Malcolm Turnbull took a broom to the Cabinet – did he go too far?
New PM Malcolm Turnbull was always going to want to make his mark with his first Cabinet. But to do that, he had to strike a balance: He had to change enough to make it all seem new. He had to keep enough to make it seem like a steady ship.
Now that the Turnbull Cabinet is out in the world, there’s a few things we now know about Australia’s new PM:
1. Turnbull is keen to show he doesn’t have a “problem” with women.
There are now five women in Cabinet, and three in Assistant-Minister roles.
Senator Marise Payne is a big winner, unseating Kevin Andrews as Defence Minister. Defence is a notoriously difficult portfolio — and the Australian military itself is not known to have been a friend to women in the past.
Kelly O’Dwyer joins as Assistant Treasurer and is the first woman with an economic portfolio in an Australian Cabinet.
Michaelia Cash has the Employment Portfolio and is Australia’s new Minister for Women — and is in fact a woman, so she has that thing over the former occupant of the role. Cash was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women under the Abbott Government, and held the portfolio in opposition, too. She is familiar with the issues, and the Department. Tackling domestic violence has to be her first and biggest challenge.
Having the employment and women’s portfolios together is actually a good thing. There are plenty of areas in which the employment portfolio could be the means to achieving many of the goals of the women’s portfolio. Deployed strategically, it’s a strong mix.
It feels weird to celebrate five women in the Cabinet, when that’s less than a third. We make up 51% of the population, so you would hope for more. But on the bright side, they are strong appointments and we have women in very senior portfolios that are not traditionally “women’s” portfolios, like Families and community services. Foreign Affairs, Defence, Health, Treasury, Employment — they are powerful economic and policy drivers for the country. That can only be positive.
2. Turnbull rewards his friends.
The biggest winners in the reshuffle were always going to be Turnbull backers (to not do that would be bonkers). Marise Payne, Mitch Fifield (Communication), Simon Birmingham (Education), Kelly O’Dwyer and George Brandis (kept Attorney-General, lost Arts – which makes Nick Cave happy – but is now Leader of the Senate), were all Team Turnbull. Scott Morrison, who is now Treasurer, didn’t take his numbers over to Abbott in the leadership challenge, so he’s got the Guernsey he had his eyes on.
On Sunday afternoon on 2GB, Miranda Devine asked Scott Morrison whether he was a traitor. Morrison refused to be drawn on the issue, saying, “I think I’ve already explained all of those things Miranda.” Devine tried again, asking: “Why is Tony Abbott so upset with you?” to which Morrison replied, “I do not know, Miranda.”
Even Wyatt Roy, one of the first to come out in support of Turnbull got a portfolio — he’s the new assistant Minister for Innovation.