Australia gets first woman defence minister

New Defence Minister Marise Payne (above) will oversee plans for a new fleet of submarines. The Cabinet will have five women ministers, up from two. Ms Julie Bishop will remain as Foreign Minister.
New Defence Minister Marise Payne (above) will oversee plans for a new fleet of submarines. The Cabinet will have five women ministers, up from two. Ms Julie Bishop will remain as Foreign Minister.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

New PM Turnbull's Cabinet includes more women and younger lawmakers

CANBERRA • Australia got its first female defence minister as new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promoted more women and younger lawmakers in a bid to refresh the Cabinet by removing figures loyal to his predecessor Tony Abbott.

Mr Scott Morrison, 47, was named Treasurer, charged with creating an economic narrative for shoring up growth in the post-mining boom economy.

"Today I'm announcing a 21st century government and a ministry (Cabinet) for the future," Mr Turnbull told a press conference in Canberra yesterday, describing the changes as "very extensive".

  • Governor-General on state visit here

  • The Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove, will make a four-day state visit to Singapore starting today at the invitation of President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

    He will be accompanied by his wife, Lady Lynne Cosgrove, and officials from Government House.

    The Governor-General will attend an official welcome ceremony at the Istana this evening before calling on Dr Tan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement yesterday.

    Dr Tan and his wife Mary will host a state banquet in honour of Sir Peter and his wife.

    Tomorrow, the Governor-General will meet Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

    During the Governor- General's visit, he and Lady Cosgrove will visit Sembawang Air Base.

    Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen will host the Governor-General to lunch.

    Sir Peter and his wife are scheduled to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, where an orchid hybrid will be named after them.

    There, they will also view the flight of stairs that was built by Australian prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

    Sir Peter's visit "underscores the deep and longstanding ties between Singapore and Australia across many fields", the MFA said.

    The visit comes as Singapore and Australia celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries, it added.


Today I'm announcing a 21st century government and a ministry (Cabinet) for the future.

MR MALCOLM TURNBULL, Australian Prime Minister

For starters, he boosted the number of women in the Cabinet from two to five.

Ms Marise Payne, 51, became the country's first female Defence Minister, and will oversee plans for a new fleet of submarines. Ms Payne, who had served for two years as human services minister under Mr Abbott, will set out a defence White Paper later this year outlining Australia's security priorities, Mr Turnbull said.

Ms Michaela Cash, 45, was appointed Minister for Employment and Women and Ms Kelly O'Dwyer, 38, assumed the assistant treasurer and small business portfolios.

Ms Julie Bishop, 59, remained as Foreign Minister and Ms Sussan Ley, 53, as Health Minister.

"There was a sense that he needed to freshen the ministry," said politics professor Haydon Manning at Flinders University in Adelaide. "Turnbull is addressing the perception that women are unwelcome in a coalition government. But he also had to tread carefully as the party has a lot of wounds and the last thing he can afford is sniping from disaffected conservatives."

Mr Turnbull, 60, who defeated Mr Abbott in a ballot of Liberal Party lawmakers last Monday, is seeking to overhaul the government as he attempts to turn around slumping poll ratings ahead of national elections due late next year. At the same time, he must avoid worsening divisions within the party and appease a large group of lawmakers who voted for Mr Abbott to stay.

Mr Joe Hockey, 50, who had served as Treasurer under Mr Abbott, did not seek a position in the new Cabinet and will quit Parliament, he said in a statement.

Mr Hockey, who failed to push ahead with structural reforms that business leaders say are needed for growth, presided over unemployment that hit a 12-year high and a plunge in business investment.

Four others from the Abbott Cabinet were dumped, including Defence Minister Kevin Andrews.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Environment Minister Greg Hunt were among those retained.

Other appointments include: Mr Christopher Pyne as Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, Mr Simon Birmingham as Education Minister, Mr Christian Porter as Social Services Minister, Mr Arthur Sinodinos as Cabinet Secretary and Mr Josh Frydenberg as Resources, Energy and northern Australia Minister.

The appointments followed the Liberal Party's victory in a special election held last Saturday in Canning, Western Australia, with results indicating that Mr Turnbull has helped to reduce a voter backlash against the government.

Mr Turnbull will now be focused on crafting a platform for the next national election, Mr Cormann said yesterday in an interview with Sky News Television. "The party as a whole will turn its mind to a second term agenda, a policy agenda that we would take to the next election."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2015, with the headline 'Australia gets first woman defence minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe