Australia’s communications industry has welcomed the appointment of one-time Optus executive Paul Fletcher as incoming Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, rounding off the revamped line-up of Morrison government ministers.
Fletcher takes on the role with a vow to complete the national broadband network (NBN) and deliver “sound policy settings which maximise the contribution” of the sector.
“The communications sector serves a vital human need,” Fletcher said in a statement upon his appointment. “With many parts of the communications sector facing profound and continuing change, sound policy settings will be more important than ever.”
The new role will position Fletcher – who succeeds Mitch Fifield, newly appointed as Australia’s ambassador to the United Nations – as the anchor leg in a series of communications ministers that have managed the NBN since it was announced in April 2009.
A former Minister for Families and Social Services, Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, and Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects, Fletcher was director of corporate and regulatory affairs from 2000 until 2008.
Industry body Communications Alliance was quick to welcome Fletcher to the role, with CEO John Stanton saying in a statement that Fletcher’s industry experience would be “key attributes as the Government engages on a wide-ranging array of necessary reforms”.
Fletcher “recognises, better than most,” he said, “that a balance needs to be struck between the imposition and costs imposed by industry and consumers by additional layers of regulation, compared with the benefits that can be generated.”
A tech-friendly ministry
Fletcher’s appointment was just one of several that highlight the role of ICT in the new ministry of prime minister Scott Morrison, who secured a majority Liberal government in the May 18 election.
Among other initiatives, Morrison established a new agency called Services Australia, which will be headed by Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert and will seek to replicate the success of ICT-driven Service NSW.
“I want to see congestion busting when it comes to bureaucratic bottlenecks and regulatory bottlenecks,” Morrison said in a recent press conference, “so Australians can get access to [government] services in a more timely and efficient way for them, making better use of technology and better integrating service delivery across portfolios.”
The services-based push is “also about driving better use of information technology and apps that can assist Australians to better access services they need,” Morrison said.
Karen Andrew returns
Also fronting the government’s ICT agenda will be Karen Andrews, a former mechanical engineer who was reappointed as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology who has been instrumental in advancing the National Innovation and Science Agenda.
“Australia’s technology sector will open new industries and assist traditional industries to move forward,” she said in a reappointment announcement that also mentioned her ongoing efforts to help establish Australia’s fledgling space industry, and to promote STEM areas to Australia’s women and girls.
Andrews’s mission statement will also include close liaison with industry stakeholders “to create more and better paid jobs in traditional and emerging industries,” Morrison said in announcing a front-bench line-up that includes seven women and Australia’s first indigenous Australian minister, Ken Wyatt, who will serve as Minister for Indigenous Australians and will head the new National Indigenous Australians Agency.
Noting that improved service delivery will be “a key focus” for the new Liberal ministry, Morrison said enhancements to the National Disability Insurance Scheme would be another key deliverable, as would ongoing improvements to gender equality.
Marise Payne will be tackling that area after gaining the role of Minister for Women while retaining her position as Minister for Foreign Affairs, while Bridget McKenzie was named the country’s first female Minister for Agriculture.
Josh Frydenberg and Mathias Cormann will retain their roles as Treasurer and Minister for Finance, respectively, while Christian Porter will add the Industrial Relations portfolio to his responsibilities as Attorney-General.
Morrison has handed responsibility for a key government promise – to create 1.25 million jobs in the next five years – to Michaela Cash, who will serve as Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business and will likely engage heavily with the skills-hungry ICT industry in the process.
“My government has a significant agenda to deliver and we are ready to get back to business,” Morrison said. “I have high expectations of my Ministry and clear goals for each of their roles.”
The full ministry list is available here, and the rest of the cabinet includes:
· Anne Rusten (Minister for Family and Social Services)
· Luke Howarth (Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services)
· Greg Hunt (Minister for Health)
· Richard Colbeck (Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Minister for Youth and Sport)
· Dan Tehan (Minister for Education)
· David Littleproud (Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disasters and Emergency Management)
· Matt Canavan (Minister for Resources and Northern Australia)
· Linda Reynolds (Minister for Defence)
· Peter Dutton (Minister for Home Affairs)
· Simon Birmingham (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment)
· Alex Hawke (Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Assistant Minister for Defence)
· Sussan Ley (Minister for the Environment)
· Angus Taylor (Minister for Energy)
· Warren Entsch (Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef)