Abbott allies to be sidelined in Oz cabinet reshuffle

Canberra, Sep 16 (IANS) Supporters of ousted Australian prime minister Tony Abbott were likely to lose their ministerial portfolios or have them downgraded in a cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In the wake of the Liberal party’s leadership spill on Monday night, Turnbull on Tuesday said he would be announcing changes to the party’s front bench early next week, with a number of key positions under review, Xinhua news agency reported.

Treasurer Joe Hockey, a strong Abbott ally, is one minister with his job in doubt. The media reports say portfolio had been offered to Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, with Hockey tipped to stay on the front bench, but in the Communications position, taking over from Turnbull.

On Wednesday, Hockey said he was not being drawn into what he described as rumours about his Treasury position.

“I’ve had discussions with the prime minister,” he said. “We’ll leave it at that. We’ll see what happens.”

“I am instinctively a loyal person. You know that. And I see the job that I have as one being loyal to the Australian people.”

Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has resigned from his role on Wednesday, following revelations he voted for Tony Abbott at the Liberal party room ballot.

Dutton drew criticism last week for a gaffe caught on camera, in which he joked about climate change affecting Pacific nations. Turnbull said he had not spoken to Dutton about the resignations.

The media reported that West Australian MP Michaelia Cash is expected to take over from Dutton in a move expected to bring greater female representation to the cabinet positions.

Turnbull said a lot of key decisions were yet to be made, and he would not be travelling to the crucial Canning by election, instead, to focus on getting his “ministerial arrangements” in order.

“There is no greater enthusiast than me for seeing more women in positions of power and influence in parliament, in ministries right across the country,” he said.

“I can assure you that. I am very committed to that, but I am not going to say any more about the new ministerial arrangements.”

Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann are both expected to maintain their position despite voting for Abbott at the party room ballot on Monday.

Meanwhile, Attorney General George Brandis said ministers had accepted that there would be sweeping changes to the front bench, saying there would “be something wrong” if there was no change made.

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