Friday, December 28, 2007

Cabinet staying closed for Christmas, by Paul Maley - The Australian - 28th December 2007

WHILE Kevin Rudd rolled his sleeves up and got stuck into work yesterday - around an official function at the Test cricket - some of his cabinet were still enjoying a Christmas break.

Many ministers appeared to have ignored his pre-Christmas edict - perhaps said tongue in cheek - that his team was only allowed Christmas Day and Boxing Day off.

A ring-around by The Australian yesterday revealed only four cabinet members had offices staffed and operating: Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Communication Minister Stephen Conroy.

In fairness, several MPs said they were working from home and several more spent at least part of the day responding to enquiries, including cabinet secretary John Faulkner and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

Wayne Swan's adviser said the Treasurer would be flying back to Brisbane from Canberra yesterday and would divide his time between his family and the office.

Spokespeople for Immigration Minister Chris Evans and Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the MPs would be working from home. Ms Roxon planned to spend some time in her electorate office yesterday. "She's in Melbourne today working on the election surgery package," her spokesman said.

Senator Wong's office said the minister was only performing "minimal duties" and would spend the day "catching up on briefings and those sorts of things", both from home and her Adelaide office. Mr Garrett was on hand to deal with urgent matters, his office said.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was on leave, with Senator Wong standing in as Acting Workplace Relations Minister.

Mr Rudd certainly followed through on his comments about having limited time off.

On Boxing Day, he slipped quietly from The Lodge and served breakfast to the homeless at a local Canberra charity.

Mr Rudd's clandestine mission of kindness was conducted under conditions of strict secrecy.

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