Joyce women's task force gig under fire

·2-min read

Senior cabinet minister Simon Birmingham has backed Barnaby Joyce joining him on a task force to tackle women's safety and economic security.

The deputy prime minister will replace Michael McCormack after toppling him in a National Party leadership spill earlier in the week.

The cabinet group was established to oversee the status of women and co-ordinate the government's response to two major reviews.

Senator Birmingham said it was appropriate and important to have the government's senior office bearers sitting down with female ministers as part of the task force.

"That's the whole purpose as to why it was established," he told ABC radio on Friday.

Mr Joyce quit as deputy prime minster in 2018 after fiercely denying sexual harassment allegations which emerged during a scandal about his affair with a staff member.

His return as Nationals leader has faced criticism from many influential women in rural and regional Australia.

Senator Birmingham acknowledged people across the country had strong views about politicians.

"But I expect that Barnaby, in terms of his participation in that task force, will like the other three men around that table, listen, engage thoughtfully and learn."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are also part of the group.

Labor frontbencher Amanda Rishworth likened Mr Joyce's appointment to the task force to former prime minister Tony Abbott making himself minister for women.

"A lot of us were scratching our heads yesterday when this news came out," she told the ABC.

"A lot of people will potentially lack confidence in this task force because I'm not sure if Australian women, particularly regional women, feel that Barnaby Joyce is their voice in parliament."

Ms Rishworth said the task force should be about driving change rather than arguing the merits of ideas.

Mr Joyce faced a barrage of questions in parliament during the week about his track record on working with women.

"Every person tries to be a better person and I am no different," he said.

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