The Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill, has this morning confirmed his resignation as a minister in the Howard government. Hill indicated he would also resign from the Senate in the coming months. He denied being offered the post of ambassador to the United Nations but indicated he would be willing to continue in public service.
Hill is also the government leader in the Senate. His resignation sets the scene for a major ministerial reshuffle. The Prime Minister, John Howard, is to address the National Press Club next Wednesday, January 25th, by which time the reshuffle is expected to be announced.
Hill’s position in the ministry paves the way for the promotion of either Victorian backbencher Andrew Robb or NSW backbencher Malcolm Turnbull. Media reports in recent days suggest that Senator Nick Minchin, the Finance Minister, will assume Hill’s leadership position in the Senate and possibly take on Defence.
Hill served as Minister for the Environment from the Howard government’s election in March 1996 until November 2001 when he became Minister for Defence.
Howard paid tribute to Hill, describing his political career as “distinguished and highly successful”. Acknowledging “different perspectives” on some issues, a reference to Hill’s reputation as a small-l liberal, Howard maintained that this “served to strengthen” the “close working relationship” which “contributed significantly to the internal cohesion of the Government”.