Cabinet gets first virtual swearing-in

A new-look federal cabinet has been rubber-stamped in the nation’s first virtual swearing-in ceremony.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley were both at Government House in Canberra for the Tuesday ceremony.

But ministers took their oath or affirmation via videolink, as coronavirus restrictions made in-person attendance impossible.

The ceremony was forced online after the ACT imposed restrictions requiring arrivals from Greater Sydney to undergo 14 days in self-isolation.

Former education minister Dan Tehan has officially moved to the trade portfolio, replacing now-Finance Minister Simon Birmingham.

Mr Tehan will be tasked with leading Australia’s response to Beijing’s trade aggression after months of Chinese sanctions on Australian industries.

He brings a wealth of experience in international relations after joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a graduate in 1995.

On the announcement of his new role, Mr Tehan pledged to “engage, listen and work tirelessly to advance Australia’s trade interests”.

“Australia’s relationship with the world has been an enduring interest and passion of mine. I walked in the front doors of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1995 as a graduate and it is a great honour to be returning as the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment 25 years later,” he said.

“I have always strived to engage constructively with all nations and this will be the approach I will continue to take.”

But Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce was angered by Mr Morrison’s decision not to hand the trade portfolio to the junior Coalition partner.

“It was disappointing that the Nationals did not get the trade portfolio back considering so much of what our nation trades comes from Nationals’ seats,” he wrote on Facebook on Saturday.

“Mining and agriculture and the unambiguous support of those industries is a necessity for the Nationals in a way a white collar, urban workforce may not appreciate.

“Anyway, that is the right of the Prime Minister and he is in a position of political strength which means he gets what he wants.”

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan also expressed his disappointment the portfolio remained with the Liberals, but said Mr Tehan would do an “excellent job”.

“Dan’s an impressive individual who himself comes from a rural area … (But) it’s a portfolio that would have naturally gone to the Nationals, so it’s disappointing it couldn’t come back,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

Mr Tehan’s old role has been filled by Alan Tudge, who moves on from his role as acting immigration minister.

Liberal Senator Jane Hume has also been promoted to Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, after the prime minister pledged to “bring forward new talent as Australia continues its comeback from the COVID-19 crisis”.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has been sidelined, retaining the title, but the aged care portfolio has been elevated to cabinet under the responsibility of Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The move came after a difficult 12 months in aged care, with nearly 700 people in nursing homes dying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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