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Howard Government Ministerial Reshuffle

Prime Minister John Howard has reshuffled his ministry, following the departure of three ministers.

The ministers departing are Senator Jocelyn Newman, John Moore and Senator John Herron.

The changes see Peter Reith become Defence Minister, whilst Senator Amanda Vanstone becomes Minister for Family and Community Services. Tony Abbott becomes Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business.

Text of statement released by the Prime Minister, John Howard, announcing changes to the federal ministry.

The departure from the Ministry of three senior, long serving colleagues will result in a significant restructuring of the Ministry.

I want to record my deep personal gratitude and that of all members of the Liberal Party to Jocelyn Newman, John Moore and John Herron for the immense contribution that each has made to the Liberal Party and to the government.

In their respective portfolios they have presided over major reforms and lasting improvements.

The reforms flowing from the McClure Report testify to Jocelyn Newman’s strong and compassionate commitment to welfare restructuring designed to promote greater participation and less welfare dependency.

Jocelyn Newman has served continuously in the social security/family and community services portfolio since March 1996. She has been responsible for overhauling the administration of social security, the development of Centrelink and the establishment of strong, fair rules for access to the social security system.

The Defence White Paper is the most far-sighted reshaping of Australia’s defence capability in a generation. It would not have been possible without John Moore’s determination to improve management within Defence and also win new resources for the ADF.

John Moore has been a member of parliament for 25 years. He served in the Fraser government and, for three decades, has been a major figure in the Liberal Party organisation in Queensland, holding the position of State President on two separate occasions. He was also a highly successful industry minister in the first coalition government after the election of 1996, shaping major industry plans in the areas of motor vehicles, TCF and pharmaceuticals.

He was, of course, the Minister for Defence at the time of the East Timor deployment.

There can be little doubt that a new and more positive attitude in relation to indigenous issues within Australia now exists. John Herron has contributed significantly to this more constructive mood. His tireless work within the portfolio has won widespread respect from many groups amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

He has inspired affection, respect and trust in all his work. On more than one occasion he has been subjected to intemperate, unreasonable, and wholly unjustified personal attacks. John Herron has always responded in a restrained and dignified manner to such provocation.

I intend recommending to the Governor-General the following Ministerial changes, which will take effect after the first meeting of Cabinet in the new year.

The Hon Peter Reith MP will replace Mr Moore as Minister for Defence.

The Hon Tony Abbott MP will become Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business.

Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone will replace Jocelyn Newman as Minister for Family and Community Services. She will also assist me in matters relating to the status of women.

The Hon Philip Ruddock MP will become Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. He will also retain his current portfolio as Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. A Parliamentary Secretary will be appointed specifically to assist him in relation to reconciliation and indigenous affairs.

The addition of indigenous affairs to Mr Ruddock’s current portfolio responsibilities is a reflection of the expertise he has already demonstrated in relation to these issues, as well as his outstanding record in immigration and multicultural affairs. He is a compassionate and effective minister who will bring the right balance to the task of implementing practical reconciliation in a sensitive and sensible manner.

The Hon Mal Brough MP will become Minister for Employment Services.

Mr Ian Macfarlane MP, Member for Groom, will become Minister for Small Business. The appointment of a separate small business minister within the portfolio of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business will provide an additional focus in this important area.

Senator the Hon Chris Ellison will become Minister for Justice and Customs.

Senator Eric Abetz will become Special Minister of State.

Mr Brendan Nelson MP, the Member for Bradfield, will replace Senator Abetz as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence.

Mrs Christine Gallus MP, Member for Hindmarsh, will be appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. She is a long serving member of parliament and a former Shadow Minister for indigenous affairs.

I welcome Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone back to the Cabinet. She has performed very well as Minister for Justice and Customs, particularly in implementing government policies on the seizure of illicit drugs and illegal boat arrivals.

The Hon Tony Abbott MP is a worthy successor to the Hon Peter Reith MP in the Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business portfolio.

Mr Reith’s legacy in that portfolio includes pioneering industrial relations legislation, a comprehensive indigenous employment strategy, the first ever Commonwealth scheme on worker entitlements and reform of the waterfront. His courage during the waterfront dispute was exemplary and major productivity benefits are now flowing through. Mr Reith will bring energy and experience to the important task of bedding down the White Paper on Defence and implementing the major financial reforms which are necessary in the Department of Defence. He will remain as Leader of the House.

The Hon Tony Abbott MP has been instrumental in the development of the employment services market, a unique social experiment which has drawn the attention of countries throughout the OECD. His philosophical commitment and impressive advocacy skills make him superbly well equipped to further develop the Government’s industrial relations reform agenda.

The new appointments to the Ministry and Parliamentary Secretaries reflect the depth of talent available to the Federal Coalition. I look forward to the Centenary year with a great sense of optimism about the future of our country and a renewed determination that the Coalition continue to govern in the interests of all Australians.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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