New ministry signals Commonwealth’s policy direction

The government’s new frontbench foreshadows Scott Morrison’s policy priorities.

The new Liberal cabinet line-up points to population management, cutting energy prices and a renewed focus on immigration as future priorities for Morrison’s government.

Restoring stability to the government while tackling big challenges through a “next-generation” cabinet is the Cabinet’s priority, Mr Morrison said when announcing the ministry on Sunday.

But the former Treasurer has come under fire for rewarding those who sided with Mr Dutton in his attempted leadership coup and for failing to appoint a woman in his leadership team.

Home affairs and immigration

Peter Dutton will continue as home affairs minister – a move which has aroused the most criticism.

Veteran political journalist Michelle Grattan condemned the move as “amoral” on Radio National on Monday and elsewhere argued that were it not for the conservative stronghold any other unsuccessful challenger would have been sent to the backbench.

Mr Morrison has scrapped Turnbull’s “mega” immigration department, with immigration now separated from home affairs and merged with citizenship and multicultural affairs under David Coleman, who was formerly assistant minister for finance. Mr Dutton’s portfolio has absorbed responsibility for cybersecurity.

Bridget McKenzie takes responsibility for local government, along with regional services, sport and decentralisation.

Energy and environment

The energy and environment portfolio has been split between former cyber security minister Angus Taylor, whose portfolio has been scrapped, and Melissa Price, former assistant minister for the environment.

The appointment of Mr Taylor to the energy portfolio is expected to see a staunch focus on cutting energy prices, with Morrison on Sunday dubbing Mr Taylor Minister for “bringing electricity prices down.”

Mr Taylor has previously expressed his opposition to renewable energy, saying he doesn’t have a “vendetta” against renewables but criticised renewable energy subsidies and denied being a climate skeptic.

Education and social services

Dan Tehan, who was previously minister for social services, has replaced Simon Birmingham as education and training minister, representing a focus on restoring the Coalition’s relationship with the Catholic school sector. Mr Birmingham previously pioneered the Gonski funding reforms.

Vocational education has been separated from the education portfolio, now merged into a small business, skills portfolio.

Paul Fletcher has been named the new Minister for Families and Social Services, and Sarah Henderson Assistant Minister.

The health portfolio has been retained by Greg Hunt despite Hunt offering his resignation last week and naming his support for Dutton in the leadership spill.

The aged care sector voiced concerns that aged care is confined to an outer ministry and called for it to be elevated to cabinet.

Foreign affairs and defence

Julie Bishop has been succeeded by Marise Payne in foreign affairs – with Bishop praised as a diplomatic asset both nationally and internationally, and her resignation seen as a huge loss for the Coalition.

Ms Payne was Ms Bishop’s preferred replacement, Mr Morrison said.

“There’ll be a strong continuity in passing that role to Senator Payne,” he said on Sunday.

Christopher Pyne was appointed Defence Minister, with his former role in defence industry going to former trade minister Steve Ciobo.

Former Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has been appointed as Minister for Jobs, Industrial Relations and Women, losing her financial services portfolio.

Morrison said the new appointment signalled a new-found emphasis on the importance of helping Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn.

“Restoring an industrial relations portfolio is an important signal of how important we think it is to future productivity,” he said.

Michaelia Cash is now Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocations Minister, while Alan Tudge has been appointed Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population – foreshadowing tackling population increase as a key priority.

Morrison deemed him the Minister for “congestion busting.”


Mathias Corman will continue as Finance and Public Service Minister and as leader of the Government in the Senate but lost his role as Special Minister of State to Alex Hawke.

Stuart Robert is Assistant Treasurer while Former Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, has been demoted to the backbench.

Barnaby Joyce has been made “special envoy for drought assistance and recovery” while Tony Abbott was not given a position in Morrison’s new cabinet.

Nigel Scullion was named Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and Steve Ciobo the Minister for Defence and Simon Birmingham named the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Christian Porter is the Attorney-General, while Mitch Fifield is the Minister for Communication and the Artsa. Matthew Canavan is the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Karen Andres is the Minister for Industry, Science and Tech and David Littleproud is the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

Access the full ministry here

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