CANBERRA (AFP) – Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was Sunday chosen to head up the social services ministry in a major cabinet reshuffle, a move widely seen as a promotion following his handling of controversial asylum-seeker policies.
Defence Minister David Johnston, under fire for saying last month that a government shipbuilding firm could not be trusted to “build a canoe”, was dumped from the front bench.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the reshuffle would “reset and refocus” his government for 2015, following a challenging year that has seen it lose support in opinion polls amid community disquiet over a tough cost-cutting budget.
He told reporters in Canberra the changes were a signal that his government “wants the economy and the budget to be front and centre in the coming year”.
“In the end, nothing is achieved without a strong economy.”
Abbott had tried to rein in a federal deficit forecast to balloon to Aus$40.4 billion (US$33.2 billion) this financial year according to government figures released last week, while boosting the flagging economy which is struggling to move away from mining-led growth.
The prime minister praised Morrison, who has been tipped by some commentators as a future leader of the conservative Liberal Party.