Porter faces science, technology backlash

·3-min read

Christian Porter's demotion to federal industry minister has caused ripples across the science and technology sector.

Mr Porter and cabinet colleagues were sworn in on Tuesday via video conference, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley led the formalities from Government House in Canberra.

While Mr Morrison has sought to talk up his reshuffled cabinet - which has a renewed focus with a record seven women in it - his former attorney-general has already made waves.

Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar said the government had now gone through seven technology and innovation ministers in eight years.

This was despite technology being "the largest and fastest growing industry on the planet", he tweeted.

Former industry minister Karen Andrews, a professional engineer who now takes on the home affairs role, said she was surprised by Mr Morrison's decision to shift her.

"I didn't know and I didn't lobby for it at all," she told the ABC.

"I took a call from the prime minister mid-morning yesterday when he offered me the role of home affairs.

"Yes, I was initially surprised because it was a security portfolio and I've been in economic portfolios before."

Mr Porter also ran into strife with the Australian Academy of Science apologising for welcoming him to the portfolio after copping a social media backlash.

The organisation of Australia's top research scientists has backtracked on an initial statement, which read: "We look forward to working with incoming Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Christian Porter."

It described the tweet as "poorly worded" after dozens of people replied by raising historic rape allegations against Mr Porter, which he strenuously denies.

"We apologise. We are deeply aware of the challenging circumstances created by the reshuffle. We will always work to advance science in Australia for all," the academy said on Tuesday.

The backlash highlights ongoing problems plaguing Mr Morrison after rejigging his frontbench line-up.

Linda Reynolds will also stay on the frontbench - moving from defence to government services - despite mishandling rape allegations raised by former staffer Brittany Higgins.

The prime minister says the changes will shake up the ministry and provide a fresh lens to achieve change for women.

But Mr Morrison has been accused of putting the job security of his colleagues ahead of the country, given Mr Porter and Senator Reynolds are both staying in cabinet.

Ms Andrews said the ministerial rejig will drive real change for women.

"I think there's been a much stronger focus in this reshuffle on women and recognising the significant issues that women face, whether it's with their safety, whether it's with their security."

Michaelia Cash has been promoted to attorney-general and industrial relations minister to replace Mr Porter, who lost his job as the nation's first law officer after launching defamation action against the ABC.

Senator Reynolds replaces scandal-prone minister Stuart Robert, who will take over the workforce, skills, employment and small business portfolios.

Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price has been returned to cabinet.