Abbott takes fire for lack of women on the front bench

IF Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott is truly "disappointed" at the lack of women in his new cabinet he needs to outline how he intends to address the issue. That's the challenge from the Women's Electoral Lobby.

Mr Abbott continued to come under fire yesterday after just six women - one in cabinet, four in the junior ministry and one parliamentary secretary - were included in his 42-member frontbench team.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce will swear in the new frontbench on Wednesday morning at Government House in Canberra.

Reigning Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose added her voice to the many on Tuesday bemoaning the lack of female representation in the 19-member cabinet.

Ms Buttrose said it was proof a "glass ceiling still does exist in Australia".

"We're told it doesn't, but that's a nonsense. It does exist," Ms Buttrose said on ABC Radio.

"I'm sure Julie Bishop is accustomed to being the token woman throughout her career, and here she is being the token woman again."

In announcing his frontbench team on Monday Mr Abbott said he was "disappointed" he did not have more women in his cabinet.

"If Sophie Mirabella had been clearly ahead in Indi, Sophie would be in the Cabinet. So plainly, I am disappointed that there are not at least two women in the Cabinet," Mr Abbott said.

But WEL national chair Melanie Fernandez described the gender imbalance as a "significant blow".

"No ministry can be considered representative of the community when a group making up 50% of the population is being overlooked so significantly," Ms Fernandez said.

"There is also only one woman appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary so it doesn't even appear as if women are being given the opportunity to start preparing for cabinet roles.

"The Prime Minister-elect has acknowledged it's a problem so what will he do to address it?"

Mr Abbott also said on Monday a number of "very good and talented women" were "knocking on the door of the cabinet".

Acting Opposition Leader Chris Bowen seized on the remark, urging Mr Abbott to "open the door".

He said the Coalition ranks were filled with very capable women.

Labor was also highly critical of Mr Abbott's decision not to appoint a dedicated science minister - the first time this has happened since 1931.

Meanwhile, Australia's peak export tourism industry association, ATEC, expressed its disappointment that tourism no longer had a dedicated minister.

"This is the first time in more than 40 years that Australia has not had a tourism minister and our members, and the industry more broadly, are concerned by this significant omission," ATEC managing director Felicia Mariani said.

"What will be important into the future is the Abbott government's commitment to strengthening the tourism industry and its valuable contribution, and we are confident this can be done well through the new Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb."

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