New Deputy PM’s workload raises questions about treatment of Veterans’ Affairs, Centenary of Anzac and Defence Personnel: new Ministry list

Update 5 March 2018: new Ministry List released.

Update 1 March 2018: Sorted. McCormack’s former jobs (and the ticket for Villers-Bretonneux in April) passed to Chester.

Update 28 February 2018: Reports (for example, this one) circulating of a reshuffle of Nationals ministers, which may produce a new Veterans’ Affairs minister. More.

Well, we didn’t see that coming. Our earlier post assumed that when, as seemed pretty much certain, Michael McCormack MP became Leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister, he would relinquish his roles as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of Anzac, and Minister for Defence Personnel.

We assumed that Mr McCormack would, instead, take over the former Deputy Prime Minister’s portfolio of Infrastructure and Transport. We wondered whether the change of personnel might offer an opportunity to put a broom through the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio.

Infrastructure and Transport it is for the Member for Riverina, but he also hangs onto Veterans’ Affairs, Centenary of Anzac and Defence Personnel. He also continues to be Deputy Leader of the House, which can involve time consuming wheeler-dealing when the numbers are tight.

This multiple workload raises for Mr McCormack the same issues that we addressed when Stuart Robert MP in 2015 took on Veterans’ Affairs and Centenary of Anzac, as well as Human Services. We suggested then that Mr Robert might be too busy with Human Services – a big portfolio – to bother with veterans and Anzac. Mr Robert responded to our concern by Tweeting to us – on a Friday afternoon, possibly from an airport lounge – that he was quite able ‘to walk and chew gum at the same time’. (Not long after, he lost his job, but for other reasons.)

Infrastructure and Transport is not as big a job as Human Services, and Mr McCormack has three ministerial helpers there, but we wonder whether Veterans’ Affairs, Centenary of Anzac, and Defence Personnel (potentially the job with the biggest headaches) might find difficulty attracting the Deputy Prime Minister’s attention. Veterans’ Affairs does, however, have the carrot of overseas trips to offer its minister, and he has presumably already signed on for the big one in April, the opening of the Monash centre at Villers-Bretonneux. (Official website.)

Perhaps we’ll see a change of ministers after Anzac Day. Meanwhile, we’ll be watching the Deputy PM’s ability to simultaneously ambulate and masticate – and undertake military tourism. He certainly doesn’t look like one for ill-advised after-hours Tweets. We wish him well.

David Stephens

26 February 2018 updated

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