Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones ponders Tony Abbott's new team and wonders: where is Mal Brough?

You put your right foot in
You take your right foot out
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about

This merry ditty provided the leitmotif to the great Abbott Cabinet Reshuffle.

Why a reshuffle and not just a plain, garden-variety shuffle is anyone’s guess. The LNP has been in power just 15 months and the only previous shuffle I can recall was a bit of tinkering at the edges to try and fill the yawning intellectual gap left by Arthur Sinodinos when he decided hiding was the better part of valour and stepped aside as assistant treasurer. The gap, sadly, remains unfilled.

You will recall Arthur as the chap in the ICAC witness box running his finger round the inside of his blue-tied collar when pressed on his memory, or lack of it, of sending money to himself, from AWH, of which he was a director, to the NSW Liberals, of which he was treasurer.

Arthur’s career finished at that point. He didn’t resign though. He kept the job title but just kind of hung around in the background, mooching. That left the overworked Joe Hockey to carry the nation’s financial burdens without an able assistant, and we all know how well that’s worked out.

No one wanted to mention Arthur’s name, because the next name anyone thought of was Obeid and no one wanted that. Sleeping dogs.

But apparently, someone in the Liberal Party finally decided enough was enough and that memories had dimmed enough for Arthur to have one last moment in the sun. Reluctantly, and with deep regret, Abbott, his strings being visibly jerked, announced Arthur was to hop in his Jag and bugger off. Arthur had a little flurry of press about pulling the pin then dropped off the radar

And that cleared the way for a shuffle and a jolly good bottom scouring.

I have only one question: where is Mal Brough when you need him?

And I know the answer — Coventry

Brough is an experienced Liberal minister. In 2001, he was made Howard’s Mminister for employment services. In July 2004, he was made assistant treasurer and minister for revenue. In January 2006, he was made minister for families and community services and Indigenous affairs (see Intervention).

Brough has been there and done that. He was Howard’s pet. Abbott is on several records singing his praises and saying what a great contribution he’d make to the Government. He is also brutally ambitious.

But no shuffle guernsey for Mal.

Someone has serious doubts about Brough and wants his head kept below the parapets.

Believe it or not, aspects of the Ashby/Doane/Slipper matter are still playing their way through the courts. Brough, despite his disingenuous protestations, waded knee deep through this mire. Now, he’s smiling tropical like a island with storm clouds hanging over its head.

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