Turnbull Seeks Renewal by Unveiling Ministry Ahead of Election

  • Steve Ciobo promoted to helm trade portfolio, replacing Robb
  • Reshuffle triggered by wave of resignations and retirements

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a new ministerial lineup, seeking to shore up his Cabinet after a wave of resignations as he prepares for this year’s election.

Steven Ciobo was appointed trade minister, replacing Andrew Robb, who is retiring from politics. Darren Chester will take the infrastructure and transport portfolio, while Fiona Nash becomes regional development minister.

“This is transition, this is change, this is renewal,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Saturday. “Organisms that don’t change are dead.”

While the Liberal-National coalition government is riding high in opinion polls, the loss of several ministers through retirement or resignation has proved a distraction as Turnbull seeks to build a policy platform for the election. The biggest change is the role of deputy prime minister, with Barnaby Joyce automatically assuming the position after being selected Thursday as leader of the National Party, the government’s junior coalition partner.

The opposition Labor Party says Turnbull has presided over a chaotic government since he defeated Tony Abbott five months ago in a ballot of Liberal lawmakers to become prime minister. From the original 19-member Cabinet appointed when the coalition won office in 2013, only six remain in their portfolio roles.

Turnbull lost two ministers in December. Jamie Briggs, responsible for development of cities, quit, citing an error of judgment in a Hong Kong bar, while Special Minister of State Mal Brough temporarily stood aside amid a police inquiry into events surrounding access to the diary of the former speaker of Parliament. Brough resigned from the ministry earlier Saturday.

Human Resources Minister Stuart Robert stood down on Friday amid revelations he promoted an Australian company while on vacation in China, in breach of ministerial standards.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will permanently retain special minister of state duties, while Alan Tudge was given the human services portfolio.

In other changes, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was named minister for International Development and the Pacific and Matt Canavan was given the Northern Australian portfolio.

The new ministry will be sworn in on Feb. 18 in Canberra, Turnbull said.

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