Holding government on a knife’s edge majority, the challenges Scott Morrison is facing are monumental. If only Scott Morrison had anywhere near the numbers John Howard enjoyed as prime minister, things could be handled differently. No wonder he cracked under pressure – telling journalists only last week they were free to bag him for making his daughters, wife and a widow mother – the center of his life. Then, the Morrison cabinet reshuffle.
The unrelenting scanning of his government by the hawk-eyed media 24/7 must be adding to the pressure he has been under in the last few weeks. His only fault is – his government is resident on a wafer thin majority in the house and after the exit of Craig Kelly, he is hard pressed to defend the indefensible.
Such is the backdrop against which – to be seen to do the right thing as the leader, he has done his latest reshuffle of the cabinet, which to his detractors will look like – ‘old wine in new bottles’ and to the fair minded observer, perhaps the best he could do.
To the keen-eyed, it may make only cosmetic difference as the major for any legislature is done by the bureaucracy and its heads in place. Nevertheless, it looks a lot better for the PM who seems to be doing something to address the anger of women and by somewhat dressing down or demoting (if we can call it) the two minister who have been the target of recent public anger – Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds.
The second, the “lens” on which Morrison is now primarily focused, is all about trying to manage the deep problem he and his government are facing with women’s anger and issues.
Also read: Morrison’s cabinet reshuffle to cap off 2020
Writing ‘View from the Hill: Morrison sets up his own women’s network but will it produce the policy goods?’, Michelle Grattan, in my view unfairly says, “Morrison wants to make his “women’s problems” – to the extent they can be addressed at a policy level – a whole-of-government challenge”.
The problem was always, and should always have been a whole-of-government problem and challenge, particularly Morrison, personally having had zero (at least that is what we know so far) involvement.
In the new cabinet, Attorney General Christian Porter will move to take over as minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Linda Reynolds will move from Defence to Government Services and the NDIS.
Morrison with his new reshuffle has endeavoured to send a message about the importance he now places on women’s issues. He would have hoped this would boost his government’s policy clout in relation to women’s issues and thus gain electorally at the next election.
In Scott Morrison’s new cabinet, Michaelia Cash becomes Australia’s second female attorney-general. Under Labor, Nicola Roxon was the first female Attorney General of Australia.
Karen Andrews, takes over Peter Dutton’s portfolio of Home Affairs. Peter Dutton has moved to Defence.
Melissa Price is elevated to the cabinet as the minister for Defence Industry.
Anne Ruston is now minister for Families and Social Services with added area of Women’s Safety.
The full details of Morrison cabinet reshuffle can be found here.
Scott Morrison has also announced a new edifice “cabinet taskforce” that will include all the women in the ministry. This group will be chaired by the Prime Minister.
It is to “to drive my government’s agenda and response to these key issues involving women’s equality, women’s safety, women’s economic security, women’s health and well-being”.
Other members of this group will be Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham.
The group will be co-chaired by the Minister for Women, Marise Payne.
“It is her job to bring together this great talent and experience across not just the female members of my cabinet team and the outer ministry and executive, but to draw also in the important contributions, especially in areas such as health and services and aged care and other key important roles that go so much to women’s well-being in this country,” Morrison said.
With this Morrison cabinet reshuffle completed which follows the one in December (2020), what the government needs is a female minister with a megaphone in her hand 24/7 speaking out on issues and promoting the government’s case. By the choices Mr Morrison has made, it seems, he would expect Marise Payne to assume that role forthwith.