Australia's PM-elect Tony Abbott names cabinet with just one woman

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 8:51am

Australian Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott announced his cabinet team to see through the coalition government's first-term pledges yesterday, attracting criticism for including just one female member.

Mathias Cormann, 42, was named finance minister and Andrew Robb, 62, was given the trade and investment portfolio in a ministerial line-up that largely preserves the roles senior Liberal-National lawmakers held in opposition. Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will be the only woman in the team.

"This is the team to provide strong and stable government," Abbott said in Canberra, adding that 15 cabinet members had previous ministerial experience.

Having won the September 7 election, Abbott, 55, needs to navigate legislation through a Senate where the balance of power is held by the Greens.

One of his main tasks will be edging the budget back toward a surplus at a time when economic growth is forecast to slow. Other members of the cabinet, to be sworn in tomorrow, include: Joe Hockey as treasurer, Warren Truss as deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development, Eric Abetz as employment minister, George Brandis as attorney-general, and Barnaby Joyce as minister for agriculture.

Abbott nominated Bronwyn Bishop, 70, to be speaker of parliament's lower house.

Abbott said he was disappointed there was only one female cabinet member and said Sophie Mirabella would have been included were she not in a close race to keep her seat.

Chris Bowen, the interim leader of the Labor party, said the government of Afghanistan had more women in its cabinet and criticised Abbott for not representing key areas such as tourism with dedicated portfolios.

The outgoing prime minister, Kevin Rudd, had six women in his cabinet.

Along with abolishing Labor's carbon and mining levies, Abbott wants to lower the business tax rate by 1.5 percentage points while funding a A$5.5 billion (HK$39.4 billion) per year maternity-leave programme that will give highly paid new mothers up to A$75,000 over six months.