Bill takes on Indigenous affairs in new Labor front bench

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Labor leader Bill Shorten has announced a substantial reshuffle of his frontbench, assembling a new team which he said would re-energise the ALP as it prepares for a second term in Opposition. The Opposition Leader vowed that his frontbench would champion Labor values and maintain pressure on the Coalition after it “scraped home” in the federal election.

“We’re adding great energy with a new team,” Mr Shorten said.

“We’re building on the strong policy foundation of the last three years and will bring fresh voices to the national conversation.”

Mr Shorten has reshuffled some key portfolios , while trying to accommodate newcomers and manage factional tensions.

Shorten lauds ‘education dream team’

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek has moved from foreign affairs into the education portfolio, with Labor MPs Andrew Giles and Terri Butler as shadow assistant ministers for schools and universities respectively, and Kate Ellis as vocational education and early childhood education spokeswoman.

Mr Shorten dubbed them the “education dream team” and said the portfolio would be a key battleground in the next parliament.

Ms Plibersek said she was keen to embrace her new role.

“Education has always been a passion of mine,” she said.

“It is one of those areas that really makes an incredible difference to individual lives.

“It really is the key to our economic prosperity in the future,” Ms Plibersek said.

Senator Penny Wong will take on foreign affairs.

Meanwhile Labor’s defence spokesman Stephen Conroy has been replaced by frontbencher Richard Marles, who is leaving immigration.

Mr Marles hands over the demanding portfolio to Queensland MP Shayne Neumann, who was previously serving as Indigenous affairs spokesman.

Senator Conroy has taken a hawkish stance towards China’s growing military presence in the South China Sea, but Mr Shorten insisted his demotion did not mean Labor would soften its stance on the issue.

“In terms of support for the United Nations Law of the Sea conventions, that’s the absolute policy of the Labor party.

“When it come to supporting freedom of navigation operations, yes, we do support that.

“So there’s no change in policy whatsoever.”

Chalmers takes on key economics role

Queensland MP Jim Chalmers has continued his rise through the ranks, taking on the finance portfolio and entering the shadow cabinet.

He will replace Tony Burke, who will return to the environment portfolio, while retaining his position as manager of opposition business in the lower house.

He will also take on the arts and citizenship portfolios.

Mr Shorten will take responsibility for Indigenous affairs.

The Opposition Leader said he would depend on the advice of Labor senator and Indigenous leader Pat Dodson, who will become shadow assistant minister for the portfolio.

“Patrick has been a great mentor and friend and adviser to me in the area and I will look forward to working closely with him, and will rely greatly upon his wisdom,” Mr Shorten said.

The newly elected Labor MP Linda Burney will become the spokeswoman for human services.

Jason Clare has been given a more prominent role, moving from communications to become trade and investment as well as resources and northern Australia spokesman.

Katy Gallagher and Michelle Rowland are two other winners.

Senator Gallagher has been appointed Opposition small business spokeswoman, while Ms Rowland takes on the communications portfolio.

Mr Shorten also defended his decision to make room for senator Kim Carr, who split from his national Left faction after it moved to dump him from Labor’s frontbench.

Senator Carr will hold onto the innovation, industry, science and research portfolio despite facing vociferous opposition from several influential figures in the Left.

“Now there was a lot of passion in the argument, I get that … but in the end we came up with this unanimous position and I’m looking forward to the contribution he can make.”

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