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Turnbull's new Cabinet includes Australia's first woman defence minister

Sunday, September 20, 2015 - 17:11

[CANBERRA] Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a new ministerial lineup, promoting women and younger lawmakers as he seeks to refresh the government by removing figures loyal to his predecessor, Tony Abbott.

Scott Morrison, 47, was named treasurer, charged with creating an economic narrative for shoring up growth in the post-mining boom economy. Marise Payne, 51, became the country's first female defense minister, and will oversee plans for a new fleet of submarines. Kelly O'Dwyer, 38, was appointed assistant treasurer and minister for small business as Turnbull boosted the number of women in cabinet to five from two.

"There was a sense that he needed to freshen the ministry," said Haydon Manning, a politics professor at Flinders University in Adelaide.  "Turnbull is addressing the perception that women are unwelcome in a coalition government. But he also had to tread carefully as the party has a lot of wounds and the last thing he can afford is sniping from disaffected conservatives."

Turnbull, 60, who defeated Mr Abbott in a ballot of Liberal Party lawmakers on Sept 14, is seeking to overhaul the government as he attempts to turn around slumping poll ratings ahead of elections due in late 2016. At the same time, he must avoid worsening divisions within the party and appease a large group of lawmakers who voted for Mr Abbott to stay in the top job.

Julie Bishop, the Deputy Prime Minister who turned against Mr Abbott and stood with Mr Turnbull in the ballot, remains foreign minister. Joe Hockey, 50, who had served as Treasurer under Abbott, didn't seek a position in the new Cabinet and will quit parliament after almost 20 years as a lawmaker, he said in an e- mailed statement.

Four other members of Mr Abbott's Cabinet were dumped. They were Defense Minister Kevin Andrews, Employment Minister Eric Abetz, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.   Trade Minister Andrew Robb, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Environment Minister Greg Hunt were among those to retain their roles. Other ministerial appointments includeChristopher Pyne as industry, innovation and science minister, Michaelia Cash as employment minister,Simon Birmingham as education minister,Christian Porter as social services minister, Arthur Sinodinos as Cabinet secretary, Josh Frydenberg as resources, energy and northern Australia minister.

Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra Sunday his new team would be a "21st century government and a ministry for the future." "My government has a major focus on tax reform," Mr Turnbull said. "The tax system is one of the key levers the government has to promote economic activity."

Mr Abbott had faced criticism for having too few women in his Cabinet and keeping older ministers who'd served in the previous coalition government that ended in 2007. The result was a ministry that was supposed to look experienced, instead came across as outdated.

Ms Payne, who had served for two years as human services minister under Mr Abbott, will set out a defense white paper later this year outlining Australia's security priorities, Mr Turnbull said. The New South Wales Senator, who joined the Senate in 1997, previously worked as a political and public affairs adviser.

O'Dwyer will attend Cabinet alongside Bishop, Cash and Payne, Mr Turnbull told reporters, boosting the number of women in his top team. Sussan Ley retains her post as health minister.

The new leader's appointments followed his party's victory in a special election held Saturday in Canning, Western Australia, with results indicating Mr Turnbull has helped to reduce a voter backlash against the government.

The result was "a great win" for Mr Turnbull, who now will be focused on crafting a platform for Australia's next national election, Finance Minister Cormann said Sunday in an interview with Sky News Television. "The party as a whole will turn its mind to a second term agenda, a policy agenda that we would take to the next election."

BLOOMBERG