Scott Morrison under pressure to promote two women to his new ministry

Mr Morrison also faces a potential pressure point with Queenslanders over their representation in cabinet, with the state’s Liberals arguing they deserve one more position at the top of the government.


The Prime Minister has told colleagues over several months that he does not believe MPs should be promoted too quickly to the ministry and that it is better for them to serve a full term in Parliament before joining the executive.

This approach limits the pool of candidates for the cabinet and the ministry and suggests a series of appointments to the junior ranks of the ministry.

Mr Morrison emphasised his promotion of women to cabinet in his minor reshuffle in March, when he named former assistant minister Linda Reynolds as the new defence industry minister in cabinet.

This increased the number of women in cabinet to seven, a level Mr Morrison said “will be continued under my government” in a demonstration of the Liberal Party’s support for women.

Mr Morrison’s shock victory on Saturday, in which he defied the opinion polls and surprised many of his own ministers and MPs, means he has no debts to factional powerbrokers or senior colleagues in his selection of the ministry.

Liberals said on Wednesday they expected only minor changes to replace ministers who retired at the election, including Christopher Pyne in defence and Ms O’Dwyer in the employment portfolio.

While Environment Minister Melissa Price has come under widespread criticism in the media and from some colleagues, her defenders argued she had kept a low profile during the election campaign in accord with Mr Morrison’s wishes.

On this argument, Ms Price should not be demoted because she was doing her job as the Prime Minister asked, given any media attention on the environment was seen as helping Labor.


The seven women in cabinet prior to the election were Ms O’Dwyer, Senator McKenzie in regional services, Senator Reynolds, Karen Andrews in industry, Marise Payne in foreign affairs, Michaelia Cash in the small business portfolio and Ms Price in environment.

The departure at the election of Steve Ciobo, a Queensland Liberal who held the trade and defence industry ministries in the last Parliament, means that state will be down one position unless one of its Liberals is promoted.

There are already two Queensland Nationals in Cabinet; Matt Canavan and David Littleproud.

One potential choice is John McVeigh, who was a minister up to the August leadership spill that triggered changes to the ministry.

Mr Morrison said during the election campaign that Senator Reynolds would hold the defence portfolio to replace Mr Pyne, a statement that closes off this post from others who might seek it.

Liberals expect this means Finance Minster Mathias Cormann and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton are likely to remain in their posts, even though they might seek the defence portfolio in other circumstances.

The Nationals will convene a meeting of federal MPs in Canberra on Thursday to decide the party leadership, with the group expected to confirm leader Michael McCormack and deputy Bridget McKenzie in their positions.

While some Nationals ministers are pushing for greater influence in portfolios such as trade, the party did not gain seats at the federal election and cannot claim a greater share of ministerial positions.

David Crowe is Chief Political Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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