Former Labor minister Tanya Plibersek has dismissed Prime Minister Tony Abbott's decision to move the Office for Women into his own department, saying it does not matter where the office is located if he does not have women in his frontbench team.
''It doesn't matter where he puts the Office for Women if there is no room for women at his cabinet table,'' Ms Plibersek told Fairfax Media.
In its restructure of the federal government departments since winning the election, Mr Abbott announced on Wednesday that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) would take responsibility for the Office for Women.
In the area, Mr Abbott will be supported by Michaelia Cash, who was appointed Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women.
Traditionally, the Office for Women (or Office of the Status of Women) was located in PM&C, but during the Howard government, was moved to Families and Community Services in 2004.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Abbott explained that this would ensure the ''key whole-of-government'' priority was dealt with at the centre of government.
The Coalition's policy for women released just before polling day also states: ''Whilst the current location of the Office for Women in the Department of Family and Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs provides an important link with the services and support provided by that Department, it risks marginalising the Women's portfolio as simply a welfare concern.''
Emily's List national co-convenor Tanja Kovac said that the women's portfolio should specifically be in cabinet – pointing out that Senator Cash was in the outer ministry.
Ms Kovac said that bringing the Office for Women back under the PM&C umbrella showed that Mr Abbott knew that ''woman are watching'' in a significant area of policy for the new Prime Minister.
Acting shadow minister for the status of women, Julie Collins similarly said the main issue was that cabinet needed female representation, adding it was also important how Coalition ministers pursued gender equality in their own portfolios.
''Cabinet should be representative of the community,'' she said.
Mr Abbott told reporters on Thursday that he would work ''calmly, methodically to deliver good policies for all of the people of Australia including women''.
''The best thing that can be done for women in the near future is to put in place a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme,'' he said.
This comes as the new Prime Minister continues to generate criticism from his Coalition team for the low number of women in his ministerial line-up.
On Thursday in The Australian newspaper, Queensland MP Wyatt Roy wrote: ''I'm in no way advocating an unjust quota system, but it's not good enough to have one woman in the federal cabinet.''
Former Howard government minister Sharman Stone, who missed out on a frontbench spot in Mr Abbott's new line-up, was also critical of the number of women in the Coalition ministry.
''It is not a great day for women in politics,'' she told the Riverine Herald on Wednesday