news Malcolm Turnbull has appointed veteran Senator Mitch Fifield to be Australia’s new Communications Minister as part of his new Cabinet, with the new Prime Minister’s former Parliamentary Secretary Paul Fletcher leaving the portfolio and current Attorney-General George Brandis to retain his role.
The new Cabinet, announced this afternoon, will also see Education Minister Christopher Pyne moved to become Minister of Industry, Innovation and Science.
Fifield, whose new portfolio will also include the Arts, which had previously been bundled with Communications but had been shifted into the Attorney-General’s Department, is not well-known by the general public, but is an extremely familiar face in Canberra circles.
Fifield join the Senate in March 2004, filling a vacancy in Victoria left by the former Communications Minister Richard Alston. He was re-elected at the 2007 and then the 2013 Federal Elections and has held a number of parliamentary roles.
Most recently, Fifield has been Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Manager of Government Business in the Senate. In this Senate role, Fifield has been a frequent fill-in for Turnbull, taking many questions from the Opposition and the crossbench parties on matters pertaining to the Communications portfolio.
Historically, the Communications portfolio has often been held by Senators, with previous examples including Alston, Helen Coonan and Stephen Conroy.
Fifield was also appointed Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Digital Government. It appears this means that Turnbull will continue to have a role overseeing the newly created Digital Transformation Office he created as Communications Minister, working with Fifield on this issue.
Paul Fletcher’s role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Communications Minister has been abolished, and he will move into a different role as the new Minister for territories, local government and major projects.
Pyne is a much better known figure, regularly making controversial comments and attacks on Labor, and has been targeted extensively by the education sector for his planned university reforms. For the past several years he has held a similar parliamentary role to Fifield as Leader of the House in the House of Representatives. Queensland MP Wyatt Roy — who has recently been active in engaging with Australia’s IT startup sector — has also been appointed Assistant Minister for Innovation.
Fifield has not yet issued a statement on the changes. For his part, Pyne said:
“It is a great honour for me to accept the Prime Minister’s offer to become the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science and Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives in the first Turnbull Ministry.
Having served for five years as Shadow Minister and then two years as Minister for Education and Training, I am delighted by this new opportunity to serve in an economic portfolio that is central to the future of our nation.
There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian, as the Prime Minister has said.
With a sweeping tide of new disruptive technologies that will entirely transform the way we live and the way we work, Australian industry must continue to lead the world in research and innovation, ensuring our nation can seize the opportunities ahead.
We have the researchers, the universities, the institutions such as CSIRO, Questacon and others who are world leading. We have Cooperative Research Centres and Industry Growth Centres and a very wide range of collaborative ventures around the globe. We have a major agenda in the commercialisation of research outcomes.
We have the technical capacity and capability to remain a nation with industries that offer the jobs of the 21st century. As Minister I will be working with industry and our institutions to continue on this course and look forward to the challenges ahead.”
The full Cabinet list has been published online by a number of outlets.
Opinion and analysis to follow tomorrow.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting