Tony Abbott once observed that reshuffles, unless absolutely necessary, should be avoided because they only create enemies.
Those who are promoted don't thank you while those who are demoted fester on the lower rungs, harbouring a grudge.
When he became Liberal leader in December 2009, Abbott reshaped the frontbench in his own mould. He purged the moderates, put key people in areas of attack and promoted the Coalition's version of the faceless men who tore down Malcolm Turnbull.
Since then, Abbott has heeded his own advice and tinkered at best. After the election, usually the time for an overhaul, he reasoned that the team which brought the Coalition close to victory was best left unchanged, especially as the post-election strategy was to destroy the minority government and force an early election.
Apart from bringing Turnbull back from the wilderness and into shadow cabinet, and fiddling with some junior portfolios, Abbott opted for stability.
Despite good cause to bring some of his own backbench forward - especially as he needs to change his Captain Negative image next year - and despite the increased likelihood of the government lasting the full term, Abbott reaffirmed yesterday he had no plans to change.
Today, however, Julia Gillard is going to eschew such caution and give her ministry a shake-up. Her colleagues say she is trying to strike the balance between not making enemies and giving what is essentially a four-year-old government a fresh face and some bounce for the year ahead.
The senior positions of Treasury, Finance and Foreign Affairs will remain unchanged.
Nonetheless, there will be a handful of changes to cabinet and the junior ministry.
Robert McClelland will hang on in an expanded cabinet but be shifted sideways. The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, is tipped to replace him as attorney-general.
Tanya Plibersek was the favourite to move from the junior ministry to cabinet to take Health.
The Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, is almost certain to move into cabinet and replace Chris Evans in workplace relations. Evans has not made a mark in the frontline portfolio and is not rated highly by key union bosses.
Industrial relations will loom large next year with the review of the Fair Work Act. Unions want greater bargaining powers and business wants the existing powers curtailed. Shorten, who performed well on industrial relations during the Qantas dispute, is a better fit to handle the fight.
One minister who is not a huge fan of Shorten nonetheless says it is hard to argue against his elevation, even though it looks like a reward for one of the faceless men.
Evans is the government leader in the Senate and cannot be dumped from cabinet lightly. Unless, of course, he loses that job to the Senate deputy leader, Stephen Conroy. However, that would require a caucus vote because leadership positions are one of the few choices the caucus still gets to make. It would be unwise to convene the caucus before Christmas, just in case it has ideas about other positions.
Kim Carr, the Industry Minister who did Gillard's numbers when she ran against Kevin Rudd last year, is in line for the chop, ostensibly because he has shifted back to the Rudd camp. He, too, was fighting to stay.
The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, who colleagues say has jumped to the Rudd camp and would be treasurer if Rudd returned to the leadership, is unlikely to move.
Still, what appears from the outside to be a moderate shake-up poses big risks for Gillard given the circumstances in which it will occur.
The government is still lagging in the polls. Today's Herald/Nielsen poll shows numbers for Labor going in the wrong direction again.
The tension between Gillard and Rudd is as strong as it has been and there is a strange vibe pervading Labor, with indifference towards the leadership starting to emerge from many.
There is a growing expectation Rudd will make a run in the first half of next year, whether he has the numbers or not. ''We'll wait and see what the polls are like early next year and work it out then,'' said one MP.
Phillip Coorey is the Sydney Morning Herald's chief political correspondent.