Keating cabinet gets youthful look: PM starts drive to regenerate labor government

AUSTRALIA'S Prime Minister, Paul Keating, yesterday announced a cabinet of new young ministers in his drive to regenerate the Labor government. He then led his team of 30 ministers to a swearing-in ceremony before the Governor-General, in which each pledged allegiance to the Queen. If Mr Keating has his way and Australia becomes a republic through a referendum by the end of the decade, it will have been one of the country's last such ceremonies.

Having defied predictions by leading Labor to victory with an increased majority 12 days ago, Mr Keating, 49, took advantage of his first election win as Prime Minister in his own right by producing Australia's first cabinet dominated by post-war baby-boomers.

Eleven in the cabinet are new faces, most of them in their thirties and forties, and an average of almost 10 years younger than the ministers they replaced. This fulfilled Mr Keating's pre-election plan to bring a 'generational change' to government.

For all that, Mr Keating retained five ministers in key posts who had played important roles since Labor came to power 10 years ago. Among the ministers who keep their former jobs are John Dawkins, 45, the Treasurer; Gareth Evans, 48, Foreign Affairs; Ralph Willis, 54, Finance; Kim Beazley, 44, Employment and Education; and Simon Crean, 44, Primary Industries and Energy. Besides bringing in youth, Mr Keating has swamped his cabinet with like- minded MPs from his own roots in Labor's right-wing. faction.

Four ministers are women, but only one, Ros Kelly, 45, has full cabinet rank. Women's groups attacked Mr Keating for this yesterday in view of his focus on women's issues in his election campaign.

The new cabinet is: Paul Keating (Prime Minister); Brian Howe (Deputy Prime Minister, Housing, Local Government and Community Services); John Dawkins (Treasurer); Gareth Evans (Foreign Affairs); Graham Richardson (Health); Peter Cook (Trade); Robert Ray (Defence); Ralph Willis (Finance); Alan Griffiths (Industry, Technology and Regional Development); Kim Beazley (Employment, Education and Training); Ros Kelly (Environment, Sport and Territories); Nick Bolkus (Immigration and Ethnic Affairs); Bob Collins (Transport and Communications); Michael Lavarch (Attorney-General); Simon Crean (Primary Industries and Energy); Peter Baldwin (Social Security); Bob McMullan (Arts and Administrative Services); Laurie Brereton (Industrial Relations); Michael Lee (Tourism and Resources).