Who will fill Minchin's post?

In the midst of the current Liberal emissions trading and leadership maelstrom, there exists numerous breaches in the shadow cabinet's line-up. Who will step up to fill the gap left by the fallen Senator Minchin?
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

commentary In the midst of the current Liberal emissions trading and leadership maelstrom, there exists numerous breaches in the shadow cabinet's line-up. Who will step up to fill the gap left by the fallen?

Last week Senator Nick Minchin resigned from the shadow ministry and escalated the Liberal party from in-fighting to full-scale revolt. The outcome for IT is that come the next parliamentary session in the new year, it looks likely that Senator Stephen Conroy will face a new adversary in the Communications and Digital Economy portfolio.

With this in mind, we run the rule over the potential replacements within the coalition for the post. Given the Liberal Party tradition of the leader picking his/her cabinet, and that at the time of writing Turnbull, Hockey and Abbott all appeared to be up for the contest tomorrow, we've tried to cover all outcomes (however unlikely two out of the three choices might be).

The first cab off the rank is Peter Dutton. Before being slotted into the deputy leadership on the Hockey-Dutton Kumbaya ticket, Dutton was famous for unsuccessfully trying to jump seats and for successfully gaining the ire of Speaker Harry Jenkins for using Twitter to voice concerns during question time.

With the kind of connectivity and Twitter track record that lesser users would claim as the basis for a social media/generation Y consultancy business, Dutton could ably fill the shoes abandoned by Minchin. However, the known unknown is whether his likely elevation to deputy leader would rule out his taking on such a portfolio.

In the realm of qualified contenders, Simon Birmingham stands shoulders above the rest. The senator from South Australia not only hails from the same state as Minchin but has stood in for Minchin on at least one occasion to come out against the government's internet filter proposal.

If ZDNet.com.au was to put $1000 on the outcome of the shadow cabinet, we would pick Birmingham to fill the void left by Minchin, but would not feel particularly safe as the last week of politics has had more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker marathon.

Thanks to a handy list of Liberal Federal MPs' and senators' contact details, it's easy to spot the net-savvy members. The only person on that list with a blog that is not part of their official site is that belonging to Joanna Gash. The 65-year-old from the NSW South Coast may not be one of the first names that spring to mind, but is the clear leader within the Liberal party to "get it", as the cool kids on Twitter would say.

Although the Communications portfolio is commonly one occupied by the Liberal Party, what if the stars aligned such that Tony Abbott led a conservative resurgence in the coalition and decided to stack the shadow cabinet? In that instance, ZDNet.com.au could not find anyone more conservative or with an interest in Communications than that outspoken proponent of Telstra separation, Barnaby Joyce.

Sure, Joyce and the National's view on Telstra is diametrically opposed to the Liberals, but in Canberra, anything is possible. And having Joyce against Conroy would certainly add some colour and life into a debate that threatened to become as grey as the former shadow minister's hair.

Unfortunately, the determination of portfolios often has more to do with factionalism than qualification, rendering the prediction of many cabinet choices akin to a crapshoot. Want proof? Attempt to explain how Senator Conroy is more qualified than tech-savvy Senator Kate Lundy. However, there isn't enough time and space to delve into the machinations of the Labor Party.

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