Keith Pitt

Pitt could be elevated in Turnbull ministry shake-up

SPECULATION about a federal Cabinet reshuffle intensified after a dinner this week between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis.

The private dinner in Sydney revived speculation that Senator Brandis would resign to replace Alexander Downer as the High Commissioner to London.

Mr Downer's term was extended in April for six months and cannot be extended again.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in October that his extended term would "conclude in early 2018".

The Courier-Mail understands Mr Turnbull and Senator Brandis spoke about a range of issues including Senator Brandis's career.

Senator Brandis has won praise from colleagues for his hard-work and determination to tackle difficult issues.

History will show he was attorney-general when marriage equality laws passed Parliament, an achievement he is extremely proud of.

Neither Mr Turnbull nor Senator Brandis would comment yesterday.

News of the dinner comes as the date of the return of Cabinet minister Arthur Sinodinos, who is receiving treatment for cancer, has been changed but not finalised.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to comment.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to comment.

Early next month is now the likely timing for a shake-up.

Mr Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce have not finalised their Cabinet picks or a reshuffle date.

Despite the Nationals being down one since last year's election because of the loss of dual citizen Fiona Nash, it is unlikely Mr Turnbull will take a ministerial position away from the junior Coalition partner.

The Courier-Mail understands Mr Joyce wants at least one more Queenslander in Cabinet and David Littleproud and Keith Pitt are in the mix. Mr Pitt is more senior to Mr Littleproud, who was elected to the seat of Maranoa last year.

Queensland's John McVeigh is shoring-up support within Liberal ranks.

Pressure will mount on the Coalition at the next election to encourage some members to retire to allow for renewal.

The impending Cabinet shake-up is what Mr Turnbull wants to take to the next election, which will be hard fought in Queensland.

Queensland has become the political thorn in the Government's side, with support at low levels and marginal seat holders, including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

Mr Dutton will soon be sworn-in as Home Affairs Minister. The super-portfolio will be responsible for some agencies that now report to Senator Brandis.

It means the attorney-general's position will return to a more tradition first law officer role. Social Services Minister Christian Porter is tipped to become attorney-general.

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