Arthur Sinodinos to be appointed US ambassador


Mr Hockey has served as Australia’s representative in Washington since 2016 but will return to Sydney when his posting expires at the start of next year.

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The Prime Minister was expected to name a replacement later this year but the decision to send Senator Sinodinos will be made public when he unveils his revamped ministry on Sunday.

Mr Hockey has formed close relationships with senior Trump administration officials and has played golf with the president several times.

His successor will take up the posting at a highly volatile time, just as the Democratic presidential primaries are beginning and with President Donald Trump focussed on his re-election prospects.

Senator Sinodinos served as Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet secretary but was forced to stand down to undergo treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He has since made a full recovery and was widely tipped to return to cabinet under Mr Morrison.

The vacancies triggered by the overseas appointments of Senator Sinodinos and Senator Fifield will give the Liberal Party the ability to fill two positions in the Senate.

There is speculation Jim Molan, a conservative senator who lost his place at the May 18 election, could be slotted into the NSW vacancy but this option is expected to face fierce opposition from the Liberal Party’s moderate wing.

Sarah Henderson, who lost her Geelong-based seat of Corangamite on Saturday, is admired by the Prime Minister and could be an option to fill Senator Fifield’s Victorian vacancy.

The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment on Sunday morning.

The prestigious Washington post has traditionally been filled by a senior Australian politician or public servant. Kevin Rudd appointed former Labor leader Kim Beazley to the post in 2010, while former Liberal leader Andrew Peacock also held the role for several years.

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop was considered a potential candidate but has previously indicated she was not interested and planned to return to the private sector following her retirement at the May 18 election.

Presenting a challenge for Australian diplomats in Washington, the US Department of Justice last week announced that it would charge the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act.

Mr Trump also said on Friday that he had asked his Attorney-General William Barr to investigate Australia’s role in sparking the 2016 FBI probe into potential links between his election campaign and Russia.

“I hope he looks at the UK and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine,” he told reporters.

“I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.”

Bevan Shields is the Federal Editor and Canberra Bureau Chief for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Matthew Knott a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age based in the United States.

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