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Issue #1956 • 5th April, 2021

Editorial

Cabinet shuffle does not bode well

Last Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a cabinet reshuffle that saw Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter lose their portfolios. Replacing them is Peter Dutton, who will become the next Defence Minister and leader of the government in the House of Representatives, and Michaelia Cash as the new Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister.

Other changes included: Karen Andrews as Minister for Home Affairs and Stuart Robert will move from government services to become Employment Minister, replacing Cash. Melissa Price will also return to cabinet and will retain the portfolio for Defence Industry.

However, the news that caught the most attention was the new cabinet taskforce on women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and wellbeing. The taskforce will be chaired by prime minister Scott Morrison and Women’s Minister Marise Payne. It will “include all women from the ministry as well as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham” (SMH). As part of the new taskforce, Financial Services Minister Jane Hume will gain an additional portfolio, women’s economic security.

Speaking on the significance of the new taskforce, Morrison stated that Payne is “effectively the prime minister for women.” Further stating that “these changes will shake up what needs shaking up […]. What we must do is address the government’s agenda with the changes we are making.”

Prior to the shake-up Labor leader Anthony Albanese said there was little point in making changes to the cabinet: “Shuffling the deck will not change the bad hand that this government is dealing Australians.”

It’s hard to argue with Albanese’s remarks.

The creation of this taskforce, with the elevation of other women in the Coalition, is nothing but a cheap stunt. While Porter and Reynolds are stepping down from these portfolios, they both still have places in the current ministry! Porter will become Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and Reynolds, who is taking leave over a heart condition, will return as Minister for Government Services.

While this taskforce has captured mainstream media’s attention, we must not lose sight of those changes at the top. Dutton becoming defence minister should worry everyone who cares about peace and is concerned with imperialism. Last year in April, Dutton landed himself in hot water with Chinese authorities over remarks that China needed to be “more transparent” on COVID-19 based on information he received from Washington. The year before that, Dutton “accus [ed] [the CPC] of engineering a series of cyber-attacks on Australian targets, stealing intellectual property and muzzling free speech” (Guardian UK). The Chinese embassy responded by qualifying Dutton’s remarks as “anti-China rhetoric.” Suffice to say that Dutton feels at home parroting US propaganda and will no doubt be their righthand man in Australia promoting its imperialist agenda.

Additionally, every worker in Australia should be worried about Cash’s ascension to Industrial Relations Minister. In Porter’s absence, Cash was instrumental in ensuring the watered-down IR omnibus bill passed. If that doesn’t scare you, the Australian Resources and Energy Association AMMA, a lobbying group for Australia’s largest energy corporations, has welcomed the move. Steve Knott, AMMA Chief Executive, stated that “she was an outstanding Minister for Employment, which included industrial relations responsibilities until 2017, navigating key reforms through the parliament such as the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.” It is no surprise that Knott, representing employers, would laud the reinstatement of such an anti-worker body as the ABCC. Employers, and those who represent them, have a friend in Cash.

As a Party of the working class, we need to ensure that workers’ rights don’t diminish further under Cash, and we must fight back against Australia’s part in imperialist actions with Dutton as Defence Minister.

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