Freshly minted Prime Minster Scott Morrison may have managed to find an additional woman for his Cabinet over Malcolm Turnbull’s dismal five, but the lack of female representation is nowhere near good enough.
Especially coming just hours after his party lost its most high profile woman and deputy leader of 11 years, with Julie Bishop announcing she was heading for the backbench,
The problem of course is that there’s just not enough women in the Government in the first place — and given recent preselection processes, that appears unlikely to drastically change in the future. It could actually get worse.
The problem also is that the Liberal Party internally has a serious issue with appointing female leaders. What else can you conclude from the fact Julie Bishop — with vastly more experience, respect and popularity amongst the Australian public than her two opponents in Friday’s leadership spill — received just 11 votes when she took on Morrison and Peter Dutton?
All of this is going to be, and should be, painful for Morrison, who has already suffered a massive Newspoll defeat on Sunday, losing five points to Labor, which is now getting 56 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, compared to the LNP’s 44 per cent. Bill Shorten is now the country’s preferred prime minister, at 39 per cent, compared to Morrison’s 33 per cent.
Makes you wonder if some in the party are questioning if they should have just gone with Bishop during the leadership spill after all.
Meanwhile, Morrison’s first speech as Prime Minister on Friday failed to mention anything on women’s safety, and the rate of women being murdered at the hands of a current or former partner in Australia. That was especially disappointing given the Liberal Party’s own self-imposed chaos, destruction and distraction last resulting in debate over an important amendment to family law being put off — at least another two weeks.
Still, Morrison is calling his new team a ‘Next Gen’ one, despite it looking much like a slightly adapted version of the previous one. His six women in Cabinet extend to 11 women in the full ministry — out of a total 40. One more than Turnbull’s full ministry but one that still sees men dominating four to one.
Let’s remember that one of those men who stays in the ministry — who stays in the Cabinet no less — is Peter Dutton (although his responsibilities are somewhat diminished with Immigration removed from his mega Home Affairs portfolio). And while the Liberal Party’s wrecker-in-chief Tony Abbott is out of the inner circle for now, that may not necessarily be for long.
The key appointments for women in Morrison’s team include Senator Marise Payne moving from Defence Minister to Foreign Affairs Minister. She certainly is the most experienced person for the role, having already spent time internationally with key leaders in her time in Defence, and serving more than 20 years as a senator.
Melissa Price moves from the outer moves from the outer ministry to Environment Minister in the new team — after Morrison split energy and environment into two portfolios. She’ll have a difficult role ahead, given she’s directly responsible for emissions reduction in a government that shows little interest in addressing climate change. Price has extensive experience in mining, which has raised some concerns.
Meanwhile, Kelly O’Dwyer has seen her responsibilities expand, taking on the Industrial Relations portfolio which returns to Cabinet. She retains the role of Minister for Women.
Bridgete McKenzie also takes on an expended role in Cabinet, leading on Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation.
Michaelia Cash has been appointed Minister for Small & Family Business, Skills & Vocational Education
Karen Andrews takes on the Industry, Science and Technology portfolio in Cabinet. She was previously an assistant minister.