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Howard goes for 10-year shuffle

By CNN intern Samantha Broun

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PM John Howard: May be considering running for a fifth term.

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Brendan Nelson
John Howard
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Australia

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard has reshuffled his leadership team in a bid to rejuvenate his conservative coalition government as his administration approaches its tenth year in power.

The most significant appointment in the new look ministry, announced late Tuesday, is Brendan Nelson, who becomes Minister for Defense, after being moved from the education portfolio

The reshuffle could be seen as an indication that Howard is considering running for a record fifth term next year, despite pressure from within some sections of his Liberal party to stand down in favor of Australia's Treasurer Peter Costello.

Finance Minister Nick Minchin, thought to be the front-runner for the defense portfolio, has been named as Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan was named as Deputy Senate Leader, making her the first woman to hold a senior leadership position in the federal government.

The reshuffle threatens to cause ruction between the coalition partners -- Howard's Liberal party and the rural-based National party -- after the demotion of National's member Deanne Kelly, following the defection to the Liberal Party earlier this week of another National party member.

Many Nationals are infuriated their party's representation in the Howard ministry has been significantly reduced.

Howard on Tuesday defended his decision to downgrade the Nationals' representation, saying "politics...is remorselessly governed by the laws of arithmetic".

"The most important thing from the Government's point of view, and my overriding political responsibility, is the strength and stability of the Government," Howard said, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

A revolt by National party parliamentarians could threaten the government's control of the Upper House of parliament, called the Senate.

Howard's administration won a majority control of the Senate in 2004, allowing for the easier passage of controversial legislation.

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