Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott has picked just one woman for his 19-member cabinet, to be sworn in tomorrow. In defending his choice he declared he was prioritising stability, experience and merit.
So Crikey decided to have a go. Is it so very hard to select a Coalition cabinet which meets these requirements, but is not 95% male?
Crikey has resisted the temptation to draft the fantasy cabinet our most vociferous commentators would like, i.e. with Malcolm Turnbull holding every post. This is a genuine, realistic attempt to improve on Abbott’s cabinet. That means keeping the senior leadership team, balancing out conservatives with moderates, and retaining most spokespeople in critical portfolios, especially where significant policy change is involved (Immigration, Climate Change, Communications).
We found it eminently feasible to get more women into senior roles. Our cabinet has four women from a total of 19, or 21% — and all our new faces have the experience and talent to sit around the cabinet table. The question is not whether they are token women, but why they haven’t been promoted already.
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Abbott selected one woman, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. We’ve kept her on. Abbott has repeatedly said he wanted experience in his cabinet — what better place to start than Dr Sharman Stone? Stone, first elected in 1996, was minister for workforce participation (and a parliamentary secretary on finance and the environment) in the Howard government. She has a PhD in business and economics, and has worked professionally for a university. We’ve made her Employment Minister (an area she has ministerial experience in) and Science Minister, due to her understanding of academia. Dr Stone has more parliamentary and ministerial experience than, say, Mathias Cormann, the biggest winner in Abbott’s cabinet (Abbott made him Finance Minister). Cormann has been a senator for six years and has never served in government.
Another woman to receive a Crikey promotion is Sussan Ley. An enterprising MP who flies a plane around her regional electorate, Ley is trained in tax law and accounting, and co-ran a farm for many years. She has held frontbench roles since 2004. Ley is being made Minister for Small Business.
Marise Payne, who was in the ministry before the election, is promoted by Crikey to cabinet as the Minister for Social Services and Human Services. Payne, formerly a public affairs adviser in the finance industry, has an impeccable Liberal pedigree. She has been in the Senate since 1997 and has held various posts.
The only other new face in Crikey’s cabinet is Arthur Sinodinos, who becomes Finance Minister and minister for the public service. Other changes are the reinstatement of a Science Minister, restoring Climate Change to the Environment portfolio, and adding Ageing to the Health portfolio.
Crikey’s fantasy cabinet
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
(Leader of the Nationals)
Minister for Foreign Affairs
(Deputy leader of the Liberal Party)
Minister for the Arts
Minister for Finance
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service
Minister for Employment
Minister for Science
Minister for Agriculture
(Deputy leader of the Nationals)
Minister for Education
(Leader of the House)
Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Minister for Industry
Minister for Social Services
Minister for Human Services
Minister for Communications
Minister for Health and Ageing
Minister for Small Business
Minister for Trade and Investment
Minister for Defence
Minister for Environment and Climate Change
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
(Nominated for speaker: Bronwyn Bishop).
Coalition MPs Fiona Nash, Kelly O’Dwyer and Sarah Henderson are to be included in the outer ministry, with a view to promotions down the line, subject to performance. Talented MPs Simon Birmingham, Paul Fletcher and Mathias Cormann are also to be ministers.