The Politics    Monday, March 29, 2021

Trading places

By Rachel Withers

Image of Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference today. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference today. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Image

Scott Morrison announces his women-focused cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced his highly anticipated cabinet reshuffle, trumpeting its focus on women while announcing a new “cabinet taskforce” on women’s issues, co-chaired by himself and Minister for Women Marise Payne – whom he suggested would now be the “prime minister for women”. JobKeeper may have ended today, but not in the Morrison government: the reshuffle was exactly that, with no one demoted from the ministry. Both Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter remain in cabinet – Reynolds as minister for government services and the NDIS, and Porter as minister for industry, science and technology – while their previous roles of defence and attorney-general/industrial relations have gone to Peter Dutton and Michaelia Cash respectively. Dutton’s home affairs portfolio did not go to Stuart Robert as expected but to outgoing technology minister Karen Andrews, while Robert received employment from Cash. Morrison, making the announcement alongside Payne, emphasised the focus on women in the “shake-up”, but his clumsy “prime minister for women” comment hit a nerve. Was it an admission, one journalist asked, of the fact that he was failing in his duty to represent women? Morrison rejected the assertion, clarifying that he had only meant to say she would draw together the work of the various new ministers for women. So who are these new ministers for women? 

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston (who this morning insisted it was up to disgraced MP Andrew Laming whether he remained in parliament, and defended his right to take paid medical leave, after he was accused of harassing and upskirting women) has been made part of the cabinet’s leadership team, as well as minister for women’s safety. Minister for Superannuation Jane Hume (who was a proponent of the contentious and now abandoned policy of allowing women to use their superannuation to escape domestic violence) gained the additional portfolio of minister for women’s economic security. Amanda Stoker (who, as Guardian Australia’s Amy Remeikis tweeted, once accused former Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington of “playing the gender card” and strongly opposes abortion) has been made assistant minister for women. 

Payne, who remains foreign minister as well as minister for women (despite calls from Patricia Karvelas and Michelle Grattan to prioritise the latter by making it a standalone position in cabinet), also noted the welcoming back into cabinet of Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price. Payne and Price have something in common: Price became known as the “invisible minister” last time she was in cabinet, going missing as environment minister during a summer of fires, floods and other natural disasters, while Payne has been seen as largely absent over the past six weeks as minister for women, failing to attend the March 4 Justice or even last week’s Coalition staff meeting on the treatment of women in parliament, audio of which has been leaked to Nine.

Payne, who has also largely avoided the media lately, was finally forced to take questions in today’s press conference, and was asked, unsurprisingly, whether Andrew Laming should be forced to resign. She joined the slew of senior Liberals twisting themselves into knots to be seen to condemn Laming’s actions while simultaneously insisting that it is fine for him to remain in parliament until the next election – a shameless stance required to prevent the government being plunged into minority. Morrison, given yet another clear opportunity to demonstrate his seriousness in addressing the sexism problem, followed suit. “He was elected by the people in his electorate, and he was elected to serve for three years. And that is what he intends to do,” he said, claiming this is what other governments have done in the past (wrong), and then abruptly leaving.

Morrison must be hoping today’s “shake-up” will be enough to shake up the polls, with Sunday’s Newspoll showing his satisfaction rating falling from 62 per cent to 55 per cent in the space of two weeks – numbers widely attributed to his floundering response to the scandals facing his government. What he still doesn’t seem to grasp is that it doesn’t matter how many women, or even ministers for women, he has in his ministry, while he continues to keep an alleged rapist in there – and a known creep in his party.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers

“We acknowledge that the comments were completely inappropriate and offensive … The views expressed by Jeremy Cordeaux do not reflect those held by FiveAA and Nova Entertainment and we unequivocally withdraw them.”

Nova’s Adelaide station FiveAA has sacked long-time host Jeremy Cordeaux, after he called alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins “a silly little girl who got drunk” live on air.

“[The PM]’s done everything he can do … Laming is out of the Liberal Party, he’s out, he’s no longer a member of the LNP.”

There were many contenders among Coalition members for today’s “Bad Opinion” on disgraced MP Andrew Laming, but Barnaby Joyce’s bizarre and bald-faced lie takes the cake.

The plight of the platypus
The platypus is one of Australia’s most iconic and intriguing animals, but like so much of our natural wildlife it’s under threat. Today, James Bradley on what makes the platypus so special and whether we’re at risk of a future without them.

The record high that Australia’s resources and energy exports are expected to reach this year, according to estimates from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

“The mining magnates Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer would be slugged by tax increases of $2.2bn and $586m respectively under a wealth tax on 122 billionaires proposed by the Greens at the next election to combat economic inequality.”

The Greens launch their new Fight for the Future campaign, proposing a 6 per cent tax on billionaires – estimated to raise more than $40 billion over 10 years.

The list

“Unless Porter were to confess, Australians will never know what exactly happened on the night in question. Indeed, it is entirely possible that an independent investigation would find insufficient evidence to uphold the allegations; the Briginshaw principle, in the context of such a significant allegation, would be exacting. But that is not the point. Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done. Unless and until it is, Porter’s position is untenable.”

“There has been a cultural shift in Australia. In some sectors, underpaying is the new normal – not just in the black economy, where there’s no superannuation or workers compensation or annual leave, but also in the formal economy, through the shirking of award rates or penalties … It’s a trend that is hard to quantify, and harder still to police, mostly occurring in small businesses, like thousands of little spot fires that the under-resourced Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) cannot keep up with.”

“The year of COVID-19 was a very good one for Gina Rinehart. According to the most recent survey of Australia’s richest people, Rinehart’s fortune more than doubled in the year to February 2021, from $16.25 billion to $36.28 billion. To put that in some context, her net worth is now about the same as that of 82,000 median Australians. Put another way, the increase in Rinehart’s fortune, some $20 billion over the COVID-19 year, would have paid the salaries of about 250,000 emergency care nurses.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


The Politics

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking to the media in Sydney today. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Sunk cost

Was Labor’s modest deficit gap really worth two days of tantrums?

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese leaves after speaking to the media during a press conference in Perth yesterday. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

At what cost?

The press pack is laser focused on something voters don’t really care about

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Palmerston, near Darwin, today. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Alpha-beta soup

A toxic op-ed about Morrison being an “alpha male” fails to grasp why women are abandoning the Coalition

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison after the Liberal Party campaign launch in Brisbane yesterday. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

The loosest unit

The Coalition doesn’t know how much its superannuation housing policy will raise prices, nor does it care

From the front page

cartoon:In light of recent events

In light of recent events

Who’s preferencing whom?

Detail of cover of Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

Ghost notes: Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

A virtuoso memoir of music and trauma, and his experiences as a child prodigy, from the acclaimed Australian pianist

Image of Steve Toltz

The quip and the dead: Steve Toltz’s ‘Here Goes Nothing’

A bleakly satirical look at death and the afterlife from the wisecracking author of ‘A Fraction of the Whole’

Composite image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking during the first leaders’ debate on April 20, 2022. Image © Jason Edwards / AAP Images

Election special: Who should you vote for?

Undecided about who to vote for in the upcoming federal election? Take our quiz to find out your least-worst option!