The first Abbott Government

The first Abbott Government
September 17, 2013 Kaz Scott

p&p4On Monday 16 September Tony Abbott announced his first ministerial line-up, with a smooth transition from Opposition to Government and a couple of surprises along the way. Parker & Partners’ overview of the new Cabinet looks at who’s in, who’s out, and what clues the line-up provides about the new Government’s priorities.

For more information on engaging with the new Government contact Parker & Partners Managing Director Mathew Jones at

The first Abbott Government – 16 September 2013

Australia’s Prime Minister-designate, Hon Tony Abbott, has announced his executive team; a team which is in his words is “the most experienced incoming Ministry in our history”. There are some surprise promotions, and significant omissions, yet ultimately Abbott has declared a stable leadership team with talent and capacity. The greatest criticism will be the gender imbalance, with only one female on the front bench.


Abbott promised the he would provide Australia with a stable Government, and his Cabinet is a reflection of that vow with most members retaining the portfolio’s they held in the shadow capacity.

Joe Hockey is the Treasurer, and will be ably assisted by former Howard Chief-of-Staff Senator Arthur Sinodinos in the Outer Ministry and Steven Ciobo as Parliamentary Secretary.

Julie Bishop becomes Minister for Foreign Affairs, with Senator Brett Mason promoted to assist her as Parliamentary Secretary. Senator Mason’s promotion is a credit to his ability, however, he will undoubtedly be seen as a loss to higher education sector.

Warren Truss, as leader of The Nationals, assumes the role of Deputy Prime Minister whilst also retaining responsibility for Infrastructure and Regional Development. To assist, Jamie Briggs is promoted to the Outer Ministry.

Christopher Pyne retains Education, a portfolio that will include schools and higher education, as well as Leader of the House. Sussan Ley joins the Outer Ministry as his assistant. Ley performed well as Shadow Minister for Childcare and Early Childhood Learning and will bring her knowledge to the new position. Senator Scott Ryan also joins the Education team as Parliamentary Secretary.

Peter Dutton is Minister for Health (and also Minister for Sport). Senator Fiona Nash is promoted to the Outer Ministry as Assistant Minister. Nash is recognised for her tenacity and her passion for rural Australia.

Senator Eric Abetz is now Minister for Employment with Luke Hartsuyker his Assistant. Senator Abetz is also Minister Assisting the PM on the Public Service as well as Leader in the Senate.

Senator George Brandis is the Attorney-General (and Minister for the Arts).

Greg Hunt is the new Minister for the Environment, with Senator Simon Birmingham his Parliamentary Secretary.

Scott Morrison becomes Minister for Immigration and Border Protection with Senator Michaelia Cash promoted to the Outer Ministry assisting. Senator Cash also becomes Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women.

Malcolm Turnbull is the Minister for Communications with former Optus executive Paul Fletcher Assistant Minister.

Senator Nigel Scullion becomes Minister for Indigenous Affairs, a portfolio he is passionate about.

Kevin Andrews is Minister for Social Services, with Senator Mitch Fifield his Assistant Minister. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is the Parliamentary Secretary.

Bruce Billson is Minister for Small Business, while David Johnson becomes Minister for Defence with Stuart Robert his Assistant Minister and Darren Chester the Parliamentary Secretary. Michael Ronaldson joins the Outer Ministry as Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister Assisting the PM for the Centenary of ANZAC.


There are a few surprises on the front bench, the most prominent being Senator Mathias Cormann. Mathias Cormann joined the Senate in 2007 and his swift elevation to the front bench recognises his ability, but is seen as a surprise by many who had assumed the Finance role would remain with Andrew Robb or go to Senator Arthur Sinodinos. Cormann previously held the Shadow Assistant Treasurer position and was, in particular, a vocal contributor to superannuation debate. Michael McCormack (a very capable Nationals member from the Riverina) assumes the role of Parliamentary Secretary.

Andrew Robb takes on the very important role of Minister for Trade and Investment. The Trade portfolio is traditionally held by a member of The Nationals, however Robb is a strong performer with economic acumen, and recognises the important role agriculture plays in Australia’s trade (Robb is a previous Executive Director of the Cattle Council). He will perform well in this role.

Previous Senator and poster boy of the Coalition campaign Barnaby Joyce will walk into the House of Representatives for the first time – straight to the front bench as Minister for Agriculture. Joyce has a farming background and a passion for regional Australia and the prosperity and sustainability of Australian agriculture. He will be ably assisted in the role by Senator Richard Colbeck who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Agriculture Minister in the Howard Government.

Ian Macfarlane becomes Minister for Industry – a role that would likely have belonged to Sophie Mirabella had she not removed herself from contention amid the uncertainty of her electoral success in the seat of Indi. Macfarlane held this role in the Howard Government, however under Abbott this portfolio will also cover science and research.

Josh Frydenberg and Alan Tudge become Parliamentary Secretaries to the Prime Minister.

Other newcomers to the Ministry are:

Senator Marise Payne : Minister for Human Services

Michael Keenan : Minister for Justice

Josh Frydenberg : Parliamentary Secretary to the PM

Alan Tudge : Parliamentary Secretary to the PM.


Amidst those members of the Coalition who today are excited about their new positions and the role they will play in the future of Australia, there are also those who will certainly be disappointed.

John Cobb was hailed by many as a lay-down misère for the Agriculture portfolio. Cobb is the Nationals member for the regional seat of Calare, is a farmer in his own right, a previous executive of NSW Farmers and the shadow agriculture spokesman whilst in Opposition.

Senator Ian Macdonald felt certain of a Ministry, yet also missed out – citing the day as “one of the worst” of his life.