Scott Morrison Takes A Key Economic Portfolio As Tony Abbott Reshuffles Cabinet

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Getty / File

Tony Abbott has announced a cabinet reshuffle, promoting Scott Morrison and dropping defence minister David Johnston in changes the prime minister says will “refocus the government” on driving economic reform next year.

Abbott described it as a “ministry for jobs and families” and said the government would be putting the economy at the centre of its agenda.

Morrison, previously the immigration minister, has been appointed to the politically complex social services portfolio where he will be responsible for workforce participation at a time when the jobless rate is at a 10-year high, and rising. He will also take carriage of Abbott’s controversial plans for a paid parental leave scheme, which has been put on hold after it lost support among Coalition MPs.

Abbott said Morrison, who oversaw the border protection regime that stopped the flow of asylum seekers arriving to Australia on boats, was a “master of difficult policy” and that his ministry was “essentially a ministry for economic participation” that would encourage people “to give a fair go”.

Morrison will be responsible for crafting a “wholistic families package” that will be at the centre of the economic reform agenda next year.

Scott Morrison / File photo

Victorian MP Kevin Andrews, the current social services minister, takes the defence portfolio, regarded as among the toughest political assignments. Johnston had become widely regarded as an under-performer in the position and just weeks ago stunned the political and defence establishments when he said he wouldn’t trust the Australian Submarine Corporation to build a canoe.

Peter Dutton moves from health to immigration and border protection.

Sussan Ley takes Dutton’s previous role as health minister, becoming the second woman in Cabinet along with foreign minister Julie Bishop. Ley will also be sports minister.

Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg becomes the new assistant treasurer, replacing Arthur Sinodinos who resigned last week, clearing the way for the current reshuffle. There’s an expansion of the education portfolio to “education and training”. Simon Birmingham becomes assistant minister there.

Steve Ciobo becomes parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, and Kelly O’Dwyer becomes parliamentary secretary to Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Ian Macfarlane’s industry ministry becomes the ministry for industry and science, with Abbott saying the change will “put science at the heart of industry policy”. The first Abbott cabinet had drawn criticism for not including a science minister.

The changes come after a difficult year for the government, in which it has floundered in opinion polls, and had to deal with a deteriorating fiscal position driven partly by global economic forces – especially falling commodity prices – but also because it has failed to pass some of its planned spending reductions through the Senate.

Here’s the full list of the new ministry: