Turnbull’s third ministry should spare public service pain

By Harley Dennett

Saturday February 13, 2016

For a so-called “big reshuffle”, Turnbull’s third ministry won’t be very painful for the public service at all. Nearly all the peak portfolio ministers remain exactly where they are now. Line policy portfolios were mostly spared breaking in a new minister too, but the frontline service delivery portfolios were given a clean sweep.

The mammoth portfolio of Human Services will get Alan Tudge, but as he is already the assistant minister in the policy end of the portfolio, won’t need a long catchup.

The promotion of Dan Tehan, straight from the backbench to the challenging delivery portfolio of Veterans Affairs might take a bit of support. He also takes on the detail rich portfolio of Defence Materiel, and presumably Defence personnel, which has ceased to be a named portfolio in recent years.

Darren Chester leaves Defence behind, and instead takes over Infrastructure and Transport — a big promotion, but won’t be the top minister in the portfolio group. Instead, Regional Development now leapfrogs as the senior ministry, and goes to new deputy leader of the Nationals, Senator Fiona Nash.

Nash, has been given a carve-out of regional issues, including Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health. This will be an interesting cross-portfolio collection to watch, if it lives up to the potential for collaboration this unique situation offers.

Steve Ciobo, takes on Trade, but also has had junior ministry experience in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio group.

Education gets a new junior minster for Vocational Education and Skills in Scott Ryan, who was briefly Assistant Cabinet Secretary. Few could claim that section of government was performing as well as it should, amid scandals over integrity and fraud at private colleges.

For those interested in parliamentary procedures and integrity, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann gets to keep the portfolio of Special Minister of State.

The remaining new junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries are unlikely to cause many problems in their new fields, including Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells in International Development, Craig Laundy in Multicultural Affairs, Senator Matt Canavan in Northern Australia, Keith Pitt to assist in Agriculture.

The new minister for Cities is an interesting choice. Angus Taylor is the MP for the rural division of Hume. However, the portfolio was downgraded to parliamentary secretary level, and combined with Turnbull’s other pet issue of Digital Transformation. Taylor is assisting the Prime Minister in these portfolios, so perhaps that means Cities will move from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

New administrative instructions are expected to be published by PM&C on Monday.

Update: The Prime Minister has confirmed that Cities will move to PM&C.

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