news Former Home Affairs and Justice Minister Jason Clare, a politician with no previous known history in the Communications portfolio, has been appointed Shadow Communications Minister, with experienced former telco lawyer Michelle Rowland to assist him in opposing sitting Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Clare, 41 years of age, is the Member for the safe Labor seat of Blaxland. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2007, and has since held a raft of Ministerial appointments in the Rudd and Gillard Labor administrations, including roles as the Parliamentary Secretary for Employment, as the Minister for Defence Material, and as the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, roles which saw Clare thrust to the forefront of the national debate on immigration over the years from December 2011 through to August 2013.
The politician has also served on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training, as well as the Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. In addition, Clare served on the Joint Statutory Committee for the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.
Before entering parliament, Clare achieved degrees in law and the arts, as well as acting as a police adviser to the NSW Minister for Police, as well as holding a role as a senior policy adviser to NSW Premier Bob Carr. Before 2007, Clare was a manager of corporate relations at Transurban.
The news will come as an unexpected surprise to Australia’s telecommunications industry, which had expected qualified and experienced candidates such as MP Ed Husic or Senator Kate Lundy to be appointed to the role, both of whom have consistently demonstrated a strong interest in the portfolio over the past decade and more, as well as having recently held junior roles in it under Kevin Rudd’s short-lived pre-election administration.
In contrast, Clare is not known to have commented publicly on issues in the telecommunications portfolio since his ascension to parliament.
In recent days, rumours flying around the telecommunications industry had named second-term MP and former corporate lawyer Michelle Rowland as having picked up the role of Shadow Communications Minister in Bill Shorten’s new Labor Shadow Cabinet. Instead, Rowland was today appointed as Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and will aid Clare in the role.
Before entering Parliament, Rowland was a senior lawyer with Gilbert + Tobin, a law firm known for its speciality in intellectual property and technology law in Australia. The MP has acknowledged she advised telcos on issues associated with the National Broadband Network.
In Parliament, Rowland has been a constant and passionate advocate for Labor’s NBN project, debating then-Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the issue from the backbench regularly and sitting on the Parliamentary Committee examining the National Broadband Network.
Rowland’s other experience, however, is not as relevant to the portfolio. The politician was a director of the Western Sydney Area Health Service from 2000 to 2004 and is a former local Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Blacktown. The MP, who is 42 years of age, was born in Blacktown and raised in Seven Hills. Rowland was educated at the Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta, as well as at the University of Sydney.
In other appointments relevant to the technology industry, former Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has retained the portfolio in opposition, while Kim Carr will retain responsibility for innovation and industry. Gary Gray will be the Shadow Special Minister of State. Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has been appointed Shadow Minister of Defence.
Opinion/analysis to follow.
Image credit: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service