Australia's cabinet sworn in after narrow election victory

AP News
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Posted: Jul 18, 2016 10:43 PM
Australia's cabinet sworn in after narrow election victory

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's new cabinet was sworn in Tuesday, but the conservative government will have the slimmest of majorities when Parliament opens next month.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet will have only minor changes after two ministers in the last cabinet lost their seats in July 2 elections.

The government has a majority of just one seat in the 150-seat House of Representatives, where parties with a majority form the government.

Turnbull's hopes of a two-seat majority faded Monday when the candidate for his conservative Liberal Party ended eight votes behind the center-left Labor Party candidate after 88,360 votes were counted, although any result closer than 100 votes automatically triggers a recount. The counting took time because mail-in votes had to be counted.

Turnbull resisted pressure from the hard-right elements of his party to appoint former Prime Minister Tony Abbott to his cabinet.

Turnbull was sworn in by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove at his official residence on Tuesday, followed by his ministers. Parliament resumes for the first time since the election on Aug. 30.

The government's junior coalition partner, The Nationals, were rewarded for a relatively strong performance in the elections, with additional cabinet minister Matt Canavan plus three new assistant ministers, David Gillespie, Luke Hartsuyker and Michael McCormack.

Turnbull declined to say whether the political leaning of his new leadership team had changed. He defended his attempt to minimize changes to the cabinet he appointed less than a year ago.

"I'm not going to put 'conservative 'or 'moderate' or 'liberal' tags on my colleagues," Turnbull said on Monday. "I have made big changes to the ministry only a few months ago."

Two ministers who supported Turnbull's overthrow of Abbott in an internal party showdown in September — Peter Hendy and Wyatt Roy — were among the more than a dozen Liberal lawmakers who lost their seats. The Nationals — a more conservative, rural-based party — increased their seats in the House of Representatives by one to 16.

Turnbull's moderate leadership has been diminished by his party's surprisingly poor performance after Abbott won 90 seats at the 2013 election.

The government's minority in the Senate is expected to have shrunk but the final makeup of the upper chamber will not be known for weeks.