Australia’s ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos has been quick to quash speculation he may return from the post early making way for Foreign Affairs minister Marise Payne and a broader reshuffle.
As cabinet reshuffle speculation runs rampant, the former senator has told news.com.au that he is staying in the role and will not be the trigger for bigger changes in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s frontbench.
A cancer survivor, the former Liberal MP’s health issues have proven challenging in the United States where COVID-19 is rampant an poses particular challenges to people who have compromised immune systems.
But Mr Sinodinos was quick to rule out the idea, regardless of what discussions or speculation may have occurred in Canberra in recent weeks.
“No, not true. All good,’’ he told news.com.au.
“I am not going anywhere. Happy in the service.”
On the ABC’s Insiders program Sunday morning, veteran Canberra journalist and columnist with The Australian newspaper Niki Savva revealed that there was speculation in the Morrison Government that Mr Sinodinos would return to Australia and might be replaced by the Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
This would allow the Prime Minister to embark on a more ambitious and significant reshuffle in the lead up to Christmas.
But she said there was a “big proviso” on the prediction which was that Prime Minister’s change their minds frequently in the lead up to reshuffles.
Mr Morrison is expected to announce the new cabinet on Friday or over the weekend after the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg hands down the mid year economic update – MYEFO – on Thursday.
A good deal of the reshuffle speculation has centred on women in Mr Morrison’s cabinet including the fate of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds who is grappling with the difficult issue of the Brereton report into alleged war crimes by Australia’s special forces.
On Friday, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has insisted a move to the defence portfolio is “very unlikely” amid speculation over Defence Minister Linda Reynolds being moved on after describing alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers as “cold blooded murder”.
A cabinet reshuffle could be announced as early as this Sunday or next weekend with some discussion over whether Senator Reynolds might be replaced by Mr Dutton.
The Australian reported on Friday that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg helped organise a women-only dinner with the Prime Minister with supporters of Senator Reynolds taking the opportunity to praise her work.
However, government sources are insisting Senator Reynolds will be staying put in the portfolio as the Prime Minister contemplates a pre-Christmas reshuffle.
While the Prime Minister has already announced Government Senate leader Simon Birmingham as the new Finance Minister replacing the outgoing Mathias Cormann, the position of trade minister remains vacant as Senator Birmingham juggles both portfolios.
There is also the question of Immigration Minister David Coleman to resolve, after he went on personal leave a year ago and has not returned to Parliament since that date. He has forgone his ministerial salary while he remains on leave and is continuing his work in the electorate.
The Home Affairs minister hosed down the talk in the last 24 hours as Senator Reynolds’ blunt language raised concern in some sections of the Morrison Government.
“I don’t think that’s likely. I think I’m likely to stay in Home Affairs and that ultimately is a decision for the Prime Minister,’’ Mr Dutton said.
“I’ve been around longer than you, obviously much older than you, but I’ve watched these shows before and anyone who has a crystal ball that can pick what happens in reshuffles is better than me.