Home Government Tech Policy Turnbull makes sweeping changes, appoints unknown Mitch Fifield as Comms Minister

Turnbull makes sweeping changes, appoints unknown Mitch Fifield as Comms Minister

In what can be described as taking a broom to the Cabinet, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made broad changes, including the appointment of a relatively unknown Victorian Senator to his former role as Communications Minister.

The new Communications Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Mitch Fifield,  a member of the Abbott Ministry as the Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, does not appear to have any background in technology related matters.

Fifield has an arts degree and, since 1988, has been a Liberal Party career politician, starting as a research officer and was a political advisor to former Treasurer Peter Costello, before entering the Senate in 2004.

“Senator the Honourable Mitch Fifield will be appointed Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts. He'll oversee the transfer of the Arts portfolio to that Ministry to better align the funding and administration of support and incentives for our creative industries,” said Mr Turnbull at a doorstop press conference yesterday.

Notably missing from the new cabinet line-up is now former Treasurer Joe Hockey, who has been replaced by Scott Morrison. It has since been reported that Hockey will quit politics.

In other surprise appointments:

  • Christopher Pyne is now Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science
  • Senator Marise Payne is Minister for Defence, the first woman to hold the post
  • Senator Michaelia Cash is Minister for Employment
  • Senator George Brandis will be Leader of the Government in the Senate

The full doorstop speech from Mr Turnbull, including all of his announced appointments is below:

Good afternoon everybody. Today I'm announcing a 21st Century Government and a ministry for the future. The changes I'm announcing are very extensive. So let me describe them to you.

The Honourable Scott Morrison will be appointed Treasurer. He's held the key economic portfolio of Social Services as you know and he has introduced significant  forms to ensure our generous social welfare safety net is more efficient, easy to understand and sustainable. He'll be a member of the ERC and of the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

Now Christopher Pyne will be appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. Christopher is going to be at the centre, as is the whole Government, of one of our most important agendas.  If we want to remain a prosperous, first world economy with a generous social welfare safety net, we must be more competitive, we must be more productive.  Above all we must be more innovative. We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us. We're not seeking to proof ourselves against the future. We are seeking to embrace it. And this is a Government and a Ministry that has that as its focus. Christopher's department, the Ministry for Industry, Innovation and Science will drive the Government's focus on investing in science; promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic education; supporting start-ups and bringing together innovation initiatives right across Government. He will continue as Leader of the Government in the House.

Senator the Honourable Marise Payne will be appointed Minister for Defence, the first woman to be Minister for Defence in our nation's history. Marise is one of our most experienced and capable Senators.  She has spent two years in the Human Services portfolio and has done an outstanding job in modernising Government service delivery. She will release the Defence White Paper later this year, defining our key national security priorities and she will of course join the National Security Committee of the Cabinet. There will be two women on the National Security of Cabinet, Julie Bishop and Marise Payne.

Senator the Honourable Michaelia Cash will join the Cabinet also as Minister for Employment, Minister for women, and Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service.  She has led the Government's policy development on women's issues especially in regards to our response to the scourge of domestic violence.

The Honourable Kelly O'Dwyer MP will be appointed the Minister for small business and the Assistant Treasurer, a position which has been elevated to  Cabinet. Of course, the Assistant Treasurer is in effect the Minister for revenue and is responsible for the tax system which is at the very centre of our whole productivity agenda, indeed at the very centre of the small business agenda. It is vital we have a tax system that is fair, efficient and creates the right incentives so that we can get the gains in productivity we need.  She will also be appointed to the Expenditure Review of Cabinet.

Arthur Sinodinos, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, will be appointed the Cabinet Secretary, a post to be reintroduced into Cabinet. I said a few days ago that it was critical that we restore traditional Cabinet Government. The gold standard of good Coalition Cabinet Government was during the Howard Government and as you all know, Arthur was at the centre of that as John Howard's chief of staff for over a decade.

Senator Simon Birmingham will be appointed the Minister for Education and Training. He's moved quickly and effectively to lead the transformation of the vocational education and training sector as Assistant Minister. He'll oversee the transfer of child-care responsibilities to the Education portfolio and he'll be responsible for education and development from child-care through to schools, higher education and vocational training.

The Honourable Christian Porter MP will be appointed Minister for Social Services. He is a former Treasurer and Attorney-General for the State of Western Australia. He is a formidable lawyer with strong public finance experience. He has got a strong record of managing large Budgets and making service delivery much more efficient. He will also be appointed to the Expenditure Review of Cabinet.

Senator the Honourable Mitch Fifield will be appointed Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts. He'll oversee the transfer of the Arts portfolio to that Ministry to better align the funding and administration of support and incentives for our creative industries.

The Honourable Josh Frydenberg will be elevated to Cabinet as Minister for Resources, Energy, and Northern Australia. Northern Australia is another key element of our agenda going forward. Josh Frydenberg is a powerful advocate. We have a great story to tell on Northern Australia. It is a region of immense opportunity. It needs a powerful advocate and there are few that can match Josh's dynamism and passion for change and for the development of our nation.

Senator Brandis who remains of course the Attorney-General, has been appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate and Senator Mathias Cormann remains the Minister for Finance, has been appointed Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Now, this is a process of renewal. As you will have gathered there are some very big changes in the Cabinet, there are now five women in the Cabinet. But renewal of course, the introduction of new talent that exists, means that others have to leave.

One of the great challenges for any leader is to ensure that there is renewal. That we do - we are able to bring up new talent, new faces, into leadership positions over time and that often means, that invariably means in fact, that very capable people have to move on, stand aside, so that others can come through. And that's tough for everybody concerned.

Now, earlier today the Honourable Joe Hockey told me that he would not be seeking a place in the new Ministry and it was his intention to resign from the Parliament in due course. Joe has made a long and distinguished contribution to our nation's Government and Parliament over many, many years. For which I thank him. I believe he has a further contribution to make in our nation's service.

The Honourable Eric Abetz, the Leader of the Senate is also - will not be reappointed and I thank him very much for his service as I do the Honourable Kevin Andrews, the former Defence Minister whose position will be overtaken by the appointment of Senator Payne.

Bruce Bilson, an outstanding advocate for small business, has chosen to not to take up an offer that I made to him to serve outside the Cabinet. That is his call, he has been a very, very capable Minister and he wants to take some time to reflect and I thank Bruce very, very much for his service.

Ian Macfarlane is one of my very, very best friends in this place. As indeed is Senator the Honourable Michael Ronaldson who departs the outer Ministry. Each of them were ready to continue to serve in their current positions which they were fulfilling with great distinction and competence. But each of them understood the need to renew, and they gave me their leader and their friend, the opportunity for them to stand aside so that I could bring new talent into the Ministry. I want to thank them for the great contribution each of them has made. All of the departing Ministers have made over many year, particularly thank them for the way in which they have facilitated these very important changes.

Just turning to changes elsewhere in the Ministry. Liveable, vibrant cities are absolutely critical to our prosperity. Historically the Federal Government has had a limited engagement with cities and yet that is where most Australians live, it is where the bulk of our economic growth can be found.

We often overlook the fact that liveable cities, efficient, productive cities, the environment of cities, are economic assets. You know, making sure that Australia is a wonderful place to live in, that our cities and indeed our regional centres are wonderful places to live, is an absolutely key priority of every level of Government. Because the most valuable capital in the world today is not financial capital, there's plenty of that and it's very mobile.

The most valuable capital today is human capital. Men and women like ourselves who can choose to live anywhere. We have to ensure for our prosperity, for our future, for our competitiveness, that every level of Government works together, constructively and creatively to ensure that our cities progress. That Federal funding of infrastructure in cities for example is tied to outcomes that will promote housing affordability.

Integration is critical.  We shouldn't be discriminating between one form of transit and another. There is no -- roads are not better than mass transit or vice versa, each of them has their place. Infrastructure should be assessed objectively and rationally on its merits. There is no place for ideology here at all. The critical thing is to ensure that we get the best outcome in our cities.

Now of course, we have a Minister for Regional Development and the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, but cities have been overlooked, I believe, historically from the Federal perspective. So within the Ministry of Environment, I'm appointing the Honourable Jamie Briggs MP to be the Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, to work with Greg Hunt, the Environment Minister, to develop a new Australian Government agenda for our cities in cooperation with States, Local Governments and urban communities.

Responsibility for child-care will move from the Department Social Services to the Department of Education to give the Education Minister overall carriage of childhood education and development through to higher education and vocational training.

As you know, responsibility for water will move from the Environment portfolio to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which of course Senator - Barnaby Joyce I should say - is the Minister, and Senator Anne Ruston from South Australia will be appointed the assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.  And I should say just on a point of nomenclature I've decided that Parliamentary Secretary titles should be more meaningful, they are in fact assistant ministers and they should be called Assistant Ministers and as a former Parliamentary Secretary I know that that will mean that they won't have to spend much of their time explaining what a Parliamentary Secretary is. Titles should mean something.

Well let me also say that this is a very talented Ministry, the full details of which will be available to you. I can make some other firsts, I've mentioned that Marise Payne will be the first woman appointed Defence Minister. Kelly O'Dwyer is the first woman to be elevated to Cabinet within the Treasury portfolio.  And Ken Wyatt MP will be the first indigenous MP to be appointed to the Federal Executive Council.  Ken will be the assistant Minister in this health portfolio working with Sussan Ley.

So my friends, what we have today is – as I said right at the outset – a 21st century Government and a Ministry for the future. Very big changes to meet very big challenges to help all of us seize very big opportunities. Thank you very much.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.