Australia's embattled Turnbull seen weighing cabinet reshuffle to exploit poll win
* Australian PM to overhaul frontbench within a day - media
* Attorney General to become UK High Commissioner - media
* Reshuffle builds on by-election victory - experts
By Byron Kaye
SYDNEY, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull will reshuffle his cabinet within a day, media said on
Monday, a sign the embattled leader hopes to capitalise on a
weekend by-election win to refresh his ministry.
Turnbull's centre-right government regained its razor-thin
parliamentary majority through the poll triggered by a
constitutional crisis, shoring up his support in a country where
three prime ministers have been ousted by their own party since
The changes could include Attorney-General George Brandis
quitting parliament to become the high commissioner, or
ambassador, to Britain, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and
other media said.
Representatives for Turnbull and Brandis did not respond to
requests from Reuters for comment.
"Winning that (byelection), allowing him to send off Brandis
to London, and then to put in some new faces and get a bit of
movement there, that's the positive message running into
Christmas and then the new year," said Stewart Jackson, a
specialist in Australian politics at the University of Sydney.
"He will last until March. If there's a new disaster there,
or any more referrals to the High Court, then it will be on for
young and old," he added, referring to the crisis over the
disqualification of lawmakers holding dual citizenship.
When Turnbull unseated then prime minister Abbott in 2015,
he said the move was necessary because the latter's government
had lost 30 opinion polls in a row. Under Turnbull, the
government has lost 25 opinion polls in a row.
Many commentators say that if the figure reaches 30, which
could happen as soon as March, Turnbull's party may consider
Social services minister Christian Porter and employment
minister Michaelia Cash are frontrunners to be the next attorney
general, the Australian newspaper said. Turnbull may seek to
exploit their relative youth - each is 47 - to appeal to a new
generation of conservative voters.
A spokesman for Porter declined comment. A representative
for Cash did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Australian prime ministers are particularly susceptible to
poor polling, as political parties have the power to call a
spill, or internal leadership vote, and replace the leader with
a more popular candidate.
Turnbull's hopes to reinvigorate performance in opinion
polls strengthened on Monday, as his government predicted the
national deficit would shrink faster than expected and return to
surplus in fiscal 2021 after a decade of deficits.
Treasurer Scott Morrison saw a deficit of about A$23.6
billion ($18.1 billion) for the year to end-June 2018, down from
a May forecast of A$29.4 billion, as stronger job creation and
higher commodity export earnings offset weakness in wages and
The improved outlook enables Turnbull to trumpet his
economic credentials by nudging closer to a balanced budget
while enabling him to consider income tax cuts in the year
before his next scheduled election, in 2019.
"The stronger fiscal position is a welcome Christmas present
for Treasurer Morrison and the Turnbull Liberal-National
government, as they head towards the end of an increasingly
difficult 2017," said Su-Lin Ong, head of Australian economics
at RBC Capital Markets.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Additional reporting by Wayne Cole;
Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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