The Leaderboard: Marise Payne

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is she?

Marise Payne is an Australian senator and member of Australia’s Liberal Party. She has represented New South Wales in the Australian senate for 19 years, and has served on a variety of joint and Senate committees, including in areas such as defense, economic, and foreign affairs. She served as minister for human services from September 2013 to September 2015.

Prior to serving in Parliament, she was a political and public affairs adviser, and president of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia. She received a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of New South Wales.

Marise Payne of Australia. Source: Wikimedia user Hawkesyj, used under a creative commons license.

Why is she in the news?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on September 21 appointed Payne the new defense minister in his cabinet, following his ouster of former prime minister Tony Abbott. Turnbull’s appointment of Payne as Australia’s first female defense minister has drawn nods of approval from the national security establishment in Canberra. In addition to Payne’s reputation as a moderate member of the Liberal Party, her work on defense-related parliamentary committees over the years has bolstered her credentials.

Shortly after her appointment, Payne spoke out forcefully on the South China Sea dispute, backing comments by Turnbull accusing China of “pushing the envelope” with its land reclamation activities and militarization of features in the South China Sea.

What can we expect from her?

The release of Australia’s defense white paper, expected in the coming weeks, will be an opportunity for Payne to demonstrate her leadership ability. Payne is scheduled to visit Indonesia soon in an effort to smooth an important bilateral relationship for Australia, which has at times been rocky in recent years.

Expect her to play an active role in managing Australia’s defense budget and addressing the regional threats posed by extremist groups such as Islamic State. The 51 year-old Payne is still in the middle of her career, raising hopes among defense officials that she might remain in the position—which has seen regular turnover in recent years—for some time to come. The senator said in a recent press conference that she is determined to pursue her current role over a long period of time.


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