Australia's PM-elect appoints woman foreign minister

Sept. 16, 2013 at 2:37 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Only one woman graces Australia's Cabinet as Prime Minister-elect and Liberal National Party leader Tony Abbott announces his 19-member front bench lineup.

Julie Bishop, 57, a former barrister and commercial litigation solicitor who won the seat of Curtin, Western Australia, in 1998, has been appointed foreign minister.

Under the previous Liberal government of John Howard, she held ministerial posts for education, science, training and aging.

Bishop was shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman during the Liberals' opposition years and remains deputy leader of the party.

Other women appointments include Fiona Nash, Sussan Ley, Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash to the 11 non-Cabinet ministries.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was the sole woman among 12 parliamentary secretary appointments.

Abbott also nominated Bronwyn Bishop to became speaker of Parliament, but the appointment must be approved by the legislative body's members.

The lack of women in senior ministerial roles prompted a stinging rebuke from acting opposition Labor Party leader Chris Bowen, The Canberra Times reported.

Bowen noted Afghanistan has more women in its Cabinet than does Australia.

Queensland Liberal National Party Sen. Sue Boyce called Abbott's lineup "embarrassing."

Abbott, as head of a coalition group that ousted Labor in a national election Sept. 7, said he was "plainly disappointed" there aren't more women in the Cabinet.

''Nevertheless, there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the Cabinet," he said.

"You can expect to see as time goes by more women in both the Cabinet and the ministry.''

The biggest winner was Liberal Sen. Mathias Cormann, who goes from shadow assistant treasurer to Cabinet finance minister, the Times reported.

Abbott, 55, will be sworn in formally Wednesday as Australia's 28th prime minister.

But already he has said things won't be business as usual regarding his relationship with the media.

"I'm not going to commit to talking unless I've got something to say. I think there has been far too much empty talk," Abbott said.

The Herald Sun reported that never before in Australian politics has there been such a quiet transition to a new administration.

In the run-up to Abbott's Cabinet announcements the prime minister-elect didn't hold a single news conference. Members of Parliament who will be sworn in as ministers also have maintained a low profile, the Sun said.

Ministers also have shorter portfolio names to "avoid the proliferation of titles, the sometimes grandiose titles of the former government," Abbott said.

The words "climate change" disappeared from the environment portfolio.

"It sometimes seemed that ministers needed an extra large business card to contain all of their various titles," Abbott said.

During Abbott's first year in office, he won't be living in luxury because the official Canberra residence, The Lodge, is undergoing yearlong repairs, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Abbott will live in a $120-per-night flat at the Australian Federal Police College in Barton, a training ground for police recruits.

He is expected to live in Sydney's Kirribilli House when in his home city.

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