Australian PM appoints new defence minister

Australian PM Rudd appointed long-serving Senator Faulkner as his new defence minister.

Australian PM appoints new defence minister
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed long-serving Senator John Faulkner as his new defence minister on Friday but avoided a wider reshuffle, leaving other key ministers in their current jobs.

But Rudd, who has said he is not planning a major ministerial shake-up, said he would make further announcements in coming days as he decides who will take up Faulkner's previous cabinet position as special minister of state and cabinet secretary.

Rudd was forced to appoint a new defence minister after Joel Fitzgibbon resigned following a series of damaging reports about travel and lobbying activities involving family and friends.

"John Faulkner is a man of unquestionable integrity and strength of character and that has been reflected in the multiple portfolios he has been responsible for, both in government and opposition," Rudd told reporters.

Faulkner, 55, first entered the Senate in 1989 and later served as a junior defence minister and then environment minister under former Prime Minister Paul Keating in the early 1990s.

He is considered a senior party strategist with a strong influence on the party in the most populous New South Wales state, where support is crucial for any party hoping to win a national election.

Faulkner takes on the job after a series of bungles forced Fitzgibbon to resign on Thursday, with the outgoing minister blaming elements in his department and in his ministerial office for undermining his position.

But the new minister said he had high expectations of the defence department and was confident he could maintain authority and discipline over a portfolio that has a reputation for being troublesome.

Analyst Rob Chalmers, in the Inside Canberra political newsletter, said the government needed to overhaul the entire defence department, which has now lost six ministers and two department heads since 1996.

"They could not all have been incompetent. This indicates there is something very wrong in defence and it needs fixing," Chalmers wrote on Friday.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Haziran 2009, 09:50