Cabinet history in the making
Scott Morrison has drawn sharp new priorities for his government by elevating the National Disability Insurance Scheme into cabinet as a stand-alone ministry, reintegrating the climate and energy portfolios and creating a federal agency to improve public service delivery.
The overhaul sets a number of historic precedents, with 11 women on the Coalition frontbench including seven in cabinet, and Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie becoming the nation’s the first female agriculture minister. Linda Reynolds will become defence minister and Marise Payne will stay in Foreign Affairs but also take responsibility for women while Michaelia Cash will have responsibility for Employment, Skills and Small Business.
West Australian Liberal MP Ken Wyatt will become the first Aboriginal to hold the post of minister for indigenous affairs, and he will become the first indigenous person to serve in cabinet in Australia’s history.
The frontbench shake-up is the first step by Mr Morrison to assert his new authority over the Coalition following his “miracle” election victory, with the new ministry to be sworn in on Wednesday following a joint partyroom meeting tomorrow.
Mr Morrison yesterday said Mr Wyatt — who has served as minister for indigenous health, senior Australians and aged care — would be supported by a “new national indigenous Australians agency” to be established within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The new frontbench line-up will focus on delivering his Mr Morrison’s promised 1.25 million new jobs, maintaining the forecast budget surpluses, paying down debt, delivering tax relief and guaranteeing funding for essential services. “This ministry brings together the experience of those who have been serving in roles
across the government for many years now,” Mr Morrison said. “And it brings together some new members who will bring their skills, experience, passion and energy to the government, as we set about the task of realising the aspirations for all Australians.”
The biggest winners in the frontbench shake-up include Attorney-General Christian Porter, who will take on the key portfolio of Industrial Relations and serve as Leader of the House, as well as Stuart Robert who is a key ally of Mr Morrison.
Mr Robert will be handed responsibility for the $22 billion NDIS. Mr Morrison appointed Mr Robert to the outer ministry position of assistant treasurer in August following the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull. Mr Robert was forced to resign from the Turnbull frontbench in 2016 after breaching the ministerial code. Mr Morrison yesterday said the NDIS was a “very big social reform”, with the Coalition aiming to ensure that 500,000 Australians were able to access assistance under the scheme over the next five years.
A Government Services portfolio has also been created for Mr Robert, who will have responsibility for a federal agency aimed at improving service delivery, including through the use of digital platforms. The economic team will remain unchanged, with Josh Frydenberg staying on as Treasurer and Mathias Cormann continuing to serve as Finance Minister. Greg Hunt will keep Health, but take-up a new role as minister assisting the Prime Minister for the public service and cabinet.
Dan Tehan will stay in Education while Peter Dutton will continue to serve in his signature role of Home Affairs.
The revised Morrison cabinet — due to meet for the first time on Wednesday — will maintain its record level of seven women, with two females from the outer ministry, Sussan Ley and Anne Ruston, taking up seats around the cabinet table.
Ms Ley will return to cabinet to take over the environment portfolio from Melissa Price — the biggest loser from the shakeup. Ms Price was yesterday demoted from cabinet and handed the Defence Industry portfolio.
Senator Ruston will enter cabinet as social services minister while two other women, Jane Hume and Nola Marino, will join the outer ministry. Senator Hume will serve as assistant minister for superannuation and financial services while Ms Marino will become assistant minister for regional development and territories. Energy Minister Angus Taylor will also take over responsibility for meeting Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets. His portfolio was yesterday renamed Energy and Emissions Reduction.
Victorian MP Alan Tudge has been elevated into cabinet and retains responsibility for population, cities and urban infrastructure, while Sydney MP Paul Fletcher has been moved from Social Services. Mr Fletcher will take over Senator Fifield’s portfolios and become minister for communications.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Richard Colbeck will pick up responsibility for Aged Care, Youth and Sport.
The Nationals will have a diminished representation in cabinet, moving from four seats to five. Senator McKenzie will take agriculture while David Littleproud will have responsibility for water resources, drought, rural finance, natural disaster and emergency management. Matt Canavan will retain responsibility for resources while Michael McCormack will continue in his role as Infrastructure and Transport Minister.