Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds stripped of roles as fallout spreads from Parliament scandals

The cabinet reshuffle comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government faces a political crisis around the treatment of women in Canberra.

Key ministers Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds have been stripped of their portfolios.

Key ministers Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds have been stripped of their portfolios. Source: AAP

Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds have been replaced in a cabinet reshuffle as Prime Minister Scott Morrison attempts to limit the political damage caused by a series of scandals. 

Mr Porter has lost his roles as Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister following his decision to sue the ABC for its reporting of a historical rape accusation, which he strongly denies.  

Senator Reynolds has also been shifted from the Defence portfolio, following sustained pressure over her handling of a rape allegation made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins. 


Michaelia Cash has replaced Mr Porter as Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has taken over the Defence portfolio from Senator Reynolds - a role he has long coveted. 

Karen Andrews has also been elevated taking over Mr Dutton's high-profile Home Affairs portfolio.

"These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up while maintaining the momentum and the continuity and the stability that Australia needs," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“What we must do is address the government’s agenda with the changes we are making.”

Mr Porter took mental health leave after coming forward to strenuously deny allegations he raped a 16-year-old as a teenager in 1988.  

He has now taken over the role of Minister for Industry, Science and Technology from Ms Andrews. 

Mr Morrison said Mr Porter's new role addressed conflict of interest concerns arising from him launching legal action against the ABC. 

“This fully addresses all the issues that relate to the advice received from the Solicitor-General, as well as the advice received in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet regarding the ministerial guidelines," he said.

Mr Porter said he had "no regrets" over taking the defamation action. 

"Accepting and understanding that commencing defamation proceedings against the ABC now requires my replacement as Attorney-General does not change anything in respect of the crucial principle that required me to instigate defamation proceedings," he said in a statement. 

"Given the false claims made about me by the ABC I had no alternative but to launch the defamation proceedings and I have no regrets about taking that course of action."

Senator Reynolds replaces Stuart Robert as Minister for Government Services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), who will take over the workforce, skills, employment and small business portfolios.

This comes after Mr Morrison criticised Senator Reynolds' handling of the rape allegation in her office, including for describing Ms Higgins as a "lying cow" and for not notifying him about the complaint. 

Mr Morrison used the reshuffle to attempt to draw a line under a wave of criticism of his government's response to concerns around the treatment of women.

This included announcing a new cabinet taskforce to focus on women's equality, safety, economic security and health. 

“I have always wanted to ensure there is a strong voice of women in my government, and there has been,” Mr Morrison said.

“I think what we are announcing today has gone further than that."

Current Minister for Women and Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, will lead the group of female ministers along with Mr Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham. 

Mr Morrison said Senator Payne would effectively become "the prime minister for women" through her role leading the taskforce. 

Senator Payne said the group and an increase in women in the cabinet would help put: "addressing these issues at the centre of government."

"That is absolutely the focus that this brings," she told reporters.

In other moves, Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has also been returned to cabinet.

Superannuation Minister Jane Hume will add women's economic security to her other roles. 

Queensland senator Amanda Stoker will also become Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations and Women.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston will add women's safety to her responsibilities.

Th reshuffle means seven women are now in the ministry: Senator Payne, Senator Ruston, Senator Cash, Senator Reynolds, Ms Andrews, Ms Price and Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

The cabinet shake-up is the Morrison government's second in four months.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese dismissed the idea the reshuffle could act as a circuit-breaker for the government.

"Shuffling the deck won't change the bad hand that the Morrison government is dealing Australians," he said.

4 min read
Published 29 March 2021 at 2:20pm
By Tom Stayner