Australian prime minister announces Cabinet reshuffle

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister on Thursday announced changes to his Cabinet after two ministers resigned this week following political turmoil.

The new lineup of ministers was agreed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, leader of the minor coalition party, the Nationals. McCormack survived an attempt on Tuesday by opponents within his own party to topple him.

A reshuffle was forced when Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie resigned from the Cabinet on Sunday for breaching ministerial rules by failing to declare she was a member of a gun club to which she gave a government grant of 36,000 Australian dollars ($24,100).

Most commentators agree the real reason she had to go was public outrage at her former role as sports minister when she allocated grants to sports clubs apparently based on whether they were in electorates the government gave priority to winning at the 2019 election rather than the merits of the clubs’ funding applications.

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An audit of the report released last month revealed the extent to which McKenzie overrode bureaucrats’ recommendations in handing out AU$100 million ($680 million) in grants and triggered sustained demands for her resignation.

Veterans Minister Darren Chester was dumped from Cabinet in 2017 to make room for McKenzie in 2017. He was promoted to Cabinet on Thursday after backing McCormack in Tuesday’s leadership challenge.

Junior Nationals lawmaker Keith Pitt was also promoted to Cabinet.

Nationals lawmaker Matt Canavan was left without a ministry. He quit as resources minister on Monday to back colleague Barnaby Joyce to replace McCormack in the Tuesday leadership ballot of Nationals lawmakers.

The internal revolt within the party followed months of grumblings that McCormack was not delivering enough for the Nationals rural constituents, many of whom are suffering from the effects of drought and wildfires.

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