Rudd's new cabinet sworn in with record number of women
Administration sworn in as polls show return of Rudd has closed Labor's gap on opposition
Australia's new cabinet was sworn in yesterday, with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd naming a record number of six ministers and switching focus to the economy ahead of elections.
With Labor trailing badly in the polls Rudd seized the leadership last Wednesday, ousting the country's first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard, three years after she had overthrown him.
The Labor Party, which is counting on Rudd's vaunted campaigning skills, has seen an immediate bounce in popularity.
"I am delighted that in this cabinet of ours we will have the largest number of women in any cabinet in Australian history," Rudd said.
Senator Jacinta Collins enters the cabinet as minister for mental health, Catherine King will be minister for regional Australia and Julie Collins minister for housing, homeless and the status of women. They join Finance Minister Penny Wong, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Families Minister Jenny Macklin in the 20-member cabinet.
The number of women ministers rises from nine out of 30 under Gillard to 11.
Melissa Parke was also appointed the country's first minister for international development, a non-cabinet job.
Rudd said the appointments were made purely on merit, not gender, and pledged to boost the economy, but made no mention of an election date.
"The core task of this Australian government is to keep the economy strong," he said.
Rudd pledged to work for a "stronger, fairer Australia … and never ever, ever allow the fair go to be thrown out the back door".
The top jobs of foreign affairs, defence and the home ministry did not change hands.
New Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will take over the communications portfolio and responsibility for development of the A$35.9 billion (HK$254 billion) high-speed National Broadband Network. He keeps his transport and infrastructure portfolios.
Tony Burke was shifted from environment to the politically explosive immigration role.
Bill Shorten, who dumped Gillard and backed Rudd at the last minute during the leadership tussle, added school education to his workplace relations portfolio.
Rudd brought key allies Joel Fitzgibbon and Kim Carr back to the front bench as agriculture minister and industry and innovation minister respectively.
Opinion polls suggest Labor has dramatically closed the gap on the Liberal-led opposition. A Galaxy poll published on Sunday put the Liberals ahead with 51 per cent against 49 per cent in a race between the two major parties. Of the 1,002 voters surveyed, 51 per cent believed Rudd would make the better prime minister, compared to 34 per cent for opposition leader Tony Abbott.