Australia gets “Prime Minister for Women” following Cabinet reshuffle

Scott Morrison names a ‘Prime Minister for Women’ and a new women’s safety ministry, during Cabinet reshuffle

Things need to be "shaken up" the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Cabinet reshuffle today, as well as a new portfolio on women’s safety, in an attempt to address some of the issues plaguing his government. 

The shuffle aims to prioritise the needs of Australian women, with five women promoted and a “shake up of what needs to be shaken up” according to Morrison. Of the coalition’s 23-person cabinet, seven are now female.

Other changes? Australia now has a “Prime Minister for Women”, as declared by the PM — although he later changed that title to the “primary minister for women”, confirming that the gig would go to Senator Marise Payne.

However, this quasi promotion of Payne is unlikely to thrill many, given that during her time as our “regular” minister for women she’s been almost entirely absent on the issues that matter— particularly on the culture crisis plaguing parliament right now, but also over the past year during the pandemic

Payne likewise refrained from speaking during the 400-strong coalition staff meeting held last week in which the PM and his Deputy Michael McCormack apologised to staff for the “absolute rubbish” they have had to put up with.

Senator Payne will co-chair (with Morrison) a new cabinet task force on women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and wellbeing. It will include Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and all women from the ministry.

With this, Jane Hume will take on the new portfolio of women’s economic security which sits in the outer ministry while Amanda Stoker will become assistant minister for women — which will raise some eyebrows, given her strong pro-life stance.

Anne Ruston will take on an entirely new portfolio, becoming the Minister for Women’s Safety, in addition to her role as Social Services minister. She also joins Morrison’s inner leadership circle.

Other changes include Senator Michaelia Cash becoming the Attorney General and Industrial Relations Minister, replacing Christian Porter in the process.

Karen Andrews will take on the Home Affairs portfolio — replacing Peter Dutton, as he moves to replace Linda Reynolds in defence.

Reynolds, who has fought fierce backlash over derogatory comments she made about Brittany Higgins, will remain in cabinet but moves across to the portfolio of government services and the NDIS.

While Melissa Price resumes her previous Cabinet position in the defence industry portfolio.

Porter, who is due to return to work on Wednesday, also keeps a portfolio, taking on Andrews’ previous role heading up industry, science and technology.

Morrison said all these changes will help provide a “lens on the policy challenges that we’re facing and the policy development and delivery work that needs to be undertaken.”

He said it provides an opportunity to put a “fresh lens” on his government’s agenda in order to achieve results for Australian women.

“These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up while maintaining the momentum and the continuity and the stability that Australia needs,” he said.

Morrison described Senator Payne as “effectively the prime minister for women” but later rethought his words, when asked by a journalist during the press conference if Australia’s actual prime minister should be the prime minister for women (and if Morrison was unfit to be that person).

He said he should probably call Senator Payne the “primary minister for women”, noting that she is the leader of a team addressing various aspects of the women’s portfolio.

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