mr Abetz talked around the question of whether a prominent position on the frontbench should be rewarded to someone in his state.
“Ultimately the frontbench has to be determined based on capacity and delivering for all of Australia and Tasmania has now delivered,” he said.
“On that basis I’m sure the Prime Minister will put that into his mix of considerations in determining his frontbench.”
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