Australian PM Scott Morrison demotes two cabinet members amid rape accusations

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demoted his defense minister and attorney general on Monday amid accusations of rape and misogyny in separate scandals, but says he’ll keep both in senior positions.

Attorney General Christian Porter will step down from his post while continuing to serve in the Cabinet as the minister for science, industry and technology, Morrison told reporters. He said defense minister Linda Reynolds will continue as minister for government services.

“These changes will shake up what needs to be shaken up,” Morrison added.

Six weeks ago, a female staffer in Reynolds’ office accused a senior colleague of raping her in Australia’s Parliament House in 2019.

The rape accusations about Porter surfaced in a long letter written by the purported victim, which became public after she died by suicide but Morrison said he hadn’t read the letter.

The criminal case against Porter was dropped due to insufficient evidence and Morrison defended his attorney general, saying he’s still fit to serve in office.

On March 4, thousands of women protested outside Parliament. Morrison refused to attend the rally.

Porter and Reynolds both remain on medical leave.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will take over for Reynolds as defense minister, and Michaelia Cash will move from the employment ministry to succeed Porter as attorney general.

Morrison also announced a new task force led by Marise Payne, Australia’s women and foreign affairs minister. The task force will oversee the government’s policies on women’s equality, safety, economic security, health and well-being.

“Bringing a gender equality lens, if you like, to the whole-of-ministry approach enables us to really focus in on those issues right across government in a way that I have never seen before. I think it’s very powerful, ” Payne said Monday.

“I acknowledge that many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them. That greatly distresses me,” Morrison added.

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