This Article is From Sep 20, 2015

Women Promoted in Australian PM's 'Extensive' Cabinet Reshuffle

Women Promoted in Australian PM's 'Extensive' Cabinet Reshuffle

File Photo: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Agence France-Presse)

Canberra: New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed Australia's first female defence minister Sunday as he filled more key posts with women in a "very extensive" cabinet reshuffle, days after ousting Tony Abbott in a party coup.

Turnbull, a 60-year-old multimillionaire former banker and businessman who holds socially moderate views within the conservative Liberal Party, increased the number of women in cabinet from two to five.

The sweeping changes also saw some key Abbott allies from the party's right wing left out of cabinet in favour of younger and more moderate candidates.

Some Abbott allies stepped aside or refused portfolios, with the resignation of Treasurer (finance minister) Joe Hockey from parliament the biggest surprise.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison replaced Hockey as treasurer, despite voting for Abbott in the Monday night contest for the Liberal Party leadership that Turnbull won 54-44.

"Today I'm announcing a 21st century government and a ministry (cabinet) for the future," Turnbull told a press conference in Canberra, describing the changes as "very extensive".

Senator Marise Payne, who had held the human services portfolio, was given the defence ministry.

Michaela Cash was appointed Minister for Employment and Women, while Kelly O'Dwyer assumed the assistant treasurer and small business portfolios.

Julie Bishop remained as foreign minister and Sussan Ley as health and sports minister.

Arthur Sinodinos, who served as chief of staff to former PM John Howard, became cabinet secretary as Turnbull stressed the need for consultative leadership in contrast to Abbott's centralised decision-making processes.

Turnbull supporter Attorney-General George Brandis was appointed Senate leader but lost the arts portfolio to another backer of the new PM, Mitch Fifield, who was also given communications.

Turnbull has made economic policy a key tenet of his new administration, promising to speak honestly about the country's challenges as it transitions from mining-led growth following an unprecedented resources investment boom.

'Science, technology important'

The new prime minister, also a former barrister, emphasised the importance of science and technology as he appointed Education Minister Christopher Pyne to the expanded infrastructure, innovation and science portfolio.

Abbott had been slammed for not having a separate science minister position in his cabinet, instead combining it with the industry ministry.

"If we want to remain a prosperous, first-world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive, above all we must be more innovative," Turnbull said.

"We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities presented to us."

Abbott backer Kevin Andrews was not given a new portfolio after being removed from defence but said he would continue to serve in parliament, while another ally Eric Abetz lost his employment ministry and role as Senate leader.

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson turned down an offer to serve in a position outside cabinet.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Environment Minister Greg Hunt -- all in the Abbott camp -- survived the chop. Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was moved to resources, energy and northern Australia.

The announcement came as Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie won a Western Australia by-election on Saturday, with some crediting the comfortable victory to Turnbull's ascension.

With more than 60 per cent of ballots counted, the former special forces soldier was forecast to have secured the seat with a six percent swing against his party, compared to fears of a 10 percent swing before Abbott was dumped.

Turnbull has also polled well nationally, with a Galaxy survey released Friday showing the government's standing higher at 51 percent compared to the opposition Labor party's 49 percent -- the first time it has been in a winning position since May 2014.