Australian PM announces major ministry reshuffle

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CANBERRA, March 29 (Xinhua) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced major changes to his cabinet on Monday in response to the ongoing scandal over the treatment of women in the parliament.

Morrison named Peter Dutton, formerly the minister for home affairs, as the new minister for defence, and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash as the attorney-general and minister for industrial relations.

Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter, who formerly held the positions, have been demoted but remain in cabinet as the minister for government services and minister for industry, science and technology respectively.

Karen Andrews, the former industry minister, is the new home affairs minister and Stuart Robert has been moved from the Government Services portfolio to Employment.

“These changes will shake up what needs shaking up,” Morrison said.

“What we must do is address the government’s agenda with the changes we are making.”

Reynolds and Porter have spent most of March on medical leave. The allegations of misogyny, bullying, sexual assault and rape have engulfed the government recently.

Morrison earlier in March was critical of Reynolds after it was revealed that she called Brittany Higgins, a former government staffer who alleges she was raped by a colleague in Reynolds’ office in Parliament House in 2019, a “lying cow.”

Porter has launched legal action against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) over its reporting of an allegation of historical rape against him, which he has strenuously denied.

Morrison said that moving him would remove concerns over a conflict of interest for Porter and allow him to remain in cabinet while pursuing the legal action.

“This fully addresses all the issues relate to the advice received from the solicitor-general, as well as the Prime Minister and Cabinet regarding the ministerial guidelines,” he said.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston will add the minister for women’s safety to her responsibilities and Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price will join the cabinet.

It takes the number of women in cabinet to seven.

Morrison also announced the establishment of a new cabinet taskforce on women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and wellbeing.

The taskforce will be co-chaired by Morrison and Marise Payne, the minister for women and minister for foreign affairs, and will include female ministers and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham. Enditem

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