New Australia ministers sworn in after reshuffle

Australia's new-look cabinet is taking shape after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's first reshuffle, prompted by his defence minister's embarrassing resignation last week.

About 15 new cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries were sworn in, headed by heavyweight Senator John Faulkner, who has been tasked with steadying the defence ministry.

Parliamentary secretary Greg Combet will work under Faulkner on defence personnel, material and science, while Senator Mark Arbib takes over as employment participation minister.

"I'm not in the business of change for it's own sake. But I?m pleased with the changes that we've made," Rudd told Sky News. "Faulks will be first-class as defence minister."

Brendan O'Connor becomes home affairs minister in place of Bob Debus, who will retire at the next election, and Senator Joe Ludwig takes over Faulkner's roles as cabinet secretary and special minister of state.

Sport and Youth Minister Kate Ellis added the early childhood education and childcare and youth portfolios to her brief. Only two women received promotions in the reshuffle, prompting media accusations of gender bias.

"Fair shake of the sauce bottle, mate," Rudd said, when challenged on the number of women in his cabinet.

"If you were to compare what this government has done in terms of the promotion of women of talent and ability compared with our predecessors, it is chalk and cheese."

Ex-defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon became the 18-month-old government's first casualty last week when he stepped down over a potential conflict-of-interest scandal, the latest in a series of controversies.

after giving birth at the Vancouver Aquarium. AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck