Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield is Australia’s new communications minister, one of many surprise appointments in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry.
Fifield also snared responsibility for the arts – which has been unpopularly held by Attorney-General George Brandis – as well as the role of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government.
“Humbled to have been appointed Minister for Communications, Minister for the Arts & Min Assisting @TurnbullMalcolm for Digital Government,” Fifield tweeted yesterday after the announcement was made.
The appointment was welcomed by industry executives including Telstra CEO Andrew Penn who tweeted his congratulations.
Acting ACS CEO Kim Finch said “Senator Fifield will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role which will help navigate digital policy through a sometimes challenging political process.
“We look forward to working with the Minister and helping him build Australia’s digital capability, which will be critical to securing a strong future for the Australian economy," Finch said.
Fifield’s name did not come up in the week of speculation since Turnbull resigned as communications minister in preparation for a – successful – tilt at the country’s top job.
Turnbull’s parliamentary secretary Paul Fletcher – a former Optus executive – was widely tipped as a logical replacement.
Fletcher was, however, promoted outside the communications portfolio, becoming the Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects.
Joe Hockey also received plenty of attention as a possible successor to Turnbull in the communications portfolio.
Hockey, however, lost his role as Treasurer and did not pick up a new ministerial portfolio. It was later reported he plans to quit politics and potentially take up a diplomatic post.
While he lost responsibility for the arts, George Brandis remains Attorney-General, giving him a continued role in Australia’s ICT sector, where he has overseen data retention, anti-piracy and telecommunications security.
Mathias Cormann also remains finance minister, which has responsibility for government ICT.