Five things we know about Malcolm Turnbull after his Cabinet reshuffle.

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.

There are five women in the Cabinet, some fresh faces among them.

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.


3. He is just and merciful when it comes to Abbott supporters (which seems wise)

Abbott supporters Peter Dutton (Immigration), Andrew Robb (Trade), Mathias Cormann (Finance), and Greg Hunt (Environment) all got to stick around. That will provide some stability — and good will — going forward.

4. But not TOO just and merciful.

Joe Hockey, Ian McFarlane, Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz, Bruce Bilson and Tony Abbott (obviously) have all received the boot from Cabinet. Bilson was performing well as Minister for Small Business, but he wasn’t invited to stay. He was offered another portfolio (apparently it was Cities), but he declined.

Kevin Andrews was quite dirty about his departure, saying, “Frankly, my remaining in this job was not about me, it was all about the stability of our Defence Force in Australia and its leadership. Mr Turnbull’s decision now means there have been more defence ministers in Australia than prime ministers in the last three years.”

That’s code for: Marise Payne is in for a rough ride in that portfolio.

5. Turnbull has apparently handled the Joe Hockey problem — but we just don’t know how, yet.

After being Treasurer, there aren’t too many other places to go that are, you know, upwardly trending.

Hockey isn’t smiling any more.

Hockey released a statement after the Cabinet announcement. It read, in part: “After having served for nearly twenty years as the member for North Sydney and seventeen years on the front bench, I advised the prime minister that I did not wish to continue as a minister in the government and that it is my intention to resign from the House of Representatives.”

That leaves the plum seat of North Sydney up for grabs — which will be an early test for Turnbull’s leadership (but presumably the shine will still be on).

As for what’s next for Hockey, there have been a few signs:
(a) From Hockey’s statement: “I will have more to say in due course, but for the sake of my young family – to whom I owe so much – I have decided to bring my parliamentary career to a close.” Another announcement ahead, perhaps?

(b) From Turnbull’s statement: “Joe has made a long and distinguished contribution to our nation’s government and parliament over many, many years, for which I thank him. I believe he has a further contribution to make in our nation’s service.” Definitely another announcement.

There are a few diplomatic appointments coming up, so Hockey could be well-placed for one of those. The fact that he has chosen to go quietly and not sit grumbling and festering on the backbench (*cough* Rudd *cough*), could see him rewarded.

So, in review: He has made some observable changes – enough to look like there’s a New Day Rising. He has rewarded loyalty, and banished (some) dissidents, so he seems harsh but fair. He has put women into significant portfolios, recognising talent and bolstering their numbers.

Was it a risk to leave so many Abbott supporters outside the tent? Has he plugged the leaks? Only time will tell…