And now to the victors. In any reshuffle, there’s a few ways to make sure you end up on top.
It helps to have voted for the right person, to have display some level of competence in previous roles or to bring so much factional clout that the winner can’t help but keep you around. But we’re sure it doesn’t hurt to also live in close proximity to power.
Take Steve Irons and Stuart Robert. Both are new Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Canberra flatmates. And both – go figure – got promotions in Morrison’s cabinet. Roberts, who was dumped from the front-bench by Malcolm Turnbull two years back for a breach of ministerial standards, is now assistant treasurer. Irons is assistant minister to the Prime Minister (does that mean he does ScoMo’s chores?).
They’re not the only high-powered household in Canberra. Every one of Australia’s new foreign policy ministers – being Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne – lives under the same roof. It must have been awkward in the last parliament when Pyne, as Defence Industries Minister, was jostling with then-Defence Minister Payne for cabinet seniority (they used to take turns going on the top of press releases). We’re sure their other housemates are glad the two are no longer competing. Fellow moderate Trent Zimmerman also lays down his head at the same abode, though he remains portfolio-less.
Canberra has a long tradition of political flatmating, with MPs frequently banding together in search of a place to crash away from their families and voters during sitting weeks. In the Howard Years, Nick Minchin, Alexander Downer, Alan Ferguson and the late Jeannie Ferris used to live together in what was called South Australia House, for obvious reasons. And then there was Joe Hockey’s old place in Manuka, at times also home to Jamie Briggs, Bob Baldwin and Brendan Nelson, who even while opposition leader lived in what we understand were rather shoddy conditions in the garage. Malcolm Turnbull considered moving in with Hockey and crew when he first got to Canberra in 2004, but thought better of it, instead opting for a luxury pad on the Kingston Foreshore (it was lent out to staffers when he moved into the Lodge).