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Sep 16, 2013

Govt ministry announced: men the 95% in Abbott cabinet

Tony Abbott has unveiled his new government's ministry in Canberra. There's some winners and losers -- none more so than women. Julie Bishop is the only female MP in cabinet.


Australia’s flirtation with having women at the apex of politics is well and truly over, with Tony Abbott selecting just one woman in his 19-member cabinet.

The PM-elect unveiled his new-look ministry in Canberra this afternoon. Hamstrung by his pre-election commitment to stick with his existing frontbench, and keen to present an image of stability, Abbott has made minimal changes to his ministry. He’s lost a little dead wood and promoted a few bright sparks, but he hasn’t overhauled his ministry, and he hasn’t addressed his party’s blokey vibe.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will be the only woman sitting around the cabinet table, which will be 95% male. Female candidates for a senior role missed out; Bronwyn Bishop has been nominated as speaker, while Sophie Mirabella grudgingly dropped her case to remain on the frontbench as her seat of Indi is in doubt.

“Plainly I am disappointed that there are not at least two women in the cabinet,” Abbott told journalists. He blamed Mirabella’s struggle to retain her seat, and Labor’s rules which set a cap on the size of the ministry, for the under-representation of women in his senior ranks.

There were women in the former junior ministry — including Sussan Ley, Marise Payne and Fiona Nash — but Abbott didn’t find room for them in cabinet. So he has worn the political and budgetary pain of a very generous paid parental leave scheme, presumably to increase his appeal to female voters, while possibly alienating some of them with his party promotions. Before the election, women made up six of 20 members in Kevin Rudd’s cabinet.

The big winner from today is conservative Western Australian Senator Mathias Cormann, known as “the Cormannator” by some colleagues for his rich Belgian accent. Cormann was the Coalition’s assistant treasurer and has been promoted into cabinet as Finance Minister. John Howard’s former chief of staff Arthur Sinodinos was tipped for the role, but he’s only made it as far as Assistant Treasurer (not a cabinet job). Andrew Robb, also talked about as a future finance minister, stays in cabinet as Trade Minister — a role the Nationals covet, but missed out on.

Another surprise winner is Peter Dutton. The underwhelming health spokesman has picked up sport as well, not previously a cabinet role.

As for the losers, Nat John Cobb is out of cabinet, losing the agriculture ministry to colleague Barnaby Joyce, while Ian Macdonald, Andrew Southcott and Teresa Gambaro were demoted.

Outside of cabinet, Abbott has promoted a few women into the outer ministry. Articulate Nat Fiona Nash — demoted some years ago when she stood up to her Liberal colleagues over water policy — becomes assistant Health Minister, while firebrand WA Senator Michaelia Cash is now the assistant Minister for Immigration. Cash, a conservative street fighter, will provide back-up to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison — they’re likely to be a hardline duo on boat people.

Another new entry in the junior ministry is the amiable and media-friendly Jamie Briggs, who becomes assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Turning to the gaggle of parliamentary secretaries, Abbott has found room for comms guru Paul Fletcher, Melbourne blue-blood MPs Josh Frydenburg and Alan Tudge, Michael McCormack and comeback kid Steve Ciobo. Rising star Kelly O’Dwyer has missed out on a frontbench spot. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has been demoted.

Abbott made much of his paring down of ministers’ titles, which includes scrapping the role of minister of climate change, minister for science, etc.

Coalition MPs will extend Abbott some latitude not to make sweeping changes to his ministry after the vindication of his thumping election win, but ambitious junior MPs will be closely watching the likes of cabinet members Kevin Andrews, Peter Dutton and David Johnston to see if they make more of an impression in government than they did in opposition. If errors are made, pressure will build on Abbott to get rid of more dead wood and open up the senior ranks well before the next election.

Veteran MP Philip Ruddock has a role once more — he’s to be chief whip, or “tutor in chief” to new MPs (as Abbott described him). The new ministry will be sworn in at Government House on Wednesday.

Interim Labor leader Chris Bowen responded to Abbott by saying the cabinet of Afghanistan had more women than the government of Australia. This statement appears to be correct; this story from last year says there are three women in Afghanistan’s cabinet, while the Afghan President’s website lists at least two senior ministers as female, although it’s not clear if they are cabinet ministers.


Prime Minister
Tony Abbott

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
(Leader of the Nationals)
Warren Truss

Minister for Foreign Affairs
(Deputy leader of the Liberal Party)
Julie Bishop

Minister for Employment
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service
(Leader of the government in the Senate)
Eric Abetz

Minister for the Arts
(Deputy leader of the government in the Senate)
(Vice-president of the Executive Council)
George Brandis

Joe Hockey

Minister for Agriculture
(Deputy leader of the Nationals)
Barnaby Joyce

Minister for Education
(Leader of the House)
Christopher Pyne

Minister for Indigenous Affairs
(Leader of the Nationals in the Senate)
Nigel Scullion

Minister for Industry
Ian Macfarlane

Minister for Social Services
Kevin Andrews

Minister for Communications
Malcolm Turnbull

Minister for Health
Minister for Sport
Petter Dutton

Minister for Small Business
Bruce Billson

Minister for Trade and Investment
Andrew Robb

Minister for Defence
David Johnston

Minister for Environment
Greg Hunt

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
Scott Morrison

Minister for Finance
Mathias Cormann


Assistant Minister for Social Services
(Manager of government business in the Senate)
Mitch Fifield

Assistant Minister for Employment
(Deputy Leader of the Nationals in the Senator)
Fiona Nash

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State
Michael Ronaldson

Assistant Minister for Education
Sussan Ley

Minister for Human Services
Marise Payne

Minister for Justice
Michael Keenan

Assistant Minister for Defence
Stuart Robert

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women
Michaelia Cash

Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
Jamie Briggs

Assistant Treasurer
Arthur Sinodinos


Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture
Richard Colbeck

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry
Bob Baldwin

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Brett Mason

Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer
Steven Ciobo

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education
Scott Ryan

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence
Darren Chester

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications
Paul Fletcher

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Josh Frydenberg

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Alan Tudge

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance
Michael McCormack


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29 thoughts on “Govt ministry announced: men the 95% in Abbott cabinet

  1. Glory Toad


  2. Gavin Moodie

    It will be interesting to see the administrative arrangements, which is where portfolio responsibilities are specified in detail. I presume education minister Christopher Pyne is also responsible for higher education and that assistant minister for education Sussan Ley will take main responsibility for vocational education. It is not clear to me who is responsibile for research and science (CSIRO, etc).

  3. paddy

    I’ve never been a great fan of Chris Bowen, but the contrast between his presser following Abbott’s train wreck was telling.
    Esp the (sad) zinger, that the Govt of Afghanistan has more women in its cabinet than Australia.
    It’s looking like a rocky road for the next 3 years.

  4. paddy

    GM. I *thought* I heard Abbott say that Pyne would be responsible for science. But it was all a bit confused during that media scrum.

  5. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx paddy. In the shadow Cabinet the minister for science was Sophie Mirabella as Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science. If science stays with industry that would make Ian Macfarlane minister.

  6. Ken Dally

    With no Science Minister I suppose they can ignore climate change and all that pesky talk about the bad effects of coal and csg mining.

  7. paddy

    GM I think I’d prefer Ian Macfarlane to Pyne in science.
    But the new Govt and it’s leader, still sound like there’s some argy bargy going on behind the scenes.
    Who’s responsible for what isn’t exactly clear.

  8. Gavin Moodie

    @Paddy. I also prefer Ian Macfarlane to Pyne, and of course both to Sophie Mirabella.

    Presumably whoever’s responsible for science and research will have to deal with the audit commission’s nonsense about grants by the Australian Research Council, so careful handling would be valuable. I’m not sure Pyne would give it the time, even if he had the inclination.

  9. Dennis Pratt

    Wasn’t Kevin Andrews the loon who brought about the overthrow of the Northern Territory’s voluntary euthanasia legislation? And now he’s going to be in charge of Social Services?

    Abbott had the opportunity of using his winning position to clear the deadwood off his front bench and he hasn’t taken it.

  10. Stephen

    Does one “unveil” such a blokey cabinet?

    Perhaps “unleash” or “unstrap” would be a better verb.

  11. Gavin Moodie

    Lane (2013) reports Abbott as saying ‘Science will largely be in the industry portfolio’.

    Lane, Bernard (2013) Abbott unveils title-lite ministry, Australian, 16 September 2013.

  12. paddy

    Annabel Crabb reporting that science does indeed go with Industry. So Macfarlane will get the gig.

  13. mrsynik

    Where’s the Transport ministry gone?

  14. Gavin Moodie

    Is transport in the Infrastructure ministry?

  15. Patriot

    Which particular women were you lot wanting to see in the Ministry?

  16. Gavin Moodie

    It would be nice if the Libs and Nats preselected women for winnable seats. But for now Cathy Alexander implies that Cabinet could include from the former junior ministry Sussan Ley, Marise Payne and Fiona Nash.

  17. geomac62

    Blue ties smilin at me
    Nothing but blue ties do I see
    Blueboys singing a song
    Nothin but Blueboys all day long

    Never saw the sun shinin so bright
    Never saw things goin so right
    Noticing the days hurrying by
    When your in power , my how they fly

    Hue dames, all of them gone
    Nothing but blue ties from now on
    Blue ties smiling at me
    Nothing but blue ties do I see

    Never saw the sun shinin so bright
    Never saw things goin so right
    Noticing the days hurrying by
    When your in power , my how they fly

    Hue dames, all of them gone
    Nothin but blue ties from now on
    Nothin but blue ties from now on

  18. Elvis

    Ha, ha, very funny Cathy Alexander.
    Brandis for the Arts!
    Andrews for Social Service!!
    Hunt for the Environment!!!
    Now, seriously, where’s the real list?
    BTW, I thought it was a very nice touch in your spoof list to add a new Ministry for Sport at the same time as removing a Ministry for Science. Very witty satire… thanks for the laugh.

  19. Gavin Moodie

    Good point about science and sport Elvis.

  20. Andrew Reid

    Brandis was already minister for Arts for nearly a year before the 2007 election. Andrews was also Human Services minister under Howard. Seems bizarre I know.

  21. shepherdmarilyn

    Can even one bloody person explain why we have to be harsh to people who came by sea yet we have had two PM’s in two elections who CAME BY FRIGGING SEA?

  22. Serenatopia

    Having a vagina in the liberal party does not make you a fairer human being—who cares that the cabinet is blokey—the worry is that Abbott has done away with the role of science minister…at least he is declaring his cards by putting science in industry—we know that Monsanto and the oil giants own science—we read the interim report endorsing port expansion as having no affect on the health of the reef! No amount of vaginas will improve the brain or heart of this cabinet!

  23. Gavin Moodie

    While it would be nice to have feminists and egalitarians in Cabinet – of either sex – that is not the main reason for criticising Abbott’s first Government for having too few women, but because it grossly under represents half of Australia.

  24. David Duncan

    I have now heard or seen Abbott’s rationale and heart rending remorse about there only being one woman in HIS selection reported a number of times with surprisingly little scrutiny. Maybe that argument is too obviously risible for anyone to bother with?
    They took my Sophie from me, those indi bastard-fools. Those ALP bastards limited to size of cabinet and i couldn’t fit any more people in the door after the rippling political stallion Kevin Andrews was in? Talented women “knocking on the door” but not the one marked Parliamentary Secretary? Anyone? Surely you don’t have to be pathologically opposed to Abbott to want to see these pathetically weak arguments shredded wherever they appear?

  25. maureen

    one of the most important ministries that has been overlooked and seems to have been misplaced somewhere is the one for the Ageing Population. We seem to have neglected it and to my way of thinking this is a major problem that is only going to expand over the next decade. It seems to me that this government is only looking at the current problems and not some of the ones that are going to cause major problems in the not so distant future.

  26. Hamis Hill

    Most likely just “Ministers for Ignoring the Public”.
    In true conservative style.

  27. geomac62

    Maybe Abbott could appoint a lib female MP to translate what Matthias Cormann says . That accent is way too thick for any English speaker to understand .

  28. Gavin Moodie

    Matthias Cormann is perfectly easy to understand; one just needs to tune one’s ear to something other than the Aussie drawl.


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