CANBERRA: Australia’s new Cabinet was sworn in on Monday with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd naming a record number of six women and switching focus to the economy ahead of upcoming elections.
With Labor trailing badly in the polls Rudd ruthlessly seized the leadership on 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.
Victoria Sen. Jacinta Collins enters the Cabinet as minister for mental health, Catherine King will be minister for regional Australia and Julie Collins takes the portfolios of 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 total number of women ministers rises from nine out of 30 under Gillard to 11.
West Australian MP Melissa Parke was also appointed as 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 backdoor.”
The top jobs of foreign affairs, defence and the home ministry did not change hands.