Australia swears in its most diverse Cabinet yet

New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has led Australia's Labor Party back into power. Of the 30 ministers appointed to the new government, nearly half are women. Women also hold a record 10 spots out of 23 in core Cabinet roles.

Mick Tsikas/AAP Image/AP
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (front, center) and his ministers pose for a group photo after their swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Canberra, Australia. The new Cabinet includes a record number of women and its first Muslim member.

Australia’s new government sworn in Wednesday includes a record 13 women, including the first female Muslim to serve as a minister and the second Indigenous person named Indigenous Affairs minister.

The ceremony conducted by Governor-General David Hurley in the capital, Canberra, came 11 days after new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led the center-left Labor Party to an election victory over the incumbent conservatives.

“Proud to lead an inclusive government that is as diverse as Australia itself,” Mr. Albanese wrote on Twitter. “Welcome to all these new Labor members.”

Youth Minister Anne Aly is Australia’s first female Muslim minister, while Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic is the first Muslim to serve in Cabinet.

Linda Burney became the first woman, and only the second Indigenous person, to serve as Indigenous Affairs minister.

“For many years, Australia has lagged behind the rest of the world in gender equality in both parliament and cabinet,” wrote Claire Annesley and Louise Chappell for The Conversation in an article titled “Australia has more women in cabinet than ever before: what difference will diversity make?”

“For decades, Australia stuck to the mantra that ministerial recruitment should be made on ‘merit’ rather than gender. This thinking belongs to an outdated political culture, where women can only access positions of political power with the approval of their male colleagues,” wrote Ms. Annesley and Ms. Chappell.

Of the 30 ministers appointed to the new government, nearly half are women. Women also hold a record 10 spots out of 23 in core Cabinet roles.

“With the incoming Albanese government, we have almost caught up to those countries we like to compare ourselves with,” wrote Ms. Annesley and Ms. Chappell. “In 2021, women held 50% or more of ministerial positions in seven OECD countries: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Spain, and Sweden, while New Zealand’s cabinet had 40%.”

Mr. Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong were sworn in early last week so they could fly to Tokyo for a summit with President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With some votes still to be counted from last month’s election, the Labor Party has secured enough seats to hold an outright majority in the 150-seat House.

Mr. Albanese’s Cabinet includes some new faces as well as some lawmakers who served in the previous Labor government that last held power nine years ago.

“We have an overflow of talent on our side of the parliament,” Mr. Albanese said, adding that “it’s the most experienced incoming Labor government in our history since federation.”

Mr. Albanese has been getting support from an unusual source: British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.

Mr. Bragg wrote on Twitter that he’d awoken to find that “the new prime minister of Australia had quoted my lyrics in his first press conference.”

Mr. Bragg went on to say he wasn’t surprised as he’s been friends with Mr. Albanese for more than 20 years after they met at a theater in Sydney and bonded over a shared love of music and compassionate politics.

“The challenges he faces are daunting and I don’t envy him his success,” Mr. Bragg wrote. “Some of us just sing about making the world a better place – he now has the responsibility of delivering on that promise.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Material from The Conversation was used in this report.

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