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Wednesday 21 March 2018

New Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull set to appoint more female ministers

Malcolm Turnbull addresses parliament after he was sworn in as prime minister in Canberra (AP)
Malcolm Turnbull addresses parliament after he was sworn in as prime minister in Canberra (AP)

Australia's new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has signalled that more women will be included in his first cabinet to be sworn in next week.

"There is no greater enthusiast than me for seeing more women in positions of power and influence in parliament, in ministries right across the country," Mr Turnbull said in his first news conference as prime minister.

"I am very committed to that, but I am not going to say any more about the new ministerial arrangements," he said.

Mr Turnbull replaced his unpopular predecessor Tony Abbott in a surprise leadership vote of MPs in the ruling conservative Liberal Party on Monday night.

Mr Abbott was widely criticised for including only two women in his 19-member cabinet, foreign minister Julie Bishop and health minister Sussan Ley.

Ms Bishop was the only woman in Mr Abbott's first cabinet in 2013.

Mr Turnbull said there would be "some changes" in his cabinet when it is sworn in on Monday, but gave no indication of the scale.

He declined to comment on the future of the government's chief economic minister, treasurer Joe Hockey.

In challenging Mr Abbott's leadership, Mr Turnbull indirectly attacked Mr Hockey with the criticism that "the government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need".

The government's popularity plunged in opinion polls and never recovered after Mr Hockey revealed his first annual budget in May last year. That budget was widely criticised as unfair toward the poor.

Mr Turnbull said he had spoken to Mr Abbott since ousting him, but did not know whether the former prime minister intended to stay in parliament.

Press Association

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