Embattled ministers get new cabinet roles

Christian Porter has been made industry minister while Peter Dutton will replace Linda Reynolds in the defence portfolio.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced a cabinet reshuffle with his government engulfed in scandals stemming from the treatment of women.

Michaelia Cash has been promoted to attorney-general and industrial relations minister to replace Mr Porter, who lost his job as the nation’s first law officer after launching defamation action against the ABC.


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Karen Andrews will replace Mr Dutton, who is also taking Mr Porter’s role as leader of the house, as home affairs minister.

Mr Porter took mental health leave after revealing he was the person accused in media reports of a historic rape in 1988, which he strongly denies.

His new role also includes science and technology.

Mr Morrison backed the WA MP to stay in politics despite his diminished role in the government.

“I certainly expect him to serve in my cabinet both now and after the next election,” he said.

Senator Reynolds, who is also on medical leave, will become government services minister after coming under heavy fire for her handling of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations in 2019.

The former defence minister was forced to apologise after it emerged she called Ms Higgins a “lying cow”.

Senator Reynolds replaces scandal-prone minister Stuart Robert, who will take over the workforce, skills, employment and small business portfolios.

“These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up while maintaining the momentum and the continuity and the stability that Australia needs,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has been returned to cabinet, which will have seven women.

Ms Price was demoted from cabinet in 2019 as environment minister after struggling to answer questions about her portfolio.

Senator Cash’s previous stint in charge of workplace relations was mired in controversy after her staff tipped off media about raids on union offices.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said she hoped the minister would engage with unions more constructively than last time.

“2020 showed that the country is better off when we work together and when the voice of working people is listened to and respected,” she said.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston will add women’s safety to her responsibilities.

The prime minister also announced a new cabinet task force to focus on women’s equality, safety, economic security and health.

The new group will be led by Minister for Women Marise Payne and comprise all female ministers, along with the deputy prime minister, treasurer and finance minister.

In the outer ministry, Jane Hume will add women’s economic security minister to her other roles.

Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker will become assistant minister for industrial relations and women.

Mr Morrison said Senator Payne had effectively been elevated to “the prime minister for women”, before later clarifying he remains the prime minister but she is the “primary” women’s minister.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese dismissed suggestions the reshuffle could act as a circuit-breaker for the government.

“Shuffling the deck won’t change the bad hand that the Morrison government is dealing Australians,” he said.

© AAP 2021