Science Academy welcomes Porter as new minister, then changes its mind

The future of embattled minister Christian Porter remains under intense scrutiny despite his shift from the attorney-general’s department to industry, technology and science.

Mar 30, 2021, updated Mar 30, 2021
New Science Minister Christian Porter. (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

New Science Minister Christian Porter. (Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Australian Academy of Science has apologised for welcoming Porter to the portfolio after copping widespread backlash.

The organisation of Australia’s top research scientists has backtracked on an initial statement, which read: “We look forward to working with incoming Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter.”

It described the statement, which it published on Twitter, as “poorly worded” after dozens of people replied by raising historic rape allegations against Porter, which he strenuously denies.

“We apologise. We are deeply aware of the challenging circumstances created by the reshuffle. We will always work to advance science in Australia for all,” the academy said on Tuesday.

The backlash highlights ongoing problems plaguing Scott Morrison after rejigging his frontbench line-up.

Porter has been demoted as attorney-general but will remain in cabinet.

Linda Reynolds will also stay on the frontbench – moving from defence to government services – despite mishandling rape allegations raised by former staffer Brittany Higgins.

Morrison has used a cabinet reshuffle to try and lift his government out of a crisis over the treatment of women.

The number of women in cabinet has been restored to seven and a new ministerial task force has been established to deal with women’s equality, safety and economic security.

The prime minister says the changes will shake up the ministry and provide a fresh lens to achieve change for women.

But Morrison has been accused of putting the job security of his colleagues ahead of the country, given Porter and Reynolds are both staying in cabinet.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews has been one of the biggest winners in the reshuffle, promoted to the mega domestic security portfolio of home affairs held by Peter Dutton.

Andrews insists the ministerial rejig will drive real change for women.

“I don’t see it as just shuffling the deck chairs, quite frankly,” she told ABC radio.

“I think there’s been a much stronger focus in this reshuffle on women and recognising the significant issues that women face, whether it’s with their safety, whether it’s with their security.

“But we can’t move away from the fact that we need to make sure that we are supporting women in every workplace.”

The prime minister and Governor-General David Hurley attended a swearing-in ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon, with ministers gaining new roles appearing via video conference.

Michaelia Cash has been promoted to attorney-general and industrial relations minister to replace Porter, who lost his job as the nation’s first law officer after launching defamation action against the ABC.

Dutton takes over the defence role.

Reynolds replaces scandal-prone minister Stuart Robert, who will take over the workforce, skills, employment and small business portfolios.

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has been returned to cabinet.

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