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Weatherill's reshuffle: Right to claim both vacancies

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UPDATED: Labor’s dominant Right faction is set to claim both new ministerial positions when the party caucus meets on Monday to replace Tony Piccolo and Gail Gago.

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Gago confirmed her cabinet resignation this morning, although she intends to remain in parliament until her term ends at the 2018 state election.

“I certainly wasn’t pressured; I’ve been considering these things for some time,” Gago told FIVAaa this morning.

“I’d made a decision not to put myself up for pre-selection and given that it then became obvious to me… that this was a good opportunity to rejuvenate and renew Cabinet.”

Long-serving Left faction minister Gail Gago is set to be replaced by a woman from the Right.

Long-serving Left faction minister Gail Gago is set to be replaced by a woman from the Right.

While the elevation of former union boss and fledgling MP Peter Malinauskas is a fait accompli, it’s understood the factions have signed off on a deal that would see Left-winger Gago replaced by a member of the Right, with Leesa Vlahos the choice of factional bosses.

Her likely elevation would come at the expense of the Left’s Katrine Hildyard.

However, Premier Jay Weatherill threw a new layer of intrigue into proceedings today, when he appeared to favour first-term MP Annabel Digance for the ministry.

Asked about Hildyard’s prospects on FIVEaa, Weatherill emphasised there were “other very talented people that I’m sure will put their hands up”.

“Annabel Digance, Leesa Vlahos – these are all people that would have legitimate ambitions to be ministers if they chose to promote themselves,” he said.

If Vlahos is overlooked for promotion again it would be a cruel blow indeed, as she has been pipped at the post twice before.

It’s understood the elevation of fellow right-winger Zoe Bettison came following an unusual silent ballot of the Labor Unity caucus, with Bettison beating Vlahos in the vote.

The Unity faction has not lived up to its name in recent years, with sub-factions around figureheads Tom Koutsantonis and Jack Snelling often at loggerheads, and a middle ‘bloc’ of one-time hard-left ring-ins swinging between the two.

“If it comes down to a vote it might not be Leesa,” one insider told InDaily.

But others in the faction remain confident she will get the nod without a ballot being required.

Sonia Romeo, Malinauskas’s replacement as the Shop Workers’ Union secretary, today alerted Labor Unity members that there would be a factional caucus meeting on Monday afternoon, ahead of the full caucus, to deal with the reshuffle.

She urged anyone seeking Labor Unity’s support for a ministry to contact her.

The new ministries will be allocated and ministers sworn in on Tuesday.

It’s unlikely the Left will relinquish the Upper House leadership Gago has held, with Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher the most likely to step up to the role.

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