Cabinet reshuffle could see Dutton promoted
In a dramatic circuit-breaker move, a Cabinet reshuffle is expected to see embattled ministers Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds sidelined and two Queenslanders promoted as Scott Morrison seeks to reset the agenda.
Speculation was rampant last night there will be an impending, tightly-focused shuffle with the Morrison Government desperate to get clear air going into budget season.
Queenslanders Peter Dutton and Stuart Robert expected to get promoted, to Defence and Home Affairs respectively, after narrowly missing out on the moves in the December reshuffle.
There is also speculation Michaelia Cash could take on the Attorney-General role, having acted in it since Mr Porter went on mental health leave.
Senator Reynolds has been on leave after receiving advice from her cardiologist late last month, which could see her take on lighter duties or step aside entirely.
For six weeks the government has been struggling to deal with the backlash from its handling of the Brittany Higgins rape allegations, the historical rape allegations against Mr Porter and broader parliamentary cultural issues.
MPs including from Queensland have been reporting back to senior colleagues that they were copping heat in the electorate from the ongoing issues and way it has been handled.
But talk began furiously among Coalition MPs on Wednesday after Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to throw support behind the Attorney-General when Opposition leader Anthony Albanese asked if Mr Porter would be moved "into a part time Minister" or dropped completely.
Mr Morrison said he was seeking advice from the solicitor-general on if Mr Porter had met the Ministerial Standards and could continue in his role as Attorney-General with conflicts of interest due to his defamation case.
There had been talks in the Coalition that Mr Dutton could be moved into the Defence portfolio from as early as July last year, when then Finance Minister Mathias Cormann announcing he would resign.
Mr Robert, a former officer with the Australian Army Intelligence Corps, is a close ally of Mr Morrison and was in line to replace Mr Dutton in Home Affairs if he had moved to Defence.
Mr Porter has been on mental health leave since he outed himself as the Minister at the centre of the historical rape allegations, which he has strongly denied.
He had said he intended to return to the role when he returned from leave, saying if he stepped aside "there is no rule of law left to protect", with the Prime Minister backing him at the time.
Mr Morrison has knocked backed suggestions of holding an independent investigation into allegations against Mr Porter, which cannot be continued by police as the complainant died last year, saying he did not support a "mob process".
But Mr Morrison's public support for Mr Porter has flagged as the issue has grown as a liability for the government.
Mr Porter has started legal action against the ABC, which aired the allegations against a senior Cabinet Minister without naming him.
But it has created potential conflicts of interest in his duties as Attorney-General, while there have been calls for him to step aside since the historical rape allegations were aired.
Senator Reynolds has been under fire for how she handled Ms Higgins case when the young Coalition staffer came forward with rape allegations in 2019.
Later leaks revealed she had referred to Ms Higgins as a "lying cow" in her office after the claims went public.
She has been on extended leave, with a pre-existing heart condition and was due to return on April 2.
Originally published as Cabinet reshuffle could see Dutton promoted