BY Susan McDonald.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced a major reshuffle of his frontbench as he moves to “reset and refocus” his Government for next year.
Scott Morrison has been appointed the Minister for Social Services, taking on an expanded portfolio which includes welfare, families, child care and the paid parental leave scheme.
It puts Mr Morrison at the centre of the Government’s agenda next year, fresh from his successes in Immigration.
“He is a very tough and competent political operator but he’s also an extremely decent human being,” Mr Abbott said.
After months of pressure, David Johnston has been dumped as Defence Minister and replaced by Kevin Andrews, whom the Prime Minister said was a “safe pair of hands”.
In announcing Senator Johnston would leave Cabinet, Mr Abbott commended him on his work.
“He’s copped a bit of flak, unfairly. He has done a fine job,” Mr Abbott said.
Peter Dutton moves to Immigration and his former portfolio of Health will be held by Sussan Ley, who has been promoted, making her the second woman in the upper ranks of the ministry.
Josh Frydenberg has been promoted to the outer Ministry as Assistant Treasurer.
Mr Abbott said he used the resignation of Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos to have a “significant” reshuffle.
“It is an important opportunity to reset and refocus the Government to make the economic debate front and centre next year, to put Scott Morrison into an absolutely critical domestic portfolio,” he said.
Mr Abbott said the changes would put jobs and families at the centre of the Government’s agenda for 2015.
In other changes, Steve Ciobo is replacing Brett Mason as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister and there are three new appointments to the frontbench.
Former WA Treasurer Christian Porter will be the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Karen Andrews the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane, who adds Science to his title.