Dad duties done, ministers take the oath
Prime Minister Julia Gillard during the swearing-in ceremony for new ministers at Government House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
First day of school duties for one MP delayed the government's swearing-in ceremony on Monday morning, but Julia Gillard's revamped ministerial line up can now assume their new roles.
Governor-General Quentin Bryce swore in the Prime Minister's new-look team including Brendan O'Connor who takes on the difficult immigration portfolio.
Before he was sworn in, Ms Gillard noted that the ceremony had been pushed back to allow Mr O'Connor to take his daughter Una, 5, to her first day of school in Melbourne.
Ms Gillard and Governor-General Quentin Bryce pose for photos with the new ministers. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
''All the very best to you, Minister,'' Ms Bryce said to Mr O'Connor.
New Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who replaces Nicola Roxon after her surprise resignation, beamed as he took on the key legal role and a spot in cabinet. But the QC managed to confuse Ms Bryce by bringing his own pen.
''Oh!'' exclaimed the Governor-General as Mr Dreyfus ignored the pen provided.
Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen also smiled as he swapped immigration for the relatively quieter climes of tertiary education and small business.
Jason Clare was promoted to the cabinet, taking on Mr Dreyfus' old role as Cabinet Secretary while keeping his existing home affairs and justice portfolios.
Former military officer, Mike Kelly has been made Minister for Defence Materiel.
In wishing him well in the new job, Ms Bryce noted that Dr Kelly was taking on a role that was ''very close to your heart''.
Mark Butler added housing and homelessness to his already heavy workload with mental health and ageing and social inclusion.
Labor MPs Yvette D'Ath, Melissa Parke and Kelvin Thompson were sworn in as parliamentary secretaries.
A Labor caucus meeting in Canberra on Monday afternoon will decide who will replace Chris Evans – who resigned from the frontbench along with Ms Roxon – as Senate leader.
It is understood caucus will elect Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, from the Victorian Right, as the new Senate leader and Finance Minister Penny Wong, from the Left, will become Senate deputy.On Saturday, Ms Gillard said she expected to take her new-look ministry to the election on September 14.
As the team was sworn in, Labor woke up to more poor poll news on Monday.
In the latest Newspoll, the Coalition leads Labor, 56 per cent to 44 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has also gained significant ground in the preferred prime minister stakes. Ms Gillard is still ahead, 41 per cent to 39 per cent, but the gap has narrowed from 45 per cent to 33 per cent in the January 11-13 poll.
On Monday afternoon Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told a meeting of his shadow cabinet that voters were now looking for a bit more from the Coalition. He said that for the past two years, people had expected the Coalition to hold the government to account.
"I think what people are now looking for is for a little bit more from us," he said. "They want us not so much to be an opposition [but] to be an alternative government."