Scrambling to stay ahead of the crisis that has engulfed his government, Scott Morrison has unveiled a reshuffled ministerial line up that illustrates the dearth of talent within his parliamentary ranks.
The two biggest changes are, as expected, the ill Linda “lying cow” Reynolds being replaced at Defence by Peter Dutton, and Michaelia Cash being promoted to attorney-general and minister for industrial relations. Christian Porter, whose litigation against the ABC made his continuation as attorney-general wholly untenable, is demoted to the Industry portfolio.
The vacant Home Affairs portfolio goes to Karen Andrews, promoted from Industry, while Reynolds has been moved down to Government Services and the NDIS. Stuart Robert will take Cash’s portfolio of Employment. Another promotion is that of the invisible and poorly regarded Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price, who retains her job and comes into cabinet.
Morrison also unveiled a bizarre set of ministerial arrangements to demonstrate his commitment to gender issues. Jane Hume will take on a role of “Women’s Economic Security” — a remarkable title given Hume’s most recent debacle was a failed attempt to push domestic violence victims to tap into their own superannuation.
Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial and get Crikey straight to your inbox
Anne Ruston will also take on the role of “Women’s Safety”. Marise Payne, who has been entirely invisible as the government has been smashed by gender issues in recent weeks, will remain minister for women and will be, in Morrison’s words, “effectively the prime minister” of Hume and Rushton, along with right-wing Queensland senator Amanda Stoker, who will be an assistant minister.
The shift of Dutton from Home Affairs, where he has presided over billions of dollars’ worth of procurement debacles, to Defence, which is mired in a number of major defence materiel disasters, bodes poorly for the government regaining control of its defence spending, especially with the inexplicable return of Price to cabinet.
Cash is wholly unfit to be attorney-general given her refusal to cooperate with an Australian Federal Police investigation into possible crimes committed in her own office.
Why it’s OK for Australians with disabilities and welfare recipients to be looked after by Reynolds when she’s not fit for the defence portfolio is another mystery, along with why Porter can remain in cabinet while unexamined allegations of rape remain against him, no matter how vehemently he denies them (as he does).
As for Payne being “prime minister” for women, Morrison has picked the one minister who has performed even more poorly than he has in responding to the gender issues that have engulfed them since the start of February. But at least further failings by the government on that front can now be blamed on a woman, not Morrison himself.