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Abbott puts lone woman in cabinet

New Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has rekindled sexism accusations that have dogged his career by naming only one woman to his 19-member cabinet.

Six women are among the 42 executive members of government named by Mr Abbott. Ms Bishop, the deputy leader of the ruling Liberal Party, will be foreign minister and five women will serve in lower ministries or as parliamentary secretary.

Mr Abbott, a 55-year-old former Roman Catholic seminarian, battled perceptions of sexism to lead his conservative coalition to an election victory.

Sue Boyce, a Liberal MP who will retire from parliament next year, said the lack of women in his cabinet spoiled the win.

"It's a shame that this shocking and embarrassing statistic will permanently tarnish a wonderful victory," she said, urging her party to reform its candidate selection processes to ensure that more women take on senior roles.

Mr Abbott said he had hoped that party stalwart Sophie Mirabella would become a minister, but she appears likely to become the only Liberal MP to lose her seat at the election. Vote counting is continuing.

"So plainly, I am disappointed that there are not at least two women in the cabinet," Mr Abbott said. "Nevertheless, there are some very good and talented women knocking on the door of the Cabinet and there are lots of good and talented women knocking on the door of the ministries.. So I think you can expect to see, as time goes by, more women in both the cabinet and the ministry."

Former prime minister Julia Gillard, the first woman to lead the country, had five women in her Labor Party-led government's 22-member cabinet in early 2012. The 42 executive members of the government then included 12 women.

Mr Abbott was branded "a misogynist" and "sexist" by Ms Gillard in a speech that was lauded by feminists around the world.

Mr Abbott also announced on that Australia's contentious new policy on asylum-seekers, which includes turning back their boats to Indonesia, will begin on Wednesday when his government is sworn in.

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