With Parliament having returned this week and both leaders shuffling their team decks over the Summer Break, there are a number of new and interesting matchups in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

In the first of a two-part series, the team at Nexus have been thinking about these contests and have outlined a number of key battles for the coming political year.

ROUND 1: Health Portfolio – The Hon Greg Hunt MP vs
The Hon Mark Butler MP

The Hon Greg Hunt MP – Minister for Health and Aged Care


Elected to the House of Representatives in 2001, Mr. Hunt has had almost 20 years of government experience. Mr. Hunt has held a range of Ministerial appointments over the years, including Minister for Sport (2017), Minister for Environment (2013-2016), and Minister for Industry, innovation, and Science (2016-2017). He also kept busy in opposition when he served as the Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment, and Heritage (2009-2013).


Mr Hunt has been held the ministerial position for Health since January 2017. In December 2020, Hunt added the responsibility for Aged Care to his portfolio and will now leading the Government’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission. Hunt has successfully entered partnerships with the nations GPs, specialists, pharmacists, private health, medtech and the medicines sector.

This is a historic achievement as it is the first time a Government has achieved simultaneous partnerships with all healthcare sectors. Hunt is committed to guaranteeing Australia has an accessible and affordable healthcare system.


Mr Hunt has been a strong and a long-standing member of the Coalition Cabinet and is viewed as a trusted and adaptable member of the team, holding portfolios across a range of policy areas. This has seen him elevated into the Policy Implementation Committee (PIC), which is considered to be the Government’s key committee to ensure policies are successfully executed.  This is important in the lead up to the next election and also to counteract Labor’s attacks.

He is also considered to be very close to Deputy Leader and Victorian state ally, Treasurer, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, having worked together for former Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon Alexander Downer.

The Hon Mark Butler MP – Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing


One of Labor’s most experienced members, Mr Butler have served the people of South Australia since his election in 2007. He was appointed Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Minister for Climate Change and Minister for Environment, Heritage and Water in 2013. Mr Butler has also held a range of Shadow Ministerial positions during his time in Parliament.


Mr Butler was recently appointed as the Opposition spokesperson for Health and Ageing from. Mr Butler has also previously held various ministerial positions in the health portfolio. He was the Minister for Mental Health and Aging from 2010-2013 and then again, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform from 2011 to 2013.

For his dedication to fighting Dementia, Mr Butler was awarded the Alzheimer’s Disease International Award for Outstanding Global Contribution to the Fight Against Dementia.


Mr Butler has been serving as the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the House since 2019. Mr Butler is considered to be one of the leading figures of Labor’s left faction, hence his position as Deputy Manager of Opposition Business since the Leader of the Opposition and factional ally, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, took the leadership in May 2019.

Mr Butler has also previously served as the Labor National President until the end of 2019, where former Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan, was elected to replace Mr Butler at the end of his term.

Mr Butler’s senior position had been called into question throughout 2020 by former Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, the Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP, due to Labor’s policies on climate change and energy.

This saw Mr Butler transition out of the climate change portfolio, but he retained a prominent position, and will lead Labor’s scrutiny of the Government’s COVID-19 response and particularly the rollout the important vaccine program.

ROUND 2: Defence Portfolio – Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds vs
The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC – Minister for Defence


Senator Reynolds was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014. In this time, she has served across a range of portfolios, first entering the ministry as Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, before transitioning into the defence portfolio.

Senator Reynolds has also been Minister for Emergency Management and North Queensland Recovery, leading the Government’s response to the 2019 Townsville floods.


Ms. Reynolds has served as Minister for Defence since May 2019. She was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross in 2011, and on attaining the rank of brigadier in 2012, before entering Parliament. Ms. Reynolds also became the first woman in the Australian Army Reserve to be promoted to a star rank. This experience has given her a unique insight into the defence portfolio.


Senator Reynolds is the President of the Liberal Party Hasluck Women’s Committee. She is now considered to be the second most senior member of the WA Liberal Senate team behind Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, following the departure of former Senator, the Hon Mathias Cormann.

The Hon Brendan O’Connor MP – Shadow Minister for Defence


Mr O’Connor has served in the Australian Parliament for almost 20 years since his election in 2001. He has served in a number of portfolios across his time in both Opposition and in Government.

One of Mr O’Connor’s most notable achievements was leading the Labor Party’s review and response to the controversial WorkChoices policy as well as serving as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Industrial Relations, drawing on his union background.


Mr O’Connor was appointed as Shadow Minister for Defence in January 2021. He previously held the Minister for Home Affairs portfolio (2009-2011) and sat on the National Security Committee. This coupled with his industrial relations, this may signal a shift to a defence industry and worker-focussed approach to defence industry for the Labor Party.

No stranger to the Defence portfolio, Mr O’Connor has retained the same ALP Defence team that former Shadow Minister, the Hon Richard Marles MP had prior to the reshuffle.


Mr O’Connor is one of the leading members of Labor’s left faction in Victoria. This has seen Mr O’Connor hold a number of key positions during the Rudd and particularly the Gillard years, including Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Employment, Skills and Training and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.

However, despite both Mr O’Connor and Mr Albanese existing in Labor’s left faction, there have been disagreements between the pair, with Mr O’Connor arguing for the retention of some Labor policies following the 2019 election loss.

ROUND 3: Employment, Skills, Reconstruction and Infrastructure Portfolios: Cash & McCormack vs Marles & King

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash and the Hon Michael McCormack MP


Elected in 2007, Senator Cash has over 13 years of experience in Parliament.

She has held portfolios primarily in the jobs, innovation, business and employment areas.


This is primarily based on her experience in her law career, where she specialised in workplace relations, unfair dismissal and equal opportunity.


Since his election to the seat of Riverina, Mr McCormack has served in the Australian Parliament for over ten years.


Mr McCormack has held a number of portfolios prior to ascending to the Nationals Leadership, including as Assistant Defence Minister as well as Minister for Small Business and Minister for Defence Personnel and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.



Senator Cash is currently serving as Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business since 2019 and has held previous ministerial appointments in the area.



Mr McCormack has served as the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development since 2018.


Senator Cash has been the Deputy Leader of Government in the Senate since October 2020.


She is also considered to be the most senior Liberal from WA, following the departure of former Senator, the Hon Mathias Cormann.


Mr McCormack has been Leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister since February 2018.


As a result, Mr McCormack is a member of many notable Cabinet Committees, including National Security Committee and the Expenditure Review Committee.


The Hon Richard Marles MP and The Hon Catherine King MP


Mr. Marles has served for over 13 years in Parliament after his election to the House of Representatives in 2007.


In 2001, Ms. King was elected to the Australian Government, representing the seat of Ballarat.


Mr. Marles is currently serving as Shadow Minister for National Reconstruction, Employment, Skills and Small Business and has previously been a member on the House of Representatives Committee for Employment and Workplace Relations (2008-2009).



Ms. King is currently serving as the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development since 2019 and was also appointed as the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport (2010-2013).


Mr Marles has been Deputy Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Australian Labor Party since 2019.


Mr Marles is considered to be a leading figure of Labor’s right faction and is the most senior Labor right member from Victoria.


Ms King is a member of Labor’s left faction and is one of Labor’s most senior women, having served in the Parliament for two decades.


She is also known to be a supporter of factional ally, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, supporting the Member for Grayndler in the 2013 leadership vote following Labor’s loss.