Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, a leader of the Liberal moderates, will become Senate leader and finance minister following the imminent retirement of Mathias Cormann.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia will nominate Cormann as its candidate for secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Cormann indicated in July he planned to leave parliament late this year. He has been Finance Minister throughout the Coalition government and a central figure in the preparation of its seven budgets.
Morrison said Birmingham would be sworn in as finance minister at the end of the month when Cormann retired. He would continue as minister for trade, tourism and investment.
“I am not planning on making other ministerial changes at that time,” Morrison said.
But there will be a reshuffle at the end of the year. With the current COVID-19 restrictions on international travel, Birmingham will be able to juggle his trade and extra responsibilities for a time, and he has trade negotiations in train.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash will become deputy Senate leader, a position Birmingham has held since 2018.
Birmingham has served in the Senate since 2007 and was education minister between 2015 and 2018.
Cormann, who came to Australia from Belgium in the 1990s, demonstrated his multilingual skills at a Thursday news conference with Morrison, giving short speeches in French and German.
His election to the OECD job is not certain, but Australia will campaign hard for him.
Morrison said this was “the most important Australian nomination for a major international body in decades”.
“Senator Cormann has already been an influential contributor in regional and global institutions, having attended every G20 Leaders’ meeting since 2014 and numerous G20 finance ministers, IMF and World Bank meetings over the period,” Morrison said.
“Over the last seven years, Senator Cormann has worked with many OECD leaders, and dozens of treasury, finance, and trade minister counterparts from developed and developing countries.”
Cormann will step down from the ministry and the Senate on October 30, before he is formally nominated for the OECD role. Nominations close at the end of October, with interviews and consultations beginning after that and an outcome expected in the first part of next year.