New Aussie PM Morrison unveils unity Cabinet

Sydney • New Australian Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison unveiled his first Cabinet yesterday as he sought to unify the Liberal Party and reassure the nation after a week of tumultuous infighting that saw Malcolm Turnbull turfed out of the top job.

Morrison named Marise Payne to replace Julie Bishop as foreign minister and promoted Christopher Pyne to oversee defence. Mathias Cormann will stay in his role as minister for finance and failed leadership challenger Peter Dutton retained a reduced home affairs portfolio.

The reshuffled Cabinet bookends a chaotic week in which Turnbull was ousted by his own party — the sixth time since 2007 that Australia has changed PMs.

Morrison, the former treasurer, was a surprise victor in the Liberal Party ballot after the populist right-wing of the party, which had agitated for Turnbull’s removal, was unable to persuade enough moderates to back Dutton.

“Government stability is being restored, we are getting on with the job,” Morrison said. This Cabinet will “tackle the big challenges that are before us with some new ideas and a fresh emphasis, while restoring some of the emphasis of the times past”.

The swath of new Cabinet appointments come as the governing party battles to restore unity ahead of an upcoming federal election, due by May, with the Opposition Labor Party leading in opinion polls.

Bishop resigned and will return to the backbench as the fallout from last Friday’s dumping of Turnbull as PM continues. Former PM Tony Abbott, who was beaten by Turnbull in a leadership ballot in 2015, did not win a place back in Cabinet.

“We saw a handful of individuals who decided to wreak havoc” last week, Simon Birmingham, who takes on the tourism portfolio, told ABC TV earlier yesterday. “That was very destructive. Every single man and woman in the Liberal Party room needs to put that type of behaviour behind us and make sure we do unify for the future. The Australian people expect us to care about them and their interests.”

The 62-year-old Bishop stood in the three-way contest to become Liberal Party leader and PM after the ousting of Turnbull, but was knocked-out in the first round, gaining just 11 of 85 lawmakers’ votes. Her resignation came hours before Morrison unveiled his first Cabinet.

Bishop, who was Liberal Party deputy leader for the past 11-years, said in a statement yesterday she would remain on the backbench as a “strong voice for Western Australia” and had not decided whether she will contest the next election, due by May.

She was one of the great survivors of Australian politics who served under three different liberal leaders since 2007. The former lawyer, seen as a moderate, was one of the party’s most popular figures with the wider public, according to opinion polls.

Bishop is “the most significant woman in the history of the Liberal Party”, Birmingham told ABC TV. “She has been an outstanding foreign minister.”

Turnbull yesterday tweeted that Bishop, a longtime friend, had been Australia’s finest foreign minister and an inspiring role model. — Bloomberg