Australian politics

Sep 17, 2013

Crikey’s fantasy cabinet, with four times the women

Tony Abbott reckons he just can't room for more than one woman in his 19-member cabinet, so Crikey has done it for him. Check out our fantasy cabinet, which has four times as many women. You're welcome, Tony.

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott has picked just one woman for his 19-member cabinet, to be sworn in tomorrow. In defending his choice he declared he was prioritising stability, experience and merit.

So Crikey decided to have a go. Is it so very hard to select a Coalition cabinet which meets these requirements, but is not 95% male?

Crikey has resisted the temptation to draft the fantasy cabinet our most vociferous commentators would like, i.e. with Malcolm Turnbull holding every post. This is a genuine, realistic attempt to improve on Abbott’s cabinet. That means keeping the senior leadership team, balancing out conservatives with moderates, and retaining most spokespeople in critical portfolios, especially where significant policy change is involved (Immigration, Climate Change, Communications).

We found it eminently feasible to get more women into senior roles. Our cabinet has four women from a total of 19, or 21% — and all our new faces have the experience and talent to sit around the cabinet table. The question is not whether they are token women, but why they haven’t been promoted already.

Abbott selected one woman, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. We’ve kept her on. Abbott has repeatedly said he wanted experience in his cabinet — what better place to start than Dr Sharman Stone? Stone, first elected in 1996, was minister for workforce participation (and a parliamentary secretary on finance and the environment) in the Howard government. She has a PhD in business and economics, and has worked professionally for a university. We’ve made her Employment Minister (an area she has ministerial experience in) and Science Minister, due to her understanding of academia. Dr Stone has more parliamentary and ministerial experience than, say, Mathias Cormann, the biggest winner in Abbott’s cabinet (Abbott made him Finance Minister). Cormann has been a senator for six years and has never served in government.

Another woman to receive a Crikey promotion is Sussan Ley. An enterprising MP who flies a plane around her regional electorate, Ley is trained in tax law and accounting, and co-ran a farm for many years. She has held frontbench roles since 2004. Ley is being made Minister for Small Business.

Marise Payne, who was in the ministry before the election, is promoted by Crikey to cabinet as the Minister for Social Services and Human Services. Payne, formerly a public affairs adviser in the finance industry, has an impeccable Liberal pedigree. She has been in the Senate since 1997 and has held various posts.

The only other new face in Crikey’s cabinet is Arthur Sinodinos, who becomes Finance Minister and minister for the public service. Other changes are the reinstatement of a Science Minister, restoring Climate Change to the Environment portfolio, and adding Ageing to the Health portfolio.

Crikey’s fantasy cabinet

Prime Minister
Tony Abbott

Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
(Leader of the Nationals)
Warren Truss

Minister for Foreign Affairs
(Deputy leader of the Liberal Party)
Julie Bishop

Minister for the Arts
George Brandis

Joe Hockey

Minister for Finance
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service
Arthur Sinodinos

Minister for Employment
Minister for Science
Sharman Stone

Minister for Agriculture
(Deputy leader of the Nationals)
Barnaby Joyce

Minister for Education
(Leader of the House)
Christopher Pyne

Minister for Indigenous Affairs
Nigel Scullion

Minister for Industry
Ian Macfarlane

Minister for Social Services
Minister for Human Services
Marise Payne

Minister for Communications
Malcolm Turnbull

Minister for Health and Ageing
Peter Dutton

Minister for Small Business
Sussan Ley

Minister for Trade and Investment
Andrew Robb 

Minister for Defence
Bruce Billson

Minister for Environment and Climate Change
Greg Hunt

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
Scott Morrison 

(Nominated for speaker: Bronwyn Bishop).

Coalition MPs Fiona Nash, Kelly O’Dwyer and Sarah Henderson are to be included in the outer ministry, with a view to promotions down the line, subject to performance. Talented MPs Simon Birmingham, Paul Fletcher and Mathias Cormann are also to be ministers.

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7 thoughts on “Crikey’s fantasy cabinet, with four times the women

  1. mimhoff

    Let’s note who has been dropped from this Cabinet: Abetz, Andrews, Cormann, and Johnston (Billson has been given Defense after Small Business was taken from him).

    Anyone miss those guys?

  2. Cathy Alexander

    Good point Kerry, there’s no Minister for Women in this fantasy cabinet. Apparently in the real cabinet, those responsibilities come under Tony Abbott’s portfolio. Why don’t we assign the role to Sussan Ley? Marise Payne already has quite a large portfolio workload.

  3. Brian Williams

    Sharman Stone would appear to have been passed over because she is an allie of Turnbull, wheras Cormann has spent the last three years with his tongue metaphorically planted into Abbotts rear end.

  4. Tom

    Why is everyone so concerned about the lack of women in cabinet; what difference would it make to our lives if there were more? What about the other “minorities” un- or under-represented in Australian corridors of power?

  5. edumf

    One of Abbott’s oft-repeated criticisms of the previous Labor administration was ‘ This is a bad government’

    Crikey’s revamping of his Cabinet possibilities in terms of an improved gender distribution , underlines Abbott’s poor decision-making at the beginning of his tenure.

    His 5% female representation in his Cabinet not only, looks bad, it is bad, and will come to haunt him.

    Far too early to judge as’ This is a bad government’ , but a poor start, absolutely.

    Touché, Cathy Alexander, …….. a fine article.

  6. Kerry Lovering

    Spot on!
    But add Minister for Women to either Sussan Ley or Marise Payne

  7. Peter Murphy

    Isn’t “Abbott fantasy cabinet” an oxymoron by definition?

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