Speculation has been rife that Peter Dutton will be moved out of his powerful Home Affairs portfolio, but an eleventh hour plea has all but ruled it out.
Speculation has been rife that Peter Dutton will be moved out of his powerful Home Affairs portfolio, but an eleventh hour plea has all but ruled it out.

Dutton’s rumoured new role in doubt

Peter Dutton has insisted a move to the defence portfolio is "very unlikely" amid speculation over Defence Minister Linda Reynolds being moved on, after describing alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers as "cold-blooded murder".

A cabinet reshuffle could be announced as early as this Sunday or next weekend with some discussion over whether Senator Reynolds might be replaced by Mr Dutton.

The Australian reports today Treasurer Josh Frydenberg helped organise a women-only dinner with the Prime Minister, with supporters of Senator Reynolds taking the opportunity to praise her work.

However, government sources are insisting Senator Reynolds will be staying put in the portfolio as Scott Morrison contemplates a pre-Christmas reshuffle.

RELATED: 'Cold-blooded murder': Defence Minister Linda Reynolds rejects fog-of-war claims

While the PM has already announced Government Senate leader Simon Birmingham as the new Finance Minister, replacing the outgoing Mathias Cormann, the position of Trade Minister remains vacant as Senator Birmingham juggles both portfolios.

There is also the question of Immigration Minister David Coleman to resolve, after he went on personal leave a year ago and has not returned to Parliament since that date.

He has forgone his ministerial salary while he remains on leave and is continuing his work in the electorate.

The Home Affairs Minister hosed down the talk in the last 24 hours as Senator Reynolds' blunt language raised concern in some sections of the Morrison Government.

"I don't think that's likely. I think I'm likely to stay in Home Affairs and that ultimately is a decision for the Prime Minister,'' Mr Dutton said.

"I've been around longer than you, obviously much older than you, but I've watched these shows before and anyone who has a crystal ball that can pick what happens in reshuffles is better than me. There's always speculation."

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Mr Dutton added that Senator Reynolds had "talent".

"I think John Howard used to say that this is the toughest of decisions as a leader because we bat pretty deep.

"We've got a lot of good people on the backbench that could be on the frontbench, but equally, we've got a lot of talent on the frontbench, including the Defence Minister."

"If he says to me: 'Do you want to do Defence? Do you want to sit on the backbench? You know, do you want to go to the beach early this year …' He's the boss, right? So, you do as he says.

Senator Reynolds' "cold-blooded murder" comments were designed to reject claims that alleged war crimes in Afghanistan occurred in the heat of the battle.

This is a view backed up by the Brereton Report, which expressly rejects any suggestion that the alleged killings of civilians and prisoners of war investigated by the inquiry involved any 'fog of war' situations.

But Mr Morrison appeared to caution Senator Reynolds on Thursday when he noted he always used "very careful language" when referring to the war crimes.

"Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in this country, that is one of the values for which our defence forces have served and fought, and died, and that principle will be upheld by me and my government," he said.

Originally published as Dutton's rumoured new role in doubt