New Labor Cabinet

Poor lil Mark Latham. In the space of a month he has gone from being a respectable chance to win The Big One to being an embittered wannabe with the political equivalent of Herpes. No one of talent wants to get close to Mark, and so he's putting up with second best. The announcement last week of the new Labor frontbench was rather underwhelming, with most of the big names either no longer in Parliament or previously announcing their preference for the backbench. No Beazley, Tanner, Melham, Faulkner, Ellis, Cox, Collins, Emerson. Instead, it was the B-team who are filling the front bench, inevitably keeping the seats warm until the A-team decide they want to have a crack 18 months out from the next election.

Let's have a sticky beak at what's new:

- Wayne Swan was the eventual winner of a nasty battle for the Shadow Treasurer's job. Julia Gillard, who looked the goods for a long while, bowed out of the running with dignity and honour and will remain a well-respected senior figure. Swan has the intellect and perseverence to take the battle up to Costello, although he sounded a little hackneyed on Tuesday with this recurring motif: "As I said today, we've got to mix with people from the lounge room, as well as the boardroom, from the lunch room to the cabinet table." It was Wayne Swan, in the Lunch Room, with the knife, your honour.

- Anthony Albenese, a talented left winger from Sydney, scores the Environment portfolio. True, he has hair and has never sung in an 80s rock band, but he still deserves the job.

- Tony Burke, straight into parliament and the ministry in the challenging (for the ALP, at least) Small Business portfolio.

- Simon Crean, stripped of the leadership, then of the treasurer's job, is now Shadow Minister for Trade. What's next - Arts?? Sport??

- Senator Joe Ludwig from Queensland has scored a mixed bag of goodies.

- Tanya Plibersek gets a range of portfolios that suggest Latham reckons she's nothing more than a pair of ovaries on legs: Shadow Minister for Work, Family, Community, Youth and Early Childhood Education, Assisting the Leader on the Status of Women.

- Bob Sercombe, a safe-seat-holding underachiever from Melbourne scores the, wait for it, job of Shadow Minister for Pacific Islands. "Tahiti looks nice, Roger."

- Penny Wong, a hugely talented SA Senator makes it into Cabinet, shadowing Kevin Andrews. A shadow minister to watch.

All in all, a passable team although there is no way this will be the combination that will take Labor to the next election. Watch for a major shuffle in early 2006 to bring back most of the talent who coyly drifted to the backbench, and many of these shadow ministers to barely get a taste of the action before being turfed. Labor have continued the strange habit of not aligning the shadow ministry directly with the ministry itself, instead they've split some portfolios, merged others, created new ones, and left out Transport all together. Seems to guarantee demarcation disputes when the gloves really need to be laid into the government.

The closest thing to a Shadow Cabinet photo:
Latham greets the new Shadow Minister for Red T-Shirts

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