Scott Morrison is reshuffling his cabinet in the wake of two more high profile resignations and will parachute a woman, Senator Linda Reynolds onto the front bench from an assistant ministry.
It’s a meteoric rise for Senator Reynolds, who the Prime Minister pledged he will appoint to the Defence portfolio – if he wins the next election. For now, she will take over the Defence Industry portfolio from Steve Ciobo.
She will be sworn into the new job at Government House on Saturday.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne ends weeks of speculation today confirming he will quit politics after 26 years in Parliament before the next election. He will remain in cabinet until the election, which is expected in May.
“It’s time to retire while people are asking me to stay, rather than continue and end up later with people telling me to go,” Mr Pyne said.
However, Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo will quit cabinet immediately, amid speculation he is angling for an overseas posting.
“When you can call up a brigadier, in the form of Linda Reynolds, to take on the role of defence minister, it shows we have a lot of talent on our bench to draw from,” Mr Morrison said.
“In the defence portfolio we are currently managing a series of important strategic issues.
“It is the responsible course of action for Minister Pyne to continue to steward our management of these issues though the election period. This will ensure a consistency in our approach and the opportunity for a seamless handover to Minister Reynolds, should we be successful at the election.
“As a cabinet minister in the Defence portfolio Minster Reynolds will also have a unique opportunity to transfer into the role in the event the Government is re-elected.”
Senator Reynolds recently impressed conservatives with an impassioned speech slamming Labor for supporting the Medivac legislation warning it would be Navy officers left to fish dead bodies out of the water if the boats restarted.
“This is going to be the hardest and most personal speech I will ever make in this place,” she said.
“This morning when I saw my colleagues, here in this chamber, cheering and high-fiving each other on the passage of Labor’s amendments, I felt physically ill.”
Broadcaster Alan Jones said, “It’s magnificent, it’s lethal and it’s brutal and this is in relation to the Phelps legislation.”
Senator Reynolds’ elevation is also designed to address complaints about the Liberals’ “women problem”. There are now six female cabinet ministers, which is again equal to the number under Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.
She enlisted in the Army at the age of 19, spending nearly three decades in the army reserves.
“There is no greater responsibility for any Government than to ensure our nation’s security,” she said.
“I understand the challenges we confront regionally and globally. I know what it takes to ensure the men and women who serve our nation in the ADF have the best possible equipment – and wherever possible it is made here in Australia.”