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Turnbull puts digital into his government and his PM&C

A major strengthening of Cabinet — including a new digital government minister — and a bulking up of the industry, science and innovation portfolio, are part of what new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has described as a ministry for the 21st century.

Other changes include a major amalgamation of resources and northern Australia, an expansion of education into childcare, and the return of arts to the communications portfolio.

Turnbull has abolished the title of Parliamentary Secretary, renaming them as Assistant Ministers.

Revealing his determination to reshape the Australian Public Service, Turnbull has also created within the Prime Minister’s portfolio an assistant minister for digital government, Mitch Fifield, and a dedicated assistant minister for the public sector, Michaelia Cash. Peter Hendy will also be part of the portfolio ministry, as Assistant Minister for Productivity.

The Digital Transformation Office is also being moved to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, in an important signal the new Prime Minister is looking to strongly control and drive the transformation process. In the UK the equivalent of the DTO, the Government Digital Service is part of the Cabinet office and has gained huge influence from being part of the central agency.

Fifield will also look over an expanded Communications portfolio, which will now include the Arts. Which returns from Attorney-General’s. This is to ensure content policy and arts policy are more aligned.

Former chief of staff to then Prime Minister John Howard, Senator Arthur Sinodinos takes up the key Cabinet Secretary role, as part of Turnbull’s determination to re-establish Cabinet as the central decision making forum of Government.

“I am absolutely determined we have a proper consultative system,” said Turnbull.

As predicted Scott Morrison takes over Treasury as part of a strengthening of the key economic portfolio. In that portfolio the new Minister for Small Business, Kelly O’Dwyer, will also sit in Cabinet and the Expenditure Review Committee. Senator Cormann continues to hold the Finance portfolio. Alex Hawke is elevated into the ministry as Assistant Minister to the Treasurer.

The previous Treasurer Joe Hockey has announced he is leaving the Parliament. Others dumped from cabinet are set to stay in parliament, including Kevin Andrews. Eric Abetz, Bruce Bilson, Ian Macfarlane and Michael Ronaldson also lost their front bench roles.

Christopher Pyne takes over a revitalised Industry and Science portfolio, with Karen Andrews to be new Science Minister and youthful Queenslander Wyatt Roy, Assistant Minister for Innovation.

The new Education Minister is Simon Birmingham, who now oversees an expanded portfolio, which includes child care. Turnbull said this was to ensure child care policy was seen as part of the broader education policy.

Victorian junior Minister Josh Frydenberg goes into Cabinet as Resources, Energy and Northern Australia Minister. The Abbott Government had made much of its re-energised focus on development in the north.

The biggest promotion goes to NSW Senator Marise Payne, who takes up the massive Defence portfolio. She is the first female Defence Minister and one of five women now in Cabinet. Stuart Robert loses his Defence People responsibilities, but stays close to the ADF as Minister for Veterans Affairs, and Mal Brough is now in charge of Defence Materiel and Science.

The other big promotion goes to former West Australian state minister, Christian Porter, who takes over the sprawling Social Services portfolio. Stuart Robert also will look over the Human Services Department, including the reformation of the $100 billion welfare payment system.

The full list of the new ministry is here.

Author Bio

Tom Burton

Tom Burton is publisher of The Mandarin based in Melbourne. He has served in various public administration roles, specialising in the media and communications sector. He was a Walkley Award-winning journalist and executive editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. He worked as Canberra bureau chief for the Australian Financial Review and as managing editor of smh.com.au. He most recently worked at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.