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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

New Australian prime minister Morrison unveils stability cabinet

Former PM Tony Abbott, who was beaten in a leadership ballot in 2015, did not win a place back in cabinet

Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. EPA/LUKAS COCH
Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. EPA/LUKAS COCH

Australia’s new prime minister Scott Morrison has unveiled his first cabinet, seeking to unify the Liberal Party and reassure the nation after a week of tumultuous infighting that saw Malcolm Turnbull turfed out of the top job.

Mr Morrison named Marise Payne to replace Julie Bishop as foreign minister and promoted Christopher Pyne to oversee defence. Mathias Cormann will stay in his role as minister for finance and failed leadership challenger Peter Dutton retained a reduced home affairs portfolio.

The reshuffled cabinet bookends a chaotic week in which Mr Turnbull was ousted by his own party -- the sixth time since 2007 that Australia has changed prime ministers. Mr Morrison, the former treasurer, was a surprise victor in the Liberal Party ballot after the populist right-wing of the party, which had had agitated for Mr Turnbull’s removal, was unable to persuade enough moderates to back Mr Dutton.

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“Government stability is being restored, we are getting on with the job,” Mr Morrison said. This cabinet will “tackle the big challenges that are before us with some new ideas and a fresh emphasis while restoring some of the emphasis of the times past.”

The swathe of new cabinet appointments come as the governing party battles to restore unity ahead of an upcoming federal election, due by May, with the opposition Labor Party leading in opinion polls.

Support for the Liberal-National coalition crashed in the wake of the infighting, and it now trails Labor by a 12 point margin, 56 percent to 44 percent, according to the latest Newspoll published in the Australian newspaper on Monday. That compares with a two-point gap earlier this month. Labor leader Bill Shorten is now regarded as the preferred prime minister, for the first time since February 2015.

“We saw a handful of individuals who decided to wreak havoc” last week, Simon Birmingham, who takes on the tourism portfolio, told ABC TV earlier on Sunday. “That was very destructive. Every single man and woman in the Liberal Party room needs to put that type of behavior behind us and make sure we do unify for the future. The Australian people expect us to care about them and their interests.”

Former prime minister Tony Abbott, who was beaten by Turnbull in a leadership ballot in 2015, did not win a place back in cabinet.

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