JOHN Cobb said yesterday he was disappointed to miss out on the role of agriculture minister to lower house newcomer Barnaby Joyce in Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott’s new cabinet.
When Mr Abbott rang Mr Cobb yesterday morning it was to tell the member for Calare he would not be sitting on the front bench.
But Mr Cobb said he knew the ministry was out of his reach when he lost the vote for deputy leader of the Nationals on Friday.
“There will be some [in the cabinet] who have never been a minister in government,” he said.
“It’s quite different to being a shadow minister... what you say or do can affect things in a commercial sense.
“It’s a much stricter regime.”
When announcing his new ministry, Mr Abbott said Mr Cobb’s demotion did not reflect his performance in opposition.
“They have missed out because I have simply had to make some changes,” he said.
“I am very confident though that Barnaby Joyce will do a really outstanding job in this portfolio.
“Barnaby knows country Australia like the back of his hand.”
Mr Cobb said he was disappointed at missing out after six years as opposition spokesman for the agriculture portfolio.
“I thought I could make a contribution,” he said.
“Obviously I wasn’t going to get it if I didn’t win the deputy position.
“I thought I was in with a real chance, but that’s what happens.”
Mr Cobb said the Nationals were unsure if they would have three or four cabinet positions, but now would only get roles for the party’s leader Warren Truss, deputy leader Mr Joyce and Senate leader Nigel Scullion.
“We’re obviously not as well represented,” he said.
“[But] it’s about the proportion of Liberals to Nationals in the Coalition.”
Mr Cobb would not rule out a future tilt at deputy leader, but for now will focus on Calare.
“I’ll be trying to do things for Calare that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
“I obviously won’t have to travel the country as much as I would as part of the ministry.”
Mr Abbott’s cabinet has come under fire for only having one woman, but Mr Cobb said the first consideration was to find the right person for the job.
“I’m not one for putting a bloke in who’s not as good as a woman, or a woman in who’s not as good as bloke,” he said.
“Having said that all things being equal it would be fantastic to have more women.”
Under the Howard government Mr Cobb was Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs for just over six months in 2005 before becoming Minister for Community Services for a year following a reshuffle in 2006.
In 2007 he was Assistant Minister for the Environment and Water Resources for almost 11 months.