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Australia's political crisis deepens as more ministers resign

File photo of Australian PM Scott Morrison. Photograph:( AFP )

Agencia EFE Sydney NSW, Australia Mar 02, 2019, 04.28 PM (IST)

Two more key Australian ministers Saturday announced their retirement from politics before elections in May, amid a huge exodus of politicians from the Liberal Party in recent weeks.

Defense Minister Christopher Pyne, considered one of the most moderate politicians in the administration of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, confirmed his retirement after 26 years in politics on Saturday morning.

Pyne, who had retained his South Australian seat since 1993, said he will not contest the May elections as he is planning to move into the private sector.

Minister of Defense Industry, Steven Ciobo, also resigned Saturday morning with immediate effect after 17 years in Parliament and said he, too, will not be contesting the upcoming elections.

Morrison appointed Linda Reynolds, Australia's first female brigadier in the Army Reserve, as the new Minister for Defence Industry, and said her appointment took the number of women ministers in his cabinet to seven, the highest number on record.

"Our Government has a plan to make Australia even stronger, Linda is part of my team that'll make that happen," Morrison tweeted.

Pyne, in charge of a $200 billion expansion of Australia's military capability, and Ciobo, join a growing number of Liberal ministers, who have quit ahead of the elections, including former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Minister for Jobs Kelly O'Dwyer, Human Services Minister Michael Keenan and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.

The centre-right government is not a favourite to win the May elections and the retirement of senior members of the cabinet just ahead of the elections have complicated its future even further.

Morrison will need to retain all the parliamentary seats held by his coalition government, but with senior ministers jumping ship just ahead of the elections it seems a tough battle.

Morrison confirmed the decisions of the two ministers in a televised speech while expressing confidence that public support will help them sail through the elections.

Although no dates have been confirmed as yet, Australia must elect before May 19 half of the 76 members of the Senate and will hold elections before November to elect the 151 members of the next House of Representatives.

Story highlights

Defense Minister Christopher Pyne, considered one of the most moderate politicians in the administration of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, confirmed his retirement after 26 years in politics on Saturday morning.