Press Conference

31 May 2022
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
Gilmore; majority government; Ministry list, representation of women; gas prices; energy prices; cost of living; Julian Assange; policy agenda

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Today Labor has claimed the 77th seat in the House of Representatives with the re-election of Fiona in the seat of Gilmore. What that means is that the Coalition failed to take a single seat from the Australian Labor Party at the election just finished. And it confirms indeed that Labor will be a majority Government when Parliament resumes in July.

Today our Caucus has met and elected a frontbench to serve in the forthcoming Government that I'm proud to lead. I want to go through with you the appointments which will be sworn in tomorrow morning. I can confirm that I was re-elected unopposed as leader of the Australian Labor Party and therefore will serve as Prime Minister. Richard Marles will be Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence. Penny Wong will be the Senate Leader and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Don Farrell will be the Deputy Senate Leader, the Minister for Trade and Tourism and the Special Minister of State. Dr Jim Chalmers will be the Treasurer. Senator Katy Gallagher will be the Minister for Finance, the Minister for the Public Service and the Minister for Women. Tony Burke will be the Leader of the House, as well as being Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for the Arts. Mark Butler will be the Deputy Leader of the House and Minister for Health and Aged Care. Chris Bowen will be the Minister for Climate Change and Energy. Tanya Plibersek will be the Minister for the Environment and Water. Catherine King will be the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. Linda Burney will be the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Amanda Rishworth will be the Minister for Social Services. Bill Shorten will be the Minister for the NDIS and the Minister for Government Services. Mark Dreyfus the Attorney-General as well as being the Cabinet Secretary. Brendan O'Connor will be the Minister for Skills and Training. Jason Clare will be the Minister for Education. Julie Collins, Minister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small Business. Michelle Rowland will be the Minister for Communications. Madeleine King will be the Minister for Resources and the Minister for Northern Australia. Murray Watt enters Cabinet as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Minister for Emergency Management. Ed Husic will be the Minister for Industry and Science and Clare O'Neil enters the Cabinet as the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Cyber Security.

In the outer Ministry, Matt Keogh will serve as the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister for Defence Personnel. Pat Conroy will serve as the Minister for Defence Industry and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Stephen Jones will continue as the Assistant Treasurer in Government and the Minister for Financial Services. Andrew Giles will be the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. Anne Aly will be the Minister for Early Childhood Education and the Minister for Youth. Anika Wells will be the Minister for Aged Care and the Minister for Sport. Kristy McBain enters the Ministry as the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories.

As Assistant Ministers, Justine Elliott will serve as Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. Matt Thistlethwaite will be the Assistant Minister for Defence, the Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Assistant Minister for the Republic. Dr Andrew Leigh will serve as the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury. Patrick Gorman will serve as the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister. Jenny McAlister as the Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy. Carol Brown as the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Ged Kearney as the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. Emma McBride as the Assistant Minister for Mental Health, the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health. Senator Malarndirri McCarthy will be the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health. Tim Ayres will serve as the Assistant Minister for Trade and the Assistant Minister for Manufacturing. Senator Anthony Chisholm will serve as the Assistant Minister for Education and the Assistant Minister for Regional Development. And Tim Watts will serve as the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In addition to that, not in the ministry list, but Senator Pat Dodson, the Father of Reconciliation in Australia, will serve as a Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This is a priority for the Government and Patrick Dodson will have responsibility, along with the Minister Linda Burney, for overseeing the Uluru Statement from the Heart as we move forward, particularly with our plan for a constitutional change, which will require a referendum. And we hope to put in place structures that allow for people across the Parliament to participate in that process. But also, importantly, for people out there in society, including the media, this is a change which is long overdue, that we need to make. And I can't think of anyone better than Linda Burney as a Minister and Pat Dodson with that special responsibility to move forward. In addition to that, Senator Nita Green takes up the position of Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef and Susan Templeman will serve as a Special Envoy for the Arts.

This is an exciting team. It's a team which is overflowing, I think, with talent, with people who are absolutely committed to making a difference as Ministers and Assistant Ministers in my Government. This is the largest number of women who have ever served in an Australian Cabinet, with 10 women in the Cabinet. In addition to that, in terms of the Ministry, there are 13 women in the Ministry and 19 frontbenchers, a record number in all three categories for women's representation in Cabinet, in Ministry and in frontbench positions. We had a position whereby I think we have an overflow of talent on our side of the Parliament. I think that people, it's a mix of people who have served in the Cabinet before, it is the most experienced incoming Labor Government in our history since Federation. And I think that will augur well for how the Government functions.

We will have a swearing in tomorrow morning first thing, and then I will convene a full Ministry meeting tomorrow afternoon. On Thursday, there will be meetings of the National Security Committee and the Expenditure Review Committee. This is a Government that has hit the ground running. This is a Government has determined to not waste a single day in office, to give Australia a Government that is worthy of the courage, resilience and determination and compassion of the Australian people themselves. And I'm determined to lead that Government.

JOURNALIST: What will it take to get 50/50 representation of women in Cabinet, in the Ministry? Would you like to see the factional caucuses put forward 50/50 for your consideration in the future? How far away is Australia from that level of representation?

PRIME MINISTER: I think we're very close. This is a record number. This is the most positive group that have ever been put forward in terms of the Cabinet, the Ministry and the Caucus. When I looked at the Caucus today, you look around the people who've been elected, this is far more representative than any government party room has ever been in our history. We are making progress and the additional numbers that we have in the Cabinet, more than ever before, more in the Ministry, and more on the frontbench. I want to see us move towards 50/50 representation across all of the spectrum. I also want to see a Parliament and a Government that reflects the diversity that is there of the Australian people themselves.

JOURNALIST: You talk about hitting the ground running. One of the big concerns that's been expressed today are apocalyptic gas prices. I'm wondering, in your first meetings this week, have you given any thought to what you might do such as, you know, pulling the gas trigger that the Turnbull Government introduced. Are you thinking that far ahead yet?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we had briefings yesterday with Treasury and Finance that included issues of cost of living. We haven't had yet a Ministry sworn in. Normally at this time a government wouldn't be sworn in at all. So we are way ahead of where any government has been since Federation. We’ll give proper consideration with proper advice to any policy moves that are made. But we've been very conscious about the issue of cost of living. As you're aware, some of the energy prices in terms of wholesale prices, for example, were due to be made at the beginning of May. They were delayed for reasons that are best explained by the people who made those decisions based upon other timetables, I suspect.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you say you’ve made advances with women going to the frontbench. But is it not the case that your leadership level has gone backwards and now three out of the four men in the leadership positions of your party are men? What message does that send for a party of equity, that there's so many men leading it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if you look at the people in leadership positions in our party, if you look at. You get to ask the question, then we have the answer. That's the way these press conferences are going to operate. It's not an exchange. So in terms of the positions putting forward, I think that a government that has Penny Wong, Katy Gallagher, Tanya Plibersek, Catherine King, Linda Burney, Amanda Rishworth, Julie Collins, Michelle Rowland, Madeleine King and Clare O'Neil on its front bench can't be said to not have women in leadership positions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what's your message to people who've either been demoted here today, such as, if I’m not mistaken, Shayne Neumann, or who have missed out?

PRIME MINISTER: It's a difficult day for people who haven't been able to go forward. We have a very talented group of people. I think that Shayne Neumann was outstanding as a Shadow Minister, he can be very proud of the work that he did in calling for a Royal Commission into the deaths of our veterans. He worked closely with families, he developed a comprehensive plan that will now be implemented by the Government, including veterans hubs, so the one stop shop, including increases for TPI pensions. He was a very strong advocate indeed. We have a position whereby, in order to make sure that, in Shayne's case, we have a rule of affirmative action, which was implemented. And that meant that some people who were there, that was impacted by that. And that is difficult. I've spoken personally to a range of people who've missed out on this list. My word to them is this, that politics does have its ups and downs. It is a competitive business. I didn't serve as a Shadow Minister until my third term. I stand before you as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Labor Party. There were disappointments that I had as well. But I say to people, hang in there, be resilient, you have a lot to offer as a team. And the team isn't just the people who are in the leadership group, the Ministry, the team is the entire caucus. I have an inclusive approach towards policy. There are other areas of the Parliament as well in which people will contribute, particularly in a Parliament which is much broader than we've seen in the past. We will have the largest crossbench that we've seen. We will be a majority Government. But I've said before that we will respect people. What that will mean is that the processes of parliamentary committees and other processes of the Parliament an opportunity to make a contribution. But I say this, I've always valued being a member of the House of Representatives itself as being a great privilege every day. And I'm sure all my members of the House and Senators feel the same way.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just a question about Kristy McBain. So she only entered the Parliament in 2020 and she wasn’t even in the outer Shadow Ministry. It’s quite a significant promotion for her. What makes her deserving of this sort of promotion as opposed to someone who has more experience, such as Meryl Swanson?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Kristy McBain is outstanding. Kristy McBain is someone who I approached personally to run for the seat of Eden-Monaro. If we hadn’t have won that sort of Eden-Monaro, politics might have been a bit different. Kristy McBain was a real factor in that. It's not a matter of, you know, a Billy Bragg song, “Just because you're going forward doesn't mean I'm going backwards”. It’s a good song. And that's true, because other people are going forward isn't a reflection on the capacity of others. But Kristy McBain is fully deserving of this position. She has been a mayor, and an outstanding mayor, during the period of the bushfire crisis. I know how good she was in delivering on the ground at a time when frankly the Federal Government went missing. The Morrison Government went missing, Kristy McBain stepped up. She's been the Member for Eden-Monaro she has turned what was a marginal seat into a very good seat.

JOURNALIST: Just on energy prices (inaudible). I’m just wondering, in the short term, is this going to be a priority for you moving forward given the pressures?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course cost of living is priority.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on Foreign Affairs, you've previously said, you've previously raised concerns about the charges against Julian Assange, saying enough is enough. And a couple of weeks ago, Senator Wong said if elected, you would encourage the US Government to bring this matter to a close. As Prime Minister, is it now your position that the US should be encouraged to drop the charges against Mr Assange? And have you made any representations to that effect?

PRIME MINISTER: My position is that not all foreign affairs is best done with the loud hailer.

JOURNALIST: A few times during the campaign, you said that your starting point for your Ministry would be people that people that are in positions would stay in that position. This is a bit more of a substantial, I guess, reshuffle than some people might have expected, or maybe even some of your MPs might have expected. What was the reasoning behind sort of making it a bit more bigger than people might have?

PRIME MINISTER: We lost two Cabinet Ministers.

JOURNALIST: You've put Housing into Cabinet, something that your predecessor did not have as a Cabinet spot. Is that indicative of your belief that the housing crisis is biting even harder than we've actually heard before and that you will have to do far more in the housing space to address those issues than you've already announced during the campaign?

PRIME MINISTER: There are two issues. One I can confirm, yes, the premise of your question is correct. But something else as well. If you follow my history in politics, housing has been a passion of mine. It's also been a passion of mine that the Federal Government should be playing a role in in areas like housing and urban development and those issues. And that will be an absolute priority of my Government.

JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek was in Education for a very long time as a shadow. What was the thinking behind her swap to Environment? Was that your thinking? Or did she want to do that?

PRIME MINISTER: I spoke to Tanya about it. She's very happy to take up the issue of Environment and Water. There are major challenges on the environment. We know that the impact of climate change is having a significant impact. Tanya has a long-term interest in the environment. We of course lost our Shadow Minister in Terri Butler, so needed to find a replacement. My view is that Tanya will be outstanding in that area, but also particularly in the area of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, as well, it's very important that that actually get delivered. Tanya is someone who can get things done. She's an experienced former Minister, as well as a former Shadow Minister. And that will be an area, as well as implementing the policies that we have on things like our rangers program, our urban rivers program, our plan to deal with the Murray Darling Basin but our plan on a range of other environmental programs as well, in particular the Great Barrier Reef. We made very significant announcements during the election campaign about all of those policy areas. Thanks very much.