Guy unveils new shadow cabinet, promotes allies

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy unveiled his new shadow cabinet on Sunday, declaring recovery from the pandemic would be at the heart of the Coalition’s policies under his stewardship.

Several allies of Mr Guy have been elevated, including Kew MP Tim Smith, Brighton MP James Newbury and upper house MP Craig Ondarchie, while those closest to former leader Michael O’Brien have been dumped from the frontbench.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy declared pandemic recovery was at the heart of the Coalition. Credit:Justin McManus

One of the Coalition’s most senior women, Louise Staley, has been demoted from shadow treasurer, and will hold the portfolios of transport infrastructure, roads, regional recovery and manager of opposition business in the lower house.

“I am disappointed to lose the shadow treasury portfolio,” Ms Staley told The Age on Sunday afternoon.

“However, that’s the leader’s choice and there is plenty to do in these big new portfolios I have, including holding [Transport Infrastructure Minister] Jacinta Allan and the government to account for their monumental mismanagement of these big projects.”

There were fears among some Liberals Ms Staley would not be able to expend as much energy on the treasury portfolio, given her status as a marginal country seat MP.

In a Facebook post at the weekend, upper house MP Bernie Finn, an ally of Mr O’Brien, said he had told Mr Guy on Tuesday evening he would be “unavailable” to serve in any frontbench position. He later followed up with another post: “Debts paid. Unity destroyed”.

The Age attempted to contact Mr Finn to clarify his comments, but several Liberal sources believed it was a snipe at the new leader.

Mr Guy’s closest ally, Tim Smith, has been elevated as shadow attorney-general and given the portfolio of COVID-19 recovery coordination. While deputy leader David Southwick is responsible for the portfolios of CBD and business recovery; Mr Ondarchie communities recovery; Ms Staley regional recovery; and Ryan Smith suburban recovery.

“This new shadow cabinet is about listening to people, it’s about reviving our state, it’s about an emphasis on recovery, not just a pandemic,” Mr Guy said on Sunday morning.

“Victorians have wanted for some time to know what comes next. Every day we get news that is not great in relation to COVID, but we need to start thinking about what comes next. It is my mission to make Melbourne the world’s most liveable city again.”

One of the Coalition’s most senior women, Louise Staley, has been demoted. Credit: Jason South

Incumbent shadow attorney-general Ed O’Donohue, a backer of Mr O’Brien, will serve on the backbench until the end of the year when he announced he would exit Parliament. He had told Mr O’Brien weeks ago he did not intend to contest the next election, but brought forward his departure following last week’s leadership spill.

The former opposition leader’s close supporters, including former treasurer Kim Wells, Mornington MP David Morris, Sandringham MP Brad Rowswell, and upper house MPs Gordon Rich-Phillips and Bernie Finn have been jettisoned from shadow cabinet.

Neil Angus, who was the shadow minister for multicultural affairs has been demoted to the shadow assistant ministry. Mr O’Brien declined an offer to remain in shadow cabinet.

While supporters of Mr Guy described the reshuffle as ushering in generational change, one Liberal said the exclusion of Mr Rowswell, who is seen as an up-and-comer in the party, from the frontbench was a “thorn in the side of that argument”.

“This is entirely based on merit,” Mr Guy said. “People are in there in the right jobs.

“The big pillars [of this reshuffle] are our focus on revival. There’s a shadow minister for regional revival, CBD revival. It’s about revitalising our state, focusing on our suburbs, on our neighbourhood. It’s about people, not politics.”

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