Abbott sacks minister

CANBERRA – Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, on Sunday reshuffled his Cabinet and pledged a renewed focus on the economy in an effort to tackle a slump in poll ratings.

Fifteen months into a three-year term, Mr Abbott sacked Defence Minister David Johnston and promoted Immigration Minister Scott Morrison — the man responsible for implementing a hard line policy to turn away boats of asylum seekers — to the post of Minister of Social Services.

“This is a ministry for jobs and families and it is a sign that this is a Government which wants the economy and the budget to be front and centre in the coming year,” said Mr Abbott.

He elevated a second woman to the Cabinet, appointing Sussan Ley to Health Minister. Opposition lawmakers and commentators have been critical about a lack of gender balance on the front bench, with Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, having been the only woman.

Josh Frydenberg, parliamentary secretary to Mr Abbott, will replace Arthur Sinodinos as assistant treasurer and play a key role in preparing the Liberal-National coalition’s second budget.

The reshuffle follows a bruising parliamentary term for Mr Abbott, whose party is trailing the Oppposition Labor Party in polls and faces public criticism over broken electoral promises and a deeply unpopular first budget. Australia’s economy is feeling the impact of the end to the decade-long mining investment boom and falling prices of iron ore and coal — Australia’s biggest exports.

Last month the Liberal party suffered an electoral defeat in Victoria state, the first time in more than half a century that a sitting government has been voted out of power in the state after a single term.

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