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Aussie PM under fire for one woman in cabinet

16 September 2013, 14:06

Sydney - Australia's new prime minister Tony Abbott unveiled his incoming cabinet on Monday, attracting immediate criticism for including only one woman.

Conservative Liberal leader Abbott was elected by an overwhelming majority on 7 September, and in his first press conference since victory over the incumbent Labor Party named a widely-expected line-up.

Julie Bishop, the incoming foreign minister, is the only woman in the 19-member cabinet, although Abbott did promote several women to the outer ministry.

"I'm obviously disappointed that there aren't more women in cabinet," Abbott, who leads a Liberal/National coalition, told reporters in Canberra.

The new prime minister - who last year was accused of misogyny by Julia Gillard, Australia's first female premier, in a sexism speech that went viral around the world - came under fire for the lack of women on his frontbench.

"The cabinet of Afghanistan now has more women in it than the cabinet of Australia," interim opposition Labor leader Chris Bowen told reporters.

Senator Sue Boyce, a member of Abbott's Liberal Party, said the number reflected a "systemic problem for our party" in which women struggled to be promoted.

"It's a shame that this shocking and embarrassing statistic will permanently tarnish a wonderful victory," she said in a statement.

Had his shadow spokesperson for industry Sophie Mirabella been successful in retaining her seat in Victoria, Abbott said she would have been in the 19-member cabinet.

Mirabella ruled herself out of contention for the ministry last week although the vote count for her seat is still ongoing and too close to call.

"Nevertheless there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the cabinet, and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministry," Abbott said.

"So I think you can expect to see, as time goes by, more women in both the cabinet and the ministry."

Abbott said Bronwyn Bishop, a veteran politician who was a former minister in John Howard's government, had his support to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Among other ministry positions expected to be sworn in Wednesday, Joe Hockey will be treasurer, George Brandis attorney-general, and Nationals leader Warren Truss deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development.

David Johnston becomes defence minister, Andrew Robb minister for trade, Scott Morrison minister for immigration and border protection and Belgium-born Mathias Cormann finance minister.

Abbott said he would not recall parliament until there was a "solid legislative programme" in place but said he wanted a different style of government to Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, who was prone to frequent, lengthy press conferences.

"I think there has been far too much empty talk from people who should know better at senior levels of government over the past few years," he said.



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