Elliot promoted to Rudd Ministry
By Samantha Healy
RICHMOND seniors now have a local to champion their cause in Federal Parliament with re-elected MP Justine Elliot a surprise appointment as Labor's new Minister for Ageing.
Just minutes after Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd made the announcement at a press conference in Canberra yesterday, Ms Elliot, who comfortably beat her National Party opponent Sue Page in last Saturday's Federal election, spoke excitedly about her promotion.
"It's wonderful. I am so honoured," Ms Elliot said. "I'm honoured to be able to serve the people of Australia and to continue to fight for my electorate.
"I didn't really expect it (the portfolio), but I'm excited and humbled by the opportunity."
Ms Elliot's promotion to the frontbench is widely seen as a reward for her efforts in making Richmond a safe Labor seat.
In an action-packed day, on the other side of the political fence, former defence minister Brendan Nelson narrowly beat former environment minister Malcolm Turnbull to win the Liberal Party's top job, 45 votes to 42. Julie Bishop has been appointed deputy leader.
In the newly reshuffled Labor camp, Ms Elliot is part of a stronger female presence in Federal politics as one of six women on the newly-formed frontbench.
Predictably, Julia Gillard held on to the role of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, while former ABC journalist and rising Labor star Maxine McKew has been appointed parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister and Ursula Stephens as parliamentary secretary of Social Inclusion.
In the days leading up to her unexpected promotion, Ms Elliot had indicated she had no interest in taking on a portfolio, so her appointment as Minister for Ageing came as a surprise to most.
Yesterday she said she was looking forward to being sworn in to her new position on Monday and to her briefing with the department.
Mr Rudd, upon announcing Ms Elliot's new position, praised his newest minister for her efforts.
"Justine has been enormously successful in her electorate, in her dealings with the ageing community, she is a former policeman, a person with great experience and I believe will be well equipped to deal with the challenges of the ageing portfolio," Mr Rudd said.
Ms Elliot, who is in her second term as Richmond MP, brings more than just her policing and political credentials to the frontbench.
She also represents an increasingly ageing population in her Richmond electorate, where in Tweed alone the median age of the population has increased to 43.9 years, according to June 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics records.
In other appointments, Wayne Swan steps in as Treasurer, Simon Crean for Trade, Joel Fitzgibbon for Defence, Nicola Roxon for Health and Ageing, Anthony Albanese for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Peter Garrett for Environment, Robert McClelland as Attorney-General and Martin Ferguson for Resources, Energy and Tourism.