WORLD / ASIA-PACIFIC
Australian PM brushes aside talk of reshuffle after controversies, rallies
Published: Mar 25, 2021 05:53 PM
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Canberra, Australia, June 26, 2020. (Photo by Chu Chen/Xinhua)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends a press conference in Canberra, Australia, June 26, 2020. (Photo by Chu Chen/Xinhua)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison brushed aside on Thursday speculation of a ministerial reshuffle as he tries to reset the political narrative after a damaging controversy over his government's treatment of and attitude toward women.

Numerous media outlets reported that Defense Minister Linda Reynolds and Attorney-general Christian Porter, who are both on sick leave, were likely to lose their Cabinet positions despite Morrison's previous strong backing of them.

Morrison declined to comment on the media reports.

"All I can say is that when I make decisions on these matters I'll communicate them and my reasons for it," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) radio.

A reshuffle could help Morrison as he tries to improve his standing with voters, many of whom have been angered by the government's response over the past month to the alleged rape of a government staffer and broader issues of the treatment of women in politics and society.

"The government has tried to dance around this issue for long enough. But they are realizing that the firewall is not sufficient and a reshuffle is necessary," said Peter Chen, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Sydney.

Reynolds has come in for criticism in the media and from the public for her handling of an allegation of rape by a member of her staff two years ago.

Separately, Porter on March 3 identified himself as the subject of a historical rape allegation and declared his innocence.

Politicians had earlier received an anonymous allegation of an assault in 1988 and had referred material to police. Police said on March 2 there was insufficient evidence to investigate the claim and closed the matter.

Porter has launched a defamation action against the ABC over a report on the allegation. He is on sick leave until the end of March when he said he planned to return as attorney-general.

Morrison said he was awaiting legal advice on possible conflicts of interest for the attorney-general, given his defamation proceedings, before deciding if portfolio changes were needed.
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