Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has dumped controversial senator Barnaby Joyce from the shadow finance ministry in a reshuffle, replacing him with Andrew Robb.
Mr Abbott had been under pressure to replace Senator Joyce following a series of embarrassing gaffes in recent months.
The Nationals Senator will move to regional development, intrastructure and water, while Ian Macfarlane takes on the resources and energy portfolio.
Senator Joyce will continue as the leader of the Nationals in the Senate, and Mr Abbott said he would also continue to represent the finance portfolio there.
The reshuffle was prompted by Senator Nick Minchin’s shock decision to quit politics.
Mr Robb, who has been in the ministry without a portfolio after a period of sick leave last year, will take on finance, while remaining chairman of the coalition’s policy development committee.
Robb back on frontbench
“I welcome Andrew back to the frontbench team,” Mr Abbott said.
Nationals leader Warren Truss will have responsibility for trade, transport and local government.
Mr Abbott said the changes would consolidate the coalition’s good work in holding the Rudd government to account for its broken promises, waste and mismanagement.
“I also look forward to working with the coalition team as we continue to outline our direct action plans for Australia’s future,” he said.
Mr Joyce insisted there were no hard feelings over the decision to switch his portfolios.
“There is no animosity and they were completely civil and straightforward discussions,” he told reporters in Perth.
“Nobody has asked anyone to resign or do anything else. I didn’t volunteer my resignation.”
‘No white bread politician’
Senator Minchin, one of the Opposition’s most senior figures, yesterday resigned the resources and energy portfolio with immediate effect.
He will not contest the next election, and will leave the Senate at the conclusion of his current term, next year, for family reasons.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Abbott had voiced his support for Senator Joyce, while admitting he was “not your white bread politician”.
“Precisely because he’s an unorthodox politician he has been very effective at putting Labor’s debt and deficit before the public,” the Opposition Leader told ABC Radio.
“I think he’s done a very good job in that portfolio.”
But fellow senator Ian Macdonald said Mr Joyce should be moved, inisisting “his obvious talents and his special communication skills could be put to a better use”.