- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia’s new Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull on Sunday announced sweeping changes to his first Cabinet and promoted more women, including Australia’s first female defense minister.

Turnbull increased the number of female Cabinet ministers from two to five, including Defense Minister Marise Payne.

The government’s unpopular chief economics minister, Treasurer Joe Hockey, has been replaced by Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.

The center-right government’s popularity crashed in opinion polls and never recovered after Hockey unveiled his first annual budget in May last year. The budget was widely criticized as unfair toward the poor, and a hostile Senate blocked key measures.

Turnbull, the former communications minister, replaced his predecessor Tony Abbott as prime minister in a surprise leadership vote of the ruling Liberal Party lawmakers on Monday night.

In challenging Abbott’s leadership, Turnbull indirectly attacked Hockey with the criticism that “the government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need.”

Turnbull said Hockey would quit politics. Abbott was also excluded from the new 21-member Cabinet. Abbott’s Cabinet had 19 ministers.

“Today I’m announcing a 21st century government and a ministry for the future,” Turnbull told reporters. “The changes I’m announcing are very extensive.”

Abbott was widely criticized for including only one woman in his first Cabinet in 2013, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Liberal Party deputy leader. She was later joined by Health Minister Sussan Ley.

Both women retained their positions in Turnbull’s Cabinet. They were joined by newcomers Payne, Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and Minister for Small Business Kelly O’Dwyer.

Turnbull has also reintroduced a science minister, a portfolio scrapped by Abbott. Chris Pyne, the former minister for education and training, will become the minister for industry, innovation and science.

The new Cabinet will be sworn in on Monday.

Outgoing Defense Minister Kevin Andrews, an Abbott ally who has been dumped from Cabinet, said he was disappointed that he did not keep the job he had held for only nine months.

“I am disappointed that Mr. Turnbull did not accept my offer to work with him,” Andrews told reporters. “Frankly, my remaining in this job was not about me, it was all about the stability of our Defense Force in Australia and its leadership.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten welcomed what he described as an “overdue increase in the number of women in the Cabinet.”

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